Sunday, January 24, 2021

How Being Fat Affects My Health

February 12, 2010 by  
Filed under Obesity

This guest post is from Sylvia from the Zaftig Chicks, a pair that recently went AWOL on the Fat Acceptance Movement. I am curious to hear the reaction from the WATRD community on this one, since the focus is not on the weight, but on the pain she is in.

– mamaV


I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve been fat practically my whole life.  I’ve gone through some phases where I lost weight either on purpose or by accident, but I’ve never been “skinny.”  I think the smallest size I’ve ever worn as an adult is a size 14.  And I’m perfectly happy with that.

What I’m not happy with is my lack of energy.  The constant struggle to do anything active.  Being in pain all the time.

Now, I’ve never really been an active person.  There aren’t a lot of physical activities that I enjoy.  By nature, I’m kind of a lazy person.  And just admitting it to myself isn’t good enough anymore.  Because it is really affecting my quality of life.

My weight as a kid and in early adulthood didn’t seem to have any immediate effect on my health.  I was never on any prescription medicine, nor did I suffer from any major pain or other ailments.  But, as a young adult, I was also partying all the time, sleeping very little, and trying to maintain my weight so I could get a man.  You know the deal.  Plus, I was poor, so food wasn’t always the #1 priority (beer was).

As I got older and stopped partying, I’m sure my metabolism slowed down and the extra weight “just happened”.  I was making more money, so I was eating more.  I didn’t have many friends, so I stayed home a lot and lazed about the house.  I was less active.  And it started to hurt.  I was over 200 lbs at that point.

Oh, and then I was put on high blood pressure medicine and being treated for pre-diabetes.  I had to track my blood sugar on a regular basis.  I was sleepy all the time.  My cholesterol was high, so I got put on medicine for that.  My knees hurt, my back hurt, I had no energy.  Now I’m up to around 260 lbs.

And sure, one can argue that it is old age that is making me ache and hurt and have to take medicine.  But good Lord, I am only 35 years old.  This is ridiculous.

Now when I think about doing any physical activity (including cooking, cleaning, bike riding, roller skating), I cringe.  Because I know it’s going to hurt.  Badly.

So you know what?  I’ve got to get these lbs off.  I want to be active.  I don’t want to be in pain any more.  I want to have a baby and not be in traction.  I want to be able to run and get on a trampoline.

And right now, I’ve got to do this for ME.


44 Responses to “How Being Fat Affects My Health”
  1. Gina says:

    Wow – Sylvia has my sympathy. High blood pressure and pre-diabetes are very serious issues, not to mention the pain she feels on a daily basis. Of course she would want to lose weight to reverse the damage to her body, and regain her vitality and sense of well-being.

    To me, these things are self-evident. That’s why I’m confused about why Mama V wants to hear the reaction from the WATRD community. What else would we say other than what I have just posted? Does Sylvia feel she needs to get “permission” from the FA community to lose weight? Are obese people expected to let their health get to a crisis point before it’s “acceptable” for them to want to lose weight?

    I really don’t get it.

    • living400lbs says:

      That’s why I’m confused about why Mama V wants to hear the reaction from the WATRD community. What else would we say other than what I have just posted? Does Sylvia feel she needs to get “permission” from the FA community to lose weight?

      I’m kinda wondering that too.

      I’m also wondering what the pain is from. Arthritis? Prior injury? Lack of muscle/conditioning?

      I’m not trying to be unsympathetic. I was diagnosed with arthritis in both knees after injuring myself by diving into an exercise program that I thought was moderate and reasonable, but turned out not to be moderate and reasonable enough. *rolls eyes*

      I also got a prescription for physical therapy, did the exercises, and now my knees don’t hurt … as long as I keep up with my exercises.

      I mean, if it’s that she’s out of shape, well, underused muscles don’t get stronger from weight loss. They get stronger from exercise.

      Are obese people expected to let their health get to a crisis point before it’s “acceptable” for them to want to lose weight?

