The scientific community is, understandably, preoccupied with body fat. I am not a scientist, of course, but like many people who have suffered from obesity—I’ve been everything from a size 4 to a 24—I have a theory of my own; not about body fat but its evil twin: brain fat.
The worst thing about a fat head, of course, is there’s no escaping it. My brain obesity is like a cancer that has metastasized from other parts of my body. I’m constantly thinking about my fat or other people’s fat or comparing fat: Is she fatter than me? Am I fatter than her? Picture albums are less “Thanks for the memories” and more “Wow! Look how fat/less fat I was.” If you drew a portrait of my interior life it would look like a New Yorker cartoon: a fat castaway, leaning against a lone palm tree. Instead of an ocean, though, I’d be surrounded by chunks of fat, bobbing like corks all around.
I know what some of you are thinking: “Lose some weight and you will stop obsessing about your fat.” Good idea. Thanks for the advice. But I’ve done that, a few times, actually, and it didn’t work. I got skinny, really skinny (see size 4 reference above) but my fat head wouldn’t let me enjoy it.
My big, fat head said, “You look good in those skinny jeans... but you’re still a little bit fat.” This faulty logic was affirmed by those around me who would say, “You’re really getting there” which made me wonder if the objective of weight loss was in fact, a complete disappearing act, to eventually reduce myself to a grease spot on a chair.
I know I’m not alone because I’ve met plenty of perfectly slim fat-headed women. “That’s a great top,” I said, recently to a very petite friend, to which she replied, “Thanks, the ruching covers all of my fat.” Then she pointed to her abdomen and made her index finger bounce off of it as if it were a tiny trampoline. But she had to fake the bouncing action because she has no real body fat, just imaginary brain fat.
Then there’s my other friend, who lost a lot of weight. I saw her after a morning run. I knew saying “You look so fabulous!” was only going to present her with an opportunity to insult herself. But she’d been working out pretty hard, and I said, “You look great!” “Thanks,” she said, with a grim expression, and then right on cue, “But I’m still so fat.”
I know my skinny friends feel bad for me because I have to deal with real obesity as well as brain obesity. I’ve been at the backyard BBQs, watched them wait until I go elsewhere to talk about how much they hate themselves and which pockets of fat are destroying their lives. It might surprise them to know we’re in this together: it’s the cranial-sized pocket of fat on top of all of our shoulders that’s robbing us of our joie de vivre.
It was Billy Crystal, as Fernando from Fernando’s Hideaway, who said “It’s better to look good than to feel good.” It was funny, at the time; I’m just not sure it’s true.
Brain fat is stubborn too, it’s almost impossible to lose. It’s more immovable than those upper-arm granny-flaps. Even Jillian Michaels—who I secretly suspect has an extremely fat head—hasn’t come up with a workout to burn brain fat.
In terms of daily living a fat head is just as life-limiting as a fat body. For example, last summer, my body was physically able to swim and splash and play, but it was my fat head that was to blame for me sitting in the sand, covered-up, telling my son to go on without me, saying, “Maybe next year...” next year when I’m not so fat.
Obesity of the brain is deceiving because people can’t see the fat and the Government can’t measure it and yet it impacts mood and behavior. How much depression, how many binge and starve cycles have been precipitated by brain fat?
I would like to lose weight (again) but I honestly wonder, “To what end?” Until I deal with my fat head I’ll just be another thin woman who can’t enjoy life, who thinks she’s “disgusting” because her brain fat and self-loathing are slowly killing her.
Maybe the scientific community should study that.