70lbs down and still a frown??
March 23, 2010 10:53 AM   Subscribe

No longer the fat girl and need help! How to maximize the positive changes and make this a discerning moment in my life? Help me improve my most important relationship, the one I have with myself. More details inside.

I have been overweight for most of my life. As a child, I was never the popular one in school, I never had tons of friends and very often I was made fun of. My teen years weren't very different. And the unfortunate pattern of self loathing, disgust, disappointment and low self esteem continued throughout my early adulthood. I was never considered pretty or cute, by anyone.

My parents were a huge part in this, having a skinny daughter was really important. I did every diet and gym possible. I have a solid group of friends, but even most of them unknowingly hurt me emotionally along the way. Growing up fat, can really screw with you mentally. I literally think my 25 years of life would be completely different had my whole life been played out as not a fat girl. Whether it be friends in school, boyfriends, attention from teachers, excelling in athletics to even most recently, job interviews.

As of lately I have lost tons of weight, and still am going strong. My body is changing and emotionally and physically, slowly I am getting rid of some of the extra baggage. Whether it be emptying out my closet and only filling it back up with new clothes. I am slowly accepting and getting used to people calling me "pretty" and actually believing them. I have rarely in my life been called any sort of attractive.

I have spent my whole life being this unattractive sidebar, now I want to indulge in "me" for a little while. I want to feel the way I am starting to look. I want to be independent and not use people as a clutch as I have in the past. I've always felt no one could ever like me, so the few friends I have are my life support and it's not fair to them or healthy for me. They carry prob just as much of my emotional baggage as I do. Listening to me cry and complain for a good portion of my life.

Help me! How do I make this a discerning moment in my life? How do I use this as a tool to change my attitude? I'm used to not being good enough and trying so hard with the people around me since I'm not sure if people will like me. I find myself over doing everything just to ensure people will like me.

Anyone with tips for adjusting my attitude about life? I need help. I am losing weight, the one thing I felt like was holding me back, and now I'm scared that it might just be me holding myself back. Help me be successful in love, life and laughter...independently.

Thanks in advance!
posted by ss448 to Human Relations (21 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Congrats on your hard work! I know how life-changing something like this can be.

I had gastric-bypass surgery in 1997 and went from weighing close to 300 lbs down to almost 160 in about a year and a half. What a whirlwind! I remember standing in my bedroom, wearing my snazzy size 10 jeans thinking "I can no longer blame all my sadness on my weight. If someone doesn't like me now, it's going to be because of who I am and not my weight." *That* was a scary thought to me. I could no longer hide behind my shield. Just acknowledging that helped me go a long way towards opening myself up.

I think the fact that you are conscious that YOU might be holding your own self back is a good start. For me, being fat was protection so I didn't get hurt and this is still an issue for me - life was not magically better because I was thin. I had many (if not most) of the same struggles as I did when fat. But I felt better being in my body and that helped a lot.

Remember that being thin does not equal a perfect life (even though we all thought it did when we were not thin), be aware of what purpose your weight has had in your life and most of all, enjoy being in your body.

(MeFi Mail me if you want.)

Good luck to you!
posted by Mysticalchick at 11:02 AM on March 23, 2010 [4 favorites]

It's really, truly awesome that you've managed to change your physical appearance while also boosting your health and decreasing your chance of disease. It's a step many people cannot or do not take, and you should naturally enjoy the emotional benefit of bearing witness to your own willpower and inner resolve.

That said, and I don't mean to be a buzzkill about this turning point in your life, you are also going to have to learn that your inner worth has zero to do with how much you weight, what you look like, what number the scale shows. Just like every other young person (correct me if you're not in your early twenties at the most?) you will have to learn to choose people who love you for your personality. That starts with you. The defining moment happens when you disassociate yourself not just from the fat kid and the awkward teenager, but from the pretty face you see in the mirror. Because that pretty face, no matter how hard you worked for it and how much better it makes you feel today, is also ephemeral. The hard work is what matters in the long run.

