Friday, January 22, 2010

What If Fat Doesn't Mean Miserable?

This loooooong post was a loooooong time in coming. Written in large part in response to an email I got asking me when I learned to just not give a crap about my size and love myself as-is. And I was like, "I DO give a crap about my size and I DON'T like how I look as-is. But that doesn't mean I don't love myself at all."
This post is not intended to be antagonistic in any way. I'm just trying to debunk a myth.


NOW WITH UPDATES!
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I am not fat because I am miserable. I love myself. But I don't like the way I look.

Those three sentences are the most important things I could ever write. I don't know who's reading this or who's in the same boat as I am, but nowhere, never, not once in my extensive and exhaustive research on weight issues have I ever EVER seen those three things addressed simultaneously. If at all.

Somewhere, somehow, the American psyche became convinced that either one of two things is true: either you are fat because you are miserable, or (more recently) you've learned to LOVE! yourself the way you are. I don't know which is worse or further from my truth.

The latter, "Learned to LOVE! yourself the way that you are" infuriates me. I don't embrace my size. I deal with it, I just walk around with it. When I'm feeling up to it, I'll dress myself up and look my best. But I'm not fooling myself. I would look better ("better" by current general American standards, however they came to be such) if I weighed a lot less.

At NO point will I ever be happy with classifying myself as a "BBW." I am also not a "Diva." I am not "Large and In Charge." I am not "sassy." Yet these are the labels I get to choose from if I am going to go along with my larger size. I can't just passively accept it; I can't just exist as though I'm exactly the same as other women just a few sizes up. (Oh, and this is never made more painfully clear than when I'm out shopping. WHY do the styles have to be so entirely different for the plus-size shopper?) Because, I guess, the moment I passed from size 14 to size 16, I suddenly became a "Glamazon!"

Ladies and gentleman, I am not a Glamazon! I'm not even a glamazon.

I guess there are toned-down alternatives, but I am not appreciative of being called a "WOMAN," either; at least, not when that's what the plus-size area of a department store is calling me. (And by the way: if I'm a WOMAN, what does that make those sized 14 and under? GIRLS? The implications of "bigger = woman" are humiliating for all parties involved.)

I don't disparage women who do, actually, like being big (or are at least comfortable with it), and I don't dismiss that there are men (and women) who love big women. I am just not one of them. We can blame my parents and the media, but I don't generally perceive overweight women as sexually attractive. Myself included.

Except I don't hate myself.

I don't wake up miserable every day.

No, I don't like the way I look, but:
1) That doesn't mean YOU can't like the way I look, and, more importantly;
2) SO WHAT?

So I don't like the way I look. Lots of people don't like things about themselves that they could change.

I've just put less emphasis on controlling my weight than on other things.

Other things, like my education, my career, financial stability, my emotional well-being, my family, getting my internal shit in order, and, you know, achieving my life goals. Oh, and speaking of life goals? "Being thin(ner)" is definitely on my list...it's just below "Finding love" "having a family" "being happy" and "getting published."

Hey, I get that we all have different priorities. I firmly believe that everything's a trade-off. You can't work hard on your* I simply cannot work as hard as I'm capable at health, weight, career, education, family, extra-curriculars and emotional well-being all at the same time. I can find a balance that works for me, though; I can find compromise. And that's precisely what I've done.

But why is that so hard to believe? I chose (directly and indirectly) not to have my weight be my top priority. NOT because I didn't have other priorities. NOT because I didn't care, not because I don't have a life, not because I'm not a worthwhile human being.

I keep thinking of Jillian on The Biggest Loser, screaming at contestants until they break and finally reveal the emotional scars that led them to their 400-pound selves. And of course, for some people, that's just it. They eat because they're unhappy. They try to fill an emotional void with food. They put other people first and don't take care of themselves.

Well, okay, fair enough. But what about the rest of us?

Because that's not my story at all. That's not my life at all. I feel like if I had Jillian yelling in my face, asking me why I've "done this to myself" I would have to yell back, "Done what? Let myself gain weight? Oh, well, sorry! I was busy trying to make myself a fulfilled human being!"

I care. I do care. I don't want to be this size, and I am not happy with my size. But with me overall? Well, my weight has taken a back seat to other, worthy priorities...priorities that make me feel like a whole person, and that make me feel confident with myself. My self-esteem is pretty well intact.

My self-esteem is not dependent on my size.

Correlated, sure. I would feel better about myself if I were thinner. But I would feel a lot worse about myself if the rest of my life were in shambles. (Trust me, I speak from experience.)

I just constantly feel like people who see me, people who meet me but don't really know me, wonder what's wrong with me that I am this size. Surely deep down I must be unhappy with myself. I think it's really hard for people who (subconsciously or consciously) link their self-worth with their weight to understand that not everyone does.

That I couldn't possibly love myself if I look like this.

Except I do.

But...so...then...um, now what?

I do want to lose weight now. Now, I want to make weight-loss a priority and long-term weight-control one of my priorities. I look to shows like Biggest Loser to inspire me, but the message I come away with is "If I just figure out why I hate myself so much, I will let go and start taking better care of me."