      To my mind (as someone who is obese enough to star in a headless fatty photo and also into FA) the point is that trying to lose weight usually results in short-term weight loss only. Most regain in the long term. Some, like me, find the long-term result is even more weight gained.

      I don’t diet because I view it as politically incorrect. I don’t diet because it’s a waste of time and energy that usually results in me gaining more weight.

      • Gina says:

        Heh. Living@400 and I couldn’t be more divergent in our views towards weight and health, yet on this issue at least we are in total agreement.

      • attrice says:

        I agree with a lot of this. I think it’s a big mistake when people who have mobility and/or pain issues go after weight loss first and *then* expect that it will make exercising easy. Not that this is what Sylvia is necessarily doing – I’m only going by what she wrote here. Building muscle and slowing upping one’s daily movement can have make a whole world of difference even without weight loss. But it’s always going to be work and if someone is unconditioned, it will still be hard work whether one is 150lbs or 300lbs. When I started regular exercise, I could barely walk half a mile and it took a while but eventually I got to the point where I could walk a couple of miles and do a nice half hour on the elliptical. It made a huge difference in my daily life and I didn’t lose weight during this time.

        However, my personal experience was that I hit a big giant wall after a few years of building up my strength and cardiovascular fitness that I wasn’t able to get through until I lost weight. Also, carrying less weight got rid of my sciatica and helped some back pain I’d had for years so that makes movement easier as well.

    • atchka says:

      It’s becoming more and more accepted that weight loss attempts that fail can result in regaining possibly more weight than you started with. Weight cycling can also result in metabolic damage. Some women who start to diet for health reasons can evolve into weight cyclers and undermine their health while trying to save it.

      Instead of focusing on weight, many people in the FA community feel like you should focus on improving your lifestyle. That’s basically what Health at Every Size means.

      When Sylvia announced that she was planning to lose weight, a lot of people on the Fatosphere lost their cool because it’s a “diet free zone.” Personally, I don’t care what Sylvia does and I think there’s a bit of an overprotective response to anyone talking about dieting on the Fatosphere.

      But when you ask “Are obese people expected to let their health get to a crisis point before it’s ‘acceptable’ for them to want to lose weight?” you’re demonstrating one of the issues that people in Fat Acceptance have. Weight is separate from health. Weight can impact health, but weight is not health.

      If Sylvia said that she was eating healthy and exercising, but still fat and in pain, that would be one thing. But she’s not claiming that. She’s saying she’s not active and (I didn’t see anything about her current diet, but I assume it’s not ideal based on what I’ve read) not eating healthy.

      My advice would be to change your lifestyle first and see if the issues resolve themselves. But it’s Sylvia’s body, so if the weight loss path is what she thinks will help, then good luck to her.


      • Sylvia says:

        Shannon – where did I say I wasn’t eating healthy or ideal?

        • atchka says:

          I put that stipulation because I was making an assumption. If I made an ass out of you and me (well, okay, just me), I’m sorry. I think what I read was that you talked about how food wasn’t a #1 priority, then how you got more money and were eating more. Also, you’ve spoken on ZC about how you want to eat better. So I put two and two together and got six.

          I assumed that, like me, you had a laissez-faire attitude toward food, which means I eat more processed foods than anything and not very many vegetables.

          I’m sorry I put words in your mouth. You may not commence the beatings.


          • Sylvia says:

            Shannon – for the record – food wasn’t a priority in college, because beer was.

            But since I have a problem with most processed foods and sugar (severe headaches/nausea), my issue isn’t what I eat, but rather how much of it I eat. And when I eat it.

  2. bri says:

    Sylvia has my heartfelt sympathy for her chronic pain. Truly. But the thing is, even if she lost weight she doesn’t know for sure that would no longer be in pain. I know of many people who have thought they would not be in pain when they lost weight, they went to extreme measure to lose weight and were still in pain. And then eventually regained the weight (and more) and were still in the same amount of pain. What is it that is causing the pain? What underlyings are there? I think it is too easy to blame being fat. Has Sylvia tried a HAES approach long term? If she did find a way to be pain free (or in less pain) would she continue that approach even if she didn’t lose weight? Is her weight a scapegoat for her pain issues? There are so many questions that need to explored in this sort of situation and often we need to look beyond simply blaming fat.

