Weight Loss, Denial, and Body Image

(This is an edited version of a post I put on my personal blog last week.  So some of you have already seen this.  So my apologies to those that have already seen this, but I DID warn you it was going to be showing up here!!!  :)  )

I’ve lost weight.

I don’t know how much exactly – I haven’t weighed myself in almost a year.  I DO know that I’ve gone from a UK size 20 (US 16) to an 18 (US 14) {according to the size conversion charts on the Evans website}.  To put this into perspective for you: I haven’t been a US size 14 since I WAS 14.  I’m 32 now.

I honestly don’t know how this happened.  Not much has changed, other than the fact that the kids were home for their 6 week summer vacation, and now they’re back at school.  I haven’t drastically changed my eating habits or my activity levels.  I haven’t gone off or on medications.  My stress level is high, but to be perfectly honest, it’s ALWAYS high.  (I just don’t always TALK about it.)

And the fact is, I’ve been denying the weight loss for a while now.  People keep asking me if I’ve lost weight, and I keep deflecting the issue, saying things like “oh, you’re just not used to seeing me in clothes that actually fit, as opposed to clothes that are 4-6 sizes too big.”  Not just to deflect the issue (although since I’m finally facing the honesty in this situation, that IS part of it), but because it’s true.  In the last year (less than, actually), I have almost completely changed the way I dress.  For years – since I was a teenager – I purposely wore clothes that were too big for me.  I thought that by hiding my body, I was somehow making it more acceptable.  Like if they couldn’t see my body, they wouldn’t know just how fat I really was, and that was better than actually letting people see me.  But now I actually DO wear clothes that fit.

But the realization that I’ve lost weight hasn’t come from people commenting on it, or the sizes of the clothes I’ve been buying.  It’s come from wearing clothes that I’ve had for years — and suddenly they don’t fit like before.  My favorite jeans have suddenly become baggy.  My embellished cargo pants have suddenly become loose enough that while they’re not falling down or anything, I can pull them off without undoing the button or zipper.  My favorite sweater in the whole world has become so big on me that it’s annoying rather than comforting.  I “had” to go buy myself something else while I was in town last week because it was bothering me that badly.  (On that note, does anybody have any idea if I could alter the sweater?  Like, take it in?  I’d much rather do that – even if I had to pay the alterations place in town to do it properly – than get rid of it.  I seriously love this sweater to death.)

I’ve finally had to face up to the fact that I’ve lost weight.

But now that I have, I realized something.  I didn’t want to have lost weight.  I kept denying it because I didn’t want it to be true.

Yeah, um… let me repeat that: I kept denying that I lost weight because I didn’t want it to be true.

Now HOW fucked up is THAT???

But now that I’ve admitted that to myself, I had to examine why.  Why the hell would I NOT want to lose weight?  I mean, isn’t that what I’m SUPPOSED to want?  Even the most die-hard FA’ers would admit that while they strive for fat acceptance, they’d be lying if they said they didn’t WANT to be thin. Or thinnER.  It’s pounded into our heads on a daily basis, and even if you agree with all the tenents of Fat Acceptance (and I DO), it’s almost impossible to live your life completely unaffected by societal views on body image.  You’d have to live your life in some sort of bubble, and I sure as hell haven’t been.

The one thing I worried about was gaining weight.  In my head, I know that gaining weight wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen to me.  But it’s that irrational fear of taking over the whole world that a lot of us can relate to. It was only after seriously reflecting on my weight fluctuations in my adult years that I realized that it probably wouldn’t even happen.  Even with weight fluctuations, my body keeps going back to the same-ish weight.  200 lbs, give or take a few.  My weight has gone up to 230 and down to 190 (barring pregnancy weights, of which the highest was somewhere around the 270+ mark, but the majority of that was water retention from pre-eclampsia), but I always seem to go back to 200 without any real effort on my own part.  (And the weight gains, up to 230?  Have almost always been right after having a baby.  Once the baby is walking age, I always seem to go back down to 200 without doing anything.  Correlation?  Methinks so.)  I never even gave any real thought to losing weight.  I’ve never been able to lose a significant amount of weight (more than 20 lbs.) without a superhuman effort or living through an abusive relationship.  So that?  Didn’t even enter into it, as far as I was concerned.

But here I am, I’ve lost weight, and I’ve had to admit to myself that I didn’t want it to be true.