Except that doesn't fit me and so I have no model. I'm not angry at the world, I'm not failing in my life. I haven't let myself be held back by my weight. Oh -- ha, ha -- I still have plenty of issues and about a bazillion imperfections and baggage, but that's independent of my size.

The best I can figure is that if I make weight-loss a priority now, something else has to give. Something else I'm doing has to become a lower priority.

(Is it just me, or does no one talk about this?)

I know people talk about making "lifestyle changes" but they always seem to just say that "eating well" has to be a priority and "eating crap" has to, well, not be a priority. They say that now you need to make time to go to the gym as though you were previously spending that extra hour or two doing nothing. As though it's apples to apples.

It's not.

I look at my life now and realize that, while being a stay-at-home-mom is a full-time job, it does not impose the same logistical constraints that working a full-time-plus-commuting corporate job does. "Corporate career" has fallen off the priority map for me for now. So I want to seize this opportunity to try and reconfigure and make weight-loss take a new important position in my life. But.

But here is the point I'm trying to make:

Losing weight is hard. It's hard to stay motivated in general, but it's REALLY hard to stay motivated when being overweight doesn't bring you abject misery.

So I ask: What about those of you who DO work, who have active social lives, who do 8 billion other things with your bad selves and can't quite figure out how to make "weight loss" one of your priorities?

Is it because you are secretly miserable? Or is it because you're just...not?

* * * * * * * * * * * *

UPDATE
1. Absolutely no antagonism is intended toward those who are thin, who are in good shape, who care about their size, who are athletic, who enjoy working out, etc. I think that's awesome! The whole point of this post is simply to say that someone who is overweight is not necessarily unhappy.

2. It IS possible to prioritize working out and still balance millions of other things. However, *I* have not, PERSONALLY, been able to find that balance yet; not since I became a grown-up with a full-time job, and not since I quit corporate life to be a SAHM. This is MY cross to bear and to explain. Again, I'm not overweight because I'm lazy, because I have nothing better to do, because I'm unhappy.

And please, with the condescension. I KNOW what it's like to be in FANTASTIC SHAPE -- I was. For a few years. I know what it takes, I know how it works, I know how it feels.




*Please see Sundry's comment.

61 comments:

  1. Losing weight can be lonely.

    Group events (especially in Napa) have booze and snacks and cheese and delicious calories. Not drinking and not eating sets you apart from the crowd.

    And that's what I've had to give up in exchange for losing my baby weight -- a few months of socialization.

    For me, the time I lose comes out of hanging out with friends. And no way around it, that stinks.

    (And hopefully, is temporary.)

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  2. Oh my God - I feel like you just looked directly into my head and pulled out every frustration I have with the whole "weight loss/exercize more/eat right" situation. And I can't be the only one so yay - not alone!

    I was talking to a friend the other day about all the things we said we were going to do in the New Year. Not resolutions per se but... just goals for where we'd like 2010 to go. I was relieved to find that I'm not the only one who can't seem to find the time to squeeze anything else in!

    Between working, commuting, sleeping, and trying to spend some time with my husband and cat (not to mention friends and family) I can't seem to find another hour in the day to get to the gym or read all the books that are stacked up on my nightstand. And really when it comes down to it... I guess sub-consciously I've chosen those things over being skinny and that's ok.

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  3. omg, kristy, this is a great post. thank you for writing it!

    i'm not secretly miserable, either. and yeah, i could make better choices in terms of food (although i'm better now with that than i've ever been) and definitely exercise.

    but this fat girl has a pretty happy life and refuses to accept anything less. go figure. sorry, jillian!

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  4. so, I've always been pretty okay with me - despite morbid obesity, I've had health, success, happiness, friends, boyfriends, husbands (even one that stuck...)

    I would get dressed up and feel beautiful, even though I weighed 350 lbs. I ate to deal with emotions and I put on an extra 200 lbs of emotions. Yucky.

    So, I had a gastric bypass. Now I am extremely self-conscious. Don't get me wrong - at my thinnest I was squeezing into a 12, and now I'm topping the charts at a 16 and need to lose a few pounds.

    And, I will. Not because I'll suddenly be skinny and happy and my other problems will disappear, but because I've discovered that my body is happy as a 14, and even though I am self-conscious, I am still me, still capable of happiness, and not drowning my sorrows in a pint of Ben and Jerry's... I'm just... me.

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  5. I know a lot of women who share your perspective. I'm glad you've put this out there! I have had a hard time separating my self-esteem and my body image. The only way I've ever been able to lose weight and keep it off is by focusing on health not on looks. Being active and eating differently have become ways of life for me and the more I do it, the more self-esteem I seem to have. But that's just me. Everyone has to find their own formula for feeling good.

    What is WITH the whole "Women's" and those labels? I hate them on the dating sites when I have to select from stupid descriptors like "Curvy" or "Large" or "Zaftig". UGH.

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  6. Wow, this could be me talking too.

    All I would ever be able to tell Jillian is that I'm fat because I'm honestly kind of lazy. I don't overeat; I don't even eat badly about 98% of the time. The fact is that there is nothing I enjoy doing that involves physical activity... unless you count the two days each summer we spend at the Renaissance Faire.