    • Claire says:

      Doctors blamed my chronic knee pain on my weight for years. I was in my 20s, weighed between 180 and 200 pounds. They just kept telling me to lose weight and exercise more. More than a decade went by before someone bothered to take x-rays which revealed a congenital defect in the joints that could only be corrected surgically. While I’ll never be an athlete, the surgery helped a lot. It’s a shame I had to wait so long and endure so much pain before receiving a proper diagnosis.

      I’m not saying that weight can’t cause or exacerbate pain, but it’s important that we don’t assume it is the cause of all of our health problems or we run the risk of overlooking something important. Doctors are as guilty of this as anyone.

      • living400lbs says:

        My persistent fatigue was blamed on my weight and history of depression. By the time I switched healthcare providers I’d adapted to less energy. Turns out I’d become borderline anemic due to a vitamin B12 absorption deficiency.

        I realize it’s hard to hear my symptoms when my FAT is just sitting there, but sometimes the FAT isn’t the problem.

  3. I had a friend back home who had Sylvia’s problems. She wasn’t happy about being fat mostly because she was in pain. We were teachers and being on her feet while teaching was a real challenge for her. And going up and down the flight of stairs really left her winded.

    Being new to the US, I’m not familiar with Fat Acceptance, but I have read about a kind of a big girls movement where more and more bigger-sized women are encouraged to love their body as is. I applaud self-acceptance and celebration, but I also wonder about these women’s health. Are they just talking about size or are they content about the challenges and problems that come with being overweight that Sylvia mentioned? Do all over-sized women undergo what my friend or Sylvia has undergone? Now, I’m probably 10 pounds overweight but, already, I feel the burden of the extra pounds on my health. I’m not happy about the weight and, more importantly, the pain.

  4. Linda says:

    Good luck to you, and I hope it helps. It did help me. I had a fair amount of joint pain for years until I lost some weight. Even before I began exercising, it was helpful. Along with the RIGHT exercise (no weight bearing exercises, because they would kill my knees even at a lower weight), I feel good when I walk up stairs, get up from seats, etc. Weight loss is not a magic pill, but it can sometimes be helpful when paired with the right exercise program.

  5. wriggles says:

    It seems that you’ve got a real dilemma, you hate physical activity and you’ve been on diet’s before.

    And yet you wish to lose weight via those same methods, I must admit, I can’t square that circle.

    I do think that scientists/researchers should try to understand the real underlying mechanisms of weight gain and/ or how to reverse it because that is their job and what they’re employed to do.

    What I don’t understand is what any of this has to do with the fat acceptance movement.

    • Gina says:

      I do think that scientists/researchers should try to understand the real underlying mechanisms of weight gain and/ or how to reverse it because that is their job and what they’re employed to do.

      I think scientists/researchers already understand the underlying mechanisms of weight gain pretty well. It’s the pyschological component (binge eating, self-sabotage, yo-yo dieting, or as Sylvia says “not following through on things”) that we don’t fully understand, and where most people have the most problems.

      • wriggles says:

        It’s the pyschological component (binge eating, self-sabotage, yo-yo dieting, or as Sylvia says “not following through on things”) that we don’t fully understand, and where most people have the most problems.

        So what they they know is not really of any use for Sylvia.

        • Gina says:

          Some people manage to figure out the psychological/emotional part on their own. I hope Sylvia is one of them.

          • wriggles says:

            Some people manage to figure out the psychological/emotional part on their own

            Well then maybe they should tell the scientists about it, so that it’s available to all who want it, like Sylvia.

          • Gina says:

            Gee, you just don’t want to hear anything that doesn’t fit into your narrow world-view do you?

            I’m pretty sure behavioral scientists have heard of cognitive behavioral therapy. But then, if you knew anything about dieting, other than “it doesn’t work”, you would have heard of it too.

