Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Why Not Stay Fat?

Every so often, I get an email or a comment from a distraught reader who believes that the key to my happiness lies in accepting my body as it is right now, and not trying to lose anymore weight. "Stop dieting!" they say. "You are beautiful just the way you are!"

They're right, in part. I *am* beautiful just the way I am. Oh, I have my days where I look at my naked thighs and feel disappointed that I let myself get this way; naked obesity is not always pretty to ME. I can see the beauty in my body when I am bathing or getting dressed; the Rubenesque curves, the womanly softness. I like it. But this is not about looks for me. It is about quality of life. It is about as far from vanity as you can get.

About a year ago, I wrote a post on Fat Acceptance explaining why I am trying to lose weight. I wrote about how, at 278 pounds and 38 years old, I was barely able to walk to the mailbox and back. How I couldn't even bring laundry upstairs to fold it and had to get my kids to carry everything up and downstairs. I've described the horror of watching my toddler daughter run, laughing, towards a busy street as I tried desperately to catch up to her but was unable to do more than hobble and stumble, screaming to a stranger to please grab her just before she got to the road. I've talked about how for years I did not go downstairs to kiss my children goodnight because, frankly, I couldn't. I was getting very close to having to use a wheelchair before I lost weight. And then, at 214 pounds, I climbed a mountain. What a huge difference a 64-pound loss made in my life!

And yet, over the past year and a half I have struggled to stay around 225-230 pounds. And so I am asked, "You're so much better off now. Why not just stay 230 pounds? You are eating so healthy, exercising, living a healthy lifestyle. Why not just accept your body as it is? Surely you are healthy enough now."

And I respond: I do not want to lose my mobility. I do not want to be like my mother, hobbling around with a cane by the time I am 50. And my orthopedic surgeon has said that I need to get more weight off these knees or I will be crippled EARLIER than my mother was. Maybe I will still need total knee replacements EVEN IF I lose all the excess weight. But maybe not. I am *so much* more mobile now than I was 50 pounds heavier that I have to believe losing another 50 will benefit me even more.

I am in pain on a daily basis. When I don't eat sugar, the pain is FAR less severe. I take supplements, I do exercises. And the best thing I can do to improve my quality of life is to lose weight.

Honestly, I hate it when people judge fat people or skinny people across the board. There is no reason to assume that the heavy chick is unhealthy and the skinny chick is some kind of icon of healthy living. That skinny woman might eat at McDonald's five times a week and sit on the couch all day. That 230-pound woman might be eating a healthy, organic diet based on fresh produce and riding her recumbent exercise bike 6 days a week. How can you know? You just can't. And you can't know whether any one person would be happier, sadder, healthier, or sicker if they gained or lost weight. It is PERSONAL. Every person gets to decide what they want to do about their body and whether or not they are satisfied with their weight and health.

Yes, I am healthier after eating the way I have for the last two and a half years. Yes, I am fitter after biking, walking, and strength training as I have. Yes, I am wiser in my choices. And yes, I am still too fat for my own health, comfort, and happiness.

And that, I believe, is about to change.

44 comments:

Jack Sh*t, Gettin' Fit said...

What a powerful post, Lyn. There are hundreds of reasons to drop the weight, but quality of life has got to be a huge factor. I find there's so many things I want to do now, so many things I can do now. It's a whole different mindset. You simply don't want to stay on the sidelines anymore.

midlife_swimmer said...

so true ...every word

Blubeari said...

I remember that post, and I still remember being a little taken aback that someone would be discouraging in such a weird way. I believe in every facet of life, that you can be absolutely happy with yourself, but still want better. There is nothing wrong with that.

Chris said...

Quality of Life... I love the way you put it. I'm only just trying to take back my life after years of neglecting it. I've seen young family members and friends pass away because they did not take better care of themselves and I refuse to not be around for my wife and daughters.

I want to be able to enjoy life with them as they grow older and with my current unfit state..I don't see that happening.

Love the inspiration of your blog.

Regards

Chris

Autumnforest said...

