January 31, 2019

Why Is Losing Weight So Important, Anyway?


I found this post hiding in my "drafts" folder. I wrote it about a year ago, and I remember choosing not to publish it just yet because it sounded much more serious than I was intending. I had been going through photos when I realized that I knew my approximate weight in each photo over the last couple of decades as well as how insecure I was feeling when the picture was taken.

It hit me hard: Why is losing weight so damn important?!

I thought it was kind of funny at just how important my weight had been for pretty much my entire life. So, I wrote this post about it. I found just how hard it was to explain these thoughts, and I ended up saving the post for another day. In reading it recently, I still have all the same thoughts--even though my weight is 30 pounds higher than it was when I wrote it. Anyway, here goes...

So, I've been "maintaining" my weight loss for, oh, eight or so years now (I put "maintaining" in quotes because you all know that my weight varies by, I don't know, 30 freaking pounds).

For the last couple of years, while doing a fair share of people watching, I've found myself wondering, "At what point in our society did losing the weight and being thin become so important, anyway? Who decided what size is aesthetically 'good' or 'not good'? If I was never told that I was fat, and I grew up around people of all different sizes, would I still desire to lose weight?"

Throughout my entire life, I dreamed of being thin. Like, literally--I went to sleep at night and had angelic dreams that I was pocket-sized and adorable. I spent time--so much time--during my life reading endless magazine articles, books, websites, blogs, and everything else about weight loss that I could get my hands on. I devoured success stories as if they were scoops of premium ice cream.

All with the hope of becoming thin.

If I added up all of the time I spent thinking about losing weight, planning on losing weight, calculating weight loss numbers, praying I'd lose weight, cooking to lose weight, going to weight loss meetings, writing down meal plans to lose weight, and/or any of the other things having to do with weight loss, it would probably add up to about 36-1/2 years. (I just turned 37 on Friday.)

When I was a teenager, I wanted a boyfriend. So badly. And I just "knew" that I couldn't have a boyfriend until I lost weight. So rather than meet and talk to boys, I planned on how I was going to lose weight so that I could meet and talk to boys.

In college, I wanted to fit in with my roommates. I wanted to borrow clothes and go to parties that only thin girls were allowed to go to (maybe they welcomed girls of all sizes, but I would never find that out). Instead of going to parties with my friends, I planned on how I was going to lose weight so that I could go to parties with my friends.

In my 20's, I didn't want to be the "fat friend". I wanted to go out with my girlfriends and not be the invisible one. I wanted to dance and feel "hot" in cute clothes, and be funny, outgoing, and likable. Instead, I remained a wallflower who made all the plans of doing those things when I got thin.

Now, I'm in my mid-30's (or, at 37, is it late-30's? Let's go with mid-), I am finding myself wondering more and more frequently why being thin is so damned important.

I have overweight friends who are funny, likable, very pretty, and outgoing. You don't have to be thin to be any of those things.

I see couples (typically at weddings) who are "fat and happy"--somewhat overweight, laughing, dancing, eating cake, having a great time. And it makes me wonder why I never felt like that was good enough. Why did I insist on spending so much time worrying about losing weight before I could be happy?

If I could go back in time, would I do it all differently? I like to think that I would. I would still have liked to lose the weight to be more able-bodied and healthy, but did I really have to set specific weight goals, count every Weight Watcher Point or calorie, and turn down some really yummy foods to get just a few pounds thinner? Nope. I wish I had learned in the beginning that it just doesn't matter that much.

Yet, after all of this, I admit that being thin is still important to me.

I know, right?

I almost feel ashamed to admit it after I wrote all of the above. I wish I was one of those people that could say "weight is just a number, it doesn't mean anything".

To be honest, I feel my best when I am at my healthy goal weight range of 130-135. I feel prettier when I am thinner. I feel more confident. And as sad as it is, I feel more worthy. (I'm not saying this is how it should be--it's just the honest truth of how I feel.)

