So to start this story, there’s a tiny café that I love going to. It’s nearby, locally owned, the people working there are nice, and the coffee is great. As the days have gotten nicer and longer, I’ve started walking the mile or so to and from. Overall, I love this place and it’s one of the few ways I get to interact with people.
I went today and sat down to start working on a writing project like I’ve done so many times before. Suddenly, a stranger appears next to me with a piece of folded paper and sets it on the table next to me.
“Look this guy up. He changed my life,” the stranger says before walking out of the café. It was such a weird interaction that I think I managed to only sputter out an ‘okay’ before he walked away. I’ve had people suggest things before and I’ve had strangers say random things to me but this threw me off guard a bit.
After a moment of debate, I thought I’d at least google the name that was on the paper; I was too curious not to at least do that and I figured by the stranger’s comment that the name might belong to a religious or spiritual person. I’ve had that happen on more than a few occasions. What I found instead was a few doctors across Canada and the United States and the first hit was actually a dermatologist in Alberta, Canada. I was confused for a moment, as I don’t have a visible need to go to a dermatologist.
Then I saw it.
The next hit was a doctor/dietitian who does some sort of intentional fasting as a way to lose weight/change your life.
And my heart sank.
I haven’t had such a comment in the longest time, especially from a stranger. I was used to hearing stuff about my weight from my parents and family but rarely from a complete stranger. My first reaction was that I just wanted to curl up and cry. I wanted to not exist anymore.
I’m sure that this comment was made in the best of intentions but it made me want to not exist anymore and as a person with pretty frequent suicidal thoughts, that was hard. It was a reminder that as a fat person, I can’t even exist in public spaces without comments on my body and there will always be people who think they get to have thoughts about my body and health. I still want to cry.
If you work in health care or are just a person with fat people in your life or just see a fat stranger in a cafe, I do want to recommend that you don’t do shit like what that stranger did. Fat people don’t need you to come “save” us from ourselves. We don’t need your unsolicited advice about things that don’t concern you. Someone’s weight at any number isn’t an indication of their health. Sophie and April over at the ‘She’s All Fat’ podcast recently did an episode about going to the doctor and I highly recommend that everyone listen to it. They talk about this issue in a much better way than I ever could.
I have zero intentions of looking further into this guy. My gut reaction, to be completely honest, is to cut and run and just never come back to this café. And I also just want to never leave my house again. But I also know that those gut reactions are largely my anxiety and depression speaking. And what isn’t anxiety and depression is the fact that I just don’t want to deal with this intense public desire to “fix” fat people.
Once I started to talk myself down from those gut reactions, I realized that I didn’t need to do anything with this stranger’s advice. I didn’t need to do anything with that doctor’s name other than a quick google search. The café I’m at has an actual fireplace with a real fire so instead of obsessing over the comment and name, I decided to throw it into the fire. There’s something oddly satisfying and final about doing such a thing.
And instead of obsessing like I so often do, I decided to write about it and listen to my favorite playlist. Both those things got me out my head and off the ledge I was on.
I’m still working on accepting myself. Sure, I don’t always eat the healthiest things but I’m working on it. And I know that I go on short hikes or walks all the time. I’m still working on unlearning the notion that every fat person is automatically unhealthy while every “skinny” person is healthy. I do have room for improvement but I know that I’m not the only one who does and I know that my character flaws aren’t dependent on or include my weight.
Special shout out to Sophie and April from the podcast ‘She’s All Fat’ because they unknowingly helped me through this crisis and their podcast is helping me on my journey through body positivity. And another shout out to others who are struggling with their weight/body, eating disorders, and/or body positivity.