Lately I’ve seen several posts in my little corner of the blogosphere that attempt to define “weight problems.” Rather than leave insanely long comments on several people’s points, I thought I’d just write my own post. I have two major bones to pick.
1. Just because someone isn’t greatly over- or underweight, that doesn’t mean they can’t be distressed about their weight. It frustrates me to no end when I see very overweight people who say normal or slightly overweight people shouldn’t complain about not being able to fit in their favorite pants and so forth. It also frustrates me to no end to hear very underweight people say that normal to slightly underweight people shouldn’t complain about the effects of being underweight. A person’s distress cannot be measured in pounds.
2. Fat does not necessarily equal unhealthy. Just because someone is overweight does not necessarily mean that they live off junk food and live a sedentary lifestyle, either. I’ve ranted about this before, but it comes up so often that it bears repeating. There are a number of studies that show that diabetes, high cholesterol, and other such risk factors can lead to premature death–but those health problems show up in people of all sizes and weights. Being fat, in and of itself, has not been conclusively linked to premature death–but dieting has. Oh, and there are dozens of studies showing that most dieters regain the weight they lost.
I’ve been normal weight, underweight, and overweight. I almost died from anorexia and bulimia. I’ve also had doctors tell me that losing weight would cure everything from my back pain (um, no, it’s caused by a bone spur) to my depression (um, no, caused by a genetic disorder).
When I was underweight, I harbored no illusions that what I was doing was healthy, but now that I’m overweight, I’ve been trying to convince myself that the same sort of calorie restriction is suddenly healthy because I’m overweight now. On some level, I know that’s bullshit, but on another level, I want to buy into the lie that being thin will fix all my problems.
I eat a healthy diet. I’ve been vegetarian for 10 years, and I recently became a vegan, due to some digestive issues and a possible link with my MTHFR polymorphism. Most of my grocery cart is full of produce, and I cut out my Diet Coke addiction and other sources of caffeine because they worsen my anxiety. Sure, sometimes I eat junk food and snack too much. I love Trader Joe’s sesame honey almonds, and Soy Delicious makes some amazing soy ice cream. But before I was either eating disordered or fat, I snacked sometimes too.
I’ve generally kept an active lifestyle. From elementary school through the first half of high school, I was a competitive gymnast. (And for the record, gymnastics didn’t cause my ED; my coach was the first to pick up on it and the first to urge me to get help.) In college, I started learning US Yoshukai Karate and started competing at tournaments around the Southeast. I did have to take a five-year break from most physical activity due to back pain so bad I could hardly stand for more than 30 minutes per day, but that has been successfully treated. Now I walk almost everywhere I go–appointments, pharmacy, grocery shopping, knitting group–and take a kung fu class three times a week.
I’m still fat.
I don’t know if it’s that I ruined my metabolism with years of eating disorders, or if it’s that I’ve messed up my system by being on psych meds for most of my life, or something else altogether. In the end, I don’t think it matters that much why I’m fat and not losing weight.
What matters is that I’m happy. What matters is that I’m working toward making peace with my body. What matters is that I feel healthy and alive. Those are things I want to be more important to me than my size and my weight.