          • wriggles says:

            Sorry to disappoint you Gina, but I have heard of cognitive behaviour therapy and I’m sure if it made dieting work, we’d all know about it by now.

            And how you know about how much I do or don’t know about dieting is a mystery to me.

            As for my worldview, your critique of it as narrow would be more convincing, if you could actually grasp it.

          • Gina says:

            Sorry to disappoint you Gina, but I have heard of cognitive behaviour therapy and I’m sure if it made dieting work, we’d all know about it by now

            Ah – that’s the point. Cognitive behavioral therapy, or deep introspection about why one overeats or binges, will only “make” dieting work if the dieter is prepared to put in the hard work and acknowledge hard truths and possibly painful feelings. Not everyone is prepared to do that, and keep doing it on an ongoing basis.

          • wriggles says:

            acknowledge hard truths and possibly painful feelings.

            Like acknowledging that you need to stop blaming yourself for what is neither blameworthy or your fault, in the hopes that all your problems will be solved in one fell swoop.

            Not everyone is prepared to do that, and keep doing it on an ongoing basis.

            Not all of us are mean enough to say it, but yes fat acceptance is hard work when you’ve been used to the easy delusions of the past and promises that never materialize.

            As some have found.

          • Gina says:

            Wriggles – thanks for confirming that I was correct in my assumptions about your world-view.

          • julie says:

            OK, wriggles, I’ll write to the scientists/researchers and tell them all about it. M’kay? So they can put it in a pill for people like you.

  6. Sylvia says:

    wriggles – I don’t believe I ever said I hate physical activity, nor did I mention anything about Fat Acceptance. My issue is finding some physical activity that I enjoy. I haven’t found it yet.

    And by dieting, you mean I attempted to lose weight by not following through on things, then yes – diets haven’t worked for me.

    But this is as much as I have weighed in my life. And I have health problems. Occam’s Razor suggests TO ME that the extra weight is causing my health problems. It may not, but I owe it to myself to find out.

    I had knee surgery two years ago and they found no arthritis. I’m not saying I don’t have it, and I’m not saying I hope weight loss solves all my weight problems.

    But what is the big issue with me eating better? Is it a sin to lose weight?

    15lbs down, and I already feel better. And you know what? I’M NOT MISERABLE

    • mamaV says:

      For those like me who have no clue what Occam’s Razor means, here is a definition:

      “When competing hypotheses are equal in other respects, the principle recommends selection of the hypothesis that introduces the fewest assumptions and postulates the fewest entities while still sufficiently answering the question. To quote Isaac Newton, “We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances. Therefore, to the same natural effects we must, so far as possible, assign the same causes.”

      Interpretation, as it pertains to this specific situation, in plain English, would be appreciated. 😉

      • Sylvia says:

        Sorry! Basically, Occam’s Razor is that the simplest explanation/solution to a problem is most likely the correct one.

        I’m in pain and heavier than I have ever been. Therefore the weight might be the cause.

        It may not be the case, but I should investigate it regardless to rule it out.

      • julie says:

        Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar.

  7. wriggles says:

    Is it a sin to lose weight?


    Is it a sin to say that diet’s don’t work?

  8. anon says:

    There is a mention of fat acceptance up there in the little prologue intro thing. Maybe that’s where the confusion comes in.

    • mamaV says:

      I wrote the intro, and I mentioned FA because Sylvia recently turned away from the movement because she “wanted” to lose weight, which is generally against the principles of FA, as I understand it.

      The reason I stated I was curious to see how the WATRD community reacted to this post, it is because of the push and pull between — the belief that losing weight will cure ailments and disease, and the belief that obesity does not cause such ailments and disease.

      As we can see already, there are interesting stories, such as Claire’s above, of those who were totally disregarded and misdiagnosed because the drs. could not see beyond the fat. On the flip side there are those that believe that, hands down, fat is the problem, lose it and you are pain free.

      This is at the heart of this discussion, and none of us really know the answer to the question — we have our personal experiences, we have data on each side, but at the end of the day this is an individuals choice to figure out how to have a better quality of life….correct?

