When I was 23 years old, I was unemployed and brutally heartbroken so I did the only thing I could do: I lost weight. I worked out. I went to the gym and could see the person who broke my heart in front of me as I ran, as I forced myself through 40-45 boring minutes on the elliptical. And eventually I got a job – a decent one that I liked – and I lost weight. At my smallest, I turned around and realized I had lost almost 60 lb. 60. I was barely recognizable to myself. In my teenage and young adult life, I never imagined I would be that small; I never thought I’d swear shirts in a size ‘small’ and I never thought I’d wear size 4/6 jeans. Suddenly I was changed.
What I learned from dramatic weight loss is the way people perceive you is different than they did before, but the way you perceive yourself does not. Maybe on the surface it does. Maybe you glance at yourself in a reflection in a store window and momentarily realize you’re ‘thin’. I remember once walking up a hill with a bag of groceries listening to music and looking down at my feet and feeling tiny; like a Lilliputian. Tiny against this large hill in this large world. I’ve had moments when suddenly I was able to fit a garment in a store I never thought I could fit or even look decent in. It’s those moments when you think, “I did this. And I’ve changed my perspective.”
Men approach you; they do favours for you; they give you lingering glances on public transit, at crosswalks, at bars. They may even approach you. You may even kiss them, or more to validate your hard work. You feel like you’ve rid yourself of this burden of hefty extra weight that forces people to see you differently, forces others to see you as something reviled and devalued in society as opposed to the frank and beautiful person you know you are. The way men react to you when you’re a thin woman versus a fat one is something that I treasure because I’ve seen both. I’m sensitive to the changes, I get what it’s like to sit at a bar alone because all your prettier, slimmer friends have been asked to dance and you haven’t but I also get what it’s like to run a mile without stopping and be the centre of attention to a boy on a dancefloor who sees you as something ‘sexy’ and loose.
Lately I’ve come to find though that I’ve changed. Three years ago I was almost 200lb and miserable about it, so I changed my lifestyle; I became more active (I hate being active) and during my most militant lifestyle change practices I wouldn’t eat ground beef or chocolate or pizza and became deprived and angry and petulant and miserable. Life became harder because it became easier in other aspects. Life became something I had to always try and succeed at. I lost 60lb and once I reached that point, I realized: I’m still miserable, but for different reasons than I was before.
Life was easier when I was fat. I had no pressure to force myself to exercise. I had the freedom to eat and drink what I wanted when I wanted. If I felt like a fast food burger for lunch I could have one and spend that small portion of my day – lunch – feeling satiated, satisfied and happy because at the end of the day, food does make me happy and comforted, and this is and always will be a fact, even if I was 100lb. I had no pressure. No one was looking at me. There were no labels placed on me. I never knew what life was like on the other side and assumed I never would so it didn’t matter. There were less cares, worries, stresses and forceful and unpleasant parts of my daily routine when I was fat. In a strange way, I was happier.
Since becoming thin I’ve seen great successes but those great successes are directly correlated with each failure and misstep becoming mountainous and impossible to overcome. What was once easier for me to handle when I was bigger has become a shallow daily pilgrimage to self-pity and griping over the sheer shallow feeling of feeling hollowly sad that I’ve gained a few pounds. I remember when I was fat, my size 6 roommate telling me that I “wouldn’t understand” what it feels like to feel your jeans feeling too tight to wear. I almost spat back at her that she wouldn’t understand what it’s like to wear a size 20 skirt when you’re 18 and growing up and going to a high school of 250 athletically-minded young skinny girls who wore ‘7’ and ‘Mavi’ jeans that didn’t come in my bloated size. But, she was right. I didn’t understand. Because I’m in her shoes now, and I feel awful over it. But… that doesn’t mean I condone this sort of complaint. This sort of complaint makes me hate myself even more. It makes me hate myself for becoming this shallow, body-conscious, diet-obsessed idiot that I once despised when I was fat and people talked about working out and eating ‘right’. And it makes me hate myself because I worked so hard to fit into pants that are now too tight.
I have changed my perspective; my perspective now is that it’s risky to try… when you try, you risk failure. When you fail, there is a defeating feeling involved that I never had when I had accepted my life as it was when I never ever tried.