My name is Lyndi, I am 34 years old. I am many things to many people, I am a sister, daughter, aunt and friend. Not yet a mother but hope to be one day. I am a patient at the Edmonton Adult Bariatric Specialty Clinic (also known as the Weight Wise Clinic). In my free time I enjoy reading and writing. I hope to be able to go back to school soon to be able to get my GED.
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 perception of myself can be a tricky thing to pin down. It fluctuates day to day. One day everything is great and then the next not so great. Sometimes, it’s just the smallest thing that sets it into a downward spiral. It has however gotten a lot better over time. I have a better understanding of myself and what has led me to where I am today. Since starting at the clinic and gaining insight into my inner workings I am better equipped at spotting the inner judgement and realizing that it’s ok. Everyone has something that they don’t like about themselves. I try not to focus on my flaws or the things that I see as being wrong with me. I do this thing now for every negative thing I point out about myself I have to counter it with three positive things. I think for the most part my perception of myself is probably on par with what society thinks. There is such a nasty perception on obesity in the public though. I have come a long way in my journey and refuse to let anything set me back now.
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?
Those things were never discussed. My family aren’t big talkers when it comes to things like that. Even in school I don’t ever really remember being talked to about body image, self esteem etc. It was more or less just “Everyone is different that’s ok. Don’t tease others..now everyone get along” and that was it. I think from years of not talking about it kind of made it taboo to talk about. This is so far outside my comfort zone it’s not even funny, but I figured I have to break the cycle somewhere and face it head on. It’s not just going to go away.
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?
It’s hard to pick just one instance. It’s happened throughout my entire life. I’ve always been the “big” girl. I was teased unmercifully throughout my entire schooling. Dropping out in grade 9 was largely due to bullying. My own family teased me growing up, I know they didn’t mean it to be hurtful but eventually it’s hard to separate what is joking and what is just being hurtful. You really start to believe the things that are said to you day in and day out. A few years ago a friend and I were walking into Denny’s restaurant when someone driving by decided to yell out “Go on a diet you fat pig!” I was near tears and couldn’t believe that someone would go out of there way to make someone else feel so small about themselves. I couldn’t understand why someone felt the need to do that, what purpose does it really serve? I know I am overweight i don’t need you to tell me that I am too. Or the most common one “You’d be so much prettier if you lost weight” I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that one. About 4 years ago I went to a concert only to discover that when I got there I couldn’t fit in the seats. I didn’t know that the seating was like movie theater seats otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered to go. I ended up losing out on front row center seats because I couldn’t sit in my seat. Instead I sat further back and leaned up against the seat when it was in the up right position. When I asked a lady if they had chairs so I could sit even if at the top she looked at me disgusted and said “No, we don’t offer special seating for your kind” and walked a way in a huff, I stood there and cried I felt so humiliated. People can be so judgmental when they haven’t had to walk in those shoes.
If the fear of weight discrimination were eliminated, what would your life look like?
It would be just like everyone else’s. I wouldn’t need to phone ahead of time to a venue or restaurant to find out what their seating situation is like, if their chairs have arms on them, if they can accommodate larger people etc. I wouldn’t have to worry or stress so much about the looks and whispers that other people give when they see me walk into a room. I try to ignore them but I know they are happening.
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?
For sure it has created barriers. I was unable to continue working because of my weight. I quit school because of my weight. I stopped leaving my house unless I absolutely had to. I was unable to have children because of my weight. I’ve missed out on so much in my life because I wouldn’t allow myself to do something because of fear of judgment or simply just not being able to do it. I was learning how to drive until I got to big that I couldn’t fit behind the steering wheel.
How have your opinions and beliefs about weight influenced the way you see other people? Why do you think this is?
I don’t really think my beliefs are influenced by weight. I think there are a lot of misconceptions out there but I try my best not to judge someone else by what they believe even if it is hurtful to me. Everyone has the right to their own opinion I just wish more people would educate themselves rather than just assuming the answers. I choose to be compassionate and understanding because I know what it is like to be judged over things that aren’t easily controlled. Everyone has their own struggles that they deal with, it is not up to me judge them by how they handle them. I would rather encourage and support a person than to judge and tear them down.
What do you think are some of the most common misconceptions regarding obesity? How do you think stigma contributes to these misconceptions?
I think the most common misconception is that people just sit around and eat all day. That often isn’t the case at all there are often underlying circumstances. Another common misconception is that obese people are lazy and do it only because they want the attention. Obesity I believe is mostly psychological. Yes, it affects the physical body but it also affects the mind. It’s not as simple as saying “Ok, I’m going to a salad everyday for the next week to lose some weight”. There is so much more to it. I blame a lot of the misconceptions on social media. The way social media labels people is so far outside of the realm of ok. It’s like if you aren’t a size zero then you are fat and unworthy. They place so many unhealthy expectations on people. But society as a whole does nothing to combat against it, they just accept it and move on. I truly believe you cannot judge a person by what you see because you have not walked in their shoes. You do not know their struggles or their pain so you do not have the right to pass judgment.
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?
I’ve always known that my weight was an issue. But, it got more upfront and in my face about 4 years ago. I started having problems walking, it was becoming a chore to do. When the seat belt in the car no longer fit around me. When I slipped on some ice and fell I had a really hard time getting back up. It was a bunch of small things that just added up. I just realized that I was doing less and less actual living. I knew that I needed to do something and do it quickly. I wanted to have kids one day but as long as I was the size that I was or kept growing I knew it would never happen. I had a lot of health problems as a result of my weight. Type 2 diabetic, stage 3 hypertension, problems with my thyroid, high cholesterol, arthritis in both knees. I was diagnosed as having severe sleep apnea. I had a lot of problems with my menstrual cycle which put a damper on having children. Everyone of my problems were caused because of my weight. Even my isolation from other people was because of my weight. Friends and family stopped inviting me places because they knew I couldn’t go or would say no. I decided I wanted my life back and that I was to young to die. So when I joined the Weight Wise Clinic I was mortified when I stepped on the scale one day and saw that it said I weighed 517 lbs. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I weighed that much..I cried. But I was determined to make a change and that I have done. That was in September 2016. I am still classified as obese but the numbers are coming down. I’m currently down 175 lbs and couldn’t be happier.
Where do you see a need for Obesity Canada and what do you hope we can achieve together?
Education to the public is the greatest need I think. I know we can’t change years of stigma and misconceptions overnight. But, it would be nice to know that people are better informed. My biggest hope for me participating in this and sharing my thoughts, experiences and over all journey was to encourage even just one person so that they know they aren’t alone. That there is help out there for them and that they shouldn’t feel ashamed about needing to ask for said help. The way the public perceives overweight or obese people can be very damaging to an already fragile state of mind. Speaking from experience we often hate ourselves and the choices we’ve made that have landed us here in our current situation. We don’t need other people to tell us what we already know. A little love and compassion goes along way in the eyes of someone who is struggling. If by sharing my story it helps even one person then I have succeeded in what I set out to do.