I’m Getting Fat…On Purpose

Self-deprecating humor is the condom of feelings: It prevents all sorts of emotional diseases and preempts unintended surprises. And there’s nothing more surprising than feeling good about yourself and then receiving comments from people with mouth syphilis who feel it’s necessary to state the obvious.

I’m going to beat everyone to the punch so I don’t have to experience what Kathy Sebright did when she overheard an acquaintance comment on her size. Here it is:

I’m getting fat.

Yup. I said it. I’m packing on some poundage. I’m channeling the chub. I’m racing toward rotund.

Not only that, I’m doing it consciously.

To understand where this is coming from, we have to go back to adolescence…because isn’t that where most of our shit starts?

I’ve been on some sort of diet since I was in eighth grade because back then, at five foot five and about 115 pounds, I thought I was fat.

In high school, I wouldn’t eat lunch because I believed other people would think I was fat. So I’d go home starving and stuff my face.

The year after I graduated from high school while I was an exchange student in Australia, I tried to eat my homesickness away. It didn’t work. Instead, I ended up with:

  • Thirty extra pounds as a consolation prize
  • Only four items of clothing that fit (two of which were socks)
  • A host “father” who made fun of my weight every day
  • A mother who didn’t recognize me when I got off the plane in Iowa eleven months later
  • And a partridge in a pear tree (or a koala in a eucalyptus tree…why couldn’t I have come home with thirty pounds of that?)

During college I’d see people eating alone and it would nearly bring me to tears. For years I thought it was because I was empathetic—I saw them as lonely and friendless, and felt bad for them. Now I think my reaction was closer to jealousy because they were comfortable eating in public, alone, and I wasn’t.

Throughout my adult life, I’ve bounced around my “ideal” weight like a toddler on a trampoline—sometimes I’ll land right on it, but most of the time I’ll take a giant leap and fly off the edge (I was a toddler in the 70s…no nets for us). And you know how long I feel happy when I’m at my lower weight? About one day. Because the next day I feel like I should do more, weigh less, look better. Because everywhere I turn, people (mostly other women) are doing more, weighing less, and looking better than me.

It’s never enough. And I’m really tired.

I’m tired of supporting a diet industry whose goal is to make money from dieters’ failures, not their successes. (Think about that for a minute: It’s not in the diet industry’s best financial interest to develop a program or product that will help people keep the weight off long-term, is it?)

I’m tired of hanging on to my “skinny” clothes for that mythical future day when I may fit into them again. I’m tired of squeezing into too-tight clothes because I tell myself a fat body isn’t worthy of clothes that fit it.

I’m tired of letting numbers (i.e. pounds, clothes sizes, calories avoided, heads turned, compliments received, etc.) define my worth, and I’m tired of assigning moral value to food.

I’m now a pound heavier than I was five years ago when I joined Weight Watchers for the first time. This shouldn’t be surprising because studies prove that diets don’t work long-term, and a majority of people who diet gain back all their lost weight and more.

Back then I was disgusted, desperate, and despondent—I needed to get the weight off now.

But today, it’s a whole other ball game (pickleball, specifically…see below).

Today instead of feeling like a piece of shit when I look at that number on the scale or the tag in my jeans, or when I look in the mirror at my extra flesh and dimpled thighs, I am grateful for a body that works amazingly well, even after everything I’ve put it through.

I am astonished that I’ve discovered activities (pickleball and lifting heavy weights) that have changed my mind about that nasty “E” word—exercise.

I am liberated knowing I can love the body I have right now. I don’t have to wait until it’s smaller or tighter or more “acceptable” based on our culture’s unrealistic aesthetic preferences.

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I am relieved to learn that weight alone does not equate to health (with the exception of the extremes at both ends of the weight spectrum, where actual medical conditions may also be present). That a moderately active, moderately overweight person is likely to be healthier than someone who is thin but sedentary. That a recent study showed that “all adults categorized as overweight and most of those categorized as obese have a lower mortality risk than so-called normal-weight individuals.”

