The Myth of Weight Loss

Published August 23, 2009 by Fat Heffalump

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.

16 comments on “The Myth of Weight Loss

  • It drives me bonkers to see people equate weight loss or thinness with PCOS cure. I had the same symptoms when I was much thinner, the one exception being the baldness, which only started happening when I took Glucophage, go fig. Possibly it wasn't the Glucophage itself, but that my androgen levels had been elevated so long without any treatment that baldness was inevitable. But the hirsutism, the painful periods, the mood swings, the acne, the gas? Check, check, check. Had them all at "normal" weight, and they're not any worse now.

    It may be something about a ketogenic (or non-ketogenic low-carb) diet in particular that controls the androgen levels, not weight loss as such. If you can stick to it, that is, which most people can't. But liposuction studies, where they remove 25 pounds of abdominal fat surgically, don't show any improvement in any metabolic markers or health indices at all.

    Andee (Meowser)

  • I once lost that same 50 lbs. It took 6 days a week at the gym to do it, though I didn't adjust my diet much, beyond switching from 1% milk to skim. I, too, basked in the compliments that now I find a bit creepy. And whereas I was often invisible as a fat person, a lot of the attention I received as a thinner person (I never was truly thin) was negative, and sometimes downright creepy. I went from object of scorn to objectified. Some men looked at me like I was a piece of meat; some women looked at me like I was competition; both of those sensations were new and unwelcome.

    I've gained all the weight back and then some, of course, because I couldn't keep up that kind of gym schedule, nor did I want to. Now, I look back and see that the whole societal dynamic around my weight loss is just so sick.

  • Hi there, I found your blog through one of the Fat RSS feeds and I just wanted you to know you really helped me today. I'm having one of those "bad fat days" where I am struggling so much with thinking all my problems would go away if I'd just lose weight. Your story gives me perspective and reminds me to be thankful for the body I have and to stop obsessing so much over what size I am. Thanks for making yourself vulnerable and sharing.

  • oh one other thing–did you make your avatar on a free site? It is just gorgeous and I've been looking for a good site to make one for myself🙂

  • I did the same thing, but lost 50 kilos. Yes, I got miserable, yes I got sick, yes I became a bore, yes I got depressed, yes I gained the weight back plus a bit more. I also blew out my adrenals with all the exercise and my thyroid condition got much harder to manage and now I can hardly exercise at all without crashing, so boo sucks to dieting and obsessive exercising!

  • It's so lovely to meet you all – popping over here to comment on my blog! I honestly just waffle on and express myself, I never expected anyone to read it other than local friends.

    Kristie – invisible sums it up perfectly. People who treated me as though I was invisible to them suddenly were fascinated by me. I represented something they wanted, to be thinner – rather than I who I really am.

    I got the avatar from the Mad Men Yourself site. If you Google "Mad Men Yourself" you should find it, I think it's still live.

  • It couldn't seem less likely to me that PCOS would be magically fixed by weight loss alone. One of my mates just got diagnosed with it and she has been dangerously anorectic for the past year. I realise that's just one case but I'd love to see a doctor recommend to her that weight loss would do the trick! Honestly.

  • Oh honey, you are telling my story. I too lost a bunch of weight after I was diagnosed with PCOS by starving myself, and overexercising. It was insane. And my symptons didn't get better.

    I honestly think that they still don't know how to fully treat PCOS, and the 'lose weight and you'll get better' matra is tied to the fact that alot of doctors think that losing weight will cure alot of medical conditions.

    Bianca

  • I agree zaftigchicks – it's like the medical profession just throw weight loss in whenever they don't know the answers. And of course, PCOS often makes us fat… so it's fair game in their eyes.

    catatonickid – I was bulimic in my teens and my PCOS was at it's worst then.

  • @zaftigchicks right on! thats the problem – they have no clue right now how to treat pcos and the weight loss thing is all they got and guess what? it doesnt even work! well it hasn't worked for any of us anyway! x kiki.

  • OK, first of all, you did go over drive. You don't need to starve yourself or alienate yourself.

    Seriously, no offense, but I totally laughed at this story.

    Yes, it can be a drug and a good one at it, but your should have just calmed down and do 2.5 hours per week and eat sensibly! (fruit salad? Please!)

    I bet you got it all back and then some, and now you think that it was stupid and evil.

    Honey, meet a trainer and a nutritious and set "normal" goals! (4 hours per day?!) *Sigh*

    No wonder you had a break down.

    Working out is fun.

    You just did it the wrong way and it is no surprise you failed.

  • Miss Jay – you can keep your patronising attitudes to yourself please. Don't call me "honey" and condescend me. Your "no offense" is totally passive-aggressive and I WILL NOT accept this bullshit here on this blog.

    This is a fat acceptance blog. If you're going to turn up here and lecture myself and my readers with misinformation… I will block you.

    Consider this your first and final warning.

  • I have been reading your blog for a while now but only just saw this post when looking back through some of your earlier blog posts.
    It’s a shame that doctors haven’t shown any advancement in their understanding of the complexity or impact of conditions such as pcos. I saw a doctor who had definitely had a personality bypass-her main comments were “do you realise just how fat you are? You are huge. You are obese”, then completely dismissing the fact that I had lost weight in the last few months (and quite a decent amount or so I thought)due to gym/diet said “you need lapbanding surgery. I won’t help you ttc till you weigh 65kg”. She may as well have told me she wouldn’t help me till I had laid an egg or learned to fly.
    I had felt so good in the moment before I entered her office, so happy with my weightloss, happy that I was taking steps to address my fertility issues/pcos, I was no vulnerable and she reduced me to a blubbering mess within minutes.
    I hope one day I can find a doctor who can think of something more than “lose weight and everything will fix itself” when clearly it doesnt work that way

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