Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Fat Carrie and the 175 Pound Ghost

For some reason Fat Carrie has been making quite a few appearances lately. In this case when I use Fat Carrie I'm referring to my debit card. It has a photo of me from the day I opened the account sometime in the summer of 2005. I probably weighed close to my heaviest then. It's a small photo, but it's easy to mistake it for a totally different person. I usually carry it with me in social situations, so it's my go to when people hear about my weight loss and want to see proof.

Fat (& happy) Carrie

When I pay with that card I say/think "Fat Carrie's got this!". My bank won't issue a new photo, and it used to bother me. Now I've embraced it, and I find it humorous. We have to be able to move on from our past, and now I like having a reminder of my success in my pocket or purse all the time. Most of the time I don't think about the weight loss, but other times feel like there's a 175 pound ghost lingering with me in the background.

My instinct is to avoid narrow passageways and clothes shopping as vestiges of this former self. When I catch myself doing it I usually laugh it off, but there are times when it feels deeply unsettling. There's always a fear that I could get there again, and I think that worry fuels my motivation and willpower. Some more concrete vestiges of this past include my ceaseless appetite and the physical markers of significant weight loss like stretch marks and saggy skin. I've learned to work on and work with these limitations.
I always carry food and try to eat every few hours. I can't operate successfully when I'm hungry, and as stated above that is something I can't avoid. I started and continue to lift weights to slowly chip away at the skin that hangs from my arms and stomach, and to shrink my thighs to a point where the muscle can peek out. I am a work in progress and I don't always love myself, but I feel satisfied knowing that I'm doing what I can.

I read recently about a test that was developed at Harvard to measure implicit preferences. You can choose to measure your preferences (realistically, your biases) on topics like age, gender, race, disabilities, religion and weight. I wanted to try it out, so I took the test about weight. The essence of the test is that you're shown photos and words. You have to press a key on the keyboard to associate all the fat/skinny photos with a certain letter, and all the good/bad words with a certain letter. There are several rounds, and later in the test you are shown a mix of images and words. You have to associate the good word key with skinny images and then switch.

Here were the results:

I had no implicit bias toward weight, and fell into the "Little to no automatic preference..." category, which represents only 19% of test takers. I think this is because of my unique experience of having been clearly obese followed by my current reality where people refer to me as skinny/thin without being prompted. It's hard even as a former fat girl to not place judgment on overweight people and to assume qualities of their character based on their external experience. I hope that as we realize how entrenched the societal factors that contribute to weight gain are, society will be more willing to assign blame to them and less to the individuals who are prone to weight gain.

This post isn't one of my more focused or helpful, but there are times I need to express myself honestly on topics that I cogitate on frequently. Thank you for staying with me if you're still here, and you can look forward to food photos tomorrow!

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