Am I afraid of weight-related craziness?  Am I afraid that, now that I’ve lost some weight, I’m going to become obsessed again?  Start dieting again, because after all, I’ve just lost weight without doing anything… just imagine how much weight I could lose if I actually tried?! (/sarcasm)

Or am I afraid of how I’m going to feel if I gain weight again?  Am I going to slip back down the oh-so-slippery slope to self-loathing again?

If I’m perfectly honest, that’s one road I really don’t want to go down again.  I am feeling good about myself for the first time in my life, and it is not because person X told me I should be, it’s because I’ve started to realize for myself that I am not the worthless, ugly freak I thought I was.  I certainly don’t think I’m all that and a bag of chips, but I realize that I just might be okay the way I am, after all.  That maybe – just maybe – the way the world sees me just might not be as important as I always thought it was.  That maybe my husband (and most, if not all, of the boyfriends/friends/family that preceded him) was (were) telling the truth when he (they) said that he (they) thought that I was beautiful and desirable and funny and and and.  To go back to hating myself?  Well, I’d rather be dead.  Seriously.

Maybe it was a combination.  I don’t know.  I just know that I honestly did not want to admit that I had lost weight.  And while I’m sure there’s a big huge revelation in there somewhere, I’m not sure exactly where it is.

Other people’s reactions to my weight loss have been… uncomfortable would be the best way to put it.  “You’re doing great!”  Um… I’m not DOING anything differently now than I was a year ago.  The big changes I’ve made in my life have been internal changes – changing my thinking, changing the way I react to certain situations.  Nothing physical.

My SIL Kirsty (who, for the record, is only 12) automatically assumed that I’d made some big diet changes.  Um… not exactly.  “You’re just like my mom,” she said to me yesterday.  “She used to drink coffee all day long, and now she only drinks one or two cups.”  I went on to explain to her that I haven’t done ANYTHING differently in the last year.  I eat the same way I always have, the only change has been how I approach food.  Food is no longer my enemy.  It is not something to be fought; it is there to fuel my body.  I eat what my body wants when my body wants it.  (To an extent; we live on a limited income and sometimes what I REALLY want, we don’t have.  So I pick what I want out of what we’ve GOT.)  I place no restrictions on food.  Food is food, period.  It’s not good or bad, it just IS.

(Having the in-laws over yesterday was a great opportunity to preach some HAES, I must say!  It was quite cool, actually.)

And seeing my reflection has become strange.  Obviously the weight didn’t fall off overnight, but I honestly didn’t notice it until the last couple of weeks.  And suddenly I can see the change in myself and it’s just… weird.  I look at myself and it doesn’t even look like ME.

Hubby thinks it’s just me letting go of most of the negativity in my life.  And he may well have a point; I honestly just don’t know.

I just don’t know what to think about all this.  Not so much the weight loss itself (although, on that note, do y’all think it’s possible for fat to re-distrubute itself this late in my life?  Because that would make so much more sense than me spontaneously losing weight), but my reactions to it.

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12 Responses

  1. I know that I feel embarrassed about losing weight myself. I started exercising last fall. I always lose weight in the spring/summer and gain it back in the fall so the seasonal weight change made my weight loss look bigger.

    Exercising is great. I was very depressed. I rarely got out of bed. I hated doing my housework, etc. Now, I can get the housework done easily. I’m happier. I go out. I used to stay in the house for weeks at a time outside grocery shopping which I dreaded. Now, I go out even if it’s only to the library or to window shop downtown nearly everyday.

    Anyway, I want people to see that I’m happier, more energetic. Weight shouldn’t be the first thing we notice. It’s hard not to notice when my old clothes in my closet were size 10 or 12 and much too tight and my new fall wardrobe is size 3 or 4.

    Anyway, health should be our goal. No one wants to spend their life in bed depressed like I did for the previous 6 years.
    Exercising at first only lifting light weight twice a week for fifteen minutes a session got me out of bed.

    I’m a big believer in HAES. Without believing that I could get out of bed and lift a few light weight, I would still be lying in bed not enjoying life. So the weight loss isn’t spontaneous, but caused by effort. Eating as healthy as possible. I reduced the junk food I ate so I would feel less lethargic. I eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains. I love to cook so most food I eat is homemade. I also exercise regularly. I currently ride my bike nearly day.

  2. “Even the most die-hard FA’ers would admit that while they strive for fat acceptance, they’d be lying if they said they didn’t WANT to be thin. Or thinnER.”

    Actually.

