Thin Privilege and Fat Acceptance: My Experience

thin privileged

It’s ironic that I was once fat for many years, severely underweight for another ten plus years, and now I am what the Fat Acceptance/Body positive movement calls “Thin Privileged.”

If you are on a weight loss journey, I applaud you.

If you are on a weight gain journey, I applaud you.

If you are happy, in the body you have in the present, I applaud you.

You see, that is what acceptance is about, loving everyone for all of their uniqueness, but here is the thing, I do have “Thin privilege.”

You may be asking yourself, “What Does Fat Acceptance, Body positive, and Thin privilege mean?”

Trigger Warning: Talk About Weight and Other Numbers

When I had binge eating disorder, my highest weight went to 350 lbs., and rarely did I step foot in the doctor’s office because I knew what he or she was going to say. However, right after my daughter was born, I had a whole host of symptoms that I never experienced, all GI-related and my intake was shaky, but I was a binge eater, so I had weight to lose.

Back story, if you have not read any of my other blogs, I was also in therapy, dealing with my son’s illness, and medical PTSD and my therapist pushed me to see a doctor. Yes, I did go to the OBGYN while pregnant, had a great pregnancy, but I was still binging; by the end of my pregnancy, I could no longer tolerate food and lost a significant amount of weight. I was fat, so that was seen as a good thing and praised even while pregnant, and no concern by the doctors in charge of my care about my GI symptoms.

My son was out of the hospital after almost a year, and my daughter was four months old, and I was not getting any better, but I could binge and not gain any more weight, so a win for me, NOT. I could not deny anymore that I needed to see a doctor, so with high anxiety, I went and explained all my symptoms, and the doctor said, “Well, you certainly do not look like you are in distress because you have a lot of fat on your body, and If you lost weight all your symptoms would go away.” Yes, I was what is considered “Morbidly Obese,” and that is all the doctor saw and sent me to a “Fat” doctor. If you read my prior blogs, the story of how that went is there, but the words he said to me stuck, and still haunt me today. He said, “You are what you eat, so you must be a cow.” Mind you, that was the last day I ever ate meat, and also the last day I ever binged. Food became the enemy and no longer my friend.

Yes, I lost the weight, which almost took my life, but I still also had all the same symptoms, but now it was blamed on having anorexia. Somehow in the mix, the team of “Doctors and dietitian’s”  that were working with me forgot the fact that I had binge eating disorder, which turned into bulimia (medically induced, but I was happy about it), and I was told, “If I gained weight, all my symptoms would be gone.” Two weeks later, I almost died because my K level dropped to 1.1, and at that time, my first team realized I need a new team, that specialized in eating disorders. Once I made the move to my new team, who I interviewed, I did need to prove myself because at that point I was so sick, and I no longer knew how to distinguish between illness or eating disorder. However, at this time my intake was up to 3500 calories, and I was still losing weight because I was SICK. I agreed to go into Princeton Medical Center to “prove” I was sick to get the medical help I needed while stabilizes my weight.

Princeton Medical Center Eating Disorder Unit

Everything my team discussed with the medical team at Princeton turned out to be a lie. I was placed on bed rest, and the doctor thought it was a good idea to take me off my six potassium pills a day because he was proving that it was the eating disorder, and I was manipulating my new team. I had no time for manipulation and never once lied to my new team about what was eating disorder or and what was medical, and the only reason I agreed for this admission was that they were going to do the test, WRONG. My room was at the nurse’s station, and I had a video camera in my room, so how could things go south?