  9. As someone who has lost around 140 pounds, after weighing nearly 290, I will say that my energy and pain improved. Although the weight loss did not “fix” the ruptured disc in my back, it did make it possible for me to exercise more easily and the exercise has helped tremendously. I even became a yoga teacher because I can personally see how much help it has been to my life. The weight loss and change in the food I eat did help lower my cholesterol from 290 to 189 and I was able to avoid statins.

    I changed my relationship I have toward food completely and for the better. I developed mindful eating habits and now make almost all my food from scratch. My “diet” now constitutes the foundation for approaching all life in a more peaceful fashion.

  10. mamaV says:

    Hi Sylvia: I think your biggest hurdle is getting yourself moving. People do have tendencies to be more sedentary, and when its uncomfortable and painful, it makes it very hard to get motivated, but that doesn’t mean you can’t change it.

    Here’s some advice from an exercise/anxiety freak (me):
    1) Start with a realistic routine – 3 days a week, for 30 minutes cardio max. That doesn’t sound so overwhelming does it?

    Pencil this into your schedule on days and times that are workable for you and do not let anything interfere with this — it is “your time”

    2) Figure out where you would prefer to exercise – home or gym? I personally like the gym because it presents options, and there are TVs with cable on the machine I like, so I can easily burn away 30 min in a blink of an eye while watching trash TV.

    3) Keep a journal on what is great about your new routine, and about what totally sucks. I’ve got news for you — sometimes it is a HUGE effort to get moving, even for someone like me who enjoys it a great deal and uses it to control my anxiety. The hardest is when I am crabby or really busy, but 9 times out of 10 I leave the gym in a better mood. Do not underestimate the power of exercise to help with depression/anxiety. Make this a priority in your life.

    4) Buy some workout clothes you feel comfortable in, but don’t look like a bum (ie old sweats, t-shirt). Get yourself some sexy looking workout gear so you enhance your best features.

    5) Do not weigh yourself- scale is off limits. This is not about losing weight, its about losing pain. Focus on making your body and mind strong.

    6) Combine this with an effort to eat a few more fruits and veggies daily. This doesn’t mean you have to cut out the fun stuff, just add the super healthy stuff and you will see your energy increase and you may see your desire for sweets diminish…but if not, dont beat yourself up about it. Easiest way to do this is “green juice,” Naked Juice makes , but I found a cheaper brand that is sold in quarts so I can drink it every morning (tastes great, my kids even drink it).

    7) Vitamins, vitamins, vitamins. I am into them big time and they help a great deal with immunity. When you start working out regularly you need it because I find that I always get sick when I push myself and then my routing gets screwed up. Go to a health food store and tell them y
    you need vitamins for immune system, energy and vitality.

    8) Reward yourself, get a massage once a week, or do some treatment that helps your body and mind.

    Hope this stuff helps, and it doesn’t sound like a big load of crap that everyone tells you. My husband was like you a few years ago, a reader, a writer, a lay on the coucher, and I kicked him into gear. He would go for a month, and quit, start again, quit, and then something finally clicked and he works out 3-4 days a week for the past 3 years.

    YOU can do it, change your perception of yourself, and get your butt in gear!!

    • living400lbs says:

      I second the journal idea – I’ve been doing that as well…

      For a few starting-out specifics, having a blog about being superfat means I occasionally get “but how do you get exercising?” emails. So I’ve been posting info on exercise that can be done at home with little to no equipment. Hopefully Sylvia is further along, but I thought it might be worth throwing out there for others.

      A lot of this is based on my experience in starting to exercise after vitamin B12 deficiency anemia had me extremely sedentary. Getting my B12 levels up meant I FELT GREAT and HAD ENERGY so I dived into exercising and …. ended up injuring myself because my muscles weren’t able to handle it. 🙁

  11. Sandwiched says:

    I’m in a similar boat. I’m within 15 lbs of my all-time heaviest, and I’m almost 10 years older. I feel the ache in my back and the pain in my feet (plantar fasciitis? self-diagnosed; thanks, Dr. Google!), and I see myself hating the thought of much more physical activity than a flight of stairs.