When I see overweight women, I don't look at them and think that they are ugly or insecure or less worthy. I don't feel like they "need" to lose weight, or that they "should" lose weight. Maybe they don't even want to lose weight! So, it doesn't make any sense to me why I should feel any differently about myself.

Over the last four years or so, though, I have certainly gotten more relaxed about it all (in stages). I no longer read weight loss books or magazine articles. I don't watch The Biggest Loser (is that even on TV anymore?) while eating a pint of ice cream and planning to start my diet tomorrow. I don't obsessively plan on how I'm going to lose weight and write out all the numbers. I refuse to try trendy diets. I eat cake at celebrations--a corner piece with gobs of frosting if I can get one.

That is not to say that I don't care about my weight. I'm sure it's clear from my blog that I am unhappy with my recent weight gain and I really want to take it off--even if I only take off half of it! I spend much more time thinking about it than I would like. It's impossible not to be hyperaware after having lost this much weight and having it so ingrained in my thoughts. But it isn't the center of my life anymore. (Also evidenced by the topics I write about on my blog shifting further away from weight loss.)

This post is all over the place... do I want to be thin? Do I want to be fat and happy? WHAT, Katie, WHAT IS IT THAT YOU WANT? (I've taken my bipolar meds today, I swear.)

I want to be balanced. I want to find and maintain a weight range that isn't a big struggle. I want to eat the foods I love, even if it means weighing a couple pounds more that I prefer. I want to be able to exercise and be active without obsessing over it. I want to be able to eat reasonable portion sizes without weighing, measuring, and looking up how many calories are in my food. I want to be happy with my clothing size, whether that's a 4 or 14, or anything in between. I want to stop worrying about gaining back all the weight.

I want to feel secure and that I'm good enough just the way I am.

Will I be able to have all these things? Well, I'm always hopeful! I'm (forever) working on them, and I usually learn quite a bit from my mistakes in the past. I do wish I hadn't wasted so much of my life obsessing over weight loss, though. With the exception of a couple of extremes (being overweight to the point where it negatively affects one's health, for example), losing weight just isn't that important (in my opinion).

Now, I just have to work on truly believing that.

There is no rush. There is no finish line.

There is no "right" weight to aim for. I will have setbacks. I will have to adjust things as I get older and wiser. I will have to remind myself every day that there is so much more to life than being thin and we don't need to be thin to experience those things!


29 comments:

  1. It could be aging too. When I hit 28 I naturally gained about 10 pounds out of the blue all on my hips and thighs (my genetic pear shape emerged!). When I hit 40, I gained about 15 pounds out of the blue. I actually eat healthier and exercise more regularly now in my 40s than I did in my 20s yet I weigh much more. Oh well. That's life. I know I'm healthy (size 10 thanks to the pear) even if my skinny days are behind me. I'm not willing to give myself an eating disorder just to get back to 20 years ago. We women often gain weight as we age. That's life.

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    1. Yes! Now that I'm approaching 40(!) I know that I can expect things to be tougher. I used to work at Curves, and the ladies there always told me how hard it was to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight once they hit 40-ish. I'm glad I'm able to accept it, but it's so hard--I feel like I wasted so much of my life being overweight or obese!

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    2. Now that you know better, you do better. The point is to move our bodies and eat healthy to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. I'm not saying it's easy to view it that way, but that's what I try to do. I'd rather be healthy than skinny! I can be a little fatter and know that I live a fairly healthy lifestyle. That's my mental goal in my mid-40s. I refuse to hate my body. It is NOT my masterpiece. It is the paintbrush to create the masterpiece of my life.

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  2. A-Freakin-men. This is absolutely the best post you have ever written and I have been reading your blog from the very beginning.

    Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Wow--thank you so much! I'm glad I ended up posting it :)

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  3. I know I have said it before, but I think we are twins !!!! Well, except for the fact that I will be 50 soon but OMG...everytime you write I post I sit here reading and nodding my head like a fake puppy in the back of my grandparents car. (You are too young to remember those ;-) I swear I could have written this POST.

