What if I’m Not Comfortable With My Weight

I'm ok you're okA question I get from readers pretty often, especially readers new to Health at Every Size/Size Acceptance is some version of “I’m all for Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size for anyone else and I want to end weight stigma, shame, and bullying for people of all sizes,  but I still want to lose weight for [xyz reasons] – I don’t know what to do…”

First of all, I think that people have a right to make choices for their bodies, so I’m not trying to tell anyone how to live.  I came to Health at Every Size in a roundabout way.  I had become frustrated with the diet programs my doctor was prescribing and, as a trained researcher, I decided to read the actual research to find the intentional weight loss method that was the absolute best. I was completely shocked when I found that there were no studies that showed any weight loss method that worked long term for more than a tiny fraction of people.  Coming to terms with the fact that long term weight loss was highly unlikely is one of the hardest things I ever had to do.  It meant that I also had to give up my addiction to the pursuit of being thin.

That didn’t mean that I never struggled with the idea of weight loss again – in our society thin is pushed constantly as the cure-all for everything, weight loss is pushed as something that everyone can do, that everyone should pursue, and as something to be celebrated on the same level as curing cancer. As these thoughts came up for me I started to ask myself what I would do about each of them if becoming thin wasn’t going to happen for me.  Below is what I came up with for me, as always I can only speak for myself – your mileage may vary, and you are the boss of your underpants.

The original reason that I wanted to lose weight was my health.  I had bought into what I am now certain is a myth that weight and health are the same thing.  Thinking about it I realized that health is multidimensional and not entirely within our control, and that thin people get all the same diseases as fat people so becoming thin could neither be a sure preventative nor a sure cure. Doing the actual research I found that habits were a much better determinant for health than body size and that if health was important to me (which is my choice and nobody else’s) my best chance (knowing that I’m not entirely in control) was simple healthy habits.  Not to mention that long term weight loss is all but impossible based on the research – so even if being thin would make me magically immortal, graceful,  and never have another bad hair day, it’s not happening.

At times I wanted to be thin so that I could be athletic/a better dancer/have easier movement.  What I found was that instead of waiting until I was thin to do the things that I wanted to do, I just went ahead and did them fat.  I recognized that every body, of every size, is different – bodies have various abilities and disabilities for many reasons and it’s about what we decide to do with the body that we have. So I decided to stop waiting for some other body to show up and start taking the body I had out for a spin.  Though there may be some things that I couldn’t do because of my weight, I made the choice that I would decide that was the reason only after I exhausted all of the other possibilities (For example, I found that strength training, pilates, and resistance stretching were, for me, the key to ease of movement).  I also decided that if my size was the reason that I couldn’t do something, then I would acknowledge my disappointment while working to be deeply appreciative of the body that I have and the things it can do, since without this body I would be pretty well stuck.

There were certainly times when I wanted to lose weight to escape the societal shame, stigma, bullying,  and oppression that I deal with as a fat person.  What I realized was that weight loss is not the cure for social stigma – ending social stigma is the cure for social stigma.  I had earlier insight into this because as a queer woman I heard the same arguments – if I would just stop being queer then the bullies would stop bullying me.  This is as much bullshit for fat people as it is for queer people.  It doesn’t matter why my body is the size it is, I have a right to exist -  I have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the body I have now.  Even if becoming thin was possible, giving the bullies my lunch money and hoping that they stop beating me up is not what I want to do or who I want to be – other people’s shaming, stigmatizing and bullying behavior is not a reason to change myself.

I considered wanting to lose weight to fit better into the world-I would fit into the seats no matter where I went, the I would always fit in an airplane seat, that I wouldn’t take up “too much space”, I would have more clothing options etc.  Thinking this one over I realized that the things that don’t accommodate me are wrong – there is nothing wrong with me.  Tall people hit their heads on things but don’t spend their lives trying to become shorter.  As a short woman I often can’t reach things, or my legs dangle uncomfortable from chairs but I never thought it was my fault for not being tall enough. This is the size I come in, and while it sucks that things don’t accommodate me, I will not try to solve that by changing myself.  I will work instead to change the world and ask that I be accommodated. I realized that asking for accommodations isn’t asking for a special favor – it is asking for what everyone else already has.  If everyone can walk into the theater, sit down and enjoy the show, then when I ask them to accommodate me with seating that works for me, I’m simply asking for what everyone else already has. My body takes up just the right amount of space, and as far as I’m concerned so does everyone else’s body.

While this process was at times upsetting and difficult, it has ended up being literally the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.  Freeing myself from the pursuit of being thin meant that I could actually have a good relationship with the body I have now.  I can’t even articulate how much bandwidth in my brain freed up when I stopped spending massive amounts of time,  obsessing about how I could get thin (not to mention the money and energy I saved.)  I gave away that clothes that didn’t fit me and stopped wishing that they did.  I stopped putting my life on hold until I looked different.  My life literally opened up. There are things that still suck – the world isn’t always built for me and there’s a ton of shame, stigma, bullying and oppression that still comes my way.  There’s plenty of work to be done, but it’s easier to concentrate on the actual problems when I realize that the problem is not my body.

