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June 1, 2011 9:13 AM   Subscribe

Weight management therapist's exercise bringing out a lot of anger. How should I deal?

My therapist has asked me to make a list of reasons I want to lose weight. I’m having a tough time with this.

Background: I am not in denial about being fat. I’m 5’3” and clocking in around 175lbs right now. I was a chubby kid who steadily grew into a chubby lady. I wasn’t particularly teased or tormented as a kid for being chubby. I don’t have any trauma issues. I’ve been a vegetarian, mainly due to a fear that eating meat/dairy would make me gain weight. I followed that lifestyle throughout my 20s, and that never resulted in me weighing any less than 170 lbs. I’ve never been an extreme dieter or had any other major eating issues. Currently I’m restricting calories (between 1300-1500), exercising, taking yoga classes and getting therapy. My diet is more low-carb oriented now. I don’t have any health issues. My thyroid tests are normal. As far as I know, I don’t have any metabolic issues other than perhaps a much thriftier system than I’d like.

My therapist wants me to make a list of motivators for losing weight and after a week and half of procrastinating, the best I can come up with are items of clothing that would be nice to wear. I’m having some anger come up as a result of this exercise. I think it has to do with the assumption that all my weight issues are because I have all these feelings I’m too stupid to acknowledge except through eating ice cream. I’ve never been a binge eater. I do indeed know the difference between physical hunger and sadness. When I eat, it is because my stomach is in literal pain and I’m getting lightheaded. My feminist consciousness is also charging in and asking why I must change my natural body because others have judged it unacceptable. Is it up to me to conform myself to what clothing makers sell or the other way around? I find myself coming up with sarcastic items to put on the list like “People stop assuming I stuff myself with junk food all day." I know this response won’t help me any, but it’s difficult to silence that anger.

I know that losing weight won’t fix my life. I’m not waiting for the day I see some magical number on the scale to live my life. I refuse to devalue my accomplishments because my thighs rub together. My sense of self doesn’t depend upon other people finding me attractive or fitting an externally imposed model of beauty. Honestly, I’m not sure why I have to lose weight except that everyone around me seems to think I should be doing this and it seems easier to placate them than try to explain again and again that this is just how I’m built.

Okay, so. Lots of issues here. How do I deal with this anger I’m feeling over the idea of losing weight?
posted by Kitty Stardust to Human Relations (37 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
Maybe this means you don't go the route suggested by this therapist. H/she isn't the Absolute for all clients -- everyone's issues are different. Perhaps this response means you decide to focus more on the yoga and being more conscious of how it feels to remain low carb, without making the issue so much about You Needing To Lose Weight. Probably some weight will naturally come off anyway if you focus on what your body needs (because most of us don't focus that consciously on what our body needs -- not necessarily because of any pathological psychological issue but more because of the general orientations of modern everyday life), and if you do wind up losing some weight that way, great -- you'll be able to buy that whatever-it-is you want to wear. If the weight doesn't come rolling off, you'll still feel healthier.
I personally don't think you need to stuff down your response; it sounds valid to me.
posted by Tylwyth Teg at 9:20 AM on June 1, 2011


Put the angry things on the list. Mark them, if you want, to show that you identify them as angry things. Discuss with therapist. It WILL help, and in fact might actually be the point of the exercise.

Change is scary and it sucks, and it's hard to deal with that when the change is something like this that you're supposed to want without question. A lot of people wrestle with these exact same issues, and isn't that what the therapy is for?
posted by Lyn Never at 9:22 AM on June 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


Well maybe you should bring it out in the open? You seem to be very angry with "people" and, more than being motivated to lose weight, you seem afraid that losing weight will give "people" the impression you're submitting to them instead of defying them, which is what you seem to really want to do underneath your outwardly-compliant seeking-out of therapy.

