OK, here I go, pissing some of you off, I’m sure. First, calm yourself. I’m not shaming anyone, including myself. I am all about body positivity – if it’s done right.
Second, there’s a difference between losing weight for healthy and unhealthy reasons. I am pro-healthy!
Third, please realize that every philosophy or piece of advice is not one-size-fits-all, and that’s what prompted this blog.
I am fat. In fact, I’m in the “morbidly obese” category of the Body Mass Index (BMI). (I think the BMI is bullshit, anyway, but that’s a story for another day. Right now I’m just trying to give you an idea of how big I am.) I carry it well – see my Instagram for proof and I don’t hate myself; I look in the mirror and see a beautiful, sexy, smart, badass chick. But there is no denying the fact that I’m fat – and I shouldn’t be.
It’s not because I need to fit into some prescribed notion of what a woman should look like or what a man likes (my beau thinks I’m hot af just as I am, just sayin’), I need to be less fat because it’s affecting my health. Quite a lot.
The time has long passed where I can say I’m “overweight-but-healthy. ” There was a time when I was; that time is no longer. This is why I have a problem with the saying “healthy at any size.” For some, it’s just not possible; and I am one of the some.
Losing weight because you think you must look a certain way before you or others love who you are is unhealthy, but so is being so overweight that your knees don’t want to function as they should. You should love yourself at any size – but love yourself enough to realize that that particular size just might not be healthy – likely because you are maintaining it by eating not-so-healthy foods all the time and not moving your body.
Yes, I know, you have a “health issue.”
Are there cases of people who have health issues that prevent weight loss? Sure. I AM ONE OF THEM. (My thyroid is fried. That’s another blog.) But I can’t use that as an excuse for being fat if I’m binge eating junk food or drinking every weekend. Neither can you.
So, I don’t want to hear it. Before you come at me with the whole But I have __________ disease and you can’t lose weight with that, remember that I have one of those, too, and I still managed to drop 70 pounds last year. Would it have been easier without the thyroid issue? Sure. However, it’s still not impossible. And besides, even if it is nearly impossible to lose weight, it doesn’t mean you can’t choose foods that are better for your body and your physical and mental health, amiright? I am.
My weight IS my health issue.
Last year, I was 325 pounds. I couldn’t breathe. My mental health was suffering terribly with depression and anxiety. My physical health was suffering from back and knee pain, headaches, costochondritis, and severe inflammation just everywhere. I knew I couldn’t go on like that much longer.
I managed to take off about 70 pounds – using Keto (with cheating!) and exercising regularly. Then I moved… and finalized my divorce… and started to gain a bit back. No biggie. I always fluctuated, but could always easily get back on track and lose it again plus a few more pounds. Then I reconnected with the man who would quickly become the man of my dreams, and we indulged heavily in date night bar food and trips for ice cream. It happens. I thoroughly enjoyed it. All told, though, I’ve put about 30 pounds back on, and I am not happy. Not because I look in the mirror and see someone fat, ugly, or unloveable; I’m not happy because I’m not happy.
Carrying that extra weight again is stressful – both physically and neurologically – and that is a perfectly valid reason for unhappiness. Unlike some, I do not have an unreasonable expectation of what I’m supposed to look like or some self-loathing mindset. I am simply recognizing that my body can’t go on like this much longer without failing. It’s simply fact, not unrealistic body hatred.
Part of the unhappiness is coming from the fact that I just can’t seem to get back on track again. It’s frustrating, and frustration is, well, frustrating. I was able to do it so easily last time, and this time, it’s just not happening. I’m back to bingeing behavior, which is unhealthy in and of itself, and I can’t seem to get my brain to cooperate with my desire to be better. Regardless, I keep starting and restarting, because I know I will be able to stick to it again. I just have to not stop trying.
The stakes are high at this point. I have a stress fracture in my back and chronic knee and leg pain. My anxiety is creeping back in. My hormones are all out of whack.
I know, I know. (That could be from the food you’re eating! Or genetic! Or age-related!)
Yes, I know. But let’s deconstruct this for a minute. Sure, some of these health issues are exacerbated by genetics or age, but the ‘food you’re eating’ thing? YES. The food I’m eating is also the reason I’m fat! I didn’t get to this size by eating steamed chicken breast and broccoli. I got here because I love sugar and bread and potato chips and greasy bar food and beer. All of those things, even in a person of a normal size, are inflammatory, bloating, anxiety-inducing, binge-inciting, mental-and-physical-health killers. So in order to change some of the health issues, I have to eat healthier foods. Those healthier foods will, inevitably, result in weight loss.
Exercise will also help – and get this! If I eat healthily and I start to exercise more, I will LOSE WEIGHT. It will just happen. Quite frankly, I’m so sick of pussyfooting around the idea of saying I want to lose weight by using simile and metaphor and clever epithets so people don’t get triggered about body positivity and think I am body shaming myself or saying I don’t love who I am. Just because I’m saying I want to lose weight, it doesn’t mean I hate myself, or anyone else who is fat, or that I am striving to look like a stereotypical supermodel.
