On the problem of happiness.

I’ve thought about this problem before, but a recent comment brought it up again:

What about fat women who’ve tried to love themselves and have failed at that too?

It’s a curious dilemma. I mean, what do you do when not only diets have failed you, but your effort to try and accept yourself has failed? You’re kind of stuck, and I don’t think it would be a fun place to be stuck. You know that dieting is pretty stupid, but you’re starting to think that the idea of actually *liking* your big ugly body is starting to sound stupid as well…

I have a few questions, and please don’t take offense…I’m just trying to understand.

-Have you put as much effort into learning to accept yourself as you have put into dieting? Have you thrown out the ‘thin’ clothes and bought new ones that you like? Have you read books and websites?

-Have you talked to your spouse or partner about this; does your spouse or partner find your body unattractive? Have you talked to your family? Do your relatives harass you about losing weight?

-Have you found a doctor who is not prejudiced about size? They do exist.

-Have you looked for a size-friendly exercise or support group? They also exist.

The reason I ask this is because learning to love yourself is not easy. If anything, it’s even harder than dieting, but with one important difference: in the end, you will succeed. But the effort must be real. Self-love does not automatically appear when you decide you’re done dieting. It takes work and effort.

Ask yourself this: Suppose you have a set amount of energy to apply to a task. And you have two choices. Which one are you going to choose to spend your energy on? Dieting, which works for most people only in the SHORT TERM, and can make you feel worse about yourself if you gain the weight back…or self-love, which will produce long-term results and can actually improve your physical and mental health?

Making the choice is easy. It’s following through with the choice that takes work. Loving yourself requires ACTIVE changes, since everything in our culture is geared to weight loss. When you look up health, you find weight loss. When you look up nutrition, you find weight loss. When you look up body image, you find weight loss. Therefore, if you sit passively back, the tides of our culture will gradually erode your resolve not to focus on weight loss. You must actively seek out size-positive information and support.

If anyone needs resources for self-love, ASK ME. I have tons, and am more than willing to share. There are websites, books, advocacy groups, dietitians, doctors, and researchers galore who believe in health at any size.

And, for the record: I do not advocate weight gain. My agenda is encouraging people of all sizes to live healthy lifestyles, regardless of weight. I actually believe that keeping a STABLE weight is healthiest of all, whether you start off fat or thin. Sometimes you will gain or lose naturally; but that is not my concern. My concern is for people to love and respect themselves, their bodies, and each other.

One last thing: a note on medical conditions. PCOS has been mentioned to me more than once now, by two different people. I don’t know the specifics of the disorder other than what I have read here, but what I’ve heard is that the condition results in a higher weight, and a harder time controlling weight for women who have it.

To this I offer the following logic: we’ve determined that for perfectly healthy people, controlling weight is near impossible, unless through extreme, unhealthy measures (we’re talking self-starvation, bulimia, compulsive exercise, weight-loss surgery, etc.) In fact, it is so difficult for normal people to control their weight that many health professionals have decided to encourage people not to worry about weight, and focus instead on living healthfully (which means eating nutritious food and exercising regularly.)

Therefore, if you have a medical condition which makes losing weight even MORE difficult than it already is for normal people, why would it make sense to try losing weight? You’re fighting a losing battle. For anyone with a medical condition, I think it is conservative to say that you should eat well and exercise moderately. Why add to the stresses of your condition the impossible task of trying to control an uncontrollable weight?

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10 Comments

  1. Keechypeachy
    Posted June 7, 2009 at 12:39 am | Permalink

    Very true! I like the point you made on how hard it is to lose weight even without an added problem so why try to fight when you do have one? Thyroid is another one that seems to make things harder, and medication doesn’t seem to help with the weight, no matter what your doc says when they give it to you! You wear out your adrenals just coping with the illness and crap meds, and the stress of fighting your body would just add to that. It also means you need to be really up on your nutritional needs as things like B12 and magnesium can get low, and for sure limiting calories/food types isn’t going to help with that!

  2. Posted June 7, 2009 at 12:45 am | Permalink

    The thing with PCOS and “controlling” weight is that PCOS results in uncontrolled weight gain. I went from 130 pounds and a size 4 to 175 pounds and a size 12-14-16 (I swear that clothing companies shrunk their sizes in the past 6 months) with no significant change in diet or exercise, in 18 months. I was just putting on the pounds and inches for no apparent reason, which can be extremely distressing. As a former skinny person PCOS was what taught me that the calories in/calories out paradigm is such utter b.s., and I fell into fat acceptance (not that I was ever far from it).