Who specifically are you trying to defy here? Figuring that out might give you a starting point.
posted by tel3path at 9:23 AM on June 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


As a fellow overweight feminist woman, the only way I have been able to reconcile the same feelings of anger about externally imposed pressures to lose weight versus my own desires is to choose to eat well and exercise because of the good I know it will do for my body and ignore whether that results in weight loss. I've been working out with a trainer who kicks my ass and, as far as I can tell, I haven't actually lost any weight from it - but who gives a shit? Whenever my muscles are sore I can tell that I'm getting stronger and that's all that matters to me. For me, it helps to have fitness goals that are unrelated to weight loss - so perhaps for you it would be nutrition goals unrelated to weight loss (something like eating all 5 servings of veggies a day). If you're eating healthily and living well and you don't lose weight, hey, not all of us are meant to be size 2s.

So I guess my answer is - ditch the idea of losing weight as the goal, and embrace the idea of doing stuff that's good for your body regardless of whether that results in weight loss. If it does, cool, that will make the jerks in your life who keep tabs on such things happy, if it doesn't, you still know that you're healthier and that's all that matters, right?
posted by wuzandfuzz at 9:24 AM on June 1, 2011 [16 favorites]


everyone around me seems to think I should be doing this and it seems easier to placate them than try to explain again and again that this is just how I’m built.

It looks like that belongs on the list.

Honestly I am sort of wondering why you are in "weight management therapy" in the first place, instead of plain old non-weight-management therapy.
posted by muddgirl at 9:25 AM on June 1, 2011 [12 favorites]


Hi, sorry for sounding dumb, but here's a question for you:

If you're going to a weight management therapist, was this something you elected to do, or something your doctor recommended? You haven't indicated any serious health concerns that would suggest that this was doctor mandated.

If you are going on your own, then it would be logical on the part of the therapist to assume that you have a reason for going. Hence her request that you list your motivators.

Why ARE you going to a weight management therapist?
posted by LN at 9:28 AM on June 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


I don't know if this is relevant or not, but carbs really calm me down. If I don't eat any I tend to be more angry in general. Maybe that is contributing a little bit to the situation.
posted by Vaike at 9:30 AM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Deep down, you should want to live a healthier lifestyle for yourself, not for your therapist, or to placate anyone else who has issues with what you weigh. If you're as healthy and self confident with yourself as you say you are, then why do it?

I'm a big girl. Bigger than you. When I do an annual physical, all the numbers come back good. I eat healthy. I'm in decent shape. But as I said, I'm bigger than you. There's a part of me that really doesn't f*cking care what people think of my size. That when I walk into a bakery to buy dessert for my family, the sidelong glance assumption is that I'm going to devour a dozen cookies in a shame spiral in my car, is there. But that's what other people think of me. I know the truth, that I probably won't even touch the cookies, and it's really only my opinion of myself that matters.

If you don't want to do this for the right reasons, it's not going to stick. Losing weight for a trip to the beach, for a wedding, for a reunion, that's all bunk. You need a reason to change a lifestyle - and that's what you need to do (if you need to do anything) is to change your lifestyle, not go on a short term diet. I don't think you need to do anything other than to truly believe that you accept yourself the way you say you do.

All that said, I've changed how I eat recently (notice I don't say I'm on a diet). I don't care what other people think of me, my husband _loves_ me the way I am, every single freaking curve and chub. But I want to lose the weight, for my own reasons. I'm married to a man that I want to spend eternity with, and the doctors say despite my "good numbers" the best way to do that is to lose some weight. If it weren't for that, my desire to be healthy to be around for a long time, I wouldn't bother.

tl:dr - Why are you doing it? If it's for the cute clothes, don't bother. Learn to love yourself the way you are. F*ck other people's opinions.
posted by librarianamy at 9:40 AM on June 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


I think you should put all of them --everything you think & feel, serious, not serious, big small, whatever-- on the list. This is what brainstorming's all about. Putting *all* the ideas on the table. S/he wants to know what's going on in your head. THIS is what's going on in your head. So start there. And if it makes you feel better, pull out some crayons, or highlighters, or markers, or whatever, go back to your little-kid self, and play ring-a-word games when you're done: Take that big mess of words, phrases, thoughts, & feelings, & put rings around them using colors to group the ones that come from the same place inside. eg, these green ones are me feeling cranky that I have to do this. These blue ones are me feeling sad & writing them makes me want to stop doing this. These yellow ones are the only ones I think "Should" be on this kind of list. These red scribbled out ones are things I don't want to share. These purple ones really are beside the point.

