Fatness Is Not Private
By Shanine Ahimbisibwe
It’s the day after New Year’s Day and you decide to go see a gynaecologist. You do not have a milky discharge, you do not have lower back and abdominal cramps, your period is not late, you do not have pain passing urine. You decide to visit a gynaecologist because it is what grown-ups do. Responsible women visit a GYN at least two times a year, and third on the list of resolutions you made last night was to be a responsible woman. Your best friend recommends a stellar GYN and makes an appointment for you.
The clinic is a homely four-bedroom bungalow surrounded by palm trees and ferns and all other landscaping props. You are greeted by a nurse in green scrubs and a black veil as you enter the living room-cum-reception. She takes your vitals and biodata information, before leading you to the doctor’s office. The doctor is warm, one of the few who do not hang their white coat over your head. You start to talk and quickly decide she is the most personable, not-in-a-rush-to-get-you-out-of-their-office doctor you have ever met. After she has noted all your concerns on a white, headed notepad and examined you, she tells you all about vaginal health, and hormones and the importance of hydration.
Your phone rings, breaking her monologue and your concentration. It is perhaps in that split second it takes for you to ignore the call and flip the phone that the conversation turns from cotton panties and eight glasses of lukewarm water a day to Body Mass Index, clean eating and exercise. She says; you know many people these days are suffering from lifestyle diseases? You see so many young people in their thirties having diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, you know? And all this begins from the way we eat. You don’t say anything back, willing for this to not turn into yet another unsolicited lecture on weight. Your weight. She continues; your BMI shows that you are overweight. You need to make some changes my dear. She flips the pad to a fresh page and draws a large circle, which she says is a plate, and starts to apportion food on it. Half of the circle is green leafy vegetables, the next quarter is lean protein like beans, lentils, sometimes beef – like once a week and the next is carbohydrates, like posho.
I must be the fattest person she has ever seen – you think. Beneath your polite hmmms and aahhhs you are screaming, “I know this!” You have known this since you were a teenager because you once weighed as much as a baby elephant and in fact, she should be glad she is seeing you now, your lowest weight ever as an adult. She’s talking; And exercise, you need to start exercising. You can begin by skipping a rope in your house, you can decide to walk home from work on some days, these days you can even download work out videos on the internet and you be doing from home. Okay. But you want to tell her about the twenty burpees you did that morning, and the fifteen kilometres you run every week. You want to tell her that you have now only just gotten to a good place where you actually get compliments from people on how good you look, not rude commentary on how fat you are. That you had to uninstall Instagram because the ephemeral beauty standards were running you mad. You have only just gotten a bit of self-esteem and are acclimatising yourself to having some self-worth after years of feeling like the ugliest girl in the room, in every room. You want to tell her that you are fitter than you have ever been and you feel good, light, hot. You have had a running gym membership for three years and sweat it out at least four times a week. That your fridge has more tomatoes, pineapple cuts and broccoli than the milk and pizza she is going on about. You want to tell her that six years ago when you started out, you downloaded so many YouTube workout videos, that they all started to look the same. Now you go for aerobics class, spin class, HIIT and Yoga on the weekends. The rope she is talking about?
You want to tell her to save the well-meaning, well-researched, informed and helpful weight loss lesson for the next fat girl who really needs it, because it is wasted on you. But you don’t. You hmmm and ahhh as she continues weight loss for dummies. You know you can’t really blame her for expending her knowledge, it is the right thing. She is going far beyond her call of duty as a gynaecologist to make sure you live a quality life. One look at your belly pressing at your jeans button, your thighs held in place by the thick denim, your round cheeks bouncing with every step and your arms… you cannot blame her. That is what it is, fatness is not private. It is a carnival to which all are invited to point and prod, and ask and suggest and tell.