I was permitted to be out of my room in a wheelchair for meal times and groups, so my first meal came and I ate, no big deal, but they dropped my intake from 3500 a day to 1500 a day.  The staff believed I was lying about my intake, and they did not want to cause the refeeding syndrome. Then I entered group, and I felt like I was just wheeled into a grade school; the youngest was 11-years old and the one closest to my age, was 18-years old, I was 29. I left the group, and went to my room, and knew then this was not going to work, but I would still give it a chance. After a rough night of sickness,  morning rolls around, and I have labs drawn, and I was supervised as I get changed for a weight check, and of course, I lost weight. I went back to my room, and all of a sudden, I am having an emergency ECG because my K level was 1. The doctor walks in my room and said: “Since I was purging all night, I was now on 1:1 supervision.” I looked at him as if he had ten heads because I did not purge, I was sick, and the nurse was with me all night; while also having a video camera pointed at the bed and bathroom. However, my nurse told the doctor I had purged all night, which was not true, so I signed out AMA, and he said, I would be dead in a week. I lasted 12 hours in Princeton, to prove myself, and they were trying to prove I was manipulating my team, which almost killed me for a second time. I went straight to my primary care doctor, who admitted me to increase my K level, rehydrated, and for weight stabilization by providing me with the medical help I needed. With that said, because of the reports from my previous team, I understand her reasoning for sending me to Princeton, where she believed I would have testing done. She has never doubted me since, and I have an amazing treatment team.

Why the story?  

I told this story to show weight bias in the medical community, whether you are fat or underweight, and how one is invalidated for medical symptoms all just based on the number on a scale.

Getting Back to the Story behind the Story

I had commented on a post from one of my very dear online friends who is a Fat Activist who also exists in a Fat Body, no big deal to me because I do not view people by their size, ethnicity, race, religion, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation; I judge their character and how they treat other people. I know my story and experience and can relate to everything she has gone through and still goes through; she, however, suffered from anorexia, and just as the doctor said to me that “I did not look sick,” she was told she did not either and never received the proper treatment for her eating disorder. The difference between her and I is that the Fat Doctor put me on amphetamines, B12, and HCG. I developed a fear of food, and the weight was gone, in 9 months. I was then validated for my eating disorder because I was dying. I still see myself as a binge eater, and anorexia saved me, and my team saved me from myself. The comment on this post was in reference to an individual who was harassing her about her size and saying she was promoting obesity, and that is not the case, it took her years to love her body as it is, eat intuitively, and move with joy, not punishment, and my response was: “I am sorry you are having a tough time, so you feel the need to hurt others with your word, I hope tomorrow brings you a better day.” I left it like that and went on with my day. When I went back on Instagram, one of her followers who is also in the fat acceptance community, which I thought I was too in, responded to my comment said: “You have no right defending anyone, so take your “thin privileged ass” and jump off a bridge.” I removed myself from the conversation without responding because it was better to separate then say something that I could not take back.

“Thin privilege”

Yes, I am “Thin privileged” in the sense that I live in a thin body and no longer deal with weight stigma in the medical community or my personal life. I get treated with respect and dignity just like I treat everyone that I come into contact with, regardless of whether they are rude, mean, or just downright nasty. However, I am not ”thin privilege” as a normal abled body. My body is sick and attacks every organ. I cannot just get up and go out, work, go to parks or beach, and even showering can wipe me out for days. I cannot travel or drive long-distance, exercise, and I am discriminated against because of my disability and medical conditions, however, what I experience cannot compare to the way the medical professionals and people in general still invalidate others because of their weight, and that leads to death. What this follower did to me was not acceptable because she does not know my story, and just told someone with suicidal ideation to kill herself because she stood up for a friend being attacked. I know what it’s like to be bullied and discriminated against, and it can be life-sucking. So, before you can’t take back the words, stop and ask yourself, “How would I feel if someone said that to me or my child?”

If you want to stop Oppression than don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution.

I am not angry at this follower, however, the leaders of fat activism, HAES, fat acceptance, and the body-positive movement need to step up and address this issues because instead of bringing communities together for acceptance, their followers are hurting their progress in moving forward in breaking down weight stigma because they tell someone like me, who suffers from chronic suicidal ideation to kill myself. I am blessed to have the treatment team and tools that I do to get through these situations, but the next person may not be so lucky.

Peace, Love, and Respect