What I’m doing now is trying to follow the tenets of Evelyn Tribole’s and Elyse Resch’s book Intuitive Eating. I’m trying to eat “normally” as defined by Ellyn Satter:

Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied. It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it…not just stop eating because you think you should. Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food. Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad or bored, or just because it feels good. Normal eating is mostly three meals a day, or four or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way. It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful. Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be under-eating at times and wishing you had more. Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating. Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life.

In short, normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food and your feelings.

I’m confident that I won’t be this fat forever, and even if I was, I’d be okay with that. I’m also confident that when my body changes again it won’t be because of a diet. Because part of what happens when you finally tell yourself that no foods are off-limits is that you kind of eat all the foods that have been off limits…and lots of them. It’s fair to say that you might even binge on them.

I stopped actively dieting in May, and I’m finally to the point where I actually believe that I don’t need to eat an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s at one sitting because eventually someone is going to tell me I can’t eat it ever again. I’m getting to the point where being able to eat whatever I want, when I want, isn’t the shiny-new-pretty it was back in May. And because I’ve stopped assigning moral value to food, there’s no more guilt associated with what I eat.

In other words,

I’M FREE!

And eventually that freedom will level set my weight where it’s naturally wanted to be ever since I started trying to dictate where it should be (i.e. before I butted in with all my dieting and screwed everything up).

So the next time you see me, don’t bother telling me I’ve gained weight. Duh. Instead, see what I’ve really gained—my sanity.

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So, what about you? Have you dieted? How’s it worked out for you? Can you ever imagine giving it up? Do these pants make my butt look big?

19 thoughts on “I’m Getting Fat…On Purpose

    1. Oh, Rena! It’s horrible to be on that roller coaster, isn’t it? I bawled my eyes out the first time I read that quote…still makes me teary.

      I also belong to a Facebook group called Eating The Food—it’s a group of people who have come to this same conclusion. It’s awesome to belong to a community of people who just aren’t going to do it anymore. It’s powerful and supportive. You should check it out and ask to join—it’s been life changing for me.

      Thanks as always for reading and commenting…I appreciate it!

  1. You’re a very smart women and until most women feel the same way you do, nothing will change. But, that’s okay. They have to come around eventually. If they don’t, at least you’re still a ver smart women. I’m proud of you.

  2. I’ve never dieted successfully, although I have lost 40 pounds in the last few years from changing my eating habits. I didn’t do this to look better – after all, how good is a 72 year old man going to look anyhow? I did it for my health. Despite whatever studies you were quoting, I find that MY health is better when I carry less weight, particularly since I am diabetic and have cardiovascular issues.

    All of that said, I concur with you thesis (which August McLaughlin constantly preaches) that we need to quit making people feel bad about themselves because of their appearance.
    David N. Walker recently posted…Seeds of DestructionMy Profile

    1. I completely get what you’re saying, David, about your health being better when you’re carrying less weight. I’m sure it’s that way for many people who have underlying medical conditions that are impacted by excess weight, and the books, studies, and articles I’ve read wholly bear that out. And it’s awesome that you found a way to change your habits to bring about the change you wanted/needed—that’s the key…changing habits.

      That August McLaughlin is one smart cookie, isn’t she, even when she’s wearing flats (vs. high heels)!

      Thanks much for reading!

  3. I struggle with this issue. I am at a healthy weight, but when I look in the mirror I see the roll around my middle, and I just want to PUKE. Most of this is because I was told all those lies, “If you’re fat, no one will love you; ” “you’ll get fat if you eat that;” “all the pretty girls are thin.” And most of these came from my mother rather than my peers.
    Mom’s in Heaven now, and I’m not really trying to blame her for my body image issues because, let’s face it, I’m nearly 50. I should be able to stand on my own ideals, right?
    And what works for me is avoiding the mirror. And trying not to discuss weight issues – even with people who really have them. Because the truth is the truth – I have body image issues. My weight is healthy. But I struggle not to listen to the voice that says, “You shouldn’t eat that” (and really wish it would get duct-taped once and for all) when I’m trying to be supportive of my husband who does have weight issues that are affecting his health.
    As always, I admire you for addressing the tough issues with honesty and transparency.
    Sharon recently posted…Scrapbooking a Wedding – Part 2 – The EngagementMy Profile

    1. Thanks, Sharon! Those damn voices in our heads are horrible! I read somewhere that if we really thought about it, we’d never say to another person what we way to ourselves in our head—and it’s so true! The slurs I throw at myself are horrendous! Talk about wanting to put duct tape over a mouth…it’s kind of hard when it’s the mouth in your head. 🙂

  4. So proud of you, Kel, for taking back the power in your relationship with food and the bod. You’re so right – it’s never enough. It’s never going to be enough. Society is ridiculous when it comes to this and we all need to just settle the hell down, take care of ourselves and not worry about who’s got a little extra padding this month. Good lord. It gets silly.

