I recently gained holiday weight –as most of mankind does… if you don’t, you either don’t have feelings, or you have an eating disorder, or you have obsessive problems that are preventing you from letting loose and enjoying the finest aspects of life, which importantly includes eating too much during the holidays. Actually, I haven’t just gained “holiday” weight but really the last two months for me have been a caloric disaster and now I’m going to try my hardest to re-evaluate my weight loss goals. Some people call this a New Years resolution; for me now, I just call this life.
For those who don’t know me or don’t regularly follow my blog, in the last three (going on four in 2013) years, I have successfully lost between 45-60 lb (this number fluctuates). There was a point in my life where (and I can’t believe this) I weighed 125lb. Which is, when I think about it, TINY. I’d like to get back there – if not there, then close to there, because I felt comfortable and alive being nearly 20lb lighter than I am right now. But at the moment this goal, looking ahead even 5 months, seems difficult to achieve. And instead I compare photos of myself then with photos of myself now and think about how enormously fat and gross I am and what an ugly failure I’ve become in the past few months. I have friends in this same boat who are also looking to regain their pre-holiday appearance and become restored to their former glory when they were wearing tight clothes and could button their size 6-8 jeans and so on. And what we do is text back and forth claiming how fat we are, as if we’re having a competition to see who is the fattest and the grossest and the ugliest.
I know someone who has been on the waiting list for three years for gastric bypass surgery and finally has the chance. To get the surgery she needed to go through rigmarole: group therapy, consistent medical appointments, and so on. And after the surgery, her diet is restricted in ways I can’t imagine: no carbonated beverages, for one. And also, the portion control is outrageously meticulous and complicated. To have the procedure done, you must be psychologically ready: you can’t just get this procedure done for vanity purposes; it must be medically necessary and you need to go through consistent psychological and physical tests to prove this is true. The person I know who is getting the surgery is a wonderful, confident, beautiful person both inside and out and no one deserves to have this procedure done more than her. It will change her life; and I truly do know this because I have lived the realities of being what society dubs as “fat”.
When you’re fat, you have to get used to the fact that society will not make the prettiest or the most fashionable clothes for you. Designer fashions seem only made for tall slim girls; average clothing stores only sell items of clothing up to a size 14 or 16 at the very most; every time you go shopping you have to look at the very back of the rack for the largest size and if your size isn’t there, you have no option to try ‘one size larger’ and you already know the size smaller will never fit. Sometimes you try it on and are met with a discouraging and depressing reflection of someone who you feel isn’t female enough to wear the prettiest or most fashionable clothes.
When you’re fat, you go out with your slimmer friends expecting to bet met with no male attention at all. You’re the one who holds down the fort at your table while your friends get up to dance with the guys who ask them. You look around the bar and maybe see someone attractive and then think, ‘they’ll never go out with a fat girl like me’. And whether or not this is the truth, it’s this feeling that adds more weight and more awkwardness than the physical weight you already carry.
When you’re fat, you can’t run; you can’t walk up a set of stairs; you don’t exercise, and you don’t want to because all it does is hurt and make you feel uncomfortable. And you know it. So when your friends are talking about going to the gym and doing marathons and getting “in shape”, you feel defensive and hurt, as if they’re inadvertently calling you out for being bigger and less fit than they are. You see ads on television for home trainers and workout machines and how they can help you lose weight in a few short months and you change the channel; they’re not motivators but rather, reminders that the whole world is in on this ‘thing’ you’re not privy to.
When you’re fat, you always feel the need to compensate for that; when your friends are going on about exercise and jeans becoming tighter and putting on 5lb, you want to shout back, “I eat whatever I want and I don’t care!” even though you do. Or maybe you don’t (and when you’re not watching what you eat at all, no… you don’t) – but even if you don’t, that isn’t the kind of care freeness that society values.
When you’re fat, your happiness is often derived from eating. It becomes a vice, a protector, a comfort, an excuse, a social gathering, an alone-time treat, an afternoon snack, breakfast, lunch, dinner, a midnight snack, drunk food, hangover food, an evening snack, a fun thing to do, a thing to do when you’re bored, etc. You have no way of knowing when or how to stop this. It just is.
When you’re fat, you order dessert at a restaurant and know the waiter is walking away even subconsciously thinking, “Of course that fat girl ordered dessert.”
When you’re fat, you get bullied mercilessly in high school; you try dieting to prove them all wrong, but your anxiety and sadness and your feeling that you’re an outsider only makes you want to eat more.
When you’re fat, you’re not skinny. And in short, there is nothing on earth that doesn’t constantly remind you that this is the truth; books, magazines, social groups, friends, commercials, movies, walking down the street, shopping, and especially eating.
It’s been a while since those sinking realities listed above belonged to me. I’ve forgotten how they feel. So now, when my size 6 jeans are getting tight and I need to put on my size 8 ‘fat jeans’, I feel like I’ve failed. I feel huge and grotesque and un-feminine and monstrous and ugly and wonder, why would anyone want me when they could have a skinny, model-sized petite girl who is actually attractive and not a tub of lard like me? Then I remember… I was a size 20. When I was in my small town high school. I looked around my school and it was obvious that I was one of the top 5 or so fattest kids in a school of 300 people. Everyone else was tiny and athletic and wore cool designer clothes and danced with boys and I didn’t because I was huge which in turn, made me feel ugly, inadequate, closed off, and awkward. And here I am now, complaining that last year’s jeans are just a tiny bit too small… my friends and I do this all the time, like the skinny bitches I used to loathe when I couldn’t even shop for normal clothes because I was too fat. How soon we forget what our real realities are, and what our real problems are.
This isn’t a “GET CONFIDENT!” speech. You can’t just ‘get confidence’; it’s impossible. You have it or you don’t have it. Sometimes and in some venues we have it more than we do other times. Sometimes it’s easy to fake it. Sometimes people make us feel confident even when it’s not in us to feel confident on an everyday basis. What this is, is a reminder to put things into perspective and be grateful: that unlike a strong, beautiful, confident woman I know whose reality is a medically necessary surgery and a militantly restricted diet, the reality of those of us who have gained a little holiday weight is, a few more minutes at the gym and a little grocery shopping. And so when you’re trying on a dress that doesn’t look the greatest, remember that there is a woman out there who would give anything just to walk in your shoes for a day so she could know how it feels to even wear a size 10 or 12, let alone, miracles of miracles, a size 6 or a size 8. And this should be more motivating and gratifying for you than obsessively poring over your own reflection in the mirror wishing to wave a magic wand and remove everything that doesn’t make you as perfect as you want to be.