I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while, but I’ve been putting it off. It’s tough to write. Anything about weight and self-image and societal bullshit is kind of destined to be.
Over the last two years and three months, I’ve lost about 75 pounds, going from 270 to 195. I’m now back down to what I weighed as a sophomore in high school, before I started training as a powerlifter. The reason I decided to try to lose weight (and keep trying) is because there’s a lot of type II diabetes in my family, and I want to dodge that bullet.
I tell you this not as some kind of brag line, or because I’m looking for congratulations, but because I feel that it lends meaning to the point of this post. I lost 75 pounds. I generally feel healthier as a person. And I would never in a million years get on someone else’s back and tell them they are in some way obligated do what I’ve done.
Losing weight sucks. It sucks a lot. It can be utterly soul-destroying, and it’s self-inflicted.
There’s this narrative that all us fat nerds know. It says that we must be fat because we’re lazy. Because there is something fundamentally wrong with us. Because we’re greedy. Because we’re gross and lack the willpower to resist evil, sinful things like that piece of cake. It’s our fault, and we deserve to be summarily judged by perfect strangers simply because of how we look.
After 75 pounds, I hate that narrative more than ever. I hate that people assume I must be significantly more physically fit now than I was 40 pounds ago. I hate that outside of my immediate circle of friends and family, the news that I weigh less than I used to is greeted with far more enthusiastic congratulations than the fact that I’ve published stories in professional magazines. The latter normally gets a, “Hey, that’s cool.” The former receives the kind of approbation I’d expect if I’d just fucking cured cancer.
I hate that I can’t write about this without crying.
Losing weight sucks.
Anyone who tells you that losing weight is easy is lying to you. They’re trying to sell you something, or they’re trying to make you feel like shit because they’re an asshole.
Between cardio activity and weights, I’ve probably spent 15-20 hours per week on physical activities in the last two years. It’s like a part-time job. I write down everything I eat. Everything. And then I count the calories and wish I could have a beer, but not today.
I know I’m lucky. I have that kind of time I can invest into physical activity. I also know that my 15-20 hours a week is nothing compared to the time invested by people who are professionally good-looking. You know, the people we constantly get told we should look like, as if they are the true norm. There are a lot of people out there who literally do not have that kind of time; they have multiple jobs, they have kids, they have responsibilities that don’t let them go ride around on their bicycle for two hours a night. And there are also people who just would rather spend their time doing something else, and I sure can’t blame them for that. The only reason I’ve managed to keep doing it is because I like biking and kung fu.
I hate writing down everything I eat. I hate counting calories. I can’t blame anyone who doesn’t want to put themselves through that either. I don’t feel like I have a right to demand that my fellow human beings are miserable. I could probably lose weight faster, but I’m human, and there are days where I decide that if I get hit by a bus tomorrow, I don’t want to die regretting the fact that I didn’t try the red velvet cake. If anyone has a problem with that, they’re welcome to fuck themselves.
Losing weight sucks.
This is the part that sucks the most: it doesn’t magically make you love yourself. You still look in the mirror and hate the same things about yourself that you hated 20, 40, 70 pounds ago. Losing weight is a slow motion process of punctuated equilibrium. You don’t even realize anything has changed about your body until you look at old pictures. Maybe then you can feel like there’s been some kind of improvement (however you judge that) but then it’s back to the same you in the same mirror and the million things you wish were just different.
If I just lose some weight then I’ll… is one of the dumbest phrases ever spoken. It’s a lie, and an excuse. If you’re not brave enough to do something now, you won’t be when you weigh less.
Because there’s still all the shit in your head, years upon years of the world teaching you to hate yourself, and that’s harder to lose than every spare pound you have.