    I'm the heaviest I've ever been, and I am just now starting to feel too tired and winded and kind of crummy to finally think about doing something about it.

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  7. The whole point of LOVE! yourself is so that you'll stop worrying about losing weight and focus on the things more under your control. Basically, diets don't work. They work short term but not long term.

    It's a great idea to eat better and exercise more. Those are good things to do-even if they don't lead to weight loss.

    Now, I would also be happier if I lost some weight. But don't you think this emphasis that society puts on how women looks is kind of disempowering? It doesn't fit in with all the other things that we need to get down in a day. While men feel a bit of this pressure, it's NOTHING like what women are subjected to.

    So, that's the real issue-- "society" and "patriarchy" would love it if we'd focus all our time on dieting and exercise so we'll be too distracted, grumpy and tired to focus on the things in this society that actually get you power. (And the power that women have due to their looks is determined by...men! Of course.)

    Hmm...sorry for the rant! I think your writing is great and I think we all share some ambivalence in the area of our looks.

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  8. The post I wanted to write :P

    I'm in the same boat as you are and I've struggled with the perception that I'm somehow deeply unhappy and that is the reason I'm overweight. I've sat and thought about this and tried to find this unhappiness but it's just not there. Instead I found that I'm proud of myself and what I've accomplished, and that I love who I am. The only reason I could find for my being overweight was that my life is so busy and I've had other priorities, my daughter being the most important one. So, I thought I must be weird then or I'm hiding something from myself.

    Many of us accept what the media paints as a picture and try to fit in with that. We are all so different though and I am so glad I came across your blog and read this post because this is media too and now it's creating an alternative way of thinking. It will in turn encourage people to think and to find their own truth.

    I love it. Thank you Kristy!

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  9. Well, I have a strange sort of situation. I have bipolar type II and borderline personality disorders. I have never been told by any guy I was with that I should lose weight, but I am still not happy with how I look. Who enjoys looking at the mirror and seeing ripples of any sort?

    For me, the weight gain and loss cycle is built into my bipolar ones. As I get manic, I do more things and eat a bit more. When depression hits, I stop eating and do less. I gained a bit of weight over the past few years due to severe emotional and life changes plus a complete lack of anything approaching exercise. The psych meds didn't help either. But everything has leveled out now. I would still like to lose 30 lbs or so, but I am content to do it slowly. Other things, like singing and having a stable relationship with a decent guy for once, have taken priority.

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  10. amazing post, never been prouder of the cuz in cuznate.

    having my own minorish struggles with weight over the years, this puts an exclamation point on why i think it's important to simply strive for overall health rather than weight. the thing that makes me unhappy when i'm heavier isn't that i'm big, it's because usually that correlates to me falling back on unhealthy habits. i've gotten pretty tweaked emotionally in the times that i've given a crap about my waistline (i'm never going to be a small guy). and conversely, if i give that up and simply dig on feeling good and being healthy, i find that way more rewarding than any subsequent reduction in size. which honestly, doesn't really seem to happen even if i'm going to the gym and eating well, and i don't much care as long as i feel i can walk up a mountain or snowboard all day without feeling dead by noon.

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  11. YES. THIS. I have been saying similar stuff on my blog for years. It sucks to be fat, absolutely sucks, but there isn't always some underlying cause, some miserable thing, and it doesn't mean that fat people are secretly miserable. Sometimes fat is just fat, plain and simple.

    Here's one post that I wrote about this, about not wanting to be fat anymore but still feeling happy and fulfilled: http://duwaxloolu.blogspot.com/2009/10/fat-is-not-that-bad.html

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  12. I love you for this post.

    I used to be skinny- like, REALLY skinny. And I hated myself. I thought I was fat, and useless and I turned to bulemia to get skinnier, thinking if I did, people would like me more, that I would like me more.

    Since then, I have become a fat girl. Ironically, I have also come to accept that I am worth more than what I look like. That I am smart, and courageous, and a good mom, and many other wonderful things.

    I don't like being fat, and would LOVE to lose weight, but, like you, I have other priorities. Life is too short to spend it concentrating on reaching a societal ideal of weight- I'd rather spend that time with my family, reaching my career goals,and enjoying life to it's fullest.

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  13. Do you have some sort of crystal ball? because i think you soeak for many women, myself included. Thanks for writing this.

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  15. Oh and also, one reason I find it hard to motivate is that it has to last FOREVER. I can't just work hard until I lose the weight: to maintain that unnaturally lower weight, I would have to fight hard against the tide Every! Single! Day! for the rest of my life, and I'd have to UP IT every few years as my aging body slowed its metabolism and adjusted to my efforts. If I start adding up all those hours, it's really really hard to think of a reason it's worth it to use all that time working on my body.

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  16. I'm fat. I love myself, the person I am, the goals I've achieved, the life I've made and am making for myself.

    For me, I hate exercising. I hate being a rat on a treadmill and I hate it more than I hate wearing plus sized clothes. I hate doing things that I don't enjoy more than I hate shopping at "specialty" shops (like Lane Bryant).