I can see where this excersize might feel stupid & pointless & maybe even a little childish, but in my experience, putting thoughts and feelings on a page can be a powerful tool in helping you sort through them. So yeah, grab a pen (or a keyboard) and don't stop until you've run out of things you want to say about your weight, your clothes, your therapist, this excersize, society's expectations, feminism and how it's shaped your life, your cat/dog/pet iguana, WHATEVER. You can always take the stuff that really doesn't belong off later.*

*Just don't "sanitize" the list afterwards. I would imagine that saying only what you think you "should" say would be counterproductive to the excise.
posted by Ys at 9:54 AM on June 1, 2011


Like others above, I'm not real clear why you're seeing a weight management therapist in the first place. You sound like you're in a good place emotionally, so why bother? Eat good food, do the things you enjoy and fuck the rest.
posted by crankylex at 9:56 AM on June 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


My feminist consciousness is also charging in and asking why I must change my natural body because others have judged it unacceptable.

Well,....there is no "must"; you don't have to do this. You don't have to do anything about it at all, if you are content with yourself. Like others, I'm wondering why you are pursuing the therapy? Especially if you feel as though your relationship with food is uncomplicated and un-neurotic, and that this is your natural best healthy body size, I wonder why you are making this effort to lose weight?

I think the best advice is, as others have recommended, to write down the angry responses. If it turns out your reasons are mostly externally motivating, that's something you will really want to examine. One thing I sense in your description is some resentment that the dominant culture generally doesn't reward larger body types with all the same kinds of attention and positive associations that it rewards smaller body types. That's a true fact, unpleasant though it is, and it's probably worth being angry over and thinking about and struggling with and learning to live with or respond sanely to in one way or another, and all in all it's something great to discuss with your therapist.

If you are trying to lose weight to gain greater acceptance or to escape the negative judgments you're assuming are coming from others, that's very different from a project of trying to lose weight to increase your well-being or long-term health prospects or improved self-perception, and so it's going to take different strategies to get there. Making this list will help you and your therapist understand what you hope to gain and what you need to get there. If you are articulating NO strategies based on what you want for your life and what your vision of your future might be, and that all your strategies are based on your perception of how the outside world feels about you, that would be something the therapist is likely to want to address. So it's good information, no matter what you write down. It helps answer the question: Where are you in this motivational picture?
posted by Miko at 9:57 AM on June 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


So, if you don't care about losing weight, why are you seeing a therapist to lose weight?

People want to lose weight for a lot of different reasons, and your therapist may be trying to lock you into her particular paradigm, or she might be trying to figure out your actual reasons and motivators.

(And honestly, 'so people don't judge me', which is what your sarcastic example boils down to, is a perfectly valid reason for wanting to lose weight.)

We don't keep it up anymore, but awhile back, some friends and I contributed to this LiveJournal with our reasons why, and they were many and varied. Perhaps they'll help?
posted by jacquilynne at 9:57 AM on June 1, 2011


CALM DOWN. Your therapist didn't ask you to list the reasons you think your fat, so there's no reason to assume she thinks its because you're an emotional eater or whatever. She asked you to list MOTIVATORS. It's totally different to list motivators than to list causes. You are freaking out about being asked to do something that you weren't actually asked to do. You are making assumptions about her assumptions.

You are extremely angry about what you perceive to be unfair external pressures about weight and body image, except that YOU have chosen to try and lose weight, to see a therapist to help, and have made life choices (i.e. vegetarianism) focused around weight loss. So clearly you want to lose weight, and this anger and blame directed to the external world is just a defence tactic.