Rejoice in your personhood, whatever that may be. Pretty comes and pretty goes, and often so does thin and fat. You need to know who you are behind the pretty.
posted by zoomorphic at 11:07 AM on March 23, 2010 [14 favorites]

You know, I did the same thing. I ballooned up to 350lbs in college after a lifetime of being overweight and then a year later was at 215lb, a good weight for me at 6 ft. It was strange, women looked at me differently. I remember distinctly, getting a strange look from a girl and asking my friend about it and he said, "She was digging you." It was something I had never seen before. But you know what, that didn't change my esteem issues. You have accomplished a lot you should be proud of the weightloss. Losing that weight was the hardest thing I ever did, harder than quitting smoking or finishing my thesis. This shows you have huge inner strength. But you've let your weight define you and your thinness shouldn't define you either. You should really take some time to get to know the new you. And it is a new you, you've changed attitudes and habits about yourself and others. It took me a year of being "non-obese" to adjust to the new me, before then I would have been in a lousy spot for love. Absolutely take some time off and figure out who you are again.
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 11:09 AM on March 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

I want to write you a nice long letter about my own struggles with this, but have to run off to a meeting. So I'm going to leave you with this amazing essay for right now.
posted by amelioration at 11:12 AM on March 23, 2010 [7 favorites]

I think your best bet is to realize that you =/= your body. You are not worth more as a person now because you are thinner, just as you were not worth less as a person in the past because you were fatter.

A key corollary to this is: my 25 years of life would be completely different had my whole life been played out as not a fat girl...now I'm scared that it might just be me holding myself back. Yes, there is a lot of shit slung at people on the basis of weight alone, and yes, our society is sizeist. BUT the you inside your thinner body is the same you that was inside your fatter body. And, most importantly, if you regain the weight, you will still there. You will still be worth just as much.

No matter what happens, do not let how society values your body define how you value you.
posted by sallybrown at 11:35 AM on March 23, 2010 [5 favorites]

Hey, congratulations to you on all your hard work! It sounds like you've overcome a lot of difficult issues to get where you are--I admire your strength!

I agree with Mysticalchick that now that you are feeling better and more open to life changes, it might be time to reflect on how you can value yourself as a whole person, as opposed to thin/pretty vs. heavy/ugly. If you only attach worth to yourself as a function of your weight or physical appearance, you're going to psych yourself out eventually. Not that your hard work to lose weight isn't valuable--it totally is. But it's just a part of what makes you awesome!

Try to listen to yourself and be true to your feelings--what do you like to do for fun? Are you an active, outdoors type of person? Do you like to read a certain type of material? Do you enjoy a particular kind of volunteering? Try and figure these things out (not those specific things, but things like hobbies and interests) because they are also parts of what make you YOU.

I have struggled with being heavy my whole life, and I have tried to get to a point where I am less concerned with my body. Now I can look in the mirror and say, "well, I am great because I am a really hard worker, and I love doing my job, and I'm a loving wife, and I have a bitchin' shoe collection." And then I can be proud of myself and happy with myself even if I have to go buy some bigger pants.

I may not be describing this clearly enough, but the gist of it is, you are valuable for so many reasons--try and discover as many as you can! Use your newfound energy and mental health to live the life you've always dreamed of. Don't focus too much on what other people think of you. It's you who gets to decide what makes your life valuable and worthwhile, not anyone else.

If it's possible, you might find a therapist who can help you structure a concrete plan for "changing your attitude," as you say. They can work with you and create something based on your specific personality. Therapy doesn't necessarily have to be all about working through past bad issues (though that may also be helpful at some point). If that idea doesn't appeal, you could read Feeling Good, which can help you to break the bad thought patterns you may have picked up along your way, like thinking that you must please everyone all the time. Good luck to you!
posted by Fui Non Sum at 11:48 AM on March 23, 2010 [4 favorites]

Congratulations. Give yourself a budget for some new clothes that celebrate your new body, however you interpret that. Get a great haircut. Go to a good photographer and get some portraits done, including some full length photos in a couple great outfits that show off your new shape.