    It's not a priority to me, either - at least not in a "I must be thin to be happy" way. I eat healthy because I don't want to croak from a heart attack at 40. I walk my dogs because otherwise they are unbearably energetic. But in my mind, what's the point of forcing myself to do something I hate that only puts me in a bad mood? That's not the way I want to spend my life. I have never been the person that's done anything because other people say I should. Sure, I should probably lose some weight. And sure, I probably would feel better about myself when I'm naked.. But would being thinner make me any happier? It didn't when I spent 8 months being a gym rat and eating tasteless food. Sure I lost weight, but I was miserable. I hated counting calories obsessively. I hated cutting into my friend/family/loved ones time with forced gym outings. I hated tasteless chicken and bland vegetables.

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  17. By the way, it's really wonderful reading the post and comments and know that I'm not alone with my unwillingness to give up the things that make me happy for things that make me miserable :-)

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  18. I saw this via Swistle's Google Reader items and I just want to share my take. This: "You can't work hard on your health, weight, career, education, family, extra-curriculars and emotional well-being all at the same time"? I could not disagree more. I work on all those things. Every day. It has nothing to do with self-loathing, and everything to do with believing in myself. The benefits I get from fitness go way, way, way beyond the way I look.

    But that's just my story. I realize everyone's got different interests and different priorities. And exercise makes me happy (usually), not miserable, so there's that. I just wanted to say that for some people, it is possible to balance it all. I keep hearing people say you have to give up the important things in life in order to be fit, and for me I've actually found the opposite to be true.

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  19. i carry around about 15 lbs of weight I don't like. I'm about 6' so its not the end of the world, just 15 lbs between 'eh, is this shirt too tight can you see a roll' and 'womanly curves body karate.'

    i like to eat. i eat a very whole food un processed diet. i run. i do yoga. i go to cross fit (which means I regularly start my day with over a hundred push ups). i do krav maga. I am healthy. My bp is low and i have some muscles.

    i like to eat. i am happy and comfortable with who i am. my bmi is in the healthy range. and i am in pretty stinkin good shape. did i mention i like to eat?

    i also work. a. lot. sometimes my fitness has to take a back seat. i can fit it in the morning, but often i am unwilling to give up the couple of precious hours i have at home with hubby and dogs. i need to be home to eat a healthy diet. am i supposed to run 5 miles after work and then go to mc donalds because i don't have time to cook?

    i think if i weren't so happy in my career and my ability to do 1000 jumping jacks and 100 pushups and 100 squats and assorted other tortures before work, i might stress more about those 15 lbs. i might be able to give up my caramel machiato.

    and pizza. and carrot cake.

    but really.
    give up carrot cake?

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  20. Wow, I truly enjoyed reading your post, as well as reading the comments that followed. I have to agree with the whole point of the post. I don't hate myself deep down, I certainly am not miserable, and I don't appreciate the way I look either. So there is that. Great read! Thanks for putting this out there!

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  21. Hi Sundry - It's very nice to see you here!

    I think that particular point is a larger question/discussion of "balance." One person's balance certainly isn't another's, as you've said. I think it's great that you have managed to find yours (and think you should write a manual!) - but I know plenty of people who struggle every day to find theirs, whether or not working out is part of it.

    I in NO WAY meant to imply that people who do prioritize being fit OR looking fit OR both do so because of any sense of self-loathing. At all.

    I was in great shape for an extended period of time, and it took a TON of work, most of which I hated. I did feel better, but not THAT much better. And when my motivators (all superficial) dissipated, so did my drive.

    So ultimately, I will change that sentence to be more reflective of my personal struggles.

    Thanks for the input!

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  22. This post is very good. I simply haven't found that motivation that allows for the re-prioritizing and fitting the exercise in. I love food and I'm overweight because time has gone by and I while I'm a stress eater, I'm also a stress 'cuddle under blankets and watch tv-er". I am relatively fit, but I would like to lose weight. One day, I will.

    And the women's clothes? Seriously? They can't just make cool clothes larger???

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  23. Kristy: I think Sundry was referring to Swistle's comment, but I could be wrong.

    As for me, I'll answer the original question: I'm not secretly miserable OR happy. Sometimes I feel like working out a lot, and exercise makes me happy. Sometimes it doesn't, and I go through a lazy period. I go in fits and starts when it starts to bother me, and when it doesn't, I don't think about it.

    Usually, I like to exercise, no matter what it does to my body. However, I am very lucky in that genetics gave me a body that responds really well to exercise and minor diet changes, so I see results fast. If I didn't, I'd probably be LESS motivated and would do very little other than some heart-pumping workouts to make me feel alive, and then, only when I felt like it.

    Right now, I'm on a mission to lose 40 pounds. I'm down nine and a half. My motivation? Fitting into my old pants, not because I am hyper-concerned about what I look like, but because I don't feel like buying new pants. I HATE shopping, and I can't afford to buy a whole new wardrobe.

    And for me, the cost of 30 minutes a day while my kid naps, plus $8.99 for the DVD and time on my Wii Fit is an easier price to pay. Plus, exercise does make me feel good.

