Anna S. (eliade) wrote,
Anna S.

thoughts on weight, weight loss, fitness, and health

I've been thinking about this post for a while. Weight and weight loss (or fat and fatness) can be a hot-button issue, so caveat lector behind the cut-tag. When I weighed more than I do now, I'd more often read articles and essays on weight--headlines and subject lines jumped out at me--that churned up ambivalent thoughts. Sometimes I'd feel as if I'd read an article at "the wrong time," a time when I didn't want to think about the subject in a personal way.

Actually I still have ambivalent thoughts, which are behind the cut-tag, but on the whole what I'm saying here is, losing weight has made me happy, and if that seems like a bone-picking topic, please don't feel like I'm goading you to click. I'm just talking my thoughts.

Recently I've been thinking about the positive things I notice from losing a lot of weight. I have other issues that are hard to disentangle from the weight issue, mainly drinking and depression. Some effects attributable to weight loss--positive effects on my mood, health, and energy level--could also be benefits of sobriety, antidepressants, and therapy. But the weight loss is important to me. It's not from insane dieting; it's from working on the way I eat and working out. I'm talking about health and fitness, movement, exercise; but weight loss is a part of that.

Positive effects from exercise and losing weight:

* A lighter sense of body. It's easier moving through space. It's floatier. I'm more aware of being a stretchy, moveable animal, in a good way.
* Less stress on my feet, ankles, and knees. I'm less prone now to turn my foot and twist my ankle when I'm simply walking down a flat stretch of sidewalk.
* I don't feel a grinding weariness when I contemplate just walking home from my bus stop.
* I don't exhaust myself climbing the hill to my apartment building, and have to pause halfway.
* The summer heat used to make me nauseated and dull and utterly miserable in my skin. It could knock me flat. On bus rides, I'd either be a brainless zombie or a seething murder waiting to happen. It doesn't bother me much anymore, and not to the same degree.
* I can walk four blocks to the grocery store, and carry groceries home. Before, I'd always, always, always take my car, and the idea of walking for this type of errand was honestly horrifying. Like someone saying, "Hey, you want to come with me to boot camp tonight?" And you look at them like they're crazy.
* Cheekbones.
* Dropping six dress sizes. Getting rid of frumpy old clothes that I always hated.
* The numeric measurement of pounds coming off. There used to be this commonplace dieter's rule: "Don't watch the scale!" Which is good advice if it's going to make someone miserably obsessed. But I've started to see articles saying, "If it motivates you, go for it." When I sense I'm losing weight, I go to the gym with even more excitement, anticipating that moment of getting on the scale. (I don't have a scale at home.)
* Looking in the mirror and seeing visible evidence of my body being reshaped by my efforts.
* No longer feeling the self-conscious need to wear layers all the time. I used to always, always, always wear two shirts: a basic shirt and the unbuttoned long-sleeved "overshirt" that hid my arms and waist. This is probably one reason why I'm less prone to heatstroke now in the summer.
* Wearing sleeveless shirts.
* Knowing that even when I have periods of cookies and gelato and utter inertia (i.e., periods), I can exercise again and rebalance my diet. It's not all-or-nothing.

When it comes to improved energy and stuff like that, I can't just point to weight loss; my energy is still erratic; so is my mood. I still don't sleep well, generally. My blood pressure is still high; but there's a good chance it will go down as I lose more weight. I hope that's the case.

All my ambivalencies about fat and weight loss have to do with other people. This is true right now. When I weighed more, I was ambivalent about fat, period. I wanted to believe every article that excoriated the diet industry and the perils of yo-yo diets, and explained how fat and health weren't mutually exclusive, and how the medical definition of obesity was skewed--articles that described an obesity myth and how negative thinking about fat could chip away at our self-esteem. At the same time I'd read all those other articles about the rising trend of obesity and sedentary lifestyles, highlighting whatever new, horrifying health risk was linked to them that week.

I wanted to embrace a fat-positive philosophy, but I couldn't do that personally. I could embrace it abstractly for friends and for strangers--beautiful fat women I saw on the street or in photos: Go, you! Fat is not evil! But I personally identified with all the fat women I saw who looked unhealthy and desperately unhappy, buried in their flesh and not wanting to be there. Because frankly I felt like shit. That was also the depression and drinking, but it was weight too. I just don't like being overweight. And I don't care about some generic definition of overweight. I'm not wading into a political mire: I just mean overweight for *me*. I know when I'm overweight, and I'll know when I'm at a happy weight. I might reach it in another twenty pounds, or thirty, or forty. I don't know yet. I'm not thinking of that weight as a fitness stopping point. That's one of the problems I used to have--thinking there was a beginning and end date to getting fit. That whole "goal, not journey" fallacy. I just want to feel good and keep exercising--shooting baskets and maybe running some day--and so on and so on.

So, anyway. I think there's a lot of truth in the pro-fat articles, and truth in the pro-weight-loss articles. The middle ground where they overlap is health. I think that both sides--when they define themselves as sides--agree that exercise and eating right are Good Things. When I was heavier, though, I tried hard to gloss over that message in any Yay!Fat article I read, and focus fixedly on the "fat is beautiful" part, so that I could accept myself without having to do the exercise or eat broccoli. As if "fat is beautiful" was a frame of mind that could trump all my health and happiness concerns through sheer force of self-will.

I hope it's obvious that I'm not dissing anyone else's fat here, or their fat joy and pride. I'm also not saying that if you feel like crap, you should go exercise. When I didn't want to exercise, I just didn't want to exercise. And when I started to exercise, I really, really fucking didn't want to exercise. And if someone suggested that I should keep going and that it would get easier, I'd think, "Shut the fuck up." And then I'd go lie down for a few weeks. I have a problem doing things before I'm ready to do them. And I'm bad at talking myself into doing them. Mostly I sit and fume and despair, and then one day I'll suddenly do the thing I couldn't bring myself to do by thinking about it or willing it--like exercise. And then the next day I won't do it, and I'll flagellate and hate myself, then I'll eventually trip sideways into doing it again.

(And after all this I'll tell my therapist, "But I can't *make* myself do things--it always just happens!" I still dither with power versus powerlessness. And meanwhile I put off paying my bills and doing my laundry.)

So really, I'm not someone who can give self-help advice, except maybe to say, "Do it by design and by surprise."

And I of course have worries like: "What if I stop staying fit and can't bring myself to start again?" And "What if I break my knees and can't play basketball and have to go into physical therapy for months and months?" Or "What if a serial killer breaks into my place tonight and I don't die at peak fitness?"

I wrote these thoughts last night and I'm looking over them this morning; I feel like there was more I wanted to say, but I need to do worklike work stuff now, so I'm just going to toss this out there.
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