I guess it depends on the kinds of problems you have, doesn’t it?

I’ve been overweight my whole life until recently. When I was a kid I was a fat kid, when I was a teenager I was larger than any of the other kids in my school. In my twenties I was morbidly obese. And that entire time, all I wanted was to be normal. I wanted to lose all of the weight that made me such a pariah socially and my life so inconvenient physically. So I read every article and book I could get my hands on about weight loss, and I started to notice this one trope in particular came up over and over again, somewhere in any article or book this on particular statement would appear, regularly enough that it started to really bother me. Here it is, tell me if you’ve never seen it before, it went something like this:

“Losing weight isn’t going to solve all your problems, you know. You’ll still have problems after you lose weight. Losing weight won’t make you happy if you’re not happy already.”

I saw this almost every time I read any materials about diets or weight loss. I don’t know why, but the people who constantly ram it down your throat that you need to lose weight (ahem…women’s magazines, I’m lookin’ at you) also, for some reason, feel the need to remind you that, honey, you’ve got bigger problems than being fat.

So which is it, media experts? Am I miserable because I’m fat and if I’d just get thin I’ll be happy and sexy and everybody will love me? Or am I miserable because I’ve got big life problems that being thin won’t solve?

Well, let me tell you something, whether you’ll still have problems or not after you lose weight really depends a whole hell of a lot on the kinds of problems you have when you’re overweight. Here’s a list of the kinds of problems I had when I was at my highest weight, you tell me if losing weight was going to solve those problems:

  • Hated going to movies because I was too big for the theater seats.
  • Mortified by flying (and therefore avoided it) because I was too large for an airplane seat.
  • Hips and knees hurt constantly because of the strain my weight put on them.
  • Trouble making friends because of the social stigma against obesity
  • Hated self because of the constant barrage of media telling me I was awful and stupid and inferior due to my size.
  • Finding clothing was a nightmare since I had grown past sizes that were commercially available.
  • Couldn’t participate in any social activities of a physical nature due to being embarrassingly out of shape.
  • Broke the seat slider in my car due to weight. Too embarrassed to get it fixed.
  • Constant heartburn.
  • Yelled at by passersby in the street to “Hey fat lady, lose some weight!”

Actually, allow me to end the suspense and answer my question: Yes, losing weight solved all of those problems. It was a goddamned panacea for the kinds of problems I had in my life. And once I lost the weight and didn’t have those problems anymore, yeah, I was pretty gosh-darned happy.

I don’t know, and I don’t care really, why it was so important to people who sell diets to state so many times (and so emphatically) that losing the weight wouldn’t solve my problems, but I suspect that it has a lot to do with the fact that the kinds of people who have jobs writing for women’s magazines and diet program materials aren’t the kind of people who’ve ever had those kinds of problems. So perhaps they should shut the hell up on topics they know nothing about.

I don’t know. Just a thought.

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13 Responses to “I guess it depends on the kinds of problems you have, doesn’t it?”

  1. Jeannie Says:

    Damned straight! I actually had a family member ask me to my face if I thought maybe I’d gained weight to avoid men and sexual situations? I blinked, and replied that I got more ass than a toilet seat. Shocked the hell out of them. They’d never been fat, so were sure that I was fat because I was neurotic or crazy.

    • Laina Says:

      I love you for that!! And seriously – it’s not like I thought that losing weight was going to balance my checkbook, you know? Exactly what kinds of problems do they think I’m trying to solve by losing weight…?

  2. Katherine Baluta Says:

    This was inspirational for many reasons. I agree, there are many paths to overweight, and many paths out, and many paths to happiness. I find a lot of parallels to what I do, that is, help people downsize *things.* It sounds strange, but because many of the people I work with consider their things an extension of who they are, they fill whole houses with themselves, regardless of what size the actually are. I’ve known large women who were happy, others miserable. I’ve known people who own a lot of stuff and are happy, and some that were perfectly miserable and out of control. I’m fascinated with the delineation of self that ends at the skin -or beyond. Tiny little women who fuss about age-related body changes. People who are anxious about throwing away an old pair of shoes. The space we fill, the weight of it, defines so much of who we are and what we can do – thank you for being so straightforward and even sometimes so angry about the way the world has reacted to your changes. I love this blog. I need to go write a blog post in response, and my mind is so full of ideas I’ll have to make an outline just to begin. Thanks.