    On the flip side, I feel BETTER when I work out and eat right. I think this is my body telling me that I’d better get my ass in gear, healthwise.

    Off to work out,


  12. Jen says:

    I found this site because I typed “I don’t much like me” as my search criteria. This is my first visit here because I’m looking for some “Great motivator” as well. I could have written this article. I have led a parallel life.

    When I read this, I didn’t hear anything other than the quest for motivation. In my case, I have devalued myself, through years of conditioning, to a state of inertia. I want to change this, but I don’t think highly enough of myself to do so, so I create my own vicious circle.

    The quest is: How does one start to change their way of thinking about themselves. There is a lifetime of negative conditioning regarding self worth that no quote, mantra, or simplification can change overnight. One cannot possibly accept the way they are if they don’t like it or if they don’t think they’re worthy of changing it.

    I accept that I am fat. I don’t like that I am fat. That is the war within, which is what I got out of this post and that same war rages inside of my own mind.

    It’s not as simple as “change what you eat, exercise, lose weight, feel better about your life, or the words “Change your perception about yourself.” Those are all wonderful things; however, in my case, I’m so low I just can’t buy that. So now what?

    I’m a mess.

    • atchka says:

      Hi Jen,
      I’m sorry to hear about your current state of mind. The bad news is that you are not alone. There are millions of women who feel as beat down as you do and don’t think there’s any way to change your mindset.

      The good news is that you are not alone. Women who have felt exactly like you have found comfort in a variety of sources. One of the more recent developments is Fat Acceptance. In a nutshell, Fat Acceptance means calling a truce in that war within.

      My recommendation is that you poke around some Fat Acceptance (FA) sites and see if anything speaks to you. Many of the women who have FA blogs started out exactly where you are and, through much self-examination and education, have been able to achieve not only that truce, but have actually come to enjoy who they are, both inside and out.

      Two places you can go to read FA blogs is the Fatosphere which has a feed you can subscribe to. The Fatosphere deals a lot with body image issues and eating disorder recovery. There are some incredible bloggers in there who you may find comforting to read their personal struggles.

      The other is the site I run. It’s a fledgling site and a little more free-wheeling, but our bloggers also have experienced the same emotional turmoil you are going through. We’re at

      One last resource I would recommend is to buy the book “Health at Every Size” by Linda Bacon. The first half is all about dealing with those internal struggles and the second half is all about how to live healthfully without resorting to dangerous dieting methods. I just finished it myself and really enjoyed it. I’ve taken a few baby steps toward improving my health lately that I probably would not have taken if I hadn’t read this book.

      And, of course, talk to people. Reach out to anyone whose story speaks to you and ask for their opinions or advice. Hell, just tell them your story. Sometimes it’s good just to get it out. If you want to write about your feelings, you can start a blog, or if you want to test the waters, you’re welcome to submit something to Fierce Fatties. You’d be surprised what a community can do to give you peace of mind.

      I hope this is your first step on the journey to self-acceptance. It’s not easy, but it’s well worth it. To put to rest of all of the internal demons that haunt you will make life so much more satisfying. I’m glad you showed up here. Welcome.


    • living400lbs says:

      Hi Jen.

      Quick question: How’s your life in general? Job, friends, family, home? Is that working for you? Got hobbies you enjoy? One of the things that helped me to become more comfortable with myself was “temporarily” stopping all weight-loss efforts in college. To my great surprise, once I put the effort I had put into dieting into coursework I began getting straight As. To my even greater surprise, my weight also stabilized for the first time in my life.

      I extended this “temporary” dieting halt in my first job and also did well; I made friends, yes, but I also found my feet professionally. Not everyone gets (or wants to get) their self-esteem from their job or school, but for me it was a start. I had things I was good at that had nothing to do with weight. I also got my first apartment, which was a learning curve in many ways (I’d lived at home through college) and also gave me things to feel good about.

      Re: books, Health At Every Size may be useful, but also Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere.

      Hope this helps. 🙂


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