Weight loss is not “body negative.”
We need to stop promoting the idea that wanting to lose weight comes from a place of un-love. I say I need to lose weight because it’s easier than a several-paragraph diatribe about health issues and food-related conditions and mental health. I need to lose weight… and it’s because of all the benefits that will come from it, not because of some kind of carnivorous self-hatred. Body positivity should be pro-health.
I love who I am – and I want to live a long, happy, healthy life with this new love of mine. And quite frankly, if I don’t figure it out, I’m on the road to a stroke or a heart attack. Trust me, it’s gonna happen. In fact, I know someone who almost fell victim to his weight, but then did something to change it: my boyfriend.
Yes, I know I still have not told you the love story of us, but it is so amazing I want to make sure I get all the important details just right. In the meantime, suffice it to say that he is my hero, and I am trying to learn from him and be better for him every day.
See, a few years back – smack in the middle of his 30s – he was about 350 pounds. He ate whatever and whenever he wanted and generally lived a sedentary life. Then, one day, while walking somewhere, he started having more trouble breathing. Over the course of a few days, it got worse, and he had a hard time walking short distances, let alone long ones. He called his doctor, who told him to get to a hospital.
You see, he was a few hours away from a heart attack. At 35 years old. Chaos ensued – including a cardiac catheterization – in the following weeks with doctors trying to return him to a reasonable facsimile of health. The rest was up to him – and holy hell, did he take it seriously. Over the following few years, through counting calories and exercising, he lost a total of 160 pounds. You read that right: 160 pounds. Let me tell you, I admire the hell out of him.
Was he happy at 350 pounds? He was a happy guy in general, really. Still is. But now his blood pressure, his cholesterol and triglycerides, his physical endurance, and his mental health are better than ever – the side effects of losing weight! He was even able to be taken off one of his blood pressure meds already. That’s right, BP meds. At 35. And now, at 38, meds that prevent heart failure. Heart failure. So yeah, maybe he was happy with the weight on, just like I am happy – in general – and I love myself. However, I speak from experience when I say that being that overweight is just not healthy. Nor is it… comfortable.
You can’t fit 10 pounds of flour in a five-pound sack.
It’s hard to fit in bus or plane seats. It’s hard to fit in some chairs or booths at restaurants. Most amusement park rides are a no-go. Your knees scream at you after you walk a certain distance. So does your back. And listen to me when I say this: It’s OK to not be OK with those things! Don’t let anyone use the facade of “body positivity” or “healthy at any size” to bully you into thinking you’re not allowed to feel kinda crappy because you can’t ride the rollercoaster at HersheyPark.
Nor do I want you to fall into the trap of blaming other people. No, it’s not the amusement park’s fault that you can’t fit on the rollercoaster ride. If they made the seats big enough for people my size, smaller people would fall out. Then there’s a matter of physics and engineering – those rides can only take so much weight. Deal with it.
So perhaps we are happy people when we are fat – him previously, me currently – and we love ourselves, but there are things that suck out loud about it and it’s OK to think those things suck out loud. It is also no one’s fault except the person carrying the weight. Being body positive and loving yourself at any size does not include a chip on your shoulder against anyone who isn’t a large size. It should include people of all sizes, who love their bodies whether they are thin or obese or anything in between. Body positivity should include the fact that, for some people, the sheer logistical limitations of being that size are reason enough for them to lose weight. It should include the fact that, while some people can be healthy at any size, some people simply are not, and convincing them otherwise is helping no one.
If you want people to stop judging, then stop judging. If someone wants to lose weight for a healthy, happy reason, be the one who tells them they are awesome no matter what, and you’ve got their back! Don’t scold and reprimand them for wanting something different just because you may not. That’s the exact opposite of body positivity and acceptance, and I am so over it.
Here’s the deal:
If an obese person wants to lose weight because they love themself enough to want a healthier life, BE THERE FOR IT. Tell them how proud you are, or that you are so excited and there for them if they need you. Stop trying to talk them out of it because it makes you feel inadequate as you mainline pumpkin spice lattes and fast food. It’s about them, no one else. Show them love by loving them. Stop sending them shop-worn internet platitudes about being healthy at any size or how body positivity means they absolutely cannot want to change their weight.
It’s a long hard road to walk, and those of us who are on it are usually looking for cheap excuses to stop at a bench or turn around and go backward, so stop throwing up the detour signs and start putting up “this way to your best self” arrows so they know you’ve got their back. The results of not doing so can be detrimental to not only their physical health but also their mental health. Body positivity should never be used as a reason for binge-eating or making poor choices. Don’t be that person.
Be the freshly paved road, not the pothole, and help them keep their tires rolling forward. That is the best kind of body positivity I can think of.
Disclaimer: This is not pro-eating-disorder, this is pro HEALTH. Eating disorders are real and a problem- and NOT HEALTHY. Body dysmorphic disorders are real and a problem – AND NOT HEALTHY. If you or someone you know is exhibiting signs of an eating disorder, please seek help. The National Eating Disorders Association is a good place to start.