You've decided to lose weight. You have reasons. Write them down. Don't worry about whether they are the 'right reasons' or the 'reasons society wants you to lose weight' or if they match up with your ideals about how women should be perceived. Just do the exercise without all the intellectualisations and anger at the world and at your therapist. The world and your therapist didn't decide to lose weight, you did. So don't waste your anger.

May i suggest that all that might indicate that you DO indeed have some issues to work out? And that perhaps this is something you should just bring up to your therapist?
posted by Kololo at 10:09 AM on June 1, 2011 [12 favorites]


Also, remember: weight loss isn't just an esthetic choice, its also (or, perhaps, only) about your health. And your happiness. Not because thin people are happy, but because healthy people tend to be happy, because they feel strong and capable.
posted by Kololo at 10:10 AM on June 1, 2011


Maybe you could reframe the question from: What do I want to lose weight

to: Why do I want to be healthy (regardless of my weight)?

Does that still bring up the same anger for you?
posted by anitanita at 10:14 AM on June 1, 2011


1)
Nothing wrong with being angry. You're rightfully angry that some people make judgments about you based only on your appearance. You do it too. It's called an "impression." And part of your goals may involve managing the first impression that you give to others.

2)
Others here are right: weight doesn't have to be the focus. You are making decisions to make yourself a generally more active, healthier, well-rounded person through things like Yoga and being conscious about the food you put into your body.

As a smaller-than-average man, I've often tried to gain weight. But now I realize that weight isn't a very good measurement of what I actually want. I want to be a healthy and in control of my environment, which requires to be disciplined about the food I eat and the physical activity I engage in.
posted by jander03 at 10:16 AM on June 1, 2011


I think your anger is misplaced. I totally understand all those things you've listed and as a fellow fat person, I agree with a lot of them but I think you're misunderstanding your therapist's intentions.

Be honest with your therapist, she's likely trying to assess where to start with your therapy. If you're going into the process for all the wrong reasons your chances of success are much less and that needs to be tackled first. If you've already tackled those issues yourself she doesn't need to rehash them. She's trying to personalise your therapy rather than making those assumptions that you're angry about.
posted by missmagenta at 10:23 AM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sometimes being angry is a good indication of where to go. It can indicate where there is a lot of energy and emotion invested. Figuring out why this makes you angry and what to do about it may be a necessary first step towards either loosing the weight, or deciding not to. yes, anger is a "negative" emotion, but it is a powerful one and unlocking it can be very hard, but also may be very rewarding.
posted by edgeways at 10:31 AM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I swear a good 50 of the extra 100 pounds I once carried were out of spite - at my mother, at "society", at myself. There was a lot of anger wrapped up in my fat.

Like the above, I'm far more motivated by what I can Do. Yes, I want to be able to shop in the non-large sizes, but I'm Motivated by being able to do pushups and jog further and Do Stuff. I feel good when eating Really well. I recently finished a program that was about reducing the bodyfat percentage (instead of "losing weight") and found that muscle gained and fat lost felt Awesome, so I will try to keep adding muscle and losing fat, for that Feeling and newfound abilities, not for the reasons you hate.

So yes, journal out that anger. Talk about it with your therapist. Talk about whether you are motivated at all, or whether you're trying to demotivate because you're scared of success or whether you're Really Happy with where you are. This is about You - do what's good for You.
posted by ldthomps at 10:40 AM on June 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


>> swear a good 50 of the extra 100 pounds I once carried were out of spite - at my mother, at "society", at myself. There was a lot of anger wrapped up in my fat.<>
seconding this.

>> My feminist consciousness is also charging in and asking why I must change my natural body because others have judged it unacceptable<>
do you feel the same way about learning to read and other self-beneficial self-change activities? why is weight special?
posted by rr at 10:48 AM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wasn’t particularly teased or tormented as a kid for being chubby. I don’t have any trauma issues.

I find myself coming up with sarcastic items to put on the list like “People stop assuming I stuff myself with junk food all day." I know this response won’t help me any, but it’s difficult to silence that anger.

