Standing next to that particularly dapper fellow- is me. Well, it was me, about 50 lbs ago. Like many Americans, my weight problems started early and only got worse in a culture that never taught me anything about health.
As someone who had been bigger all my life, I too believed that was simply my bodies natural “set point”. That any change in diet or exercise would ultimately be useless because this was the weight my body naturally balanced out to. A lot of people subscribe to this theory for a variety of reasons. But I can say honestly now that the reason I believed this was purely denial.
This is a very sensitive subject, I know. I spent years hating my body and feeling inadequate. When speaking to larger women now, I can see them comparing themselves endlessly. It’s heartbreaking because I know that pain well. But the reality I had to face, and the thing that ultimately lead to me transforming my body, was that I was doing it to myself.
I didn’t have a thyroid problem, I drank too much soda.
I’m not allergic to anything, I just eat mindlessly and sit at my computer too much.
Walking up the stairs to my apartment is not exercise, I’m just being lazy.
Now, I want to be clear: I know many people have physical problems that keep them from maintaining a healthy weight. This isn’t an attempt to shame anyone to lose weight. I think fat shaming is a crappy and ineffective ways to talk to people about health. But I wasn’t happy with my weight and had already started experiencing health problems in my twenties due to my diet.
Your body type can change the number of how much you weight drastically. For instance, I was about 170lbs in the above photo. Now, that wouldn’t be a problem if I was broad shouldered and 5’11. But sadly I’m a petite 5’3. Everything from your genetics, your height and race can change what is a healthy weight for an individual. But. None of those factors can make you naturally overweight. You do not have 30, 50, or 100lbs of excess fat because that’s your body’s “natural set point”. It may be the result of your natural lifestyle but that’s different. It’s something within your control which is why it’s so hard to accept. I know, it was hard for me too.
I had no idea how lazy I was. I was raised into a sedentary lifestyle and didn’t know any other way to be. The first time I went to a gym, I was on an elliptical for eight minutes before stopping, thinking that would be enough. Eight minutes. I had no idea what it felt like to push myself, to sweat, to ache or “feel the burn”. I wasn’t just addicted to junk food, I was addicted to comfort.
As someone who desperately wanted to lose weight, without doing anything uncomfortable of course, I set out to try any quick fix I could find. And none of it worked, obviously, because it was only treating the symptoms. I wasn’t willing to except that the real problem was with all the things I didn’t want to change.
Four years and one pregnancy later I’m feeling a lot better. I’m happier with the way my body looks and feels. But in the end the real turning point for me was the decision to stop making excuses for myself. Ideas like “set body weight” are tempting and may make us feel better, but it’s an emotional band aid.
No one should hate their body and an often overlooked idea in the body positivity movement is the any mention of health or fitness. Being positive about your body shouldn’t just be about ignoring shitty media messages (although, fuck you Victoria Secret, for real.) It should be treating your body well. That means paying attention to its needs, not mistreating the only body you’ve got.