When I learned British reality star Katie Hopkins put on 50 pounds just to show how easy it was to lose it, I wished she had gained something else. Love.
I first heard about Katie on the Today Show clip and my gut feeling was this stunt, fueled by her reality show career, was built upon shame. After all, Twitter exploded when she said “I don't believe you can be fat and happy. I think that’s just a cop out.”
This mean-spirited move seems to be built upon disgust for people who are overweight. Here’s the thing, fat shaming doesn’t work. She has crafted our own personal fat suit and now she must wear it and she has a lot to learn.
Welcome to the club, Katie. Welcome to the world of contradictions straddling the line of being someone who shames and being someone being shamed.
I don’t always lose at losing. I’ve lost as many as 120 pounds. And it isn’t that I’ve stopped trying to be healthy, I’ve climbed Africa’s highest peak Mount Kilimanjaro three times, weighing as much as 300 pounds. I’ve tried hard over the years. Let me tell you, this isn’t easy.
We won’t get into the fact that many people who struggle with weight have gained and lost dozens of times and now face metabolic syndrome, which can inhibit their ability to shed pounds. And that many people who have carried weight for decades now have debilitating illnesses or injuries because of it. I myself am nursing a wicked case of plantar fasciitis.
Katie’s weight doesn’t come with the decades of self loathing that many of us have wrapped up in our bodies. For me, overindulging in food first served as a cushion from bad things from being sexually assaulted on my 12th birthday to my parents’ divorce and every little thing after. But then, it became a compulsion, a form of self punishment because I didn’t feel worthy for, well, anything. This battle has been a morning-til-night struggle over every morsel I put into my mouth.
Struggling with food issues is a lot like other addictions or challenges. Sometimes you’re in a good place. Sometimes you’re not. Today, I’m in a good place. Though, when I passed a package of hand-crafted marshmallows yesterday, I almost spiraled into the place where I’m using every possible opportunity to eat.
But I’m in a place where I care enough to care for myself. It has been a long road to get there.
And there’s the rub, dear Katie, in order for many of us to start on the path to wellness we need to find love, a spark, that makes up stand up for ourselves.
All while facing people such as Katie who find it easier to shame than to support.
Now perhaps she’ll understand the feeling of when you finally get the courage to go to the gym where the same kinds of people who shamed you for being so fat, make you feel uncomfortable for being there.
Just walking in the door is a victory. Doing Zumba in a room surrounded in mirrors when you can’t stand to look at yourself is another. Pulling on a bathing suit and doing laps in front of a buff lifeguard is an epic achievement.
I’ve spent the last month of stepping up my workouts to get into better shape even though I’m struggling with plantar fasciitis, which makes it feel like I’m walking on shards of glass. I still power through Spinning classes, yoga sessions, and walk my daughter to school (trying to nudge my FitBit above 10,000 steps each day) even if just hobbling down the hall in my own home makes me grimace in agony.
But here’s the thing, I do best with weight loss and better health when I am in love with myself where I am, when I feel good enough about myself to take care of my body. I do best when I am supported by those who love to be healthy and love for me to be the same, without judgment or blame.
Just last week, a spinning instructor, saw me in his 5:45 a.m. class for the first time in well over a year (possibly even two). He remembered a special Kilimanjaro training and fundraising class we did together, said he still had the music in his iPod and he would play it for me in the next’s week class.
“See you next week,” he said, as I left sweaty and sore from the hour of high-energy indoor cycling.
Even though my husband was away that following week, I had to hire a babysitter and pay her twice as much for her to show up at 5:30 a.m., I was there. I felt good enough about myself that I would show up.
I wish that same kind of love for Katie, that doesn’t require her to beat up people who are already struggling for her own gratitude, benefit and reality television career.
She will be the same spirit whether she’s 50, 35, 20 pounds overweight, or even at her goal. I hope through all this, she gains the compassion and love to live with herself as we all do the same without shame.
Kara Richardson Whitely is a writer, motivational public speaker about body acceptance, plus-size fitness and more. She’s been published in Self, Runner’s World, Every Day with Rachael Ray. Her next book, Gorge, the story about her third Kilimanjaro hike as a plus-size adventurer, is due out in April 2015 available for pre-order.