Activism Opportunity

The project to create the Guinness World Record paper mache sculpture – made entirely out of pages from diet books – is on!  There are  tons of ways to help (even if you don’t have diet books to donate) Y Check it out here!

You can also check out the video for our new initiative that will help the paper mache project, the planet, and local businesses.

Like the blog?  Here’s more of my stuff:

The Book:  Fat:  The Owner’s Manual  The E-Book is Name Your Own Price! Click here for details

The Dance Class DVDs:  Buy the Dance Class DVDs (hint:  Free shipping was supposed to end on Monday but I haven’t had a chance to make the changes to the pricing so there’s still free shipping until I get it done)!  Click here for the details

Become a Member and Get Special Deals from Size Positive Businesses

I do size acceptance activism full time.  A lot what I do, like answering over 4,000 e-mails from readers each month, giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and want to  support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month  To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.

Published in: on January 7, 2013 at 12:13 pm  Comments (29)  

29 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. im facing thet same issue(s), i just started eating ‘free’/ ‘intuitively’.. and still a voice in the back of my head says you need to lose the weight ..and there is the fear of what if i stay like this? what will the world say or think of me….its a long proces i know…

  2. Here’s a variation on the dilemma you discuss in today’s blog that I’d love some insight on: I had a beautiful baby girl six weeks ago. My body decided to put on a fair amount of weight to make her life possible and now I am faced with a closet full of awesome clothes I can’t ft into. As a single mom on a single, not large, income, I suddenly find my HAES subscribing and activist self motivated to lose weight so I can fit into all those clothes instead of buying new ones I can’t afford. If I know weight loss isn’t really sustainable, am I just facing unreality? Should I shuck the old clothes and start over with my new postpartum body?

    Looking forward to your thoughts.

    Mandie

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Hi Mandy,

      I would never want to tell you what to do. If it were me, believing as I do that manipulating my body size through food and exercise is nearly impossible, I would probably try to find some inexpensive clothes that fit me at my current weight and then give my body some time to decide where it wants to settle. Does that help?

      ~Ragen

    • The body evolves after childbirth as there are lots of changes going on… Six weeks is a very short time to expect to fit into pre-pregnancy clothes. I would say it took my body two years to stabilize after each pregnancy. This is a time full of changes,both happy and stressful, so just be patient and kind to yourself. Congratulations and good luck!

    • To add on to what Ragen said, there are web communities of people buying and selling plus-size clothes. http://fatshionxchange.livejournal.com/ is one I like. You can pick up some good deals on clothes at your current size (thrifting or hitting discount overstock stores like Ross are other options), and if your body doesn’t end up settling back at your pre-pregnancy weight, then depending on your size (fatshionxchange is 16 and up, if I recall correctly), you may be able to sell off the things that don’t fit. It’s also possible that somewhere in one of these communities is somebody with similar tastes who recently lost weight for whatever reason, who you might be able to barter clothes with.

      Also, if you have any business clothes that no longer fit and you’d like to do a good deed with them, Lost N Found Youth, a shelter for homeless LGBT youth, is looking for donations of interview clothes. (JoGeek has more info here: http://unapologeticallyfat.blogspot.com/2013/01/interview-clothing-needed.html). That might be a lot more rewarding than pitching clothes you can no longer wear.

      Oh, and, congrats on the birth of your daughter!

  3. Perfect post at the perfect time. I wonder if we sometimes “diet” because it’s the easiest thing to do. Actually adopting healthy habits is a hard thing to learn and implement, but we are all pretty much adept at dieting. Lord knows we’ve been doing it long enough and we have enough help through the media…

    Now I must ponder this…

  4. Some time in the next year I will be dieting to temporarily lose weight. It’s the price of admission for that 2nd hip replacement i’ve been admiring in the showroom window. Yes, it’s a bad compromise. I could travel out of state to a surgeon who would take me as is, but that’s not economically feasible. So like before, I’ll do it in the healthiest way I can with a better balance of protein, carbs, sodium and fats than I seem to be able to maintain long term (better based on blood sugar, cholesterol, lower extremity edema).Along with some decidedly unpleasant calorie restriction, easy on the guilt and shame.

    • You’re making the best choice for yourself given the parameters you have to work with. Good for you. Also good for you that you know that it’s temporary. Sounds like you’ve managed this before. Good luck with everything!!