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  24. Okay - just in case this takes off in a funky direction (my delusional Twittering aside)...

    I think -- actually, no, I KNOW what Swistle said is true. Self-loathing can be a fantastic motivator for getting in shape (or for dropping weight by any means necessary, however unhealthily).

    BUT IT IS NOT THE ONLY ONE.

    JUST AS self-loathing isn't the only reason behind one's lack of motivation to get in shape or lose weight.

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  25. Jonniker - you are correct re: Swistle! And I like your attitude/approach. It seems very sensible.

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  26. Tiffany is right. How do you DO that? How do you write what's in my head? (Fat and not miserable). Well done!

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  27. Kristy- You're right, that's what I mean: it can be one of many motivators.

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  28. Oh, dude, I think about this every time I watch Biggest Loser. I imagine if I was on the show that I would have to MAKE SOMETHING UP to keep Jillian happy. I mean, really. I have no deep dark horrible secrets that made me fat. I'm just...lazy. And I like food. Yes, my weight makes me miserable, but my weight is not BECAUSE I'm miserable. Gah.

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  29. I love all the honesty here. I hope you won't mind me chiming in.

    My motivation to be active has come from competing in events - specifically, sprint triathlons. For three years running, I cheered on my husband as he raced, and I admired the wide field of competitors. Men and women of all shapes, sizes, and ages were doing it - why couldn't I?

    So I trained and I did it. And it made me feel so incredibly good about myself that I wanted to do it again and again.

    I've tried working out and eating well in pursuit of a superficial goal, and it was never enough to motivate me. But pursuing a performance-based goal has been the key for me. It keeps me focused on what my body can do, not on how it looks.

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  30. Hmmmm, what can I say, I have to agree with Sundry. Exercise makes one have more energy post-workout (yes, it's actually true) so that you can actually get. way. more. done. You do not have to compromise ... it's just all the sugar and gluten that makes us think we have to ; )

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  31. I think this is the conundrum. There are two motivators for working out, right? Self-love (feeling empowered to demand health for yourself) or self-loathing (feeling forced to exercise/diet because you can't live with the way you look).

    So...if you aren't working out and you aren't happy with the way you look/feel....then why aren't you? People are going to assume it's because you don't love yourself enough.

    And I think there is some truth to that. I say this as someone who was 40 pounds overweight and not necessarily unhappy. I was choosing not to hate myself, because that doesn’t feel good. I was just accepting myself. This is not the same as being happy with myself.

    There’s a helplessness there, isn’t there? To live your life and recognize there is an area where you are not happy, and then just let it stay that way? And when you start to feel helpless about something that you are solely responsible for, don’t you start to feel kind of….bad….about this? I know I did.

    To me it’s simply an issue of empowerment. What if all I wanted was to be a goat farmer instead of what I do now? I don’t hate myself for what I do now, but think of how much happier I’d be if I was a goat farmer. Or no….if I at least TRIED to be a goat farmer. Took those steps.

    That’s all I’m trying to say. Be a goat farmer.

    But really: These discussions that keep cropping up on blogs I read just baffle me. To me, this is a philosophical discussion that boils down to “self,” personal identity. And this is not something that should be up for defense or debate, is it? Why do we let how we define ourselves even become a debatable issue?

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  32. 1st I want to say that I love your blog. Alot. I historically had weight-induced self-eteem issues. For the past several years my weight fluctuates about 15 pounds or so, meaning size 2 or size 6. I know you are thinking "Wah! Poor girl can't fit into her size 2 jeans." But overall I feel no matter what size you wear or want to wear, this feeling of needing to be smaller affects everyone. Thankfully I no longer care as much as I did when I was younger because those thoughts will drive a person mad. I have to say though that I am trying to be healthier cuz I aint gettin' any younger and I am afraid I will never do it if I wait - procrastinator here. Also, I feel like yoga and eating better balances out my many other vices somehow.

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  33. Monica: No matter how much I work out, the day can't get any longer. I have never felt that I've lacked the needed energy to get stuff done (though sometimes I get emotionally exhausted, but that has nothing to do with this!). I would never describe myself as lazy, and I can be one of the most industrious people you'll ever meet.

    I do NOT argue that working out would give me an energy boost or make me feel more energized all the time. I'm certain it would.

    That doesn't mean I wouldn't have to compromise. Compromise is a personal thing.



    Amber: Yes, but. There will always be parts of my life I'm not satisfied with. The parts that I'm MOST dissatisfied with I address. Weight is one, but there are OTHER things I can change that are more important to me than weight.

    The good news is that I have addressed many of those other "dissatisfiers." Now weight is nearing the top of my list, so I'm addressing it.

    I only mean to say here that I have NEVER EVER been accepting of being unhappy with aspects of my life. I have NEVER been helpless, or accepted helplessness. I have just had to work triage on my life's unhappy-making aspects (OF WHICH THERE HAVE BEEN MANY OMG), and addressing my weight just consistently fell below the other things.


    Sara: Having grown up with very, very skinny women, I KNOW that a woman's insecurities and weight-related self-esteem issues has as much relevance for those on the size 2 side of the spectrum as those on the size 22.