Big changes, even positive ones, are stressful, so getting some support or life coaching from a therapist might be useful.
posted by theora55 at 12:12 PM on March 23, 2010

I don't have personal advice for you, but i recommend you read the blog The Amazing Adventures of Diet Girl. She's maintained her weight for a few years now, but if you delve into the archives, you'll read a lot of entries from when she was at the stage you are now. I find her really inspiring!
posted by Kololo at 12:47 PM on March 23, 2010

Tangential, but perhaps enlightening to you: two of my dear friends happen to be good lookin', fit, hardworking men...who were big ol' boys long before I met them. Had they not cracked out the pictures, I'd never have believed they were once obese. They are two of the kindest, most compassionate, down to earth people I know and now that I know their past, I recognize their former obesity very likely plays a major role in their being such kindhearted individuals. So please don't discount that although your former weight issues may have led to much unhappiness in your past, those same issues might in fact have molded you into a more empathetic, compassionate person. That's a very attractive (and unfortunately rare) quality out there in the world.

My bet is you can related to those who are bullied, ashamed, and/or lonely better than many people who grew up without weight problems. You can use this super power as a tool to help others: volunteer to work with others who are having a tough time in life, or join an exercise group and stand as an example for others who are currently in the shoes you once were in. You have a unique insight. Put it out there. Be the support you wish you'd had back in the day.

Congrats and good luck!
posted by December at 12:52 PM on March 23, 2010 [4 favorites]

Props for taking steps towards feeling good about yourself!

A fantastic programme for curvy women is the TV show "How To Look Good Naked". They've also got a book. It's honestly geared towards helping you feel right sexy and gorgeous in your own skin, no matter what size you might be. It's not all superficial fluff on just improving the way you look though, he uses some interesting tactics to boost the women's self-esteem. Worth a watch.
posted by lizbunny at 1:01 PM on March 23, 2010

The blog Kololo points to is a really good one, and this bit of it (from this page) is perhaps most important for you right now:
The biggest changes took place in my head. I started out as a hardcore dieter, struggling with self-loathing. I thought my mission was all about bullying my body into a more socially-acceptable shape. But soon I realised what I wanted more than smaller jeans was to feel comfortable in my own skin. To just like being me.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:31 PM on March 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have a solid group of friends, but even most of them unknowingly hurt me emotionally along the way. Growing up fat, can really screw with you mentally. I literally think my 25 years of life would be completely different had my whole life been played out as not a fat girl. Whether it be friends in school, boyfriends, attention from teachers, excelling in athletics to even most recently, job interviews.

Congrats on changing your life and trying to reframe your perspective about yourself. I have to say that the above quoted part was kind of a red flag to me, though. Your 25 years of life would have been different if you'd not been fat, but hanging so much of your hopes, dreams, fears, and disappointments on your extra weight is really not mentally healthy, and I fear that you're setting yourself up for some major disillusionment when crappy things happen to you in the future.

You would have had friends hurt you and people disappoint you and get your heart broken whether you were skinny or fat. You are not the sum of your fat. If you're pretty now, you were not utterly unattractive then. A generally positive self-image isn't a possession that you either have or lose -- it's a complicated thing with room for disappointment.

I'd recommend that you seek out some support and maybe some counseling to start chipping away at some of the self-esteem stuff that you referenced early in your question...so that you can more easily get on with enjoying the rest of your life.
posted by desuetude at 1:46 PM on March 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

One of the hardest things, I am told, about losing a lot of weight you've always had is the personal identity changes that go along with it. For the first time in your life, you're going to occasionally not recognize yourself in a mirror. That's a good indicator of the level of mind-fuck you're going through.

The thing to keep in mind, really, is this: this is a significant change for you, but much, much less so for everyone else (except those with unhealthy relationships to your weight.) So don't worry about other people, concentrate on yourself, and understand that your key method for dealing with rejection (blaming it on the fat) is gone -- so you're going to have to re-immunize your capacity for dealing with it. This is both a very confident time for you, and a potential minefield of newfound insecurities.

Finally, at the end of the day, you are who you are, and it's most important for you to acknowledge, own, and nurture the you that is you. I have always been super-skinny, and now I'm only sort of skinny, and even that small a change has had a big impact on my life -- but only outwardly. The person I am inside hasn't changed, and neither will the person you are. You're just finally going to feel comfortable giving yourself your due.

Take your time, be nice to you, and I wish you the best.
posted by davejay at 3:00 PM on March 23, 2010

Missed a sentence. You're just finally going to feel comfortable giving yourself your due -- and that is what will change you, not the loss of weight.
posted by davejay at 3:01 PM on March 23, 2010

I know this is not exactly what you are asking...

but you know those people who cheered you up when you were overweight? Who saw past your protective shell, really listened, and appreciated aspects of you nobody seemed to care about? People who were kind and friendly and funny and liked hanging out with you "despite" your looks?

