I am an average small town girl, living in the city. I am a chef by trade and have been working in the kitchen for as long as I can remember. I was born and raised in rural Saskatchewan and moved to Alberta in 2014 for a career. People call me strong, resilient, and strong headed. I have suffered depression and anxiety since I was 12 years old. I have faced a lot in the short time I have been here on this wonderful earth but it is all a stepping stone in my path of life. Each stone has given then courage to move forward. From my parents separating as a child, to working a full time job and going to high school, being abused by a boyfriend, to suffering medical challenges that left me with some memory loss, vision issues, and muscle spasms, and so much more but none of that ever stopped me. I kept my head down and knew my worth and worked hard to get everything that I have in my life.
How do you perceive your body? Do you feel like your perspective differs from that of society’s? How does it influence you and how you feel about yourself today?
My body is something that I don’t like to look at; I never have and maybe never will. It is one thing that I don’t really love. From the neck up I am okay with how it looks but from the neck down I am not happy with it. Well, my perspective differs a bit. Society probably sees an obese 29 year old lady, suffering from health conditions, low motivation, a food junkie, lazy couch potato. Well that is not the case. I on average walk anywhere from 10,000-20,000 steps a day if not more. I also work in a hot kitchen environment, I’m fairly healthy, I play full contact women’s football, I honestly can’t stomach the greasy foods well, I love to cook and entertain family and friends, but also have a huge heart larger than my actual body to help out family friends and people in need. I keep challenging myself and my body in ways I could never think before. I am overcoming fears that I have had for years not exploring the wilderness, hiking and walking to see things on vacations, going off the beaten path taking the harder route to just challenge me. A prime example this past couple days: I was out on the island and overcame my fear of ferries, ocean docks and just pushing myself to climb and walk threw things I wouldn’t have done before. The way society treats larger people in this day and age is disgusting. We are people just like the size 2, elderly, refugees, and politicians. We deserve to have the same rights and such as them. We should not be the star of your jokes, your looks or even the attention. Why do we get the bad rep, you never see plus six models on the cover of the new stands often or unless its negative or shocking? We deserve to be loved and cared about just like everyone else. From the way society has portrayed larger people I feel like in my life I’m left wondering, “will someone love me, will someone think I am normal, will someone give me a chance even though I am larger than the rest?” Also, stop saying that everyone who is larger is unhealthy. You can not judge a book by the cover. Or until you actually know how we feel, see and do walk a mile in our shoes and see the challenges and difficulties we face daily.
How were the topics of self-image, weight and health discussed when you were growing up? How does this influence the way you think and talk about bodies and weight now?
They were to a point. I used figure skate 3 days a week while growing up. It was a happy place for me until the time my father pulled me from it because of the time of practices and time it took away from the family. But I was tormented about my weight ever since I could remember. I remember when I would hide in the playground structure so I didn’t have to go to school. I would hang out there all day until the bus came to pick me up. I hated the way people would always laugh at me when I was slower than everyone else, or couldn’t do something as good as them. I was completely out of breath while doing the 20 minutes of exercise in high school, and a teacher said to the class, “we are ‘watching super size me’ movie for the benefit of a classmate” while they were staring at me. I felt like I was 2 inches small and wanted to cry for days. I had family/friends tell me they would pay me $1 dollar for every pound that I would lose, call me fat and useless, or try to get me to diet all the time when I was in elementary and high school. As well, I had kids in high school laugh at me since I kept to myself and never dated anyone, I just did what I could do to pass and graduate because I hated life. I now have a very low sense of confidence in myself. I have a very low sense of worthiness. But, at the same time I am strong because I know who I am, and now am at the point where I don’t care what others think about me. We all know we have days where we love our bodies. I am finally not concentrated on the scale and the number on the scale. I believe that your are not defined by this number, but by the quality of life you live and happiness you give yourself. Believe in yourself and you can do anything you put your mind too.
Can you tell me about a time when you experienced or observed discrimination or judgment because of your (or someone else’s) weight or size? Why does this particular experience stand out in your mind?
Well how long do you really have? There are so many stories about discrimination or judgement about weight that I could write a novel on it.
- Being asked to a dance in school by a guy I thought was nice and someone I wanted to get to know more. So, I made the plans to go to the dance with him. My mom drove me into town and was going to wait to drive me home after the dance, only to have him not show up. He got one of his friends to tell me, “did you really think I would actually want to get to know a fat girl like you? Get a life and lose some weight because you’re disgusting…”
- Being laughed at by the local girls at the lake since I couldn’t actually go waterskiing as the boat couldn’t be pulled because I was too big…..
- Walking into a clothing store with friends in high school and being told by the worker at the store that “sorry but we don’t have anything that fits you”, pointed, and gave me a really disgusting look. I walked right out of that store and never went back.
- Having to get a custom made chef coat for culinary school because the biggest size that was stocked wouldn’t do up for me. The bookstore worker gave me a disgusting look and muttered “oh I don’t think you need to eat anymore, you’re big enough already.”