    • Laina Says:

      Thank you so much! I admire the work you do and the way you think about it (from the posts I’ve read on your blog). I’m happy that you’re finding something of value here, and pleased to call you my friend. 🙂

  3. Michelle Says:

    Laina,

    I lost 30lbs over the past two years. I had extra pregnancy weight on me. Being a small statuted person I really didn’t like the excess pounds. I didn’t like the way I looked or how I felt.

    once I started losing weight , my confidence built and I started to feel better about myself. IMO, when a woman looks good, she feels good inside and out!

  4. Yoko Says:

    The converse of what Michelle said is true for me. When I feel good, I look good and it really doesn’t have as much to do with my weight numbers as it does with the pain I no longer feel in my knees and feet from carrying so much weight.

  5. simplytrece Says:

    For me, having put 100lbs. on over 35 years in an unhappy marriage, on top of being 60+lbs. overweight to start with, I will have to deal with the issues that made me eat, unless I want to regain it all. . .

    • Laina Says:

      I think it’s important to distinguish between the types of problems that losing weight can fix and the type that you have to be fixed in other ways. Obviously if there are underlying issues that are causing you to gain, then you have to fix those, but I don’t think that you believe that those are a symptom of obesity, I think you (rightly) understand that obesity is a symptom of those underlying problems. You said that the weight was a result of an unhappy marriage – losing weight doesn’t fix that, getting a divorce (or counseling) is the proper way to deal with those. Taking control of your body through weight loss, however, may give you the confidence you need to take the steps necessary to improve other aspects of your life. It certainly did for me. I wish you all the best in your journey!

  6. simplytrece Says:

    Exactly. That’s what I think I was trying to articulate. My self-esteem is so low that I do not speak up for myself, and I accept things that are not acceptable. I also hope that losing the weigh will build a sense of competency and self-value that will help me make decisions about how to move forward. The other thing that holds me back is poverty. I am not sure that any of the “experts” ever factor that in. I am 60 years old, and quit working to raise and homeschool my kids. Once they were grown, my obesity kept me from gaining employment (not said for pity, just fact). I will inherit some money from my father’s estate; deciding what to do with it will be an indicator. Too often, poverty for women means you are trapped.

  7. RedPanda Says:

    I love this post! I guess that the well-intentioned writers for women’s mags know of people who expect weight loss to solve all their problems, become horribly disappointed when it doesn’t, then start regaining.

    But yeah – it depends on what your problems are. My main problems – and the reasons why I wanted to lose weight – were my marketability on the job front and just starting to outgrow mainstream clothing sizes.

    I lost 90 pounds – problems fixed!

    And the side-effects include vastly improved self-confidence and fitness.

  8. Trystan Says:

    Imo, those mags are trying to cover themselves by saying “no, really, looks don’t matter! don’t pin all your hopes & dreams on losing weight so you look like the models in our magazines & will be happy, bec. maybe there’s more to happiness than what we usually try to sell you.” It’s disingenuous, & yet, there’s a grain of truth in there.

    A person can be happy at any shape. Self-confidence doesn’t come in a dress size, pant size, or even shoe size ;-). And a person can be desperately unhappy at any shape or size. For some folks, weight may have a direct impact on happiness, & for others, it won’t.

    • Laina Says:

      I’m actually coming to believe that the truth of those statements is directly inversely related to how much weight a person has to lose. So, the less you have to lose, the more true it is. For example: If I am unhappy at my current weight and decide I MUST lose 10 pounds, then yeah – there’s really going to be no discernible difference in my life pre- and post-weight loss. If I have 200 pounds to lose, whoa nelly hold the door because life before and after that kind of change is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.
      So I’m starting to think they are really aimed at people who maybe think that losing 5 pounds is going to change their life.
      It’s not.

      • Trystan Says:

        Sorry to comment on an old thread, but this post from one of my fave. bloggers has a good take on this issue, or at least part of it — http://www.alreadypretty.com/2012/05/changing-your-body.html

        This quote really resonated: “loving and accepting your body right now, in the moment, leads to feelings of pride and a desire for increased stewardship”

        Dieting that comes from a place of self-hatred probably won’t make a person happy — they’re still going to hate themselves when they’ve lost the weight. Weight loss that comes from a desire to improve yourself & be a better you, well, that seems more likely to lead to happiness.


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