Honestly, I’m not sure why I have to lose weight except that everyone around me seems to think I should be doing this and it seems easier to placate them than try to explain again and again that this is just how I’m built.


It sounds to me like you are discovering, through this exercise, that your motivation for losing weight is basically to shut other people up about the issue already!

Which, you know, is okay.

Though I think the level of your anger here kinda discounts your saying you never got teased or tormented for your weight. Because it sure sounds like you've had enough people assuming things about you just because of your weight that you are royally tired of it, and you're getting really defensive (and angry) to have it come up again now, even though this is your WEIGHT MANAGEMENT therapist, so of course it's relevant this time!

So, based on your post, I think your motivations could maybe be:

I want people to take the time to get to know me, rather than using my weight as a reason to dismiss me.

I also want complete strangers to stop making assumptions about me like, "She must eat junk food all the time," or, "She's just lazy."

I want friends and colleagues and family to focus on my intellect and my personality and my interests and all those things that I already know are really ME, and not keep bringing up some number on the scale like it's the most important thing in my life.

And, since clothing designers apparently feel that all women should either fit into a small size or be content with wearing ugly clothes, I'd like to be able to buy attractive clothes that fit and flatter me.
posted by misha at 11:04 AM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


How do I deal with this anger I’m feeling over the idea of losing weight?

You ask your therapist this! Depending on his or her background, s/he may or may not be helpful at all. If your therapist's background is in eating disorders, she might be a huge help on this account (not saying you have an eating disorder, but I have found that therapists without this background will sometimes say stupid shit like, "sometimes you just have to suck it up and eat less!"). Sometimes an exercise will bring up a ton of emotion that you didn't expect, which is totally the point of therapy. Not saying everything has to be pathologized and "ice cream = sadness over childhood" at all but if you're in therapy for weight management, you went there with a goal of learning about yourself (I hope!).

I started therapy with a shit-ton of anger about losing weight, mostly because my parents restricted my food and I was thoroughly pissed off that I would have to restrict my food if I actually wanted to lose weight. Then my parents would have been right, etc. etc. infinity. I didn't want this whole thing to be about my issues around my family. It felt like a gigantic cop-out but talking to a therapist with a specialty in eating disorders
posted by Sophie1 at 11:04 AM on June 1, 2011


Oops - forgot to finish -

It felt like a gigantic cop-out but talking to a therapist with a specialty in eating disorders has helped me tremendously.
posted by Sophie1 at 11:05 AM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm confused. Do you want to lose weight? If you don't, then obviously this exercise is silly and you can just write that you aren't motivated to lose weight and that that's fine with you. You're a grown woman and it's your life. If you do want to lose weight, then you can write whatever your reasons are, no matter what they are.

I think it has to do with the assumption that all my weight issues are because I have all these feelings I’m too stupid to acknowledge except through eating ice cream.

Did your therapist say that she holds this assumption? It sounds to me like you're assuming she's assuming, if you know what I mean. Either way, you should ask her if that's what she thinks, since it's bothering you.

My feminist consciousness is also charging in and asking why I must change my natural body because others have judged it unacceptable.

Others have touched on this, but what is the source of that "must?" It's one thing to feel anger at people who judge you (I myself am angry at such people) but to go from there to an obligation to lose weight is quite a leap.

Honestly, I’m not sure why I have to lose weight except that everyone around me seems to think I should be doing this and it seems easier to placate them than try to explain again and again that this is just how I’m built.

You do not "have to" lose weight. You do not "have to" lose weight. Repeat that to yourself until you get it. It's your body and your life. You can do whatever the fuck you want as far as weight loss or weight gain goes. This misconception seems to be the root of your anger.

I suggest that you first get to the bottom of what you want. If you want to lose but want to rebel against all the people who think you "should" or "have to" lose weight, then you can start to work on getting everybody else's judgements and wishes to stop bothering you, and then you can move onto the reasons you actually want to lose, which are totally different from these feelings of obligation. If you don't want to lose, then you can still work on getting everybody's judgements and wishes to stop bothering you and then leave it at that.

