I’m sure you’ve all heard it before. Every time you have a problem in your life, some well meaning person, be it family, friend, doctor, douchebag on the street tells you to “Lose weight fatty, your life will get better.” Or variants thereof. I know I’ve heard it plenty of times. Over 25 years it’s been said to me so many times, it’s practically carved into my skin.
Well I did it. Some years ago now, when I was at one of the lowest points of my life, and had been freshly diagnosed with PCOS, I made the decision that I was going to lose weight. I started with swimming, which I do really enjoy. And I lost a little weight straight away and then it settled at a constant level, which was what totally spurred me into a very frightening spiral into insanity.
I had been assured that by losing even as little as 5% of body weight, all the horrible PCOS symptoms would go away. “Cysters” know about the ones I am talking about – all those physical things that make us hate ourselves because we feel ugly. Not to mention the agonising hormonal cycle, that left me in crushing pain each month. So I jumped in with both feet determined to chase all these horrid things away by losing weight.
It started with little compliments. “You’re looking good, have you lost some weight?” People who didn’t normally speak to me suddenly started asking me what diet I was on, how much exercising I was doing. It was like a drug. I ramped it up from swimming a few days per week, to swimming 5 days per week, and walking every day. I then started to starve myself. All I ate was fruit and salad.
Soon after that, my workplace offered a gym course for overweight staff. I was on a roll, so I joined. Once that started up I found myself exercising a minimum of 4 hours per day. All I talked or thought about was losing weight, how much exercise I was doing. I became one of those boring women who talks about nothing about how fabulous it is to have all that exercise and my diet habits. I stopped socialising with my friends. I made new friends, all of whom never spoke to me before I started losing weight. I told all the fat people I knew “If I can do it, anyone can!” In short, I was a nutcase.
It worked. I lost over 25kg (55lbs) and dropped FIVE dress sizes. Yep, five. People told me I was fabulous and awesome.
But inside, I was dying. I was so miserable. My entire life consisted of the gym/pool and obsessing over what I wasn’t allowed to eat. I alienated a lot of my real friends because I was so boring and militant with it all. I hated myself because I couldn’t get any thinner than the 25kg I had lost. I swung between manic hyperactivity and crushing depression. The only people around me were people who had only decided to value me because I was thinner. And the worst thing? My PCOS symptoms got WORSE. Yep, the acne, the hair, the painful or non-existent periods, the constant heartburn.
I felt so robbed. I’d worked so hard, I did everything that the “experts” and everyone else told me I should do, and it still didn’t work. I was a failure even when I succeeded.
Quite predictably, I had a breakdown. Both physically and emotionally. I couldn’t maintain the insane lifestyle I had to adopt to lose any significant weight, nor could I handle not having a life with any depth in it. Everything was superficial and about my body, not about ME. I hit absolute rock bottom and ended up a real mess.
And of course, gained all that weight back and more, which just sended me even deeper into the pit.
At my lowest point, my GP referred me to a psychologist who specialises in cognitive behavioural therapy. Mostly to teach me out of the self loathing and total lack of self esteem spiral I was in. Her first step was to ask both my GP and I to stop weighing me on my visits. I haven’t been weighed since. And over the past two or so years, she’s been working with me very closely to build my self esteem and self worth up to where it should be. We’ve worked through it all, from my body hatred to relationships, family, work, you name it.
But she does still push me to lose weight occasionally, but I have the confidence to be able to push back now. I know that losing weight does not solve my problems, and it didn’t even make me healthier. I know when I feel at my healthiest and at my best. I am probably at the top end of my weight scale these days (no pun intended) but I seem to have settled to a level that I feel good at and have the most energy. All my bloodwork etc comes back in the normal range, so I don’t feel that I have to fix anything there either.
I’m not saying don’t eat healthy or exercise. Not at all. But forget about the number on the scale and the size on your clothes, forget about foods being good or bad, forget about valuing yourself by your body shape. Eat healthy because it makes you feel better. Good quality food, from ALL of the food groups, will do you good. Move because you enjoy it. I want to get a bicycle, cos I love that feeling of riding around, the wind in my hair. I like to swim because I find it really relaxing. Dancing is so much fun because music sinks into my bones. Find whatever it is that you find fun and pleasurable by way of movement and do it.
Most of all, forget the myth that your life is suddenly going to be better if you’re thinner. Because it’s not. Firstly it takes more than body size to make a life good, and secondly it’s statistically more than likely you’ll put all the weight back on and more anyway.
To make your life better, learn to like yourself. It’s what has made my life immeasurably better.