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  34. On the issue of "you can't do it all:" Kristy you just had your baby, but you will have lots of time to get used to the fact that being a working mother makes you feel like you are not giving anything the attention it deserves!

    But there are a lot of us who DO do it all and we aren't superwomen. It is a question of priorities. Absolutely.

    I started working out because I was debilitated by self loathing and guess what? I got thin and I was still full of self loathing. My size was proxy for all the things I didn't like about myself. But because I learn EVERYTHING the hard way I had to lose the weight and realize I was still miserable and then deal with all those other things.

    But somewhere along the way I learned that staying fit was a way I could take care of myself, which is not something I had ever done before. A lot of women don't take care of themselves in many aspects of their lives, and it was important for me to learn how. So now if I don't workout, yes I feel like shit. If I don't brush my teeth at night I feel like shit. I know what it takes to stay balanced and taking care of me will be part of the equation as long as I can move this body.

    25 years after getting in shape for the first time, fitness is part of my life. It is a priority for me and I am proud of that and proud of my accomplishments. I am proud to regularly run races, ride bicycles and lift weights with my son. I am grateful to have found something that makes me feel fabulous and keeps depression at bay. But it's so much more than that, the quality of my life has improved a hundred fold because I am always pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

    It no longer has anything to do with my body
    image. I am active in the sports I love, but my size fluctuates and sometimes I care enough to tighten up my diet and address it and sometimes I don't. My happiness doesn't rise and fall on it.

    And i think you are selling the idea of fat acceptance short. It is not about being sassy or flaunting your size or even loving it: its about rejecting the notion that fat people are less than human, or less deserving of love and respect. It's about resisting the notion that because you are fat you are lazy, depressed, uncaring, ___________, fill in the blank. It is about having the choice between making losing weight a priority or not; and not having that choice be laden with the ramifications of stereotypes and bigotry..

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  35. I'm fat because I just really, really love food.

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  36. I've been all over the map of weightyness. I was a size 8 about 10 years ago then I went to work and our daughter moved home and I gained some and then I was a 10. Work was turning into not being much fun any longer and then I was a 12, but work wasn't all of it. I can't remember what happened that I started eating more. When I quit smoking nearly 3 years ago...well, Katy bar the door. I couldn't even believe how my body changed in relation to that horror. And the weird thing was when I look at pictures I wasn't all that big. Then last winter I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and have to take prednisone daily. At that point I decided I'd just have to be whatever I wound up being. It is not possible to work out or even walk or do the elliptical with the arthritis and my knees are nearly shot. So, I began cutting back on some things and maybe I can lose some of the weight. I don't hate myself like I did when I quit smoking and became the incredible growing woman. It will all work its way out one day...or not.
    btw-I think you look cute the way you are.

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  37. I appreciated your blog entry and thought you covered some ground I haven't seen. But after reading the comments - the same ones, in theme, I've seen countless times I want to ask: When did exercise, fitness, weight, losing weight, not losing weight, dieting, and choosing or not choosing any of the above become so COMPLICATED and POLITICAL.

    I remember the first time I started an exercise program in the early 80s. I did it because I was curious, because friends were doing it, because it seemed like it might be fun, because I felt like it. I gave up smoking at the same time because...it made sense to. I didn't ask anyone, I didn't seek permission, I didn't look for acceptance. It would never have occurred to me. Nobody judged me. Nobody said you must loathe yourself. I didn't discuss it in any serious way. I just did it. Along the way I've stopped, then started, and tried new things. I never ask and I don't analyze my reasons. If someone judged me, I think I'd laugh. I don't care what anyone thinks about the exercise I do or the times I fall off the wagon. I certainly don't care what others choose to do for fitness; and I don't base my friendships or consideration of somebody on whether the person is doing what I do.

    I just don't get all of these judgments and assumptions about people who pursue an athletic life and those who don't. I don't understand what the fuss is about.

    I don't understand the anger and bitterness that surrounds it.

    If you want to lose weight, lose it. If you want to exercise, do it. If you don't, then don't. There are no rules that say that if you exercise it must be because [fill in the blank].

    DO WHAT YOU WANT. You don't need permission, you don't need to be a certain way or of a certain mind set. It's not a club.

    Although most people have a reason to start anything they do, including fitness, there are no rules that say it has to be X and not Y reason. You don't even have to have a reason.

    You don't need anyone's blessing.

    Do what you want. And let others do as they want.

    How hard is this?

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  38. I like this post a lot. It's balanced and fair and well thought out. I also think that the comments and the discussion (so far) isn't going wonky and is interesting to read.

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  39. Amber said: But really: These discussions that keep cropping up on blogs I read just baffle me. To me, this is a philosophical discussion that boils down to “self,” personal identity. And this is not something that should be up for defense or debate, is it? Why do we let how we define ourselves even become a debatable issue?

    And I really, really appreciate it. Good Lord - it blows my mind that anyone has to even say this - "I'm overweight (fat, not perfect, could lose ten pounds, whatever) and I have MAH OWN PERSONAL reasons for it". I am assuming that it's the internet-ness of it all, which is funny, because this is the place where no one can see you, right? Yet we seemed SO focused on what everybody looks like, and why?

