I am on Instagram more often than I should be. And everywhere I turn there is some girl posting before and after pictures. The before picture is usually of some cute chubby girl with her kids or even a very heavy girl smiling with her husband. The after photo shows a very slim girl, usually in very tight clothing or just a sports bra, talking about how wild her success has been. Most of the time they are selling weight loss products or coaching services. As you read their captions you will find that when they were fat they were absolutely miserable. They had no energy for themselves or their families. Their lives were unfulfilling. They were disappointments to themselves. They failed at everything in life. Then they started hitting the gym or buying special supplements or becoming a Beachbody Coach or what have you. Now their lives are valuable and worth living, they are better mothers to their children, they are no longer failures, and they are proud of themselves. They lost 25 or 50 or 100 lb and it’s the best thing they ever did.
As my weight fluctuates I question this narrative. I lost 50 lb last year. Let me tell you, it didn’t make me any happier. I got that brief zing of pride whenever I posted a picture of myself in a smaller dress. I suppose that when you live in a society that values thinness so highly it’s natural although not right to feel that little zing. From that perspective I understand all these girls posting their weight loss photos on Instagram. But my life has been no happier. The thing is, my life wasn’t miserable before. I was already a good mother with energy for my child. I do wish I was a more energetic person in general, but losing 50 lbs didn’t make me more energetic. I didn’t feel like a failure when I weighed over 200 lb. Not usually. And when I did have moments where maybe I looked over my life and felt like I could have done more or been doing more, it had nothing to do with the fact that I was fat. My life was extremely fulfilling. I had my family and my writing.
If losing 50 pounds was the best thing I’ve ever done, then maybe I really should reconsider my life and what I’ve done with it. After losing 50 lbs I can honestly say I’m the same person living the same life. If anything I have been less happy since losing the weight. Wearing smaller clothes is nice for sure. It gives you way more options when you go shopping, and what girl doesn’t want that? But all the good things in my life that were there before are still here, thank God, and the negative things are still here also. I don’t really feel proud of losing the weight. And in fact if it hadn’t been for all the societal pressure I felt to do it I never would have lost it. I was fine with myself and my husband was happy with me. And now that I have lost the weight I am under tremendous pressure to at least maintain it and honestly to lose more weight. It’s frustrating. I miss eating. This is not fun. I try to remember that the benefits outweigh the negatives, but sometimes they honestly don’t.
There is this pervasive stereotype about fat people that their lives revolve around food. Well I don’t speak for everybody obviously, but I can honestly tell you that when I was fat my life didn’t revolve around food at all. When I wanted it I had it and I just didn’t give it a second thought. I didn’t run around from hour to hour thinking about food. Since starting the diet however, food is all I think about. Part of this is simply because whenever you can’t have something or you’re not supposed to think about it, it’s automatically what you think about. Part of it’s because I have to go hungry. And when you’re hungry you think about food. And part of it is because maintaining a strict diet requires a lot of thought. You get up in the morning and want to reach for a granola bar. But then you have to think about the fact that you can’t and what will happen to you on the scale if you do. You sit down to have pizza for lunch with your husband and you can’t dig in. Instead you have to get on MyFitnessPal and calculate the number of calories from a slice of pizza and the number of calories from your drink and add that up and sit there and think about the fact that you won’t be able to have very much, or anything at all, for dinner once you have this pizza lunch with your husband. Your husband spends good money thinking up a nice date to a good restaurant and when you get there you have to focus on the salad or make sure you don’t eat more than a quarter or half of the food that you’re given. It’s disappointing because you want food and you’re supposed to be out having fun, and of course it’s an utter waste of money if you sit there pretending to be some natural waif and just leave the food on your plate. They don’t give you a discount for the uneaten food. The truth is, unless you’re one of those people who’s extremely athletic and loves the gym, and you genuinely love things like salad and yogurt, in order to lose weight you are going to have to think an awful lot about food. Especially to lose as much weight as I have. And realistically if you are one of those athletic, gym loving people who genuinely enjoys a plate of celery you probably wouldn’t be fat to begin with.
This is where maintaining your weight comes in. But seriously, it’s miserable. Maybe I need to give it more time. I don’t know. But I have not reached the point where I naturally only want one slice of pizza. Maybe this is a self control issue. I guess you could look at it that way. When I was younger and had an eating disorder I was very good at restricting calories. I had the problem I am currently having, which is that all I could think about was food, but I was so strict and regimented. And then later in my twenties when I healed at least somewhat I ate whatever I wanted. Moderation is not my strong suit with my personality. I just hate having to be so aware of what I eat. It takes up headspace. I would rather be thinking about art or poetry or even imagining outer space than thinking about the calorie content of a slice of toast. On top of that, between the meds I am on and some other medical issues and what have you, I have found that unless I keep at or very close to 1,000 calories a day I gain weight. I don’t even maintain weight. I actually gain weight. At first the payoff for this, smaller clothing, seemed worth the effort. But sometimes it just feels like a bunch of crap. If I can get to a point where eating very little is a natural state for me then maybe that will be different. But it hasn’t come yet and it has been months. I don’t want to be 80 years old and look back over my life and realize I spent 50% of my time thinking about what food I could or could not eat.
It doesn’t help that I never lost weight for myself, truly. I put on a dress that was too tight and I felt bad that it was too tight because I knew that I was already at a dress size that everybody and their brother would tell me I shouldn’t be. But since I was happy with my life and myself I didn’t honestly start my weight-loss journey, and everybody calls losing weight a journey for some reason, for myself. I did it so that other people would be okay with me. I did it so that other people would think I was attractive, although my husband already thought I was hot and thought the diet was pointless. I did it to avoid the judgment of family members and friends. I did it so that when I walk through the mall I could hold my head high because I would look much closer to what people considered conventionally attractive and socially acceptable. I am not on this so-called journey for me. If no other people in the world existed I really wouldn’t give a f*** what my dress size was. I do it for other people and that makes it much harder to stick with. It’s not something I enjoy or that I feel like I’m truly benefiting from. Like I said, wearing smaller clothes does make shopping way easier and way more fun. But I only buy clothing a few times a year. And if I explored more sites that have plus size clothing and I liked them, and other people wouldn’t give me a hard time or look at me like I’m some sort of alien, I really wouldn’t care. I’m giving up food that I like and giving a completely boring subject so much head space so that other people are okay with me. People that either should be okay with me anyway because in theory they should love me, or people I don’t even know. I am seriously concerned with what random men, and some very judgemental women, think about what I look like. I’m not banging any of them, obviously since I’m married and also attempting to try to follow the Bible, and yet I’m concerned with whether or not they think I look bangable. I’m trying to please a society that I know is twisted and that I tend to look down upon. Why do I care about what these people think? What have they done for me lately?
I am trying to stick with the diet for now. And even make improvements. It’s just really hard to do something when you’re not doing it for yourself. Even when you change something about yourself for someone you love it’s difficult. It’s a lot easier than doing it for people you don’t have a relationship with, but even when people do something to change themselves for someone they love it’s pretty hard. The best thing to give yourself good odds of succeeding in whatever it you’re trying to change is to care about it yourself. I’m trying to learn to care about it. At what point will this be something that I really want to do for myself? How do I get to a place where I’m doing this for me? What do I get out of this other than the approval of others? When do I reach a point where I enjoy this, or if I don’t enjoy it it becomes as natural as breathing? The only reason I care about being a smaller dress size is because I want the approval of other people. I’m afraid sometimes that to make this work for the long-term I’m going to have to find a reason to do it myself. But I cannot find one single significant thing, and only one minor thing, in my entire life that has been improved by this diet.