    I notice others heavier than me and think....why are they so happy? Why can't I be that happy? And honestly, I never think....Oh, they're over weight! or Oh, I can't believe they are eating such and such. I usually just think they look happy!

    I don't know how it happened to me too but, why does everything I do, think, eat, DRINK go back to "How many calories is this going to cost me?" or "My gut will be more bloated tomorrow after this beer" or "I know I shouldn't be enjoying these nachos (why the hell not?) but I'll do extra at the gym to enjoy them now"

    I was super happy at 139. Or so I thought.
    I was content at 145. Clothes still fit...still enjoying my beers.
    I was worried at 150. (Not enough to really do any thing b/c again clothes were tighter but still fit)
    I hated seeing 155. (Yup, had a few binge eating nights b/c of that.....quit my gym of 11 years....decided I needed a change! And how did hubby dare say...."I think you look fine!")
    Am I giving in....as I saw 160 again today and for the past weeks. (My body is changing. Clothes are REALLY tight now....no jeans fit...only yoga pants for me....I am going through perimenopause....everything is falling and settling in new spots)

    The thing most bothersome....I know a lot of other 50 year women going through my same hormonal stuff and they are 130, fit, and look great. (Insert Uggghhhh!)Why do I have to compare myself to them now too?

    Yes, I want to fit into my clothes comfortably again....but, then will the rollercoaster just take off into the next phase of life or will it finally come to a complete stop?

    Always nice to hear your words.....keeping it real is very relatable!

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  4. I have a lot of thoughts on this. I, too, have spent WAY too much time focused on losing weight. However, I don't have the "insecure" feelings- I didn't at my heaviest and I haven't at my lowest (I'm about 20 lbs up from where I would consider my "goal" weight). I've worked REALLY hard for two years- working out and eating better and that dadgum scale hasn't moved. AT ALL. I've struggled with anxiety and depression before, and my weight has added to that at times, but I've totally been the bigger girl dancing and enjoying herself. In fact, we leave tomorrow for vacation, and it's the first time ever maybe that I don't feel like I need to starve and "diet" this week. I feel strong. I like the clothes I have picked out for our trip. I'm planning on wearing a 2 piece swimsuit and I feel good in it. I think for me, I'm working SO HARD on focusing on "being healthy" instead of "being thin." I have gotten rid of my scale. I want to focus on getting my workouts in, finding moderation in eating, and just feeling good. No one cares what my scale says except me and my doctor- and I'm going to leave it up to him to worry about it.

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  5. Don't beat yourself up - a big part of why you feel that weight is important is that there's a huge sector of our economy - not just weight loss and health-oriented companies, but also the film and fashion industries - built around the idea that your worth is measured by how little space you take up. Girls and women feeling like they have to lose ten or forty or a hundred pounds before they're worthy human beings who can live their lives is a huge profit engine, and a great way to keep people occupied so they don't make waves. I'm betting a lot of your thinner friends were actively trying to lose weight, and plenty of women who have never actually been overweight spend a significant fraction of their energy trying to become thinner. Even some of those "fat and happy" couples you see at weddings rocking their love handles likely go home and resume their diets.

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  6. I think I can count on one hand how many comments I've left anywhere on the internet in the last 10 years but this post had me blinking back tears. I'm a pretty introverted individual and tend to hide myself away from society. And even though I've lost over 100 pounds from my heaviest and just recently was able to put on a pair of size 8 jeans for the first time in 25 years, I am still obsessed every single day with my weight and how terrible I think I look.
    Thank you for writing this, Katie, it really helped me to not feel so alone.

