I, like pretty much everyone I know, am my own worst critic. I judge myself harshly so I assume that others must do so, as well. (You know what they say about the word “assume.”) In my head, poeple say the same horrible things about me or to me that I say to myself – thoughts that probably never even entered their minds. I berate myself before anybody else can. And I do it well.

That’s not to say I haven’t seen my fair share of bullying. You see, I am fat. If you know me, you already know this. Hell, look at my photo to the left. It’s pretty obvious.

ShameFat shaming is one of the last acceptable forms of discrimination. Sometimes it’s flat-out mean. Other times it masquerades itself as “helpful suggestions.”

Either way, the scars of fat shaming run deep. At least they do for me.

But what I’m starting to learn –  a lesson that’s been a long time coming – is that fat is what I am. Not who I am. What. Not who.

It’s more than just semantics. It’s a major distinction, one many people fail to recognize.

Years ago, I overheard my boss talking to his boss, a man from our corporate headquarters, about me. I was standing behind them waiting to show them a voice-activated recorder I thought might be useful to our folks in the field. I wasn’t hiding or trying to be stealth. Fat people are often weirdly invisible.

One part of the conversation – three sentences, really – planted itself in my brain for all time.

Corporate gentleman: “Which one is Catherine again?”

My boss: “That’s the fat one.”

Corporate gentleman: “Ah. Right.”

I did an immediate about-face and made tracks for the ladies room, stunned by what I had just heard.  It’s not that it was inaccurate. Just all kinds of inappropriate.

First, I’m a “she,” not a “that.” Second, and most devastating to me, was that “the fat one” was apparently the only way my boss could think of to describe me. The only way. After knowing me for more than two years. Really?

When I got home that night, I found the recorder in my pocket. The voice-activated recorder. It passed my unintentional field test with flying colors. I listened to it over and over, way more than was healthy. I hadn’t heard wrong.

A few days later I worked up the courage to ask my boss about it. Not accuse. Ask. He got all blustery and then insisted it never happened. Before I could say anything else, he ended the conversation. Literally, “This conversation is over.”

He didn’t say a word to me for two weeks until he called me into his office to discuss my “questionable work ethic.” Seriously. Somewhere in my personnel file, there’ a note about that meeting. And it’s crap.

My work ethic is anything but questionable. Always has been.

As for the recording, I never mentioned it to anybody and eventually erased it. The words, however, still echo in my head. They left a stain on my psyche.

That boss is long gone, replaced many times since then, but his words festered because words, whether they come from strangers or from people we know, leave marks.

I know it sounds like I’m dwelling on this, one of a plethora of bad incidents. I’m not. Not really. That instance and its brethren just tend to rear their ugly heads at times. And they attack en masse. It can be hard for one tiny positive voice to fend off a horde of negative ones, especially when a part of you thinks the negative ones might actually be right. You know they’re not. But what if they were? That’s the question that always lingers.

I’ve internalized shame and embarrassment over being fat for far longer than I care to admit. Incidents like the one with my former boss only reinforced those feelings. I let it happen. Both the getting fat and the letting my shame and embarrassment rule me.

I’ve never been great at asking for help, but I’ve finally done just that.

Scottsdale Weight Loss CenterA month ago I started going to Scottsdale Weight Loss Center. I never intended to say anything to anybody, not even my sister,  because I was – am still – ashamed and embarrassed.

I cried through the consultation. I cried through my first three visits. (Remember what I said in my first post about every emotion being hardwired to my tear ducts? Hell, I cried as I wrote this. Stupid lacrimal glands. It’s super annoying. What’s worse is it confuses my cat. He hates it when I cry.)

Each time I was at the office, whomever I was bawling all over – Dr. John de Guzman, Jaime the medical assistant, Megan the office manager at the Phoenix location – simply handed me a box of tissues and kept right on talking as if I were a completely sane person rather than a sobbing hot mess. It’s a safe space. 

I know the Internet is anything but a safe space. It’s a haven for people who are unhappy with themselves and enjoy tearing others down. Sometimes.

I’ve also found it can be a great place to ask for help and support. That’s what I did during my 3-Day adventure. That’s what I’m doing now.

OptimisticSo there you have it. My new big project – my current adventure – is me.

Am I still ashamed and embarrassed? Yes. But I’m something else, too. I’m hopeful. And optimistic.

I have an excellent support system in place. I have the SWLC team, both the medical folks and the people who are on the same journey as me. I have a wonderful family. And I have amazing friends, near and far.

While I have no doubt there will be hiccups along the way, I’ve so got this.

P.S. While I haven’t the guts to disclose my weight,  I will happily report that I am down 20.5 (not a typo) pounds in my first month with SWLC. I call that progress. And that ain’t nothing to be ashamed of.