If it helps, my reasons for wanting to lose (I'm much heavier than you) are primarily about feeling better and being in better shape to do things I want to do. A distant second is looking better. On some level, I want people to stop judging me for my weight, but that's not why I'm losing. I want people to stop judging me for a million other things too, but I'm not making any drastic (or even small) lifestyle changes to get them to stop. Fuck them.
posted by callmejay at 11:12 AM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I apologize if this isn't the kind of advice you're looking for, but a couple things jumped out at me when reading your question that made me think you might benefit more from seeing a doctor-recommended nutritionist as opposed to this weight management therapist (assuming they're something different - I've never heard of a weight management therapist).

When I eat, it is because my stomach is in literal pain and I’m getting lightheaded.

This sounds unhealthy. Have you told your doctor this? If you're only eating 1300-1500 calories per day, and waiting until you're actually light-headed and having stomach pains before you eat anything, it sounds to me like you're eating too little. But I think, if you do want to start eating healthier in ways that work with your body and not against it, you might need a nutritionist to guide you through your way out of this and into eating habits that make you feel better all around.

This nutritionist may advise you to start working meat back into your diet as well, since you don't seem to have a moral problem with eating it. Eating sensible amounts of meat in a balanced diet should not cause a person to gain weight. But a good nutritionist would be specific about exactly what to eat and how it should be prepared, at which point the least result should be that you're not getting light-headed all the time.
posted by wondermouse at 11:13 AM on June 1, 2011


One more thought: the reason you're so angry at the people who judge you (or who you imagine judge you) may just be that some part of you agrees with them. That's the part that therapy can really help with.
posted by callmejay at 11:14 AM on June 1, 2011


Based on my therapy experiences, these are the kinds of things that usually make a therapist's day -- you're surfacing a whole bunch of emotions and resistance and anger. Talk to your therapist about it. All of it. Your therapist should help you unpack this and figure out why you feel what you feel and what, if anything, you want to do about it. That's what therapists are FOR.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:29 AM on June 1, 2011 [10 favorites]


I admittedly have a lot of body issues, so maybe I'm not the best person to answer this question. But I think I've gotten to a place where I want to lose weight for myself and not because of any external pressure.

So here goes: I started the Power 90 videos twenty days ago, and I want to do better at the exercises for me. I want to be more flexible so I can be more comfortable in my own body. I want to be stronger and more muscular so I can get rid of the joint problems I've had in my knees since my late twenties. I want to feel good about how I look in my clothes.
It's about me and how I feel about living in my own body.
posted by bananafish at 12:01 PM on June 1, 2011


That anger is important.

Anytime you have a lot of anger over something ostensibly simple like this list, it means you have hit a nerve. Completing the exercise might be incredibly enlightening. Don't fight the anger-figure out where it's really coming from!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:08 PM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Echoing what others have said, do you want to lose weight? Because you've listed a lot of what seem to me like good logical reasons why you don't want to and don't believe you should have to. And really, unless you're unhealthy, you shouldn't have to. I say this because if someone asked me why I wanted to lose weight, I could rattle off 10 reasons in a minute. Wanting to lose weight is pretty much the #1 desire in my life right now, and I could talk about why I want that happily for hours, if someone asked me to make a list. It occurs to me that a) this wouldn't make me angry at all, and b) none of my (very good) reasons would apply to you and your situation. So maybe you're actually happy as you are?

Actually, I just read your OP again and this:

Honestly, I’m not sure why I have to lose weight except that everyone around me seems to think I should be doing this and it seems easier to placate them than try to explain again and again that this is just how I’m built.

really sounds like you are saying you're happy the way you are and probably couldn't change anyway. Which stands out to me because the first reason on my personal weight loss list would be, "I've been at a weight that's right for me, I know how it feels, it feels %100 better than this higher weight which feels all kinds of unnatural, and I want to get back where I'm physically healthy and comfortable." It's sounds like all of your discomfort is coming not from your extra weight but from outside pressure. I'd want to lose weight just as badly if I lived alone on an island. You seem like you'd be content alone on an island at your current size.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 3:53 PM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you're happy about how you look and how much you weigh, you shouldn't be on a calorie restriction diet or other things more tailored to weight loss rather than health. Granted, I'm very into the idea of health at every size -- people should attempt to be healthy regardless of how much they weigh, not get skinny and then get healthy. Is this an idea that appeals to you?