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  7. I've gained a good bit of weight over the past 10 years since college. I think I was at my thinnest of my adult life when I went on student exchange to Mexico in college- both because I was very active there, walking pretty much everywhere, but also because I got really sick (possibly from the water). I think I'm about 100 lbs heavier than I was back then, a roughly 10 lb per year gain? But ultimately, while I would like to lose weight, I would prefer to be in shape, even at my current weight, than being thin and not super healthy. I want to be able to hike, go to the beach, take a snowshoeing trip, go ziplining, or any of those things. I don't want to weigh enough that I can't do something like a zip lining tour because of weight limits (I did a bungee jump once, NEVER AGAIN, but would have hated to have tried to go and not been able to because of my weight). I'd rather be in better shape than I am now, and have been working on making sure to hike more, add in daily walks at lunch time at work (as well as eating, not instead of), and have been adding in hand/arm exercises, mostly due to PT as I recover from hand surgery, but it would be nice to continue even after I am fully recovered. And I recently found my hula hoop again, and am going to see if I can break my previous record for the longest I've hula hooped non-stop (previous record is an hour and five minutes, and I remember being bruised around my stomach afterwards from the weight of the hoop!), since it is a fun activity that I enjoy doing.

    I wouldn't mind being thinner. I would possibly be more confident if I lost some weight. As long as I am still able to enjoy the activities I enjoy, though, I'm okay with it.

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  8. It's so sad that you feel insecure. You don't see it. You are so talented, creative, artistic, a great Mom, a great coach, a great wife, a great daughter. You cook well, you had the discipline to pay off your debts, you redid so much of your house ALL BY YOURSELF. You are smart, funny, modest, cleverly frugal, kind and sensitive to other people's feelings. And yes you always look pretty with your warm smile at every weight you post. You befriended a person who had some mental health issues and then passed that on to the others in that same group home. You are a very interesting writer which is evident by how many of us keep up with your blog. I don't know you aside from your blog, but if you could see all the qualities your readers can see in you, you would see that you are much more than the weight on your scale. I hope someday you find the mirror that you can look into that reflects the "you" that we see.

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    1. I am speechless. This is one of the kindest comments anyone has ever left for me. I really wish I could see all of these things in myself. I'm not even sure what to say. Thank you--truly.

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    2. Katie - whoever wrote this is 'right on'. I second everything they said! I hope you find the right mirror and when you do - please share with all of us where you found it :)

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  9. Thanks for this post, Katie. There are so many of us who lose months or years of our lives to unhappiness and dissatisfaction with our bodies. I certainly have. And I don't think that's necessarily a personal failing - it's something that is reinforced constantly by the culture that we live in.

    I wish so much that we could all feel happy and respected as we are. That we could focus on healthy behaviours instead of a "healthy" number on the scale or on a pair of jeans. But that's not the attitude that most of our world has right now. And it's hard not to want to be thin in a world that values thinness; as much as we want to change the system, we have to live and function in that system in the meantime.

    I have a lot of complicated thoughts about this, just like you. I think it's good to say them or write them "out loud" sometimes, if only to keep working through it ourselves.

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  10. Dang girl, I'm getting emotional reading this. I feel like I could have written this! This is all so, so true. Especially as I get older I start thinking about why am I so obsessed with my weight?? I would love to lose a few pounds just to feel more healthy and active but I'm starting to care less about how I look. If that makes sense? I was actually toying with the idea of doing Weight Watchers again (the old Points Plus version, I don't think I could ever get on board with their new style) but I told myself I could NOT get obsessive over it. I won't bring my own bag lunch to a family reunion (yep did that) and I won't cry over eating the tiniest free sample of a Dove chocolate at the grocery store (did that too). My thoughts are all over the place here lol but basically, you hit the nail on the head with this post! I know exactly how you feel. But I do feel as we get older, we tend to wisen up and realize what is really important in life. Beautifully written post!

    And happy birthday to you too!! I hope you had a great day! <3

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  11. I love this so much! Like you, I have dieted my whole adult life. Obsessed about food and weight. It's exhausting! I'm finally at a place - or at least heading that direction - that you described: balanced, not obsessing about calories, points, weighing, measuring, etc. Not obsessed with the number on the scale. Just living life, and trying to be more intentional about what I eat and how I move my body. But in a way that is sustainable for the long-haul. I've lost 35 pounds - and it has taken me 6 months. I don't care, it doesn't matter. I have a long way to go, but I'll get there when I get there. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy my life - and my food! Thanks for always being so transparent about your life and your struggles. You've been a huge inspiration to me over the years!

