Actually, this is about my patronuses (Potter world plural spelling) or patroni (sounds better?).
A bit of a departure from my normal blogs and I very nearly didn’t write or publish this because it’s about my weight, which seems personal and unrelated to my professional / PhD life. But (as any plus sized person will tell you) if you are carrying extra weight, it consumes* most of your waking day.
Here are some examples. First, I generally avoid public engagements with people I don’t know because I hate being judged and, let me tell you, as a fat person, I know full well when I’m being judged. In this regard, the pandemic-work-from-home-forever-and-ever has suited me because all my PhD related social interactions (conferences / public speaking / group studying) have been via video conferencing. Ta da, folks can only see me from the shoulders upwards. It took some doing and mental preparation to bring myself to meet new PhD friends in person, once it was safe to do so, without being emotionally wobbly*.
Second, whilst I hate exercising, I know it’s obviously good for me and I try to do it a few times a week. That can be dog walking or more recent strength and conditioning work, thanks to my friend and PT (James Dewar-Haggart). But as I’m carrying so much excess weight, even a 30 minute stretch of exercise will leave me shattered, potentially lead to a migraine, make me sweat so much I have to wash my hair (long-haired ladies will feel my pain). This means, on days where I exercise, I don’t start work until around noon and I’m so tired that I’m less productive. When you’re behind in your writing (hahahaha – when isn’t a PhD researcher behind in their writing?!) or have a fast approaching deadline, it’s hard to avoid pulling an 18 hour study session at the desk and delay exercising for another day.
The final example is about confidence. Being fat knocks your confidence – it’s the first thing people see about you. Not your skills, humour, loyalty, dedication, work ethic. Intersectionally, I’ve had many more unpleasant experiences as an adult because I’m overweight than I have because I’m queer. That could be a whole blog in its own right. I guess my queerness can be invisible but my fatness is always present. It makes me anxious in most settings. It’s tricky to explain without also sounding arrogant… but I am an excellent teacher. I spent years actively developing myself as a teacher. Therefore, in teaching settings, my confidence in my role outweighs* my lack of confidence about my body, so I can get on with the job. In this new academic setting, I have absolutely no confidence in my skills as a PhD researcher – most of us don’t because we’ve all slurped from the Imposter Syndrome water cooler. It means that I’m crippled by a lack of confidence in and about my whole being.
Without a long explanation of my personal, medical history… my extra weight also doesn’t make a lot of sense and has stumped a number of doctors and consultants. Suffice to say, it is not the result of junk food (despite what judgy people assume), poor diet, alcohol, laziness or recreational drugs. Recently, I’ve been fortunate to be referred to a specialist team who’ll be investigating all things weight-related to help me get to the bottom* of it. Alongside getting on with the PhD, I’m now handling my own data every day; it takes up a lot of time, ceases all spontaneity and makes me obsessive but it’s necessary. I’m also trying more intuitive eating and to change my brain’s relationship with food – inspired by some folks on TikTok (I know, it’s not just for comedy skits, it turns out).
* deliberate puns, it’s ok to laugh.
Ok, why patronuses / patroni? Well, my weight actually surprises those I’ve been brave enough to tell. I don’t know if they’re being polite or if I move/look/seem like a lighter person? It might even be because since the pandemic started, I’ve refused to wear baggy, dark clothes everyday and branched out into all things colourful? Maybe confidence (no matter the fact it’s a pretence) makes me seem a little lighter? I am not going to publish my actual weight but I did use Google to find out which animals weigh the same as me… and I was struck by how much I had in common with some of them. Thus, let me introduce you to my patronuses/patroni.
Andean Bear (males)
- Also called Bespectacled Bear – I wear glasses.
- Active both in the day and night – PhD studying happens 24/7.
- Retreats from humans – say no more.
- Pretty solitary but not territorial – yup.
- Has massive mandibular muscles compared to its body size – if my wife is reading this, shhhhh! Don’t say it!
- Tigers prefer to eat the prey they kill rather than carrion (which they’ll resort to in dire times) – I’m the same. I have an immense dislike of leftovers and I hate it when you eat out and the food is of a poorer quality than you could achieve at home.
- They’re pretty nocturnal but will get on with things during the day if necessary – I’m an insomniac and will spend a good deal of the night doing things like the Tesco order, queuing up emails or writing to-do lists.
- Although big, they’re fast but only over short distances – me, too! I move quickly and, surprisingly, quietly. Useful skills for a teacher and librarian.
- When facing a problem, ostriches don’t bury their heads (this is a myth) but they do run away / hide / lie flat – avoiding problems? Sounds familiar.
- If directly threatened and they can’t run or hide, they’ll kick – metaphorically, I’m the same. If pushed, I will eventually kick back.
- Teeny-tiny heads in relation to big, round bodies – sigh.
- They’re really bloody clever – I’d like to think I’m smart, too.
- But they also have massive noses (beaks) – mine is certainly a prominent feature of my face.
- They’ve got lots of nicknames (Saddleback dolphin, White-bellied porpoise, Cross-cross dolphin, Hourglass dolphin) – I also have a fair number. Jo, Joanna, Joanna-Louise (if I’m in trouble), Jonarnia (I think my aunties started this one), Toe (thank you, brother), MC-Kenna (students over the years).
- They don’t like it too hot and prefer a surface temperature around 10 to 28°C – I definitely can’t function when it’s too hot.
- A group of dolphins is called a school – nuff said.
- If I don’t comment, one of my friends will… they’re also called asses.
- They’re loud and can be heard from over 3km away – well, this is writing itself, isn’t it?
- Apparently, they’re notoriously stubborn – in their case, it’s associated with self-preservation and, in my case, it’s probably my fierce independence.
- Once you’ve earned their confidence, they can be quite biddable – yes, yes, I’m the same. Once I’ve let you into my inner-sanctum, I’m very loyal.