I get ya! If a person packed on a 50-pound backpack and walked around all the time, some day someone would say "buddy, wouldn't walking across the room be easier if you didn't carry that backpack?" But if it's someone's body holding that weight, it's okay? The 50-pound backpack might make it hard to breathe or move around or tie your shoes or walk without breathlessness and might blow your knees out, but what 50 pounds of fat within a body can do is deadly. My hubby had told me years ago, "you know, your numbers are great, low cholesterol, BP and blood sugar, but that won't last as you get closer to 50. You can't have extra weight and not eventually pay the price." It's true. Last doctor's visit, my BP and blood sugar were creeping up and I'm 30 pounds over my ideal weight--I can't imagine if it were 50, 75... Good health is free. Walk and eat well--works every time. No more bad knees, achy joints, breathlessness, snoring, bad numbers in the doctor's office, no more fat squeezing out organs and ruining livers... You really got it when you lost all that weight and realized how easy it was to move about. You could stop at 230, but imagine if you had another 60 pounds off? It would take what you felt losing that weight before and double that feeling. It's about you. Some folks just want an excuse to keep people where they are so they can stay where they are. I run into that as I'm dropping weight. They want me to join them for beer and cake and such--teasing and coaxing. They want me to be "one of them," but did they ask my mouth to the party or me? So, keep it. You have your reasons for losing and some have reasons for staying.

Kyle Gershman said...

I think the Fat Acceptance or Right Size movements missed the boat on message and has done more to damage than good. Being fat doesn't make you a BAD person. I think that was the simple message that morphed into, its okay to be as big as you because that is what your body "wants" to be. Yes, there are degrees of healthy that go along with people of size.

I think its great that you've continued your journey and haven't gotten sidelined by a rationale provided by some to stay heavy.

Michelle said...

I've been lurking around your blog for quite some time now, and I have to come out and tell you that you're truly an inspiration. I'm only 26yrs old, but over the past three years, I've gained nearly 100 lbs. Three babies in three years certainly didn't help matters. However, reading your blog and witnessing your honesty is really a breath of fresh air. I've been inspired to change my eating habits, I happily take part in your habit a week idea. I'm feeling better about who I am and I'm slowly gaining more energy so I can run around with my very active little boys! So, thank you!

Rachel said...

Lyn, it's so refreshing to read your blog posts...they are so REAL and down to earth! I love how you tell it like it is! I agree with everything you wrote. I'm 5'8" and about 250lbs. My numbers (cholesterol, glucose, etc) have always been ok...I'm a relatively healthy fat person. BUT, my knees hurt, my back hurts, my foot hurts (plantar fasciitis) and I know trying to get pregnant is more difficult when you're obese. Even IF I accepted the looks of my body as it is now, there is no way I would accept the quality of life that comes with the extra weight. Thanks for all your honesty!

Julie said...

Well said. Thank you. People don't always get that it's not just about looking good. The BIGGER picture is about FEELING good. I could do so many more activities if I could drop 50 pounds. Like putting on my socks without having to hold my breath.

Great post.

Kelly L said...

Very well written post - you inspire me.

Love to you
Kelly

Karen in Tennessee said...

One of your best posts ever, Lyn!!!

Karen In Tennessee said...

My other comment seems to be lost in space so I am going to leave another one. Excuse me if they both show up!!!! LOL! Anyway, I just wanted to say that this was one of your best posts EVER. I totally GOT it!!!

Seth said...

That's a pretty freaking cool post. I think you answered their question! I get the vibe that you are in it more now than you were even a week ago. Good job and keep it up.

Leslie said...

Excellent post. In particular, thank you for reminding me that when you eat sugar, your pain is worse. I am back dabbling in the sugar, and am finding myself achier than I was for awhile. As I try to recover from a knee arthroscopy, why would I add in more sugar to complicate the picture?!

Hope it's going well with the Medifast!

Marcia said...

So very very true. The first time I went hiking after losing 57 lbs I was SHOCKED. I couldn't believe it was easy! Before, I thought hiking was torture.

