And I feel some odd combination of gratitude, relief, guilt, and shame.
I am eligible to sign up for the Covid vaccine because I am fat. I am “severely obese” or whatever you want to call it. My BMI is over 40.
These days, at age, 46, my life is made up of exceptions and special circumstances. A lot of what I say comes with a caveat. We are, after all, living in a new world defined and divided by a pandemic. So, reader beware: I use the word “fat” with zero self-loathing and zero shame.
I use the word “fat” because it is clear, true, and accurate. It holds no judgment.
I use the word “fat” because the word has been used to hurt me. Even when I was a kid, before I was, in actuality, even close to being fat. I was called fat as I grew into my adult body.
Fortunately, I rejected those insults. I didn’t even have to teach myself that being called “fat” as an insult said almost nothing about me, and everything about the speaker.
Believe me when I declare that I am fat and beautiful. Fat and intelligent. Fat and sexy. I can also be fat and catty, fat and petty, and fat and salty too. I can also be fat and athletic. If you press into my waist, just under a layer of fat, there is a core of steel. I am not referring to my stubborn inflexibility either.
I can carry the knowledge that increased muscle mass and decreased height result in a higher BMI. I know BMI is an outdated, racist, and inaccurate measurement. I can confidently explain how even elite athletes can be categorized as obese due to their BMI. But I am no elite athlete. Even with my knowledge, I feel stabs of shame.
My BMI allowed me to register to receive a vaccine. My weight makes me have a higher risk of developing serious Covid symptoms and outcomes. Severe obesity triples the risk of Covid hospitalization. And as BMI increases, the risk of death from Covid increases.
Still, I questioned my privilege. I cruelly joked that if I could just step away from the snacks, I wouldn’t be given priority access to register. I wonder if my love for bagel sandwiches ended up diverting a vaccine from someone with a “legitimate” disease? I asked my doctor if it was ethical for me to sign up for the vaccine. I asked my friends. I grappled with this choice.
Today, I registered to get the vaccine. I choose to believe what science tells me, that despite my generally good health, my weight puts me at a greater risk for more serious Covid infection outcomes, and even an increased risk for death.
I am chagrined, and I am humbled. I am grateful and relieved. My brain wants to interrogate my every food input and exercise output. I want to celebrate. I want to hide in shame. But after 46 years of residing in this glorious body, I know myself. I love and accept who and what I am. I am fat. I am, apparently, extremely obese. So what? I deserve to live and I deserve equal access to life-saving vaccinations.