    Of course, that didn’t make the fact that I needed a whole new wardrobe every 4-6 months any better.

    I’m now 9 months pregnant and about a year out from my PCOS diagnosis, and I’m really hoping that post-partum I am able to maintain a stable weight. I don’t particularly care what that weight is, though my immediate pre-prego weight would be nice because, hey, I already have all those clothes, but I want one stable body size.

    And, as an FYI, metformin has been really great for me with maintaining a stable body size and fixing all the physical and mental symptoms of insulin resistance. I just weighed myself for the first time this pregnancy and have managed to gain 25-30 pounds in the past 9 months (through practicing intuitive eating and approaching my pregnancy with a very strong HAES mindset), which I’m thrilled with because that’s pretty much normal/average and a sign that my uncontrolled weight gain has stopped. Also, aside from the boobs and the belly I’ve had no increase in girth, so I’m pretty confident I’ll be back to my old size pretty soon. Which, as someone who was consistently gaining weight and inches, is really nice. My body is finally stabilizing, I think.

  3. meerkat
    Posted June 7, 2009 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    -Have you put as much effort into learning to accept yourself as you have put into dieting? Have you thrown out the ‘thin’ clothes and bought new ones that you like? Have you read books and websites?

    Yes, because I haven’t put any effort into dieting. My fix-my-body-so-that-it-is-not-hideous project was trying to get my skin to not be disgusting. 20 years and no progress. I hate clothes shopping. I have read books and websites on self-esteem and whatnot but I have not put much GOOD-FAITH effort into it because they never say anything I can agree with. That is, I take the effort to read them, but I have huge resistance to doing anything they say, like pretending magical pixie fairy dust happy thoughts are true just because they are happier than thoughts based on reality.

    -Have you talked to your spouse or partner about this; does your spouse or partner find your body unattractive? Have you talked to your family? Do your relatives harass you about losing weight?

    Ha ha ha, spouse or partner. Everybody finds my body unattractive except for my mother. She knows I hate my body but I try not to burden her with it all the time. My grandparents have started nagging me a little recently but my mother runs interference for me.

    -Have you found a doctor who is not prejudiced about size? They do exist.

    Yes, I stick with the doctor my mother found long ago. But sometimes I am required to get checkups with other doctors for work or school and they go ZOMG LOSE WEIGHT YOU LARDO.

    -Have you looked for a size-friendly exercise or support group? They also exist.

    No. But if there were a Fat People for Dance Dance Revolution group nearby, I would totally join.

    • Posted June 7, 2009 at 11:14 am | Permalink

      “I have huge resistance to doing anything they say, like pretending magical pixie fairy dust happy thoughts are true just because they are happier than thoughts based on reality.”

      Hahha, I can totally get behind this, meerkat. And I know some fat people who are into DDR! If you’re in Toronto, we should get together :)

  4. Posted June 8, 2009 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Ooh! Ooh! I’m so in for this Toronto DDR thing! :D

    • Posted June 8, 2009 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      We should do it! I’ve only tried DDR once myself, and I’m a horrible awkward clutz at it, but it was very fun. Dee and Joy are both really into it.

  5. PCOS
    Posted June 29, 2009 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    From http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/belly-fat/wo00128
    quote: Researchers also have found that abdominal fat cells aren’t just dormant energy waiting to be burned up. The cells are active, producing hormones and other substances that can affect your health. For example, some fat-cell-produced hormones can promote insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes; others can produce estrogen after menopause, which may increase your breast cancer risk. Researchers are still sorting out how the excess hormones affect overall health, but they do know that too much visceral fat can disrupt the body’s normal hormonal balance. [end quote]

    Why is it seen that belly fat is causing the problem while it might be that belly fat is a reaction to try to solve some other problem? Possible women with PCOS have belly fat to help stabilize hormones, but the fat can only provide so much benefit. Therefore, the real cause would be some sort of hormonal imbalance where the human body tries to heal itself with belly fat. This theory assumes PCOS is still a dis-ease.

