On open letter to Tommy Tomlinson,
Hi Tommy - I read your article in the Atlantic. Thank you for sharing your story so openly and honestly. There were a few things I noticed along the way and I hope you don't mind if I share my observations.
Your body was never a problem. When the kids on the bus were teasing you, that was fat phobia and weight stigma at play. It was not your fault.
I also noticed how some of your stories of fat people and health don’t quite tell the whole story. They tell the story that the world wants us to think is true. Fat people are terribly unhealthy and cost the world money.
But skinny men die of heart attacks at young ages too and fat women die from avoiding the doctor because they are afraid of being shamed for their size. I can’t help but wonder how much of that was a factor in your sister’s death?
In your article, I saw the shame you feel about what you eat and can feel the disgust you hold for yourself. But how much credit are you giving to the role of dieting in your experience? I notice that as soon as you finish a paragraph about eating, you start one about dieting.
This makes sense since I’ve never met anyone who had an issue with food who didn’t go on a diet at one time or another. One of the number one side effects of dieting is weight gain and the more we try not to eat foods, the more we eat them.
It’s the dieting that has failed you. Diets fail 95% of the time and it’s not the dieter’s fault. Would you take a medicine that failed 95% of the time and caused more of the symptom it was trying to eliminate?
So I’m curious, what would life look like today if no one put you on a diet and if instead they taught you to love and appreciate your body? What if they helped you understand and regulate hunger and fullness cues? What if they offered a wide variety of nutrient dense and play foods with no judgment as to which you chose?
What if they talked about emotions and made it normal to have them? What if they gave you coping strategies for dealing with bullies and what if the schools and bus drivers had your back? What if you learned to have your back?
It's possible that you eat things today that you wish you didn't, but it makes perfect sense. It was bound to happen. You were set up.
And once the core of unworthiness was entrenched - it has eaten away at you ever since.
And yet - it's still health and your body that you work on. We always seem to focus on the symptom and not get to the root cause - fat phobia, shame and not feeling worthy.
I hope that on your journey of health - you will pause and consider what got you here in the first place. If you didn’t get what you needed when you were a boy (and that is true for so many of us) -it’s not too late. I hope you will reach out to some Intuitive Eating, or Body Trust professionals who can help you unpack what was yours and what wasn't. I highly recommend Aaron Flores for example.
In addition, I know you wrote a book titled The Elephant in the Room. But the true Elephant in the room is not your size - it's weight bias and stigma and all the other things that create this cycle of inner churning and create relationships with food and body that are damaging and destructive.
For your sake, I really hope your book isn't all about you beating yourself up because you don't have to do that. You have already done something great by being here and on this planet and being you. Your body was never the problem.