We are in the fourth year of the pandemic, and I am one of a minority of people who remains COVID cautious.
One of the reasons why is because I’ve chosen to stay aware of the latest research findings about the long-term impacts of COVID. It is clear now it’s a vascular disease that affects every organ in the body. Researchers have confirmed that it causes long-term immune dysfunction and dysregulation, increasing the risk of diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular events, autoimmune disorders, and more. The risk climbs with each repeated infection. Every time you catch COVID, it could become a disabling event.
I live my life accordingly.
But here’s the other reality: I am a person whose body is already under suspicion, just for existing. People look at me and make all kinds of assumptions about my health, most or all of which are incorrect.
So I am keenly aware that, if I were to drop dead of a sudden heart attack, like Lisa-Marie Presley, or die in my sleep, as author Julie Powell did last year, most people who know me would immediately assume that my BMI was the cause. Who would stop to consider the COVID exposures I have had and the rate at which those exposures have dysregulated my immune system and increased my risk for cardiovascular events?
I can’t believe I am saying this, but I feel called to put this on public record, in case the worst happens: I am currently a healthy fat person. How am I defining “health,” here?
February 28, 2023 update: When I originally published this post, I listed all of the ways in which I define health. It included indicators like food and water intake, drug and alcohol use, exercise, presence or absence of illnesses, stress levels, therapy, social interactions, blood pressure, blood draws, medical/dental care and screenings, etc. But in the weeks since I posted this piece, it just hasn’t sat right in my spirit. I have decided to delete those personal details because there was something about “proving” my health that just felt awful, and really did threaten to play into both ableism and fatphobia.
And yet, I’m “unhealthy” in the eyes of most people I know.
When you’re fat, you never get the benefit of the doubt.
I have never written about my personal health status before because of the risk of playing into negative tropes and beliefs about fat people. By clearly stating my health status, it can imply that I’m better or more worthy than those fat people who can’t make the same claims to health as I can. It runs the risk of reinforcing the “good fatty/bad fatty” dichotomy, which I never, ever want to do.
But I write this information and leave it here because I am so keenly aware of those who could look at each other at my funeral and say, “well, you know…she was kinda…fat.” AS THOUGH THAT WAS THE BE-ALL AND END-ALL OF HEALTH. WHEN CLEARLY, IT IS NOT.
Ironically, those people? Are the ones who are the most likely to endanger me and others by not taking basic COVID precautions in the first place.
How sad is my little dream: that if I had a heart attack or developed diabetes, people would say, “wow, I wonder if it’s from her COVID exposures,” rather than, “wow, fat fatty got fatted.”
For me, I continue to wear my mask, mostly socialize outside, and keep indoor visits to very, very small numbers of people.
I stay COVID cautious, because believe it or not, I’m actually not at all cavalier about my health—or yours.