There’s been some media attention lately about the topic of fat shaming, which can be described as confronting someone who is overweight or obese, in an attempt to force them to change. I think this is mean, ineffective, and reflects poorly on the (sometimes) well-meaning people who do it, in person or online. This controversy reminded me of a similar kind of “shaming” I experienced when I was working hard to lose weight, about five years ago.
If you’ve read my About page, you know that I gained excess weight starting in my late 20s, over a period of about 15 years. When I got to my 40s, and I was 40-50 lbs overweight. You could see it in the roundness of my face, and the pot belly, but I was still just below the obese category (BMI 27). I was increasingly aware of the difficulties facing obese people, including shortness of breath when climbing stairs, needing to purchase bigger clothes (and having them fit improperly), and the way I looked carrying that extra weight. Let’s put aside for the moment the idea that it is possible to be healthy and obese, because I was not one of those people: My blood tests were showing signs of elevated cholesterol, for example.
What prompted me to finally lose weight, after all those years, and half-hearted attempts (including a weight and waist size journal)? I am 5′ 10″ tall, medium build, and I was about to cross the 200 lb mark. I was ready to back away from that line, and get back down to a more comfortable 150-160 lbs. So I set my goal weight as 155 lbs, and achieved it in October, 2008. I’ve been maintaining my waist size, and gaining muscle, ever since.
I found a lot of encouragement from other people, but most of them were online friends, who were “in the fight” with me, to improve their health. Many of the people closest to me could not understand why weight loss was so important to me. If you read my “do not cross” weight was 200 lbs, and thought to yourself “Big deal!” then you understand what I was facing.
“You’re not fat!” or “You’re not TOO fat!” (Weird Al might have said, “You ain’t fat! You ain’t nothin’!”) I heard those words a lot, from (sometimes) well-meaning people, who were overweight or obese. Apparently I did not “need to lose weight” because had not succeeded at becoming fat enough yet. This did not make me feel good about my accomplishments, as I worked to lose a few pounds each week. I kept my weigh-ins a secret from my family members, because it was a difficult subject for them. I was accused of being “obsessed” with my weight. I will not deny that anyone is a candidate for anorexia or orthorexia, but having someone to share my progress and struggles would certainly help to prevent that from happening to me, right?
If you’re like I was, with 10 lbs, 20 lbs, or more to lose, but people are telling you “Oh come on, are you kidding?” then here are some suggestions:
- Be reasonable about your weight loss goals. You might never get back to that “perfect” weight and waist size, but you can work your way into those clothes you outgrew a few years ago. (I recommend the Fat2Fit Radio website for great weight loss tips, and their BMR Calculator as a place to start.)
- Find people who will encourage you along the way, and keep you accountable if you start to lose momentum, or go off the deep end.
- When you do reach your goal, have a plan for maintaining your weight and health that does not involve extremes of diet and exercise. Lots of people say “I’m glad THAT’s over!” (more or less) and put the weight back on, too. It’s possible to establish healthy habits that last a lifetime.
If you’ve had a similar experience, I would love to read about it, in the comments below or on the Facebook page!