  5. Ragen, I’m very glad you addressed this.

    I’ve been in this dilemma for some time now, because in the last few months it’s become increasingly difficult for me to do what I used to do with ease – basic tasks like go grocery shopping, and even walking from my car to my office. I am appalled and devastated about this. I need to remember how to make health a priority because it hasn’t been and I’ve wanted it to be for a long, long time. I just don’t know how to make myself do what I need to do. I want a step-by-step plan laid out for me and I somehow want to live in my fantasyland where I can make others responsible for my poor choices. (To which thought my therapist would ask, “How’s THAT workin’ out for you?”)

    Also as my therapist says, “Changing behavior is hard work.” Yes. Yes it is. Time to suck it up and do it anyway.

    • Helena, if you can find it, good support from friends and family is extremely helpful in making any life changes. Start little and build up so you’re not overwhelmed. I’ve just spent 2 days psyching myself up to go for a short swim due to depression. I don’t get support. Just a snarky sounding comment from my own mother if I don’t do it.

      Do you have a local YMCA or local government gym that also does fitness plans? I got into the gym as my GP recommended a referral to a twice a week class. Tended to be older folks with heart, stroke, arthritis or weight issues. The second time I got ill, I asked to be referred back as it had been really positive. I now dangle from the pull up bar three times a week trying and failing to get my elbows to bend… but when I first tried to do a pull up I couldn’t even hang on for a second. I also overlap my sessions with the class I used to go to as I miss the atmosphere and gossip…

      • Support I have, in spades, from friends, therapist, and nutritionist. What I lack are time (I’m working full time, in school part time, and working a practicum), and the will to stop on the way home when I’m already feeling tired from the day. For me it’s more about figuring out how to make myself willing to do what I know is best for me.

  6. Ragen, or anybody,
    Beyond liking your body in general, have you found reasons to specifically like your *fat*?
    I ask, because I realized fairly recently that I do, but for reasons that are pretty specific to myself and other aspects of my identity.
    For one, I identify as agender (meaning, there’s nothing unusual about my body, but I don’t identify as either a man or a woman), and being fat helps my body look fairly gender-neutral.
    The second is that I’m highly introverted, and consider the things I do with my body, and the things it *can* do to be fairly private. Being fat means that I can work out and put on as much muscle as I like (and I put on muscle easily), without displaying it to the world. I realize that would be a detriment to some people (“I did all this work and nobody can tell!”) But to me, it makes me feel like a sword-cane.

    Are there other up-sides people find to being fat?

    • You sound great :) Your post made me feel really positive and happy.

    • “Being fat means I can work out and put on as much muscle as I like … without displaying it to the world. … [I]t makes me feel like a sword-cane.”

      That is the most awesome, bad-ass analogy I’ve seen someone use to describe their body in a long, long time. I commend you for it!

    • I have come to love my fat belly because when I’m sitting around at home my cat likes to stand in my lap with her front paws on my belly and purr as I pet her.

    • There are several advantages to being fat! For one, I’m warmer in the winter. (don’t talk about summer! ack!). But for this season, my cat loves to cuddle up next to me, because I’m a furnace!
      Another reason: I look younger. Fat women tend to have smoother, less wrinkled skin for longer in their lives, so combined with my good genes, I’m 53 but I’m often mistaken for 35.
      Protection: I fell down the stairs last year. Head over heels. Nothing was broken, just a few highly colorful bruises. 2 months after that, my car rolled over my foot (don’t ask). Once again, nothing broke, just very bruised. Being this size actually makes my bones stronger (combined with that ‘good genes’ thing).
      Clothing-wise: We can wear bigger, bolder prints and not look ridiculous. I made myself a lovely polar fleece coat, with a large bold pattern of animals on it. I call it my Wild Thing Coat. It’s gorgeous, and striking, and never fails to being comments when I wear it. A size 2 couldn’t wear a print that big.
      Those are the advantages that immediately come to mind. I especially like the clothing one, because I really love big bold prints and bright colors!

    • Rebecca-
      Sword-cane… That’s so awesome! I love it!
      As for upsides, hugs. I find it very nice to hug a fat person. For instance, a kid might like to play with a Barbie-doll, but they would rather snuggle with a teddy bear.
      Sandra

    • http://corpulent.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/what-are-the-benefits-of-being-fat/ has a list by the original poster and more reasons in the comments.

      • Love it! Thanks for the link.

        Garrison Keillor (probably paraphrased) — “Fat is what allows two people to get very, very close without hurting each other.”

    • It tends to be a great tool for weeding out the “no fat chicks” breed of asshat. It doesn’t work for getting rid of the wannabe Lotharios who don’t happen to care about body type, but I’ve become better at spotting those as I advance in years.
      Age is great in the same way. Any shallow type who is put off by gray hair stays away from me. Funny thing with that is I started going gray in my late 20′s. I’ve virtually no lines on my face, but my hair is almost entirely gray. Sometimes I enjoy the confusion that this must cause for people.