I'm not surprised that the question unleashed anger, and that you had trouble focusing on the list enough to come up with specific reasons. When I'm in situations like that, I find it much more helpful to put down the start of the list and write down my reactions to that list item before moving on and trying to list more things.

It does sound like you have some issues regarding food, if your primary reason for a restrictive diet like vegetarianism* was to lose weight, but it also sounds like you're ready to stop seeing a weight management therapist and start looking into fat acceptance, at least based on sentences like:

I refuse to devalue my accomplishments because my thighs rub together. My sense of self doesn’t depend upon other people finding me attractive or fitting an externally imposed model of beauty. Honestly, I’m not sure why I have to lose weight except that everyone around me seems to think I should be doing this and it seems easier to placate them than try to explain again and again that this is just how I’m built.

Maybe it's time to stop with the "this is how i'm built" and instead say something like "all the doctor's tests come back fine, and I live an active and healthy lifestyle." It sounds like you really do, and you are healthy, and you maybe shouldn't continue stressing your body through dieting over and over again.

Now, you say you identify as a feminist, so maybe you know this already because there's a lot of overlap between fat acceptance and feminism. Either way, though, I figured I'd put up links to some resources, such as a community based around Health At Every Size, and here is an intro to fat acceptance post on Kate Harding's now-defunct Shapely Prose blog. There's also a whole bunch of books on the subject if that's more your deal.

Now, I'm not an expert on fat acceptance, and I'm definitely not an expert on you, and if none of this rings a bell for you that's fine. I just figured it might be helpful to put the option out there of finding like-minded people interested in improving health rather than losing weight.


*Not meant judgementally! I spent years as a vegetarian and know that it's not intrinsicially restrictive, but I also know people who use veg*nism as a cover for an eating disorder.
posted by mismatched at 4:42 PM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just say exactly what you wrote above. I imagine it'll go something like this:

'Why do you want to lose weight?'
'GRAR FEMINISM SELF-IMAGE OTHER PEOPLE BIOLOGY CONFORMITY LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE ALREADY RARGH'
'I think we can work with that.'
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:56 PM on June 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Use the anger. You might be exactly right. If you are focusing on losing weight in order to placate people, that seems like a lot of yourself to just hand over to popular opinion. I'm with the eat healthily, exercise, get regular checkups and don't worry, be happy crowd. Being healthy, energetic and happy will get you a lot further than spending your whole life trying to be thinner. If you're a feminist, you will have to confront the disadvantage imposed upon women by the beauty industry. Anything that is in your face all day long telling you that you are not good enough because of your perfectly healthy, perfectly reliable, happy body is akin to evil (hello, media).

I started my young adulthood with exactly the fashionable figure and then Twiggy came along and it was a fight for the next twenty five years on the diet roller coaster. I finally just quit the whole weight loss rat race twenty five pounds heavier than my twenty year old self and, wonder of wonders, my weight has not changed except for one time. I got anemic and I lost weight, so in a odd reversal, I now watch because it signals danger for me to lose weight.

No matter how many tut-tutters advise you to change yourself to fit the dress, darn it, you don't have to do it that way. Make the dress fit you. Make your life fit you Do the therapy if you like but I wouldn't pay much for anything that doesn't help you emotionally or physically feel better about yourself. You are not flawed and you don't need to spend all that attention focusing on your weight and your measurements when you could be expanding your mind and your influence and contribution in the world.
posted by Anitanola at 9:13 PM on June 1, 2011


I think I'm repeating some other people, here, but just in case it takes some different words -

I think maybe you see this project of weight loss as changing a fundamental aspect of your identity from "a chubby lady" to something else. It's pretty natural to feel attacked when someone suggests, or society suggests, that your identity is unacceptable and requires a change, especially when that identity doesn't hurt anyone. You're "Kitty Stardust, a chubby lady", not "Liz, an axe murderess" or "Ted, a methamphetamine dealer" or "Pol Pot, a genocidal dictator".

