During a conversation with a friend it came up that one group of people may be taxed an extra health tax. Her response was that this wasn’t fair as we don’t tax other groups that can put higher strain on the healthcare system. Groups such as extreme sporters, or obese people.**
I was shocked, and incredibly hurt. This is a friend who I wouldn’t have expected this response from, someone I was surprised to hear that on some level considered me less deserving, or less than.
I am an obese person, I have been obese for as long as I can possibly remember, since childhood. I have tried just about every diet available, I have tried intense exercise programs, I have done things that are dangerous to my body in attempts to fit into what the world deems an acceptable or ”healthy” body. These things have allowed me to yo yo back and forth the same 50 lbs on and off. These things have caused much more mental anguish and distress than any good that weight loss has done my physical body.
At one medical physical a few years ago when I was near my highest ever weight, my Doctor was looking at my results from blood work, and said “you are why we cannot judge a book by it’s cover”. He went on to explain that while the world, and his industry says he should be warning me to lose weight and list of the dangers of being overweight, he just couldn’t based on my tests. My blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugars, etc were all that of a healthy person, well within the ranges they want to see for someone in my age range. To look at me they should all be high, and or dangerous, but they weren’t. These numbers have carried on for many other tests over the years. So while to look at me, I am obese, to look inside how my body is functioning, I am quite healthy.
I have a hormonal imbalance due to PCOS-Polycystic ovarian syndrome. “Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition in which the ovaries produce an abnormal amount of androgens, male sex hormones that are usually present in women in small amounts. The name polycystic ovary syndrome describes the numerous small cysts (fluid-filled sacs) that form in the ovaries. However, some women with this disorder do not have cysts, while some women without the disorder do develop cysts. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-pcos#:~:text=Polycystic%20ovary%20syndrome%20(PCOS)%20is,that%20form%20in%20the%20ovaries.
There are a variety of ways that PCOS presents in people, most commonly is the struggle it gives to those who are trying to get pregnant. It wreaks havoc on fertility, due to the hormones causing less eggs to be released so less opportunity to be fertilized. Thankfully I haven’t wanted kids since I was young, so this was never a challenge for me.
The symptoms of PCOS may include:
*Missed periods, irregular periods, or very light periods
*Ovaries that are large or have many cysts
*Excess body hair, including the chest, stomach, and back (hirsutism)
*Weight gain, especially around the belly (abdomen)
*Acne or oily skin
*Male-pattern baldness or thinning hair
*Small pieces of excess skin on the neck or armpits (skin tags)
*Dark or thick skin patches on the back of the neck, in the armpits, and under the breasts
The symptoms I have struggled with my entire post pubescent life have been ovarian cysts (started at 12 and have had several surgeries to remove, as well as years of birth control to shrink/remove them). I also have the weight gain specifically around my waist, I have quite slim wrists and ankles that don’t match the circumference of my waist and hips. My hair has thinned significantly over the last 20 years. My least favourite symptom is the excess hair growth in places I don’t want it. I could give most 18 year old guys a run for their money when it comes to a neck beard. I have to shave a few times a week to avoid feeling self conscious about it. I have tried waxing, but I have to let it grow long enough for the wax to grip, as well as, the hair grows in a variety of directions so it doesn’t work all that well. I have considered laser removal, however the hairs are a light brown so there is no guarantee the laser will work well.
Part of having PCOS and a hormonal imbalance is that it is super hard to lose weight. I can follow very strict calorie in/out diets, I can follow very restrictive diets, I can follow diets like Paleo/Keto where I literally try to change how my body functions off the food I give it, I can do cardio, I can do weights, I can swim, I can do yoga and I will still only bounce back and forth on the same chunk of weight.
I share these personal things to help put some perspective on why generalizations are so hurtful to so many people. Assumptions that all fat/obese people are a burden to the health system is damaging and untrue. Damaging to those of use who have never put any stress on the healthcare system due to our weight.
The idea that I am less deserving of the same healthcare as others, simply because of my waist circumference is so hurtful. The idea that I am less deserving because you assume I choose to be this size/shape doesn’t only damage me, but probably a number of other people in the life of those making the assumptions. Who else are you making harmful assumptions about? People based on accents? Skin colours? Careers? Religions? If you can make such a grand assumption about who I am and what my value as a person is based on my weight, how can you not be making other assumptions? What does it say about you and your fears/beliefs that you put varying value on humans? Why is one worthy of attention or care more or less than another?
Be aware of your assumptions, your biases, your fears and how they affect how you look at people in the world around you.
**I spoke to the friend after and we clarified what was meant and the misunderstanding that happened. She does not feel the way I took what she said to mean. This has been a great example of why it is so important to clarify with people when upset about a conversation. Intention matters.