36 Pounds

I lost 36 pounds
No congratulations wanted or accepted
Even though I did it on purpose
I can tell you all the right reasons I did it
About blood pressure and cholesterol and protecting my joints
I can tell you how I did it the right way, got all the gold stars:
Eat food. Not too much, mostly plants.

(Thanks Michael Pollan
Another man
Who knows what I should put in my body and where it should come from)

And those things are true
I’m afraid of dying, afraid of diabetes and strokes and heart disease and kidney failure
Which are responsible for 35% of dead American women every year.
I am afraid of the cancer that haunts my family reunions
And which they tell me feeds on every bad thing I’ve ever done

But that’s not why I did it

That’s not what I was most afraid of

I was just afraid to be fat

I was afraid of workplace discrimination and social erasure
Of being asked to be glad for men’s violence against me
Because I should be grateful they pay attention to a fat girl at all
Of spending twice as much on clothes to have them fit half as well
I was afraid of back pain from hunching my shoulders trying to disappear
Of heartache from trying
And failing
To be seen
I did it because I just knew my life would be easier
And I wanted it to be easier

To do it
I gave money to people who profit off shame
Whose shareholders invest in our sense of inadequacy
Not because we have done too little but because we are too much
Take up too much space
Talk too loud
And need too much
I gave them my money
I helped keep them rich
I proved that whatever they’re saying is working.
It’s successfully carving out pieces of us
From our insides, hollowing us out of our worth and our wisdom
Regardless of whether or not what they’re selling is really
Carving in the curves of our flesh.

I don’t know how I feel about this
Because my life is easier, and I’m glad about it
My clothes are cheaper and easier to find
People are nicer to me
My diabetes risk rating on the ADA test is zero
I can eat food in public and no one stares in disgust
My hiring prospects have improved
And my wages will not be garnished to pay rent on the extra space I take up

But other people’s lives are worse, and I’m guilty about it
I’ve gotten what I wanted by supporting what eats us
I have made it just a little bit easier for people to feel smug and comfortable
When they use weight as a shorthand for worth
Especially if they know I lost weight
A little easier for them to say to someone else
She did it, can’t you?
You must be too lazy or too stupid or too weak
To take control of your life and show some self-respect
By turning into something more convenient for them to look at

I look inside my head and I wonder
By choosing easy
Have I gotten smaller?

Leah Gates lives and writes longhand in Washington, D.C., where maybe one day she'll actually finish her doctorate. She tweets about feminism, organizational sociology, and cute animals at @LeahLikesDogs.