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  12. I don't know why you waited to post this...although everything happens in it's perfect time, I suppose. This was an excellent post and, trust me, you aren't alone in any of those thoughts. It's nice to know others have the same crazy thoughts. My mantra I've been repeating lately, which I got from Rachel Hollis...You are loved and worthy, as you are, right now, today. <3

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  13. As a person who once weighed 130 and stayed there in my early adulthood until 40 or so, and now weigh 165, and once weighed 190, I will tell you that your joints will be happy if you keep your weight down, and not happy if your weight goes up. (This may not always be the case, but still...basically true.) Having happy feet, knees, hips, and back are the key to aging well. I no longer care very much about how I look--I look good enough--but boy, these knees, that love to hike and sightsee and dance, would love to see me at 130 ish again. It does matter.

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  14. I TOTALLY know what you mean!!! i have so often wished for just being happy, even if overweight!

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  15. So well written. Thank you for verbalizing so many feelings I've had myself - truly amazing and insightful. I'm lucky that I've been part of an amazing WW group for six years now. I've resigned myself that I will likely always have to track what I eat so I can stay healthy. But, like you, my weight was down in the 130s for almost 3 years. For the last year I've been in the mid-140s - it's a good place to be. I do like cake, cookies, and ice cream, so I'm good here. I just need to stay on track to stay here. My mom had type ii diabetes and alzheimer's so that's my motivation for keeping extra weight off to hopefully avoid getting those, or at least delaying their onset.

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  16. I have been following you for years and never left a comment. This post sums up a lot of how I feel. Although not over weight I’m one of those people that if I lost 10 pounds I’d look great but I never get there. I’m 52 and around 40 I started to gain some weight but I’m healthy so I ask myself why worry about it, but I do. I tried on a dress today ( it’s about 15 years old) for an upcoming wedding. It’s wearable but a little more snug then I’d like. Instead of beating myself up I decided it was pretty damn good I could still fit in it. I think women need to cut themselves some slack.

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  17. This post was amazing and is exactly how I feel and think! Im trying so hard to find balance and just be happy where I am. ♡

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  18. excellent post, one of your best

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  19. Yes! I have wondered the same thing...how much time, exactly, have I spent obsessing over weight? Remember that movie with Mel Gibson, where he could read people's minds? And he passes the woman in the park and she is thinking "let's see....that bagel was 350 calories, plus the...". When I saw that, I couldn't believe it! Other people do that too? When my grandma was alive (she was always obsessed with losing weight, too) she would lift some food item to her mouth, look me in the eye and say, "Do NOT tell me how many calories are in this". At first, I thought, "Do I do that?" But damn, she was right! I obsess about Every.Freaking.Morsel. I wish I could shut it off. I often wonder if I need medication to just settle down about it. Somewhere, deep down, I know it's about control. I had a very out-of-control home life growing up, so I really need to feel in control now. And my weight is how I let people know I AM IN CONTROL. If I'm overweight, then I'm not in control, and holy shit, what then???? And here's the kicker: I am within a healthy BMI and have been for years. Intellectually, it makes no damn sense and sucks the joy out of life. But there it is. Thanks for posting. It helps to know other people are riding the same roller coaster that I am.

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  20. I can totally relate to this post! Thanks for always keeping it real!

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  21. This post really resonated with me. I do the same thing! I have always obsessed over losing weight, planning to do, etc. and I keep thinking that I'm "not good enough" until I do. It's crazy. I know I am worthy and good enough - so why does "being thinner" constantly cross my mind! Ugh! Working on it! Thanks for your awesome, honest post.

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  22. AMEN! My mom is always so hyper focused on either being too fat for anything and trying to lose weight. She didn't want to celebrate her birthday this year so she could stay on her diet. Sad!

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