Monday, August 27, 2012

REPOSTED: What If Fat Doesn't Mean Miserable


I originally posted this on January 22, 2010. Many things have changed since then, but many things...haven't.  It was time to revisit. You can still read the original post here.


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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 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 bigger.

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.

Yes, toned-down alternatives exist, 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.

Let's be clear. 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 career, my financial stability, my emotional well-being, my family, 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" "career satisfaction" and "getting published."

Hey, I get that we all have different priorities. I firmly believe that everything's a trade-off. 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 might ALSO be tempted to yell back, "Why are YOU so AFRAID of fat?" but that's neither here nor there and probably why I'll never be on tv.)

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, yes. 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...what if I want to lose weight?

How do I find motivation to lose weight if I'm not coming from a place of broken? 

Most motivational advice I see/read/hear is based on the premise that fat = lazy, fat = uninformed, fat = unhappy. I need to find something better than this. 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."

But that doesn't fit me and so I have no model. I'm not overweight because I'm lazy, because I have nothing better to do, because I'm unhappy. I'm not angry at the world, I'm not failing at life. I haven't let myself be held back by my weight. 


Instead, it's just the opposite. I have so much else going on, I just don't know how to make weight-loss a priority without giving up something else. Like, by virtue of math, I have to do less of something in order to do more of something else. 

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 sitting around twiddling your thumbs. As though it's apples to apples.

It's not.

I look at my life now and it is full-to-the-brim busy. I have two young children and a start-up. I spend practically every waking moment wrangling a child or wrangling an overflowing inbox, save for the occasional conversation with my husband. I have to schedule showers.

I know I need to reconfigure to give weight-loss a new, prominent position in my life. But.

But 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 LIKE it that way and so 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?

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Disclaimers:
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! I want to be more like you! 

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 certainly not since I had kids and started a company. This is MY cross to bear and to explain. 

3. For the record, I have NOT always been fat and I HAVE been in great physical shape -- just not since graduating college and getting a job.



15 comments:

  1. I have no answers for you as I'm in basically the same place, but I do have an plea until you get it figured out - could some of you Clever Girls figure out a plus size Rent the Runway deal? I'm fashion-challenged, but know most of what I see out there in my size is teh suck. I love the Rent the Runway idea for special occasions, but will need two size 12 dresses sewn together, please...

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    1. ooooooooooo what a great idea. YES PLEASE CAN WE GET A RENT THE RUNWAY for larger sized clothing/????? Or for maternity clothes????

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    2. I just recently read this blog post by Wardrobe Oxygen. I don't know if this is quite what you're looking for, but very interesting! http://www.wardrobeoxygen.com/2012/08/gwynnie-bee-clothing-without-commitment.html

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  2. Hey K - I think this post is true no matter what weight you are. What woman in the history of the universe has ever been happy with her weight? We are told not to be happy with it. We are confronted with air-brushed images and heroin-chic models. So.

    I sometimes look at old pictures of myself and think - wow, I was so thin but I thought I needed to lose weight. And R is like - when in your life have you not thought you needed to lose a few pounds? It's endemic.

    Anyway, a better question is, how can I be healthier? So maybe it's picking one thing that you do in that regard. For me, it's high-fructose corn syrup. It's not like I don't eat cookies, because BELIEVE ME I DO, but I just find ones that have real ingredients. Baby steps.

    Also, I don't think you need to go to the gym, Jillian be damned (fyi, she was a fat kid, that's where it comes from). Walk around the block while you are on a conference call? Or do 20 sit-ups before bed? Mind you, I don't do these things. But I know they are good ideas. ;-)

    xo

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  3. I hear ya. Every year since I was 14, I have "the heaviest I've ever been." I dropped a ton of weight between 8th and 9th grade. Then began putting it back on and never quite stopped. So, today, I'm The Heaviest I've Ever Been again. And today, I'm engaged to an amazing man, who loved me enough at my heaviest ever size 2 months ago to propose. I do eat well. I hate to work out. I know I should. I just HATE it. I never lose weight with dieting. Every time I log back into my last favorite weight loss app, and see my "current weight" from the last time I tried the diet, I exclaim that I wish I was back at THAT weight. It's strange. I don't know why or how I keep gaining weight, but I do know that I don't hate myself... just my shell.

