I’ve noticed that many people who’ve never been obese tend to be very naive about the causes of obesity. If only it were true that I got this way by lazing around and stuffing my face with junk food all day long! If it were true, weight loss would merely be a simple matter of eating less and moving more. If only! If only their naive assumptions were true, my weight loss journey would be much easier!
I resent it when naive people say naive things like “fat people lack self-discipline,” because when people say that, it shows that they have no idea what my life has been like, no idea what I’ve been through, and no understanding of how I even got fat in the first place. I don’t lack self-discipline. I have an excessive amount of willpower and discipline, and I’m pretty willing to bet that I can put most thin people to shame when it comes to willpower and discipline. I’m able to deny myself food for weeks at a time. I’m able to live for weeks on little else but cottage cheese and carrot sticks. I know how to starve and starve and starve, and I’ve been doing it since college. My ability to starve myself for weeks on end is a psychological issue that I need to monitor carefully, because it trips me up. It’s easy for me to simply stop eating food altogether, and I tend to be very tempted to live on nothing but salad and water, and this is the very thing that’s made me so fat.
Flashback to college, junior year, 170 pounds — I was perfect. I had a perfect body, with a perfect BMI. But I hated my body and saw a distorted version of myself whenever I looked in the mirror. Junior year, I decided I needed to start taking drastic measures to ‘get in shape,’ so I began starving myself. I started eating only lettuce – salads, no dressing, just water to drink. I didn’t really succeed in losing much weight because my body didn’t actually have any excess weight to lose. I was perfect, toned, lean and my body didn’t want to lose weight. My body responded to this prolonged abuse by clinging to every calorie, hoarding every bit of fuel I ate, slowing my metabolism to a crawl. Eventually, after a month of starvation, I was so malnourished and so desperate for sustenance that I just freaked out and started eating normally again. But this time, when I ate, my body clung to every morsel of food that went into my mouth, and my waistline grew and grew. So, guess what I did? I stopped eating again. Again and again, the cycle went, and I continued to pile on the pounds. By graduation day, I’d gained 40lb — 210 lbs!
How could anyone be so stupid? I was deluded. I truly believed I was much too fat at 170 lbs. I truly believed that I needed to lose weight. I truly believed that food was a vice and that eating was bad and that starvation was a virtue. I truly believed that good, virtuous, feminine, fit girls didn’t eat food. I cursed myself for being a disgusting fat pig each time I ate a sandwich, or any kind of normal food. This is something I still struggle with, now. The idea that feminine, virtuous, good women aren’t supposed to eat anything is very deeply ingrained in me. I know it’s a screwed-up idea, but I’m never going to lose weight until I deal with that. I can’t fall back into old patterns; rather, I need to force myself to eat 1,800 calories a day even when it seems like too much food. I wish I had a time machine so I could travel back in time and show my 20-year-old self what extreme dieting would do to my body. If only I’d just eaten a healthy, normal diet throughout my twenties, I wouldn’t be where I am now.
So, consequently, I weighed 210 lbs at graduation – OFFICIALLY OBESE.
This extra weight brought on a number of health problems! I developed a thyroid condition soon after college, and I still need to take medication for it. I gained another 60 lb. in a year directly as a result of the thyroid problem. I gained 60 lb. without even trying. I gained 60 lb. before my doctor was able to figure out what was going on. I was put on thyroid medication, and I immediately lost 40 of those pounds, but then I gained 15 pounds back and I’ve been bouncing between 230-250 pounds ever since then. I haven’t gone below 230 lbs since 2007!
The other thing was major depression and self-hatred. I felt like I was worthless as long as I was overweight (hence, the reason I started trying to diet in the first place), and I was absolutely miserable. What do people do when they’re full of misery and shame? They tend to mope around. I fell ill with major depression, and half of it was probably the result of my shameful feelings about my weight gain, and the other half of it was probably the result of all the physical damage I’d done to my body through dieting. I just moped around. I was very deeply depressed and found it difficult to get up out of bed. So, I wasn’t burning calories. So, I continued to be fat. Weight gain tends to go hand-in-hand with major clinical depression, and this is why I think the entire idea of “LET’S SHAME THEM SO THEY’LL LOSE WEIGHT!” is a losing proposition. Shame only motivates people to get even fatter.
Man, if shame motivated people to lose weight, nobody would be obese. Most obese people carry a massive burden of shame around with them constantly. Most obese people feel nothing but shame about their bodies. They feel shame every time they look in the mirror, they feel shame every time they have to eat food, they feel shame every single moment of every single day. Really, obese people already feel plenty of shame already, so there’s no need to keep piling it on. The trouble is, shame doesn’t motivate people to take action. Shame is deeply paralyzing, it’s deeply demoralizing, it’s deeply debilitating. The only thing shame motivates people to do is lie in bed crying all day long, which, as you can guess, isn’t really conducive to fitness and weight loss.
I certainly think most obese people have huge mental problems — I don’t think obesity is something that happens to people who are perfectly sane and healthy, which is why I can’t really say that I support the fat acceptance movement. I support the fat acceptance movement insofar that it’s wrong to discriminate against, ridicule, or shame another human being because they are too fat. But I can’t accept fat as a healthy variation of normal, because it isn’t. If you’re living a healthy lifestyle and you’re still obese, then that’s one thing, but let’s face reality: If you’re obese, you probably are’t living too healthy a lifestyle. I know the kinds of mental issues I’ve had, I know what caused my obesity, I know what I’m still fighting against, and I know that it isn’t healthy. But, generally speaking, mental problems aren’t a socially-acceptable reason to treat another person with such cruelty. The fact that it’s so socially acceptable to be so cruel to fat people is pretty fucked-up.
Obesity is a complex issue, but love and compassion is much more motivating than shame and cruelty.
For me, I’ve spent the last decade of my life fighting this. What’s finally motivating me to do something about it? I don’t know, it’s hard to verbalize it. Ideally, I’d like to use this blog to help people, so I’d like to be able to explain exactly how and why I am losing weight. I know that it’s a mental thing, and I know you need to make a mental shift to be able to do this. I haven’t lost too much weight yet, so I can’t tell you anything with much authority, but I’ve been sticking to my plan longer than I ever have in the past, and here’s what’s working for me, right now: