I feel better when I’m…..
I was reading the comments over at Big Fat Deal’s interview with Pasta Queen and I started arguing a bit with a commentor named Mary. I am not going to address her comments in great detail. So think of her not as someone I am responding to here, but as someone whose words inspired this post. Please go read her comments for yourself if you would like.
She made a comment about how some people feel physically and emotionally uncomfortable when they are overweight. My response, and indeed the FA 101 response to physical discomfort when it comes to being overweight is that these people’s bodies are not strong enough to support them. The solution to this is to engage in fun physical activity that helps them feel stronger and be healthier. This may or may not result in weight loss. But the goal should be overall physical health.
However Emotional discomfort because one is overweight is an entirely different issue. Fat does not make you sad. Fat does not make you feel bad about yourself. I do not think anyone has yet proved a chemical link between fat and depression. (They have however found correlations between attempted weight loss and depression. Source.) Fat is a perfectly natural process that the body engages in to store excess energy against times when it may be needed. Feeling sad about getting fat is technically about as rational as feeling sad about putting money in a savings account. We gain weight as we age to protect our bodies, and sick people lose weight because their body is burning its stores. Getting fat in and of itself is not a negative thing.
There are some negative behaviors that can result in gaining weight, people with Binge Eating Disorder are a classic example of them. But these are not again because the fat is bad, they are because of negative and destructive behaviors that result in fat. Getting rid of those negative behaviors may OR MAY NOT result in getting rid of the fat.
People feel bad about themselves when they get fat because society has told them that it is wrong. They have told people that being fat or even gaining a few pounds makes them, ugly, unattractive, lazy, stupid, worthless and a million other negative adjectives. While simultaneously thinness is held up as this golden glowing standard. Everyone fantasizes about how their life will be when they are thin, the fabulous things they will do when they are thin. Thinness is the answer.
So here is the problem. Not everyone CAN be thin. Not everyone is going to be able to lose all their excess weight and keep it off. For some people this is just not physically possible. For other people it is an extremely difficult lifestyle to maintain. Some people go up and down and up and down. Some people gain weight for medical reasons, pregnancy, medication, or even thyroid problems.
So if an individual’s emotional comfort is tied so closely to their weight, they may be setting themselves up for a miserable life.
If you feel better when you’re thin, then you’re really unhappy when you’re pregnant.
If you feel better when you’re thin, then you’ll be miserable during and after menopause.
If you feel better when you’re thin, then you will be seriously depressed when you’re on steroids.
(sorry for assuming everyone reading this was female)
However, if we make attempts to tie our happiness to things that we do, things we can control and that are lasting we will have a better chance at happiness.
I feel better when I walk my dog.
I feel better when I go dancing.
I feel better when I take a Karate class.
I feel better when I eat an amazing spinach salad for lunch.
I feel better when I sing.
These are things that I can control, that I can chose to do that make me happy. And even if I get pregnant (oh god please no) or have to go on steroids, or if I never lose another pound again, I have these actions that make my body and my mind feel good. I don’t have to rely on a number on a scale or a label in my pants.
“But I can’t change how I FEEEEEEEL.” That’s probably true. I mean, I’m still unhappy a lot. Like when I try on a stupid bridesmaids dress that makes me look like a pyramid and needs 16″ taken in around the top and barely fits my hips. Or when people make rude comments about my weight. That freaking sucks.
You can’t make it so you’re never unhappy about your weight and how you look. But you can recognize that your dislike of your body is not rooted in you. It is rooted in societal pressures. You can say “Look brain, I know, you’re unhappy that we don’t look like catherine zeta jones like the TV says we should. But you know what, I can’t fix that, it’s society that has trained you to feel this way. So lets go do [yoga, water arobics, volunteer work, some baking, needlepoint, etc]. Lets feel good about ourselves for that, and forget about this whole thin thing, because that’s probably not happening.”