Your "overweightness" was one of the things that separated the wheat from the chaff.

Your perspective as an overweight person gave you an extremely valuable thing: knowledge about how people treat one another. And how people should be treated. Knowledge can often be painful, but it is still has immense worth.

Please do not discount your previous life as an overweight person. The sum of all your experiences, good and bad, are grist for the mill.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 3:16 PM on March 23, 2010 [8 favorites]

I was at my goal weight a long time before I internalized my new size. Whenever I went shopping, I'd walk straight to the fattest end of the sizes. I was a size 8 for years before I stopped keeping my mental list of stores that carried sizes over a 20. Years.

Eventually, you'll reset your mental image. For those first few years, I could have easily regained weight because mentally I was still overfat. Now if my weight bounces up, my self image is of a thin person. It makes it easier to correct a weight gain.

The other thing was as a heavier person, I'd worked harder to be warm and friendly than someone who was super attractive. I remember smiling at a stranger and he said "Most beautiful girls don't smile back and never smile first." After I got over that a stranger had implied that I was pretty, it occurred to me that I'd spent my entire life smiling first. I think being heavier taught me that.

Be patient with yourself. It simply takes time.
posted by 26.2 at 3:35 PM on March 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

I was going to suggest The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl, too. It's a book now - best of the blog, I guess. Also called The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl. Congratulations!
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 4:27 PM on March 23, 2010

My favorite line lately - Fake it till you make it. Go somewhere you don't know anyone (even if it's just the mall on the other side of town) and pretend to be a self confident person. Think of someone who, in your mind, is representative of who you want to be*, and then act like you think she would. Be outgoing, act successful, pretend you have always been hugely popular. Keep doing it until you find that some of the qualities have become natural to you.

Also - even before new clothes, I would suggest getting the best haircut you can afford, and if you can swing it, also a fantastic pair of shoes (that are comfortable to wear while in the mall) A great purse can help also. Then strut!

And congratulations! You go, girl!

*Michelle Obama? Cher? Oprah? Lady GaGa? Meryl Streep? Gloria Steinem? Your local barista or bartender?
posted by MexicanYenta at 5:21 PM on March 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

You might want to check out this post on Ask Metafilter. I love physical exercise and I struggle with body issues, and I try really hard not to obsess over what I eat too much. There's plenty of other things to devote my time and attention to besides losing weight, and I think it's important to realize that there's a pretty huge societal pressure to lose weight that we tend to internalize. People can be fantastic at many different weight levels. I like to be fit, and I try as hard as possible to focus on how I feel rather than what particular weight I am.
posted by ajarbaday at 7:47 PM on March 23, 2010

Shoot, the link should go here.
posted by ajarbaday at 7:48 PM on March 23, 2010

Best answer: Boy, this sounds like the story of my life the last few years (3+). Lots of good advice and there are a couple of things I want to add. One is to be sure to allow yourself to freak the f-ck out every now and again. It's okay. I sure as hell did. It's not easy and it's really difficult for "normal" people to comprehend what living in a body that often feels foreign is like.

The biggest thing, by far, that has helped me get past a lot of my body image/self perception/self esteem issues was I found something (tennis) that I never thought I could do and I started playing. I took lessons, I practiced, I joined a team. Needless to say, it's not really about the tennis. It's about doing something (anything) that was out of my realm of comprehension as a super morbidly obese person. It was also important to me that it was an activity that I, alone, could work on. It really helped me accept the "new"/smaller me because this tennis thing only existed in that world.

One last thing, I made quite a few friends post-weight loss. Not that I didn't value and appreciate the friends that I had, but going out and meeting people was tough however, having people know and accept and love you for who you are know, without the baggage of the past was immensely validating. As you build confidence, you'll soon realize that some of your old friends really don't need to be in your life right now. Sometimes, you have to let a few folks go. I had a few toxic relationships in my life that became very evident after I lost the weight. Once you've identified them, let them go.

Congratulations on all your hard work.
posted by SoulOnIce at 5:16 AM on March 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

« Older I'm a Mac and I need PC help   |   Smart-ish cell phone recommendation? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.