You made me tear up with the daughter laughing running to the busy street. My son is at that age and I thank GOODNESS that I can outrun him.

Crys said...

I come undone when anyone feels like they have the right to interject their preference and opinions when it comes to weight. It's such a deeply personal issue that no one has the right to question what another is doing. Everyone needs to set individuals goals and whatever floats their boat... go with it.

Ms. PJ Geek said...

I was at an overeaters anonymous meeting once and a guy visiting with his friend spoke up and basically said the same thing as your reader to all the OA members sitting around the group. Can you imagine?
I'm right here with you..tired of being stuck at 234-240. Mobility, self esteem, less pain, more quality of life are absolutely the reasons we work at this.

seattlerunnergirl said...

AMEN! I find it ironic that many who promote Fat Acceptance judge those who wish to lose weight. And there really are SO many reasons to lose weight and each of us has our own personal combination of those reasons. Mine mirror yours and are more about continued health and mobility than anything else.

Melissa said...

I SOOO agree!

Your paragraph about people judging skinny/fast people across the board - SO TRUE. That is my biggest pet peeve!!! I always think about it, exactly like you said it, but you said it so much better! You just can't know. And Skinny friends that will say "just lose weight then" like it's SO easy & yet, they have never counted calories a day in their life.

happyfunpants said...

Oh Lyn: I totally disagree with your last sentence - because it already HAS changed. :)

I loved this post - it was such a great reality check. I don't have people emailing me to stop losing weight, but every now and again, I tell myself that I can stop now.

Also in the 225 - 230 range, it's not horrible and I am healthier than where I was two years ago.

But I want to continue because my knees do creak - even with all of the running I do. I want to continue to feel better and to ward off significant health issues when I'm older.

You were so right - this is going to be one heck of a great year! :)

Lyn said...

Michelle~

that is so sweet! Thank you! You can do it. And you will be so much happier when you can keep up with the children! :)

Kayla Nicole said...

Thank you for your honesty. When I came to college I was 155 pounds (I'm 5'11) and I gained the dreaded Freshman 15 and then some. In high school I swam year-round and was constantly active. When I got to college I stopped being active and didn't alter my diet at all. I got up to about 185 and I kept telling myself that I was still relatively healthy, but one day as I was huffing and puffing walking across campus to class I realized I was headed down a path of self-destruction.

Pretty much every adult in my family is obese (some of them morbidly) and have a plethora of health problems. I was afraid that if I didn't do something about my weight that I was going to be just like the rest of my family.

Now I'm stuck in the 175-178 range and have been for a year now. Yes, I realize I'm at a healthy weight, but I still get out of breath walking up stairs so I frequently take the elevator so that I'm not breathing like I've just ran a marathon when I walk into my classroom. I would also really like to be able to run on the treadmill for more than 15 minutes without my left knee killing me. (I had problems with it in high school, but it's gotten worse and the physical therapist tells me it's from the extra weight my joint isn't used to carrying around.)

Your blog has been inspiring to me because you refuse to quit even though you've been at a standstill.

I can also identify with this post...people always tell me that I'll look fine no matter what size I am. Yeah, that may be true, but I'm afraid if I just accept getting bigger I'll eventually be just like my grandfather who can't walk on his own anymore.

Keep up the good work! You are such an inspiration!

Rebekah said...

Very well said. Its not about a number on a scale in the end, its about health and happiness, mobility and life! <3

emmabovary said...

THIS. Food choices, like politics and child-rearing, are personal beliefs. There is no "you should do x,y,z."

And as far as FA goes...I'd love to hear what they say about being 300 pounds and fit and healthy when they are 50. While is it possible to be relatively mobile at that weight when you are 25-30 years old, the odds are against you keeping that mobility and level of health when you are 50. What the FA militants don't understand (because they are a young demographic) is that all the weight-related ills are CUMULATIVE. The joint pain, the diabetes, the cardio-vascular stress...it's just brewing in your system when you are overweight and young, ready to peak when you hit middle age.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree Lyn...those who say love yourself just as you are have a point, so I love myself (mostly) but know I am truly loving myself when I care that my body is lugging around lots of extra weight that it doesn't need.

