I have been obsessed about my weight for sixty years, since the age of 7. In my political and work life, I worked hard at pretending that my size was irrelevant.
Two instances have led me to finally talk about my size. As you know, I had difficulty advocating for a CTscan for my husband who was losing a lot of weight. I felt that I wasn’t believed by the doctor because I was a fat woman worried about my husband who was not overeating. This may not be true but it is how I felt. It did not come out of nowhere.
A surgeon refused to fix my hernia that was the size of a basketball unless I lost weight. As usual, no suggestions on how I would do that. The wonderful surgeon who eventually fixed my hernia and twisted bowel during emergency surgery has told me to come to her as soon as the hernia reappears. Three years and it has not.
Fortunately my husband did get the CTscan, unfortunately his weight loss did mean that he has cancer. Thank you for all your prayers.
Secondly, my dear older daughter’s post was taken down on a feminist progressive Facebook site for saying a cartoon of a very fat Trump was fat shaming. People have also complained about Anderson Cooper calling Trump an obese turtle. The point being that rather than talking about Trump’s many nasty faults, people laughed about his big stomach or big butt.
It is of course not just Trump who is called out for being fat. Stacey Abrams and other female politicans have had their share of fat shaming.
For me, the first instance of fat shaming as a politician occurred when I was a school trustee on one of the first chat rooms about education during the Harris years. A man on that board posted a picture of me where he had photoshopped me fatter than I actually was at the time. The idea being, I suppose, that if you are a fat woman, your opinion means nothing.
The second instance was at Regional council when we were approving the extension of Westmount Road from Lakeshore to Beechwood. A delegation called the road “My (Jane Mitchell’s) big fat road project.” Behind him, one of his supporters called out “Why don’t you try walking!” Fortunately Angela Vieth, now a long time Waterloo councillor, pointed out in her presentation for the road that she often saw me walking.
Overall, though I know people comment about my weight behind my back, I went on to become Chair of the Grand River Conservation Authority and a long time Regional Councillor and people generally listen to my views.
Like smoking, taking drugs and alcoholism, there is a difference between making fun of a problem and working with compassion to help people solve it. I well remember how funny Dean Martin was in the 60s as a drunk, and the slapstick of drunks falling down. You don’t see that anymore.
I was skinny until I was 7 years old. We moved to an apartment while waiting for a new house to be built. Less exercise and I suddenly developed an appetite. It was the 50s, my thrilled mother gave me two hamburgers every lunch and I quit ballet when a little kid said, “Look at the fat dancer.” The lifelong struggle began.
In my teens and twenties, I was slim but I did not know it. I could have slipped into anorexia. I thought I was fat after my second daughter was born, but I wasn’t. I jumped on the scale three times a day and tried every weight loss scheme going. The weight loss industry made thousands off me. What did I learn? Diets make you fat. It is very difficult or impossible to lose weight. Please don’t tell me to push away from the table or take up running.
Obesity is an epidemic in North America. So is type 2 diabetes. Everywhere we look there are cheap high fat, high sugar and high salt foods, the triple threat humans are designed to crave. Our cities are built for passive car driving rather than active walking and cycling.
I have had a lot of stress in my life, from family members with epilepsy, parents with cancer, to the good stress of politics. Dear departed Mayor Lynn Woolstencroft once told me that many Mayors and senior level politicians become alcoholics. Some of us eat.
I continue to struggle with my weight, but I am working on a new change. Lifestyle. Retired, I am walking the dog, learning piano, writing and taking a diabetes course from the YMCA. Lots of at home exercise ideas in this time of COVID. This means accepting my body as it is.
I have learned from my daughters not to jump on the scale and to enjoy a new lifestyle. This does not mean that my own daughters have not struggled with body image. That is our society. I worry about my 7 year old granddaughter when she wants ice cream with her pancakes, yet she is thin and bounces on her exercise ball, not a care in the world. I don’t want her to grow up worrying about her weight and how she looks.
When I talk about stopping the fat shaming, I am not asking you to be politically correct. It is like Trump telling Laura Ingraham she was being politically correct for wearing a mask. I am asking that people be civilized and try not to hurt other peoples’ feelings.
As the meme going around social media says: Be Kind.”
Some good resources about women’s body image and fat shaming.
Fat is a Feminist Issue: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/468872.Fat_Is_a_Feminist_Issue
The Beauty Myth: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39926.The_Beauty_Myth#:~:text=It%27s%20the%20beauty%20myth%2C%20an%20obsession%20with%20physical,impossible%20definition%20of%20%22the%20flawless%20beauty.%22%20More%20Details
When You Talk About Donald Trump, Every Fat Person Hears You: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/anderson-cooper-donald-trump-obese-turtle_n_5fa5a221c5b64c88d4005111?ncid=engmodushpmg00000003&fbclid=IwAR0m6NV6VO9IJPcyq4BPKP0vEiSLvABjGMmVaLOCFRlDONyziienN9ms4fE
The Left Has a Fat Problem: <a href=”https://medium.com/@thefatshadow/maralard-ss-and-the-lefts-fat-problem-4dc57c498252″>https://medium.com/@thefatshadow/maralard-ss-and-the-lefts-fat-problem-4dc57c498252</a>
Thanks for your candor in this post, Jane. It does appear that weight is one area where shaming is still culturally acceptable.I really do wish both your husband and you well in your health journeys, and I’m glad your advocacy was tenacious on his behalf. On the Trump fat-shaming, I wish that people had been more nuanced. Your example of how Stacey Abrams has been fat-shamed and your own experiences say that it may simply not be nuanced at all, but with Trump, at least some of the rhetoric I think reflected his doctor’s clear lies about his well-being and weight, with his weight standing in as a measurable marker of that false information. I’m not certain that anyone’s health needs to be a matter of public record but it has been in the case of the US president. Be well!
Susan Fish storywell.ca 519.884.5652
“All shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” Julian of Norwich
Thank you. Once we understand that everything about Trump was a lie, it is easier!
Very personal and brave…leaves one with much to ponder.
Thanks, Jane. I feel your pain … and your journey. One’s own body image is shaped by so many societal factors. In many ways, it is cultural. Thin is in in North America. Although, that is beginning to change as we learn more about healthy bodies and nutrition. Just know that you are valued for your contributions to our community and not diminished by external factors. Stay healthy!!
Thanks for this post Jane. So many of us can relate to it.
Excellent and brave post. And thanks for the links.
Thanks Jane. Your latest entry makes great reading.
Give me a shout when you can
Cheers Marcia (just removed your phone # as this is public.
I will give you a shout! Email me.