As I prepare to go to yet another weigh in, I have been thinking about some of my blogland friends and the struggles we are all facing as we battle each day to reach our goals. And I wonder again about this time being different for me and why it is so.
Over the years I have tried dozens of times to lose weight and have lost as much as 60 lbs but with no lasting success on the scale. Even as I write this I am not sure that this time will even be lasting success because I am still not on the other side of it. I do know I have gone longer than ever before in any one weight loss effort and this makes me hopeful.
I have learned so much about myself over the years and as I think about this time vs all the other times I wonder if I ever really wanted it in the past. Did I really want to be healthy? Did I really want to be active and athletic? Did I really want to wear that size 8 or dare I hope for a 6 dress that looks smoking? Did I really, really want to be attractive to some guy? Did I really want to have to start saying no to others and yes to myself? Did I really want to give up some of my social life to spend time at the gym? Did I really want to become more than the nice girl with the pretty face who is known for what she DOES for others more than who she is? Did I really want to risk looking at all the contributing factors to my weight gain and actually deal with them? Did I really want to put in the effort it would take to lose 200 lbs? Did I really want to do WHATEVER it takes to stay on track including admitting my full weight to others and reporting it every week? Did I really want to reign in my free spirited, live life with as little structure as possible personality and incorporate discipline in to my life to make weight loss happen? Did I really want to give up the illusion of control I thought I had by being overweight? Did I really want to be transformed by all that would happen if I said yes to any ONE of the above, let alone all of them? Did I really want to risk the vulnerability it would take to have the kind of support I would need to really make this happen?
The answer is no. I didn’t really want it. Not for myself anyway. I wanted to please others. I wanted to try and fulfill their expectations of me. I wanted to do what I knew I SHOULD do. But really there was a safety in being fat. I have always been fat. It is what I know. I know, or at least think I know, the kinds of things people think about a fat girl and have developed some good defenses against them. You know, like the attitude of “I don’t care what you think!” Yeah right. I do!! But I would never let you know it!
I know that far less guys are attracted to fat women and therefore I have been able to minimize the risk of dating relationships and the fears that stirs up in me. This tactic has worked far too well…I have NEVER had a boyfriend. I am 32 years old. Up until I would say the last 5 years or so, I had no idea that this was an intentional self-protection mechanism set up as a 5 yr old after my abuse. Even after knowing this, the risk of letting that go was far too scary to think about given that I wasn’t ready or willing to really deal with those issues yet.
I know that people have far less expectations of fat people. They are expected to eat poorly and not exercise. In a way that gave me permission to do just that. I was expected to be lazy and I was. Still am at times actually and have to fight against it. I got to eat all sorts of yummy things like donuts and ice cream, fried chicken and butter ladden things without feeling very guilty for my gluttony because it was expected, in an odd way. It wasn’t until people started caring enough about me to have different expectations that I began to feel guilty when I ate like that, then my eating began to be in secret! (Remind me to blog sometime about the time I flat out lied to Aaron and jeopardized our friendship for a piece of fried chicken! ok several pieces.)
For whatever reason, many people are uncomfortable around really fat people. I am coming to know that this isn’t because we are ugly as I once thought, but perhaps it is because it stirs a discomfort in them of what they themselves could be if they gave in to what they wanted all the time. Perhaps the insecurities and fears and loneliness that we wear so visibly on our bodies stirs something in them that is not so readily identifiable. For this reason, it has allowed me to be able to keep many relationships on a surface level. There is no relational risk involved. I didn’t have to be invested so deeply in people, even though that has always been the cry of my heart, to know and be known.
I didn’t have to feel. I used food as a substitute for emotions. If things got painful or hard, I just ate and stuffed the emotion back down. I never got embarrassed by unexpected tears. I never had to apologize for angry outbursts (ok, with my siblings this was an exception). I never had to explain myself and what was going on because I was always ok. I was always “good” or “fine”. Dear friends now know if I am responding in that way with no explanation, something is likely going on. Emotions can be exhausting! Now that I feel them, some days I go to bed just tired from FEELING all day, especially if it was a day of a variety of emotions. Some days I wish I could go back to not feeling again…and some days I still use food for comfort.
These are just a few of the things that being fat has gotten me over the years. But the biggest thing is being fat has kept me safe. Safe from men, safe from scary emotions, safe from vulnerability, safe from being hurt. Or so I thought anyway.
Now, that I am losing weight and doing so in such a public way, people have different expectations of me. Adam is expecting that he will get to teach me to ski next winter! (WHAT?! doesn’t he know I could get injured??) Virg, Jen, Aaron, and others not only invited me to do a triathlon relay 2 years ago but actually BELIEVED I could do it! (and that was when I was still playing around with the whole weight loss thing!) Holy crap! Expectations of the physical nature! Last year, after swimming 500 meters, they believed I could swim even farther! (4th of July Tri Relay-.4 mile swim- Yeah Baby!) And now I BELIEVE I can do even more than swim and will be swimming and running in an August Tri! There is a new expectation that I will continue to lose and that I CAN be a LOSER! No one (except me) doubted my ability to do a ropes course or to be able to wear a harness.
There is much risk in doing these things. I could get injured. I could fail to complete and have to have my butt hauled out of the water (highly embarrassing!) In not completing there is a risk of disappointing those that have believed in me for so long. (I know this is not true, they would be disappointed FOR me or WITH me not IN me, but the fear is still there.)
As I continue to walk this out and blog this out I make up that people may expect me to have some magic answer or solution for them or that this is easy for me. Heck I expect this of myself! But the reality is, I don’t, and it isn’t easy. All I have is my story, my experiences, what has worked for me and what hasn’t. So I might disappoint you! And guys, I hate to disappoint people. I work really hard to not let people down. But in this I give you fair warning because I am NOT stopping my journey on this because I am afraid I might let you down because I don’t have an answer for you.
Yeah, there is much safety in remaining fat but that safety is no longer worth it to me. I have far more to gain by losing and the risk is worth it! I am no longer willing to wear this security blanket of fat that has only served to keep me from living the adventurous life I dream of! Safe is boring!