It’s not insane to believe that once you lose weight, life gets better.
For years, I’ve heard stories from those who have shed pounds, recharged their lives, never felt better, and speak so confidently that once the weight was gone, they became the person they were meant to be: a thin and happy one. I do not doubt their happiness when they share their story but I also don’t believe that by losing weight, they have some superior knowledge about happiness that us heavier folk don’t.
How do I know this? Because I’ve been fat and I’ve been thinner. And I’ve been at my happiest, heavier.
At the end of high school and into college, I was big and used to decline attending parties because I didn’t have anything remotely cute to wear. I used to hide behind humor, baggy shirts, and sarcastic remarks. And dating wise… wait, what dating life? So mid-way through my freshman year of college, I joined Weight Watchers and the gym, becoming obsessed with both. Within seven months, I lost 55 pounds, fit into a size ten and even felt sexy for about fifteen minutes!
But as the scale dipped lower, and the compliments on my weight-loss wore off, something else emerged: I felt exhausted, disappointed, and still unhappy.
“Ugh, I just can’t keep this up…” I recall saying to myself after a Weight Watchers meeting, of which was my lowest weigh-in ever. I felt defeated and broken that after all my effort, not much beyond the scale changed. Wasn’t I supposed to feel amazing? Different? Instead I felt burnt out, over-worked, stressed about every meal and workout… and I wasn’t even at my “goal” — that was still another 40 pounds away!
Within 5 years, I gain the weight back and while initially bummed, I actually felt a sense of relief. My story is like 98 percent of all dieters stories, but for whatever reason, the myth that overweight people are lazy prevails. Losing weight isn’t about willpower or determination; those qualities transcend weight.
People embark upon weight loss “journeys” because they want to fix themselves. And I really understand why — it’s very painful to believe something is wrong with you. I wanted to feel happy, but dieting wasn’t making me feel happy. Isn’t my quality of life worth more than my pant-size? The road to thin was paved with anxiety; I was constantly over-thinking what I could eat, how much I should workout, and how to balance being a young adult and on a diet. Sure, the physical results were what I was aiming for, but I didn’t anticipate my quality of life being so frantic and worrisome.
My lesson wasn’t to learn how to lose weight; it was to learn how to unconditionally love myself. And today at 29, I’m madly in love with myself now and through this, am able to love other people much deeper.
My travel from heavy to thinner, back to heavy again taught me how insignificant appearances can be; that confidence comes from a strong will of speaking your truth; and that lasting health and happiness stems not from calories in vs calories out, but of an attitude of gratitude. And it’s with learning gratitude that my real body-love story began. Gratitude for my body for all it does and in kind, I now treat with respect and balance.
I got married in a large body. I created my own business in a large body. I did my first professional photo-shoot in a large body. I adore this large body and even if I lose weight or gained weight, my core doesn’t change.
And it makes me very happy to feel this way.
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 26 Nov 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
Experts, Y. (2013). My Weight Loss Journey: I’m Happier & Heavier. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 10, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/11/24/my-weight-loss-journey-im-happier-heavier/