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  4. I just love how some people like to point out that I am "overweight" like it's a BIG REVELATION to me, never having occurred to me. Seriously? You don't think I don't know that, especially every time I take a shower? I don't get it all the time but every once in a while I get the "you have a pretty face? when are you going to lose the weight?" like my appearance is a burden on society. And I think that to some misguided individuals, I am. But my inner circle loves me, not how I look or what my "number" is, but me. And for a lot of people, they never are on the receiving end of that privilege. I've known so many individuals (all women) who harbor "fear and loathing" for their physique or perceived lack of it - and they are slim and trim by society's standards.

    Bottom line, until I make it MY priority, it's not going to get done. And no one can make you until you're good and ready. I won't be "shamed" into it as that kind of misguided motivation is more unhealthy than carrying extra insulation. I do hope I make it a priority before I have diabetes or arthritis though...

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  5. Ahem, yes. Me too. Brilliantly, articulately put. I know I could lose weight if I controlled everything I ate (and I might even enjoy what I ate if I had nothing to do but play w/ recipes and whole foods) and worked out for a couple of hours a day. I'd enjoy that also if I could live on the side of a lake and swim daily, and row for fun, and have a horse, and walk a mile to the post office every day, etc... However - I have a job. And I have twins about to turn 1. And I have a husband I love. And friends and family I have to work awfully hard to stay connected to now, and charities I used to actively support, and singing that I used to enjoy regularly, and a world to see, and, and, and... So the list of things that I deeply love and value and consider critical on a daily basis pretty much takes every minute of every day to maintain. And that list includes my own sanity - which sometimes needs a hour of junk tv, or a glass of wine on the deck, or a long chat w/ a dear friend, or an early bedtime, or whatever else my precious free hour of the day might make possible. My weight matters most to me - it isn't an issue for my husband, or my children, or the people who love me. Other things, like caring for my marriage and children and house and family, matter to many people - including me - so they get prioritized. But it does matter to me. And now I have a daughter so the example I set for her is increasingly present in my mind - not only in terms of my physical appearance but how I feel about it, how I talk about it, and how I show her how to value one's self. That is complicating things for me these days, and I expect the weight of that (pun intended) to become heavier as she grows up.

    Also - I wish we were friends so we could have this conversation over a glass of wine after having just worked (which is a pretty frequent ritual in my week)! :-)

    It is pretty tough to find this niche - this "I have a great life, and I think I'm pretty great, and there isn't much at all I'd change. But I do wish I were naturally slender." If you are lucky enough to find it within yourself it can be awfully hard to hang on to in the face of society. And especially tough to maintain if/when a wardrobe restocking is necessary.

    Basically I have nothing to add except "me too". And I'm never giving up wine or ice cream. And I don't really think I'd enjoy having to walk a mile to pick up the mail...

    Elizabeth

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  6. i love that you also would ask jillian why she is so angry about fat. love!
    i'm way over weight and a predominately happy person. i'm also totally lazy. even in the best shape of my life i have preferred to lay around and snuggle as opposed to be out running around...mostly because i hate to sweat. and i like being lazy. no drama as to why i am lazy, it is just a part of my personality.
    anyhow, it isn't helping that i have been dating a guy who loves larger women and always encourages me to eat, even when *i* don't want to. i was my happiest with my body at a 10 / 12 so this body wearing a 20 doesn't thrill me. i'm happy inside, i love life. but yes, i am fat. and also rambling! ha!

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  7. I love the way you write and I think you are brilliant. Those are just the facts.