    Anyways, great post and interesting comments, thanks.

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  40. I've deleted one of my comments. It came across as offensive and as a sweeping statement about ALL people who exercise, and that wasn't how I meant it, so I've withdrawn it. And then I'm not reading any of the other comments because there was no way I wanted to be involved in this kind of discussion again after last month.

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  41. I love reading these posts and comments about weight self-esteem. I always stay quiet because I've been underweight and overweight (by 10-15 lbs. both ways) and everywhere in between and I never know quite which "side" to take. No matter how thin I was, I didn't love my body or myself any more than I do now (being on the heavier end of my comfort level).

    I think what most of us can agree on is that there are more important things than how we look and even how we feel about our bodies.

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  42. Loved this post. I found my way here thru Zoot's shared items and it just spoke to me. I'm overweight too and I love myself. I love myself very much actually. So bravo for writing this and sharing it. Thank you!

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  43. Great, great articulation -- thanks!

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  44. So I am a skinny bitch, but hate my body all the same. I have a baby belly and blah blah blah. I am one of the sad saps who links too much of my self esteem to my body image and I believe you are in a better place than most of us. If you can love yourself, and see your weight as one part of you, instead of a success or a faliure, I will bet that you are happier than most, including me. I wish you luck with your weight loss goals, but whatever you do, know that you are lucky for your refreshing attitude.

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  45. I think everything you say is true. I also want to say that it's really easy to always think you'd find true happiness in life if you were just a little smaller. I think that all the time, and I AM small. Like size 2-4 small. And yet, I am never happy with the flabbiness of my thighs and butt. So, you know, it happens to lots of us -- there's pretty much always someone with a body that seems better than yours. Unless, maybe, you're Jennifer Aniston.

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  46. I thank you for commenting on my comment. I was too afraid to write that I envy you so very much. It is far and few between that one can truly "walk around with it" such as you do. And I am not merely referring to weight. Thank you for inspiring so many, especially me, to just be.

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  47. Sara - You're quite welcome, though I kind of have to laugh. I hope you'll take this the right way, but I realize that my message is basically "It doesn't matter what size we are, we're ALL totally fucked up...just for different reasons!" So, um, cheers! :)

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  48. As I was reading your post, I found myself wishing that I was the same. Unfortunately, I do have issues under my fatness and why I eat and I know what they are. However, even with the knowledge of all of that, I still get stuck in the eating cycle.

    Either way, I enjoyed your perspective. I guess I thought everyone who was overweight had issues just like me, which apparently is not the case. And when did I become judgemental as an overweight person - ooh ouch!

    And PS - I'm a working mom, crazy scheduled, super woman kind of a person and any time I have spent to just merely breathe at the end of the day is spent watching important things like the Bachelor or American Idol. It's hard to find the energy to excersize when I'm on the go literally ALL day long.

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  49. I understand where you're coming from completely. I've battled with my weight since I was 12 years old and though I think there was some emotional misery tied to my eating when I was a teenager, I grew into a happy adult (albeit a larger adult than what's deemed "normal").

    When I finally lost the weight, it had nothing to do with my emotions and everything to do with my habits. It was just like when my friend finally was able to quit smoking- she read a book that broke it down into simple logic and she was able to do it. Same with me. I read a few books that changed my habits with food, the way I regarded food and how it fit into my life. I stuck with it because I felt better and the loss of pounds was a nice bonus.

    I guess that's what clicked for me- I turned the goal away from "not being fat anymore" and focused on actively feeling better, not being as tired and draggy and moody. I was living my life BETTER than before. I think that's why I've been able to stick with it (and hoo boy, I tried EVERYTHING before that.)

    Take from that what you will, if only for a little extra proof that it CAN happen. Don't give up, not ever. You're happy with your life and that's WONDERFUL. You're already so far ahead of so many other people out there. So proud of you for that alone. :)

    (Ugh, I'm starting to sound like Self Magazine. My apologies to the universe as a whole for that.)

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  50. I find this to be so true. It's one thing to keep up with positive habits that are already in place or to invest the time into something new, but it takes a lot of emotional energy to tackle something and I only have enough for so many things! My current list of things I'm working on goes like this: dealing with work in a healthier way, keeping up with school, my relationship, general mental health, eating healthier (though that last one has fallen to the wayside a bit lately). Not on the radar as much is exercise, which is something that I know I'd be happier dealing with! Rather than make myself feel bad, I've made it a goal to exercise one hour a week (totally do-able) and to revisit the topic once I'm further with school and work. More power to you for taking the energy you used to invest in work and putting it towards something else!

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  51. Yes. Me. Exactly.9:42 AM, January 25, 2010

    Yes.Me.Exactly.
    Thank you.
    xoxo

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  52. Did it take time and commitment to gain the weight? I love your premise but feel you are putting far too fine-a point on weight loss. You've made it a mountain. It's not. Get started. Do one little thing different today and tomorrow and the next. My god, now is the perfect time. You've got little kids to run around with and teach to eat healthily. Don't rank it in hierarchy of things that are important to you. You are important to you. It is not time consuming...if you just keep 'walking around with it'...soon 'it' will be smaller.
    Oh and of course Jillian is a cray nazi. Turn off the television for chrissakes.