    However, maybe PCOS was a survival mechanism where a woman’s hormones are programmed to not conceive unless she is fat and/or eating regularly because her ancestors came from some extreme conditions. What I think is that the PCOS mechanism doesn’t kick in until starvation (i.e. dieting). If you could eat well all the time, the PCOS switch would never be turned on. If the switch was turned on, you can only conceive when you are fat. In other words, belly fat IS a reproductive organ for women with PCOS. This theory says that PCOS was a benefit to our great^X-grandmothers and is the reason many of us are here today. I personally think that you might need a period of feasting after famine to turn the switch off, but most of us are told to be afraid of being that hungry and so those with PCOS just diet again. The body might then switch up the level of PCOS. For example, in extreme famine (very-low-cal dieting and yo-yo dieting), the body cranks the metabolism down really low while simultaneously increasing anabolic steroids like insulin and testosterone to prevent wasting. A low-carb diet is often recommended to PCOS patients. Perhaps that diet works because low-carb is usually higher fat and the eating of fat is a way to turn the switch off.

  6. Anne
    Posted December 4, 2009 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    “Why add to the stresses of your condition the impossible task of trying to control an uncontrollable weight?”

    Because most doctors do their damndest to scare you into thinking that the weight is not only controllable, but that you’ll die young and painfully if you don’t lose weight like RIGHT NOW. They don’t tell you that serial dieting is more harmful to your health than just having PCOS.

    • Posted December 4, 2009 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

      Good point. It’s like badgering someone into losing weight is a form of negative reinforcement — “If you’ll only do as I say, I’ll stop doing [unpleasant thing] to you.” I can totally understand why, under that sort of pressure, people would choose to go that route.

  7. Monica
    Posted March 14, 2010 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    thank you so much for this website. i’ve been reading it nonstop since a friend of a friend linked to it on facebook.
    i was pretty much a normal sized child through my entire childhood, so imagine my surprise and upset when i hit puberty and my body started changing and some people in my family (mainly my dad) became horrified by it. rather than helping me control my weight or teaching me about food, i would get this disapproving glances whenever i served food on my plate, and would routinely be denied or made to feel guilty about getting ice cream or other treats when my siblings and cousins were getting them in a family outing.
    i gained about 10 kilos every year since i was 14, and at 80 something kilos realized that my dad had started pestering me to lose weight when i was 14 and only weighed 50 something kilos. it made me very defensive about eating and a lot of the time i ate just to piss him off, to assert myself, to protest. i ate when i was upset, i ate for all the wrong reasons. i forgot what hunger felt like, i just ate like a robot.
    years passed and i went on this major diet, with the help of an endocrinologist who was convinced my health was at risk, with a BMI of 28. i lost 30 kilos and still fell under the “overweight”category. I felt extemely paranoid that every bite outside of the diet would ruin my life. my dad commented on how being skinny made my nose look bigger. i became obsessed with this minor flaws that i never noticed before when i was only concerned with the fat. then we had a big family tragedy when my brother attempted suicide, and the whole thing made me realize how stupid my obsessions where.
    i was skinnier than i’d ever been, being noticed by boys for the first time in my life, wasn’t i supposed to be happy? i’d never been sadder. people weren’t addressing me as a person anymore, they were interested in my looks. interests were fleeting. i started overeating and then purging to compensate. i started inducing vomit and carried on like that for 2 more years.
    i feel silly leaving this long testimonial but i’m getting to a point, i swear!
    i realized a lot of my problems were linked to my dad and his demands on me. i got a job, my time became occupied with things that brought me out of myself. i started relating better to others, made new friends, gained a new outlook on life. it was very satisfying to stand on my own two feet. as i had a good paying job and was sharing an apartment with my best friend, and felt “for once i am completely content with my life” i bumped into an old friend i hadn’t seen for a while and realized he was the love of my life. within a year we were married and super happy.
    all these steps in taking care of myself and asserting myself made me sooo much happier. i regained all the weight i had lost in that epic diet, but i’m more active, healthy and moderate than i ever was. i eat what i want and stop when i want. i’ve had a box full of snickers ice cream bars seating in the fridge for a week and i’ve only eaten one. i have a great sex life with my wonderful husband, and am looking to the future with hope. still fatty, but in a completely different universe. i regained a relationship with my body by realizing that it is a unity with my mind, and my spirit, and i need to pay attention to all three.

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