  7. It might also be useful to think about:
    “What if I’m not comfortable with my height?”
    “What if I”m not comfortable with my vision?”
    “What if I”m not comfortable with my home?”

    Vision can be adjusted with corrective lenses or LASIK. I’m happy wearing glasses, I balk at contacts or LASIK.

    Height usually requires surgery. Remodeling my home … yeah I’ve been putting that off a while now. :)

    Different choices have different tradeoffs. In the short term weight is more changable than vision or height. Long-term, well, WLS vs LASIK….

    • Lasik scares the crap out of me. I’ll put up with my glasses.

  8. Thank you so much for addressing this ambivalence. It is one of the areas that is so incredibly challenging within the Fat Acceptance community…we need to be able to talk about the struggle and support one another in those places, even when we are no longer in the same place. This felt really honest about your own process and non-judgemental about the fears/questions we all face who live in a world that is deliberately trying to force everyone into the same size box.

  9. ” I decided to stop waiting for some other body to show up and start taking the body I had out for a spin” wise words for *any* body of any size, shape, age or level of ability!

  10. Truth be told, I’m not comfortable with my weight. But I also wasn’t comfortable with my weight when I weighed a gargantuan 110 pounds, because I thought I shouldn’t weigh more than 99. I’ve been bulimic since I was 12.
    Thanks, society.

  11. This is very timely for me…I have been working very hard at acceptance of myself at this weight and size (300 lbs. and a size 22/24), learning to tell my parents to back off and that my size or food choices aren’t any of their business, and also helping to educate my friends away from casual fat prejudice. At the same time, I look in the mirror straight on and like the way I look with my fairly traditional hourglass figure and nice features, and then I catch a glimpse of myself from the side and feel like I strongly resemble a beach ball and get all depressed. My exhusband always used to say that he loved women of size because he loved their curves, the one thing he couldn’t stand was a “sphere” where her stomach stuck out further than her boobs…well, that is now me and those words just keep sticking in my brain. We didn’t split because of my size, but it continues to be something I have trouble getting past. Also, when I went to the doctor last year and saw that my weight had gone up over 300 lbs (which was a solid 20-40 lbs heavier than I had been the previous year) it really got me down because even though it was just a number, I got comfortable around 250-275 lbs, and that magic “3″ in front of my weight made me feel like a real failure. It makes no logical sense except that years of conditioning continues to work on my psyche and I guess I just need to keep fighting it within myself as well as with others. Any advice on how to cut down on these negative self talk issues?

    • What I have found works best is simply stopping them in their tracks. The instant I recognize these thoughts, I stop and verbally correct myself and then repeat some affirmations to myself about loving myself. It takes a long time, but it does change. First I noticed myself catching the negative thoughts quicker, and eventually I noticed myself having fewer and fewer such thoughts. Again, that’s just my experience GOOD LUCK!

  12. I loved reading this post so much! I used to have a better relationship with my body, but about 9 months ago I had emergency surgery and ended up with a shunt implanted in my spine and 3 large, gruesome wounds (front, side and back). It was really hard not to feel betrayed by my body – especially when the doctor told me that I needed the surgery because I was fat. He had a thick European accent, not sure which country, and he said it dead on: “You need this surgery because you are fat.” Talk about a slap to the face! That doctor was obviously a dick, and while the illness I had (Raised Intracranial Pressure) can be linked to obesity, it is by no means a hard and fast rule that only fat people get it. Still, I struggled with feeling like my body had let me down for a long time while I was recovering. And I also thought – in my darkest moments – that I had let my body down by eating McDonald’s for lunch and letting myself “get fat.” I know that I am a heavyset woman and a size 12/14 is the thinnest I can realistically get – I have large hands, large feet, I’m fairly tall – I’m big-boned. I have also been close to the same size since puberty – one day when I was 11 I woke up with big boobs and about 40 extra pounds, and that was all she wrote. I also hike regularly and get at least 4 hours of exercise in per week, every week. I try to take care of my body and make healthy habits a daily thing.

    Anyway, dealing with that surgery and recovering from it – which included weight gain because I couldn’t exercise for 6 weeks afterward – has set me back quite a bit on my journey towards loving my body. Truthfully I am grateful just to be alive – grateful that my body carried me through that surgery, grateful that my body and the shunt are getting along, grateful that despite some vision loss in my left eye due to the intracranial pressure I can still see, grateful that my vision has actually improved as my body heals, grateful that I am almost back to 100% 9 months later. But I don’t trust my body the way I used to. I am not as fearless when it comes to physical activities. I am aware of the fact that there is a level of physical pain I had ever before imagined and that dealing with that pain requires strong opiates, and the doctors can be stingy with those. I hope that I can get back to fully loving and appreciating my body; right now, there’s a lot of fear mixed in.


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