Can fat people ever be full?

Sadaf
7 min readMay 19, 2024

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Appetite, what an annoying thing. You’re satisfied for a bit, and there it all goes again. Emptied out. The most obvious thing that comes to mind with appetite is clearly, food. And yes, I’ve had my adventures with that — but more on that later. The scariest thing about appetites to me, of any kind, is that satisfaction is such a precarious state. You reach it, once in a while, only to lose it again.

I have a strange appetite for people. Don’t worry, not the vampire or Hannibal kind. But of relationships and a certain kind of seen-ness that I need which is annoyingly particular, unfortunately.

I don’t want to be enshrined or pedestialised, but I also do not want to be a taken for granted as a beast of burden. I was reading a book for work reasons, (the book is called “You and your baby — a baby’s emotional life” by Frances Thomson Salo), which started out with the line, “Babies want, more than anything else, to be enthusiastically enjoyed”.

It had been some time since I felt as seen by a single sentence like that. I had finally found the words for what I was experiencing — a hunger to be enjoyed.

As a person who is deeply interested in things and always excited and buzzing about something or the other, my propensity has often felt like too much to me. Am I boring people? Or overwhelming them? It has taken a lot of self-work to establish and own that I am indeed an intense person, I get moved by almost every scene of Downton Abbey and A Suitable Boy and I really deeply care about a lot of topics — but fundamentally, about the human capacity to love and change, and that my intensity is what keeps my inner life interesting and actually leads to a lot of wry humor, wit and cheesiness too.

This does mean I am not everyone’s cup of tea and they are not mine. This also means a negotiation in each space of not slipping into making myself small or trying to manage people by doing things for them so that they can, someday, tolerate the full me. I don’t want to be tolerated; I want to be enjoyed.

As a therapist, when I sit with people, especially when they explain their trysts with dating apps, I can see how jarring it is, to have to be at your performative best while acting nonchalant doing so. Our deep need to be met and enjoyed has to be cast away in order to give the airs that you don’t really care, and that you are “cool” with everything. I wish this were limited to the dating app space. But this sense of unmetness seems to have creeped into friendships, romantic relationships and familial ones too.

The other day me and my supervisor were sharing our concerns about whether the therapists’ office is the only place now where people are loving, vulnerable, honest and raw and also perhaps the only place where they are being seen? Completely, really truly seen and enjoyed? What a sad world for us socially if after all the wars and technological advancement and AI, this is the state of our relationships with each other.

I wonder what would happen if we did ask to be enjoyed? If we gave up the pretense of it not mattering and that dislodged connections are cool with us? After all, isn’t that what the loneliness epidemic is about, at the end of the day. Not an abject lack of people but rather not being able to relate to people who are near you. There’s a formula in psychoanalysis, the primary approach I work with. It says that defenses are formed in time of distress, but they come with an expiry date. And when their time comes, they cost us more than they give us and it is time to let them go. We may have coped with the shaming of our needs by pretending that we don’t need deep connection, but it seems like the defense has cost us enough now. It is time to grieve what we did not get and honestly reach out for imperfect connection can still be had.

As a culture, we have forgotten how to see each other and often, ourselves, in full range. We will have to stumble and learn that, perhaps. We will have to tolerate the uncertainty and anxiety of asking. We will have to learn to live through the disappointment of not getting what we EXACTLY wanted in a relationship, the precise way of being seen and valued. We will have to learn the give and take of needs and doing and receiving with each other and we will have to learn to diversify and remember our interdependence. We will, interestingly, have to learn to be unsatisfied but not give up eating because of it.

Growing up in an emotionally volatile home, I took up the caregiver role pretty early on. It clashed a bit with my earlier zany and contrarian personality, but in a house that’s on fire, you don’t have a lot of choices. There were these ill-fitting parts of me that would constantly struggle — wanting to fit in for love and care and wanting to be myself, defiant and live freely. Often, I found a weird middle road which was so balanced it was a bit crazy. As part of one of my classes during my masters course in clinical psychology, all of students filled out the Myers Briggs Typology Inventory — it gives acronyms for your personality, like INFJ and so on, which tells you whether you’re more introverted or extroverted, sensing or intuitive, thinking or feeling, and judging or perceiving. When you’re not clearly on either side of a said spectrum, you get an x. My result had three x’s. It was something like XXXJ (or P, I forget).

I think that balancing all this and absorbing the stress at home made my immune system double down on itself and the hormones went haywire. I developed PCOS pretty early on and started to gain weight. Ironically, every diet I went on, I came out feeling more famished, out of control with my hunger and appetite, ashamed of how much I wanted to eat foods that were bad for me and even if I did happen to pull through regimes with shaming dieticians, I’d still be at the higher end after each cycle. A plus side of all this though is that it introduced me to exercise early on and I have discovered forms that I enjoy: Zumba, dance, strength training, swimming and yoga. Because of that, I do have flexibility, strength, and decent muscle and bone health. I was to discover much later in life about how food restriction actually puts your mind in famine mode because of which you feel fixated and foods and you never feel full with them even when they become available.

The last nutritionist appointment I had was in August 2020 and that too was to tell her goodbye. She was one of the better ones. She didn’t use shame tactics. But ultimately, I don’t think static diets are the answer. I needed to develop a relationship with my body and my hunger cues. Since I allowed myself to eat everything, or maybe because it was bound to happen after years of restriction, I did put on weight after I stopped the diet. But then it came to a certain number and stopped increasing. I went to a functional medicine doctor recently and she explained how my reports show that even though I don’t look/feel stressed, my cortisol is high, I am inflamed on the inside and adrenals are overfunctioning. It is no wonder then that I can’t lose weight or keep adding weight even if I organically want to eat less or eat a variety. While the restrictions on me that would prevent me from studying or working are no longer there and many of the active fights have receded at home, there is still a baseline stress of tension and animosity and perhaps I am too keyed into it. I am trying to deal with this better, but it seems like leaving this environment altogether might be the most practical solution. Some appetites cannot be met.

She mentioned trying an elimination diet and I panicked at the mention of skipping carbs like wheat and rice. I realised that I still carry the fear of restriction and the sense of being famished and I am not yet feeling the abundance with food to try eliminating and adding foods back. Maybe someday. I am following the general guidelines and taking all the multivatimins and supplements she suggested, and there is a tiny hope that I have at times, that along with fixing the deficiencies, if they could take care of the weight too. Not too much, just what it was before I began dieting restrictively. I look back at photos of that times and wonder — what was I really complaining about then?

But maybe someday I might look at photos of today and think — Oh I looked so lovely, what was I cribbing about even? Does this appetite ever get met — the one of wanting a body/mind/relationship with another — which is just right? And then years later thinking, Oh I did have it all back then. I was just too dissatisfied or preoccupied with dissatisfaction to see what was right in front of me.

It is also possible that all of the neuroses I held on to — food, people, family, preoccupations about occupations — are all suddenly falling through. A cleanse of a certain kind is taking place where a lot of expectations are getting put aside — I just don’t have the energy to fulfil them, whether I wanted to fulfill them or someone else does. But tiredness does have a clarifying effect — it makes you seek rest and nourishment. And it makes you focus on what actually matters.

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Sadaf

Love psychology, economics, art, music, books, poetry, blogs, cooking and select sports.A jack of all trades, perhaps master of none. Psychologist.