Maybe the trouble with the exercise is that there just aren't a lot of good reasons to challenge one's basic sense of self and identity. "To wear cute clothes" is definitely inadequate. If you had weight-related health problems then "So I don't die prematurely" or "because I am tired too much" or "I want to be mobile" might be in the right ballpark, but you don't have those problems. So you're stuck, because you mostly don't want to be someone else. (And, again, that's reasonable. Healthy, even.)

If your therapist can't help you reframe this, I think you need to work with someone else. Some people, maybe even most people, have complicated relationships with what their embodiment means to them and with trying to change that body, and for some people, lists and affirmations don't hack it. (Or maybe I'm just projecting.)
posted by gingerest at 12:39 AM on June 2, 2011


Ohhh as another fat woman this question was almost painful for me to read because I KNOW where you are coming from.

I think the key thing here is to try - as far as possible - to separate your own feelings about your body to how you feel other people are reacting to it. It is almost impossible to do this but relatively easy to say it. I know that. But ultimately, you're the one who does the work and you're the one who experiences the results; and other people's lame judgements and asshole remarks have ZERO to do with it. How will weight loss affect YOU? Will you feel happier, healthier, whatever? It's about YOU.

(I've thought about my own weight-loss attempts a lot and come to the conclusion that I want to lose weight for two reasons: (1) vanity/cute clothes - I know that's really shallow but it is still a valid reason TO ME; and (2) because the fitter/stronger I get, the better I feel emotionally.)

I think all these angry feelings are something you can work with your therapist on! It's probably good that they're all coming out into the open. Now you have someone to help you to deal with them. I don't think the anger is a negative thing at all. Maybe it's your way of telling yourself, "I don't need to do this." And that's cool.
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:44 AM on June 2, 2011


Well, you're already exercising and cutting back on calories. Think of the progress you're already making (just by starting!) and enjoy feeling stronger/more fit/etc.

When I eat, it is because my stomach is in literal pain and I’m getting lightheaded

Perhaps you shouldn't wait until you're that hungry to eat something.. I've read that waiting until you're practically starving to eat can make you binge, but YMMV. Another thing to keep in mind is that it may be difficult to keep an accurate calorie count if you eat more than you intended to, but exercise may eliminate this problem.

Is it up to me to conform myself to what clothing makers sell or the other way around?

You don't need to conform; what's important is being comfortable in your own skin. Are you happy at your current weight? I'm not sure that you should decide to lose weight because others want/expect you to. Also, there are great tailors out there, and people who will custom-make clothing for you. Maybe having a dress custom-made to your measurements would boost your self-confidence.

Anecdata: I've lost some weight this year that I gained a few years ago from trying different medications for recurrent migraines. I did it for me, not because others thought I should, and am feeling especially strong and healthy these days. I can run up four flights of stairs and still catch my breath! I can walk all over campus without feeling exhausted! (Also, I can fit into shorts I haven't worn in a few years.) These are the motivators that can help you feel great about yourself, instead of "well, everyone else thinks I should lose weight."
posted by cp311 at 9:04 AM on June 2, 2011


I wanted to check back in before I resolve the thread. I appreciate a lot of your comments and am working on my anger issues in my journalling. I have been thinking about my desire to lose weight in different terms since I asked this question. Once I realized that fashion and the male gaze did not have to be motivators for me I started thinking about all the things I could accomplish (taking the stairs, running to get out of the rain, supporting my own weight longer & more comfortably in yoga class) if I lost some weight, and these things could be goals for me that I can work within more productively.
For anyone following my story, this article really helped me reconceptualize.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 7:46 AM on June 16, 2011


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