My poor old heart has to pump and pump to keep the blood flowing round this large frame. I am going to give my heart a break and not put such a strain on it. That's my plan, and as far as I am concerned, that is TRULY about self-love. I am a nice person but right now I am a FAT nice person, and for me, losing weight isn't about vanity any more, it's about being able to enjoy life more, being able to participate more because this body of mine doesn't weigh so much!

It IS a struggle to have to watch everything you eat and to force yourself to move more, but the other option is to sit still, wallow in our fatness, grow unhealthy and begin to loathe what we have become. Losing weight is a health issue..the benefits of losing weight can raise our self-esteem, so isn't it a win-win situation?

Keep going Lyn! You inspire me and so many others. (Isn't the internet a wonderful thing? Lyn, thousands of miles away, inspires me more than any expensive shrink might, over here in the UK.)

DBDee x x

Fiona said...

fantastic post!

Heather said...

One time years ago my workplace did a health screening...the way everyone avoided asking me my cholesterol was almost numerous if it wasn't so downright outright offensive. Everyone asked the skinny girl hers...assuming because she was skinny (really skinny) that she was doing great...turns out her and the gym teacher had the worst cholesterol of everyone in the building her from eating a diet of mainly french fries and the bachelor gym teacher from eating fast food at least twice a day....Who had the best in the building?....the fat Chick - ME. Sometimes I don't get why I am fat. At the time I was a vegetarian!!!

Anonymous said...

I totally agree! Just read the blog Living 400lb. This woman lives in pain ALL the TIME yet says that there is nothing wrong with being over 400 lb. Although it is a personal decision, I believe wholeheartedly that getting to a healthy weight and healthy habits are what make the difference. I know because almost my entire family suffers from type 2 diabetes. And when I say "suffers" I mean "suffers!" Keep up the spirit and the good work, Lyn!

Losing Harry said...

Great post. We should never feel comfortable where we are. There is always room for improvement even when we have met our goal.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lyn,
Do you think that you have the "disease of obesity" or it weight a consequence of lifestyle choices? Do you think BED is a disease rather?
Any thoughts?
I am working on this issue and wonder what you think.
Thank you!
AP

All Women Stalker said...

I say "Amen" to this post. I've always liked how your blogs are straight to the point. People need to be fairer in judging others. We all have a choice on how we should live our lives.

Alexandra said...

Fantastic post, Lyn. Very powerful.

Lyn said...

Anonymous (AP)~

It's hard to say. I (sadly) see a lot of my alcoholic, obese mother in myself. I am not an alcholic, but I can see how I could have been had I not quit drinking the way I was at 17. I think there are "addictive" personalities, and people who are sugar/carb sensitive. I think I have both issues to some extent. BED is a combination of those factors (I believe) and using food to comfort, console, stuff down feelings. I used to binge many times a week. Lately, I've cut it down to once or twice a month. Working on cutting it out completely. I have worked hard to have a healthy lifestyle, but the few days of eating very poorly really affect my weight.

Anonymous said...

I've been lurking here for some time, enjoying your thought-provoking posts. I'm 56 years old and weigh 350 lbs. I've watched my life grow narrower and narrower over the years--until I find myself living in a tunnel of my own making. First, I had to give up running, then it was biking. Soon, I was too self-conscious to put on a swimsuit and stopped swimming. Now, I can barely walk up a flight of stairs. I have sleep apnea, chronic heartburn, a large inoperable hernia, heart palpitations and will likely soon be diabetic. I've stopped taking courses (can't walk from the parking lot to the class), don't go to the movies or the theatre because I can't fit into the seats and dread meeting new people because of the judgement I see in their eyes. All this because I cannot make myself stop eating. Even if I could accept my body, I can't accept all that morbid obesity has taken from me. I think that those who urge you to accept yourself as you are, have given up the fight themselves. They have given up because the failure to lose and maintain a substantial loss is so demoralizing. You lose confidence in your own will and in your competency to complete a goal. Having tried and failed so many times myself has destroyed so much of my self-esteem. I often feel I'm a person that is incapable of keeping promises--even to myself. I see myself as lacking some fundamental restraint that most others have. Losing weight is an issue that is so complex that even a lifetime of ruminating about it has brought me no closer to a solution.
Thanks, Lyn for tackling the hard issues and keep up the fight.