    What’s most important is how you feel about you. Releasing any guilt over eating whatever you want and getting back to nourishing yourself in all ways. It sounds like that’s exactly what you’re doing and that’s awesome.

    Yay for normal eating. Eating without angst. That’s the key. I would hazard a guess that the people in that study lived longer because maybe they didn’t have the psychological issues surrounding food that thinner people often tend to have. If you’re naturally thin, that’s one thing, but when you keep yourself thin because it’s attached to your self worth, that’s a whole other bucket of bread. Your mental state has a tremendous effect on your physical one.

    Please make no mistake though. We’re going to be having some ice cream. It may be the whole pint. And I’m totally cool with that. 😉
    Kelly Byrne recently posted…My Dog Is Headed for The Bridge – Why Do I Feel Like I Am Too?My Profile

    1. Yeah, I’d be sorely disappointed if ice cream wasn’t on the agenda for next week!

      Don’t get me wrong—I’m still a work in progress, still trying to silence the voices in my head that still like to pipe up and offer vivid commentary on my bod. But I knew I’d made progress the day I weighed myself, saw that really big number, and instead of freaking out, I saw it for what it was: a data point I needed at that moment and not a reflection of my worth. That is progress! And if that comes with a little extra padding, then so be it… 🙂

      1. That IS progress, Kel, and there’s no such thing as perfection as we well know. I think the whole idea is to get to a place where we’re just happy – happy to look and feel exactly the way we do at any particular moment, in that moment, and love all of ourselves. The wobbly bits and the nobbly bits and everything in between. To not let our appearance or a number on a scale be a measuring stick by which we gauge our worth. ‘Cause that’s wack. 😉

        Ice cream. And maybe even some cake. Wahoo!!
        Kelly Byrne recently posted…My Dog Is Headed for The Bridge – Why Do I Feel Like I Am Too?My Profile

  5. What wonderful news. The same thing happened to me. I put on weight, but I called it my ‘healing weight’ and was (mostly) fine about staying that way forever.

    I can’t tell you how much I weigh any more, or whether I’m any smaller now than then, but I do know how wonderful it is not to spend all that mental energy on something so pointless.

    I’m cheering you on and sending you love.

    PS Your opening line is brilliant!!
    Katie Paul recently posted…You Can’t Write ThatMy Profile

    1. Thank you for your wonderful thoughts, all around!

      I’m still in a bit of shock with how free I feel leaping off the diet roller coaster. It’s amazing to me how our world can change with a change of perception. On the flip side, to know that I had the key to my sanity all this time but I never thought of trying it in the lock is a bit maddening, but I’ll get over it.

      Thanks again for reading/commenting!

  6. Hi Kelly! I can relate to this post so much. Thank you for sharing. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one needing to pack on the weight and really struggling with it.

  7. I’m a young guy in my twenties, and the love of a good woman has had the side effect of filling me out all over. A female friend told me I should lose weight, so I tried, but then it just isn’t worth it to miss out on something so enjoyable.

    I saw her last month after she got with a new guy and guess what? She’s wearing a new, larger wardrobe. We laughed, finally content with our wobbly bits for the people we love 🙂

  8. I read this and couldn’t believe it. All my life I have tried in vain to get back to “skinny” which is what i was in the TENTH GRADE! I met Len, my now-husband, and was so comfortable with him that on our honeymoon, i returned 9 pounds larger and couldn’t be happier. 9 has turned to another 32 in 3 years and i feel like a real woman for the first time in my life, a woman with hips, a woman with breasts, a woman with a belly, woman of unapologetic substance!

    with love – Never Going Back

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