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  53. Ok, first off, I have to say the word verification is 'desizin' which makes me think of going down in size. And that is kind of hilarious.

    I, too, am a plus-sized woman who is happy, NOT miserable. Sure, I would love to lose weight, and get back into the shape I used to be in. When I was 18. And didn't work fulltime. Or go to school fulltime. And had the metabolism of a freaking race horse. Sure, if could spend 8 hours a day running around, rollerblading, playing sports, working out, etc, like I used to, I would probably be able a size 10 again. And appearance wise, sure I'd be happier.

    But that sure wouldn't change what's wrong in the rest of my life, and I'd like to fix that first.

    Great post. I got here from Neil and will be back. You're not alone in this!

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  54. I like what Judi said about the goal really clicking when it became "actively feeling better" and not just losing weight. I used to be really underweight and am now starting to border on overweight... but even at the high end of the healthy weight for my height, I am already starting to feel draggy, headachey, just BLAH. And you know what? I eat crappy processed foods ALL THE TIME because I'm too lazy to cook for myself. Think that might have a little bit to do with it?

    I'd like to lose some weight, sure (if only because pants are expensive and I'm sick of having to buy new ones every 6 months), but I have decide to make diet changes now just to FEEL BETTER overall. I want to get back the energy and productivity that came with being a little thinner, not just the jeans.

    That's just me.

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  55. This is just how I've been feeling. Yeah, there are reasons to be less fat. There are ways I'd feel better about myself if I were less fat. But as you said, without hating yourself, without being miserable, it's very difficult to maintain any motivation. Because if it's not really affecting your life, why would you want to sacrifice something for it? There are so many other things in life to both enjoy and struggle with!

    Also, I don't think the anonymous person above quite gets it!

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  56. Oh wow, I am super-impressed at the free-flow of honest (yet friendly & fair) opinions here! Kristy, I have never commented here on your wonderful blog, but now, now, I just have to speak my peace. I grew up fat, I am a very short person and really can't weigh all that much or else I'll be all dumpy and such. I didn't get dates, didn't get to wear cute clothing, and all in all I was miserable and hated myself for years. I will always equate being overweight with being unhappy.

    So, it is hard for me to "get" the concept of being overweight and being happy in general. I am sincere when I say I'm glad there are those that are truly happy even though they are overweight. (BTW, I don't mean needing to lose those extra 10-15 lbs.; I mean over 40-50 lbs. over your ideal weight.) I guess what I want to say is I just love your writing and think you really have it together and have a wonderful life. If you decide to begin an exercise program in the future I think that will only increase your "together-ness" and overall awesomeness.

    I am now at my ideal weight and have kept my weight off for over 20 yrs. (except for when I going thru infertility treatments)--I feel so happy when shopping for and wearing clothes, I love myself and am proud of myself since making this life-commitment. BUT, it is quite difficult because as was mentioned before, this thing is forever! For me personally, having spent my young life as a fat girl, it is so worth it.

    And, something that has not been mentioned here on this post at all, what about being sexually attractive? I never felt sexually attrative when overweight, and that was heart-breaking. Again, I'm glad there are those that apparently can and do have a great sex-life no matter what their size. Does anyone want to comment on this subject?

    Whew, this was way long---thanks again you are a wonderful person/blogger. ~G

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  57. I am SO glad you posted on this subject and responded to my email. I see I wasn't the only one concerned about the issue and keeping quiet about it. Once again, you put into words something that's been in my heart and on my mind for quite some time. Solidarity! Thanks :)

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  58. Hi Kristy - I discovered your blog years ago when you posted about the firemen and your a$$ at the gym. ;-)

    Loved this post - LOVED it. Wish I could articulate my feelings as well as you.

    I love myself, too - but hate feeling unhealthy. Hating the unhealthy feeling is my motivation to get up and move.

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  59. This is a FANTASTIC post.

    This: "They say that now you need to make time to go to the gym as though you were previously spending that extra hour or two doing nothing. As though it's apples to apples." is just SO TRUE. I make the time I can, and yes, I wish I was thinner, but not so much that I'm willing to sacrifice any more of my time than I currently do to do it. I have other priorities that I care about more. It is a trade-off. And, oddly, reading this post makes me feel better about making it. So thank you!

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  60. This is so timely...I feel much like you do. I do not have deep-rooted emotional eating issues; I am just juggling fifty balls in the air and I can only do so much at one time. I am trying to accept who I am and love myself but still look good and be healthy and some days, I feel like I get to make one choice: do I workout and forget my son's homework and the laundry and the lunches that need to be made or the book I can't finish or the tv shows I never watch because that is what it feels like: a total trade-off. As busy women, it is so difficult to find the time. I work full-time outside of the house and between driving and before/after care for my son, we roll in and the night is halfway gone.
    Thanks for making me think.

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