BrendaKaye said...

Lyn I just watched a video of a debate done on ABC Nightline on this issue. I found the link on ronisweigh.com. It was very interesting, almost too hard to watch(I don't like confrontation), and left me still thinking about it today. It did not really solve anything, but it does have me thinking. This is such a personal and emotional issue for many!

Me said...

You're sooo right. It's all about quality of life. Not only now but also 30,40,50 years form now. And being able to be still alive then!

FA, for me, is going to far. I have accepted myself. I am fat, I am overweight. This is me. Take it or leave it.
I love myself and therefor I also love my health and therefor I am taking steps to keep my health and my quality of life.

Anonymous said...

Lyn, I hope your courage/strength/insight/skills/example/whatever can lift the burden somehow for the anonymous poster a few above here. This is obviously a thoughtful, insightful, hurting person, and it's hard to feel the kind of pain shared in that post and not know how to give support.
To that person: whatever your journey, I'm seeing you in light, and wish you the best.
Marie

screwdestiny said...

Yeah, I know a girl who's a size 2, and she treats her body like sh*t. Smokes, tans, eats a TON of crap including a lot of sugar, and doesn't exercise. It's ridiculous. Of course, she's only 20 years old, and her unhealthy habits are going to catch up with her. But yeah, I just think it's sad that I'm sure no one has ever seen her on the street and judged her for being so unhealthy, but overweight people, even ones who are trying to lead a healthy lifestyle, get those judgmental looks every day, I'm sure.

Lyn said...

Anonymous~

You are a courageous person and my heart truly breaks for your pain. I know the pain of being jailed by obesity. I am so sorry you are suffering. But you are *not* broken, you are a loving and kind person AS YOU ARE NOW and there truly *is* hope for you and everyone else who is trying to break free from food addiction, emotional eating, binge eating disorders, etc. I wish I could reach out and give you a hug. I don't have the answers, but I think I am getting bits and pieces. If you have not read The End of Overeating, please check your local library and request a copy; it is a very enlightening read on how out brains work re: food. And please do not give up. Hugs to you.

Sandy said...

I just finished leaving a post full of self-pity (and self-loathing) on my blog and came over here by coincidence. You are right on with your post! You are very inspiring!

Barb said...

I am so glad you are not buying into what so many people are now trying to sell "You're beautiful as you are."You are trying to lose for all the right reasons. Congrats! Stay true to yourself. You won't be sorry. I am pulling for you, will remember you in my prayers.

beerab said...

"Healthy enough" is not healthy.

My cholesterol, blood pressure, triglycerides, and all my other numbers are FINE- but I'm still overweight and I'm still at risk for diabetes and heart disease and everything else because I am overweight. Until I'm at a healthy weight I'm not quitting!

Keep on going girl- I support you 100%

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more. I too have read the blog Living 400 Lb, and had the same reaction- how is this supposed to be an example of how one can be fit and fat? Her first few posts were addressing the depends she wears due to stress on her bladder, the cpap mask she sleeps in, and how she has to dry and powder her fat folds to keep from getting yeast infections in them. And then the high profile, unofficial "leader" of the group, Kate Harding, posts on her blog saying what a great advocate she is... I just... don't understand.

You're amazing. No matter how much you weigh. But that doesn't mean you can't still want to get even better. Keep it up :)

Heather said...

I definitely agree with all you said. just because you want to lose weight does not mean that you arent beautiful at any weight. you do whats best for you and if losing weight is the best thing for you, you are still beautiful at the smaller size too. not to mention healthier because that cant even be debated and you will be happy you made these changes now instead of having a hard time of it 40 years from now.