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.
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.”
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,
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.