- Being told by guys that I must be to sleep with because I must be desperate for intimacy.
These are just a few they stand out because none of these people actually took the chance to get to know me for who I am, they just judged before they knew the whole story.
If the fear of weight discrimination were eliminated, what would your life look like?
Honestly I think It would be completely different in many ways. I would probably be married, be a mom, have the career I love, and wouldn’t be suffering from depression and social anxiety all the time. I would probably be a free spirit, not having to wonder how bad I am going to be judged doing the things I love to do.
Do you feel that your weight has created barriers for you? For example, have you ever given up an activity you really loved because of your weight? Or are there other ways that your weight has hindered you?
Yes it has created huge barriers. I have given up my figure skating, horseback riding, ice fishing, and summer fishing. I am now pushing myself to not let myself quit playing football. I am pushing myself beyond my beliefs and pushing beyond my boundaries. It has also hindered my love of life because I am not confident. I honestly have never really felt loved by a guy. I have also been used so much because of how badly I want to have a relationship with a guy; I really want the intimacy and love in life.
How have your opinions and beliefs about weight influenced the way you see other people? Why do you think this is?
Kind of. But I also am a person that wants to know, or even question, the person behind them. I cannot judge someone when I don’t know them. I also don’t want to be the one passing judgement on someone when I don’t know the whole story, or the things that led them to their choices in life.
What do you think are some of the most common misconceptions regarding obesity? How do you think stigma contributes to these misconceptions?
That we just eat, eat, and eat. That we are lazy. That we are unhealthy because we don’t care. That we are the ones that did this to ourselves. That we are a burden on the medical system. Well we don’t just eat eat and eat, we eat to survive and to get the energy we need to live. We are not lazy, most of us are in too much pain from the issues we face with joints and our backs because we don’t get the same medical priority as normal people. We care about ourselves but if the medical and health professionals don’t give us the care we need to survive daily, then we get depressed because we are the only ones fighting for our lives. It wasn’t just us that got us here, our society got us here. Our food is so depleted of nutrients, and there are doctors out there that push meds that have a side effect of weight gain, causing different issues that we weren’t suffering from before. We are not a burden on the medical system, most of the medications out there are not even covered by the government or on the drug plans approved list. Obesity is a chronic disease and we are being pushed aside for people that have cancer, MS, and other chronic diseases. It has been proven to cause multiple types of cancer, mental health issues, type 2 diabetes, and many others. Yet people seem to think it’s okay to let someone receive care for weight-loss surgery with a wait time of 2 plus years before getting seen in the clinic, then another 1-2 years before surgery. Most of us could be dead before then or be rejected because things are too far progressed and they don’t think it is safe to do it. I know from personal experience that someone with cancer or autoimmune issues gets faster medical treatment and treated different. I still remember the looks I got when I was in and out of the hospital because of my migraines and all the other medical tests I was having done. All the looks you got from people, nurses and doctors alike made me feel bad for even being there.
If you feel that your weight is a problem for you, can you talk about the moment you realized it was an issue? What triggered this response?
Honestly the turning point for me was when the doctors were telling me that I will end up as a handicap at some point in time but couldn’t guarantee me when because I was already having the side effects. All they were doing was pushing more and more pharmaceuticals my way. I got to the point where I started researching other ways to lessen the severity of health issues from the 2 conditions I was diagnosed with, and surprisingly it was a bariatric procedure that had the best results. So at 22 years old, I hopped on a plane to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and started the journey to a healthier me. I was questioned so many times, “why mexico?”. “Why surgery?”. “Why not eat less and move more?”. “You just took the easy way out…. you did everything else before why do you think this will help?” That’s not all of the objections I ever heard. But I reframed it as: “What would you do if you didn’t know if you would wake up in the morning all because of a condition you were suffering from? How much is your life worth to you?” I knew my life was worth fighting for. I had a 4-year old nephew that I wanted to play outside with, I wanted to one day have my own kids, I wanted to go for a walk and not feel like I was dying, or even go swimming at the lake without people looking at me, discussing my weight, or making rude comments. My life was meant to be lived and I wasn’t meant to stay inside a house from being in too much pain. So now I am living my life the way I want to, as much as I can, and letting people know that having a surgery is not the easy way out.
Where do you see a need for Obesity Canada and what do you hope we can achieve together?
I see a need for it to help educate the people who truly don’t understand our daily struggles, To help get us equality with medical field, and help fight for us to get the same care as any other disease fitting patients out there. The stats show that obesity is high in Canada and if we don’t have a organization to advocate for us we will be worse off. If we could only get the treatments and help we need in a timely manner we wouldn’t have so many problems. There’s such a bias about obesity. People really need to do their research and see that is not all about the food we eat and that “eat less, move more” is not always an option. For me, medications that doctors put me on for other medical conditions was what pushed me over the top, and is why I was was gaining weight. So having a group of motivated and caring people who know our daily struggles is awesome so they can fight to make the change.