    I don’t want to be. If I could take a magic pill or something, I would not choose to lose weight. I have lost some recently and am upset about it. Gone from a 32 to a 30 and am displeased. My logic is that I have worked so hard to get to where I am in my relationship with my body, and I have come to like it how it is.

  3. I think you are worried about the small things when there are more pressing things to be concerned about. Every FA blogger goes through ups and downs and yes, periods of wanting the acceptance that comes along with being thin.

    Stop worrying so much and enjoy life. Just chill and let it ride!

  4. I think your husband is on to something regarding letting go of negativity. When Ellen Degeneres came out 11 years ago, I remember seeing an article where she said that it was literally a weight off her shoulders as she lost 10 pounds during the coming-out process.

    Just keep up with the healthy attitudes towards food and keep liking yourself for who you are and you’ll be fine!

    (And I completely sympathize with not wanting to change clothing sizes because I hate clothes shopping.)

  5. Lillian, I totally agree with you that health SHOULD be our goal. But the sad fact is, even those who say they’re dieting “for their health” are usually still dieting to conform to what they perceive as the norm (but which, in reality, is so ABnormal it’s ridiculous). And I’m one of the lucky ones – I’ve always been healthy, regardless of what I’ve weighed. Aside from this cold that is making my eyes feel like they’re going to float OUT OF MY HEAD… I’m “as healthy as a horse.”

    etooz, I can see where you’re coming from. And it makes sense. But I’d venture a guess and say you’re probably in the minority. Not that your feelings aren’t valid (THEY ARE!!), but I suspect that there are more of us that feel what I described in that quote than there are that feel as you do.

    tg, yeah, the more I think about it, the more I wonder if he hasn’t hit the nail on the head. I mean, once I stopped hating myself, I started seeing myself as I truly was, which was thinner than what the self-loathing in my head made me out to be. It’s not that far-fetched to think that now that I’ve had time to digest THAT information, my body might throw me a curveball.

    (And HOLY HELL, has it been THAT long since Ellen came out? It seems like it was only a couple of years ago!)

  6. I had a friend this happened to. She finally gave up trying to lose weight and lo and behold she lost weight. It was so bizarre.

  7. I mean, once I stopped hating myself, I started seeing myself as I truly was, which was thinner than what the self-loathing in my head made me out to be.

    This! My mom totally has this issue (I posted about it on the livejournal Fatshionista community yesterday). She’s been trying to lose weight for as long as I’ve known her. I mean, her life has been one long diet. She’s thinner now than I remember her, but she’s still fat. And that’s all she can see – the fat. It hurts me to see her hate herself, because now that I’ve learned to think of myself as beautiful and acceptable as I am, I feel so much better, and I want her to feel that way too.

    I’ve been thinking about how Mom thinks she’s bigger than she is, and that made me wonder, isn’t that what tends to set off eating disorders? From what I’ve seen, anorexics despise their fat – seeing themselves fatter than they are – and become super-controlling about what they eat/do to eradicate the fat. Maybe I have the wrong idea. Either way, it’s so saddening.

  8. isn’t that what tends to set off eating disorders?

    Oh GOD, yes!

    I mean, there are a TON of mitigating factors, and hating the fat isn’t the sum total of a person’s eating disorder, but that is DEFINITELY one of the most prevalent. Body dysmorphia – whether it’s diagnosed or not – plays a HUGE part in it.

    And I know that I, at one point, was this ][ close to having a full-blown eating disorder. If my Hubby hadn’t stepped in and virtually knocked some sense into me (NOT literally), I shudder to think where I might be right now. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally.

    It’s really cruel, what our own brains do to us sometimes.

  9. Which diets work for the long term. No matter how hard I try and find one that isnt a scam I cant.

    Answer: NONE OF THEM.

    ~Ed.

  10. Hi there!

    I saw your post about your sweater on Fatshionista, and I hopped on over here and read about your unexpected weight loss. I am by no means a medical expert, but losing weight when you aren’t trying to can be an indicator of more than a few physical problems, including diabetes. If you continue to loose weight or experience any other health issues, please go see a doctor! :)

  11. Ack, I meant ‘lose,’ Yay grammar.

  12. Diana, honestly, I’m not having any “issues” – at the moment. It’s entirely possible that the weight loss ITSELF was gradual, but my NOTICING it was definitely sudden. Since I stopped weighing and measuring myself like I was before (IOW, obsessively), I just don’t know exactly how much I HAVE lost. Enough to lose an entire pants size, definitely. But other than that…. *shrug*

    But I will definitely go see my doctor if I feel like something’s wrong.

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