    I have found that, for me, losing weight doesn't "just happen" and yes, it takes time and you have to make it a priority and maybe something else has to slip a little lower on the priority list. You nailed that one.

    From a practical perspective, to answer the question you posed at the end ... since you have to eat SOMETHING, perhaps (if you're not still into MediFast, because I remember you speaking highly of it and having some success) I cannot sing the praises enough of eating Paleo. You're going to eat something at some point, so why not explore foods that can SUPPORT your overall health and long-term well being ? It's less about eating for weight loss, more about eating for long term good health, and weight loss seems to be the inevitable side effect for people who follow it strictly. You might especially enjoy Robb Wolf's book "The Paleo Solution" since he had a lot of people tell him "No, you are wrong" and he basically told them all to stick it and he was right. We all love an underdog story ! I also got a lot out of "It Starts With Food" in terms of information and inspiration. The US food industry is so F'ed up and greedy, it will make you sick. It will make you angry, the stuff they want you to eat and to feed to your kids.

    Okay, I feel myself starting to teeter into the preach-y Paleo mode, and that's no fun for anyone. So I'll just put that out there and shut up.

    Excellent and thought provoking post, as always.

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  8. Well I think everyone here has echoed my own thoughts on the matter: it has to be a priority before it happens.

    I don't think I mean making sure you hit the gym every night at the detriment of your family or going on a crazy diet. Maybe just having it conscious in your mind throughout the day and make little changes as you go, that could become habit and make way for bigger (smaller) changes to your overall size.

    Can you be more physical in your day, even if it's just little things like briskly walking? Can you be more careful about what you put in your mouth (high fructose is a big one, we're a strict no fructose family after seeing a programme about it and its effects)?

    It's only my 2p of course, and I hope you find a way that really works for you. I eat when I'm bored (at work) and I need to curb that but I'm lucky that I have the time to gym or swim it almost every day since neither myself or my partner want kids.

    Good luck to you! You'll find a way if it's important to you; look at everything else you accomplished because you wanted it!

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  9. To me, it is a priority because I want to do everything I can do to ensure that I have a long fulfilling life. I look forward to enjoying being a grandparent (who knows if that will happen)and to go on adventures. I feel like I need to make some sacrifices now in order for that to happen.

    For me, one key is to just get up in the morning and get that exercise finished (for the past 7 years since my kids were born, it means getting up at 5 and out the door for a run within 10 minutes, except on Saturday when I leave at 6). The second key is to make those small dietary changes that others have mentioned. The only calories I drink are 1-2 glasses of wine on weekend evenings, so that I have cut out all full sugar soda, juice, milk etc. The other changes are to reduce the number of desserts I eat (my weakness) to a few nights a week, to eliminating high fructose corn syrup (trader joe's has very few foods with this ingredient) and to drink lots of water.

    This is what has worked for me, but I agree it has to be a priority for you.

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  10. I read this on Curvy Girl Guide, and it's been sitting in my Google Reader feed for a while now. It articulates exactly how I feel about my body. My body serves it's purpose, it's a little bigger than I'd like, but whatevs. I have more important things (husband, dog, friends, job, all that I love) to worry about than losing a few pounds. I find myself reading this after every visit with my mom. She passed along her horrible body image issues to me, and at 31, I hear her voice in my ear with every glass of wine, every bite of dessert saying, "Really? I thought you were trying to lose weight." No, Mom, you're trying to lose weight. I'm good. I may not be the size you want me to be (or even the size I want to be), but I am the size that I am, and that's fine. It's taken me years to be able to say that. The next time she goes off about weight loss (hers or mine), I'm going to send her this. Thank you.

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  11. Thanks for great information you write it very clean. I am very lucky to get this tips from you


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  12. May be you need to make a proper exercise and proper diet. Go to your doctor and as her or him what will you do so taht you can do diet in a proper. Just do what doctor told you.

    Just make sure that you can maintain what you are started so that your figure must be good.

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