Reddit’s ‘bullies’ pushed me to fight weight gain

Marilia Brocchetto is a news editor on the CNN International Desk. She is on Twitter: @mabrocchetto.

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Story highlights

Marilia Brocchetto has struggled with her weight for a long time

She found encouragement online to pursue bariatric surgery

CNN  — 

If all goes according to plan, in a little less than four months I’ll be having gastric bypass surgery. As of this writing I need to lose 149 pounds to be on the upper range of the “normal weight” for my height. That’s my Everest, and in a year’s time, I plan to conquer it.

I’ve struggled with my weight for the better part of the last 10 years. I’ve decided to make a lasting change in my life. I had played with the idea of surgery in my head for quite some time. I had heard it from my doctors, I had heard it from my parents, I had heard it from my peers, but my ah-ha moment came one night while on the Internet as I read a bunch of strangers sharing stories of their everyday encounters with fat people and their logic. Fatlogic.

Reddit: Fatlogic and bullies

Cyberbullying is a real problem in today’s society, where so much of our time is spent online. But I’ve been exposed to a different kind of bully: the concerned bully. It almost sounds counterintuitive to think that someone who spends their days on the Internet talking about other people might actually have an ounce of concern within them. The truth is, there are a lot of concerned people out there who get a bad reputation, particularly for “fat-shaming.” These people are calling it like they see: Obesity is a problem plaguing our country.

Marilia Brocchetto-Profile-Image

Bullies helped me to see what had been in front of me all along: I needed help.

The amazingly growing woman

I’m fat and I’ve been fat for a long time. It’s no secret to anyone that knows me that I’ve always struggled with my weight. I’ve done more diets than I care to rattle off. My “freshman 15” was more like the freshman 45 and no matter what new shiny weight-loss drug I took, or what part of the food pyramid I gave up that week, the pounds just seemed to see-saw and overall to trend up.

I’ve also always known that being overweight and obese can lead to health problems. I come from a family with multiple health problems caused by weight, and have always tried to keep my weight under control. The problem is, I like food. A lot. More than I’m willing to admit. You don’t get to be 300 pounds by not liking food.

Billboards, magazines, TV shows – they all have one thing in common: They keep drilling into our heads that women must be thin, women must be fit. They are right. Moan and groan all you want, but what I’ve discovered over the last few years is that our bodies aren’t made to hold 120 pounds of extra fat.

The same way the Internet bombards us with negativity towards our bodies, there is also a strong movement out there calling for women of all sizes to love their bodies. Embrace the fat, Healthy at every size, #imnoangel, #effyourbeautystandards. All those campaigns are great and I believe that women should not feel ashamed of their bodies and empowerment is good. At the same time, some women out there have taken the empowerment movement to create a “thin- shamming” environment. There are a lot of fat-activists who instead of preaching body-positivity in women are preaching “healthy at obese.”

How many times have you heard someone tell a thin girl that she should eat a sandwich? Or that human bodies shouldn’t be all bones and skin and that “real women have curves?” That sounds to me less like “love whatever body you have” and more like, let’s shame the thin/normal weight girls.

The skinny on body shaming

Fat-shaming vs. honest concern

Tucked away in the vast world of Reddit is a section called “Fatlogic.” You can guess from a mile away that a subsection like that will probably be full of bullies. But you would be surprised at how many of these “bullies” and “trolls” are actually nice human beings who want to help fat people. You should also be surprised as to how many of “fatlogic” readers are actually obese folks looking for help. It’s a weird shift in dialogue, where unpleasant conversations are actually beneficial.

I don’t think a lot of people can say that Reddit saved them, but it has opened my eyes. Reddit is an online forum where anyone can submit content and then vote submissions up or down. It is also home to some of the Internet’s most vile trolls and bullies. It’s so bad that the site had to officially define what constitutes harassment and how to report it.

I stumbled onto “Fatlogic” one fateful night while looking for yet another diet. The tone of the section was different than anything I had ever read. These were real users, offering anecdotes of fat thinking and offering solutions, help and input. It was a real eye opener for me to read some of these posts and actually realize how much I embodied fatlogic.

The site has actually developed Conditions2Cognition posts where users can say thank you or tell the forum how they beat their own fatlogic with their help. There are a ton of us fat readers who look for inspiration and help online.

One of the first things I read on the site was a bunch of screen grabs from an Australian show called Insight: Fat Fighters. It’s a panel discussion where participants are discussing whether it is actually possible to be “healthy” and 300 pounds. I immediately connected with it.

From my own experience, you can’t be healthy and 300 pounds at the same time. I try to run, I try to hike, and yeah I finish my workouts, but look at my numbers on paper. I’m much slower than anyone in my age group, my blood work and blood pressure aren’t always stellar and I’m at a much higher risk for diabetes and other weight-related diseases than my thinner counterparts.

It’s tough being heavy. It’s tougher to actually acknowledge that I’ve eaten myself into my weight.

First Person: A fat girl gets naked

Passing around the blame

One of the common points on the website concerns how fat people always blame their fat on everything else but themselves. Blame genetics, blame the fact that salads are $7 and burgers are $1, blame the fact that gym memberships are expensive, blame their children and lack of time. Turn the spotlight on everyone else but ourselves.

I’ve used every excuse in the book, and trust me when you work the overnight shift and sleep through most of the day, it’s very easy to default to that narrative. I’ve blamed genetics, I blamed stress, and I’ve blamed work. I’ve blamed everyone else but me, the only real culprit.

Reading the site made me realize all the phrases I was using, the excuses I was making, the shortcuts I was taking. Reddit, a community known for its hate, had made me want to get better.

By peeling away the many layers of troubled and flawed thinking, I was able to really look at what I had been doing wrong. By getting their points of view I was able to see how I had been slowly hurting myself, lying to myself.

So, this is it. I’ve been changing my eating habits, adding exercise into my life and the next step is the surgery.

Bariatric surgery is not for everyone, but after discussing the options with a team of doctors, I’ve decided that it is the right thing for me. Most insurance companies require you to do some kind of nutritional training for a pre-determined number of months (my insurance requires six months of visits). Some require you to get psychological approval as well as the clearance from your primary care physician. I’m about halfway done with the prerequisites and if all goes according to plan by October, I’ll be getting the surgery.

The process won’t be an easy one. From this point forward, for the rest of my life, the buck stops with me. There are no more excuses. I’m getting the surgery, shedding my fatlogic and changing my life.