Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Everyone is tired of hearing about weight loss. Watch any channel after 11 p.m., read literally ANY magazine. Apparently, the swiftly bloating American culture of limitless consumer appetites is also obsessed with getting rid of the consequences. But no one really talks about what actually happens when you lose weight. Perhaps since it's all an ocean of starry-eyed "someday" motivational bullcrap, you're never supposed to know what goes on beyond the magical threshold. As soon as you see what actually happens, good and bad, your brain no longer fantasizes. And a fat, fantasizing brain at 1 a.m. is a diet pill marketers primary
So I'm here to burst a few bubbles, and maybe blow some new ones. Mainly, I want to talk about what goes on in your brain when you lose weight, and why it is a constantly frustrating mindfuck.
First of all, weight loss is not something that just HAPPENS to you. It's not like getting pregnant or hit by a bus. Barring health problems or desert islands, weight loss is an active choice. This is the trap that all fat people dig themselves into, thinking one day they will just get thinner. We live our lives constantly repeating "I'll do that when I'm skinny," and "that will be awesome to try when I'm smaller." Not "I should get thinner so that I can start doing that," or even "there's really nothing stopping me from doing that except my own insecurity." Weight loss isn't puberty. It doesn't come upon you suddenly in the middle of gym class. It is a grueling, relentless, sweaty uphill battle that will immediately unravel if you neglect it for even one minute. And there will be MANY false starts before it even begins.
Being thinner feels weird. Depending on how quickly you lose weight, your body will feel unfamiliar for a while, and your self image will fluctuate according to how you feel on a momentary basis. There are bits of your emotional structure that will always be fat. This is sometimes entertaining, because you may find yourself groping random body parts in public and thinking "was that always so firm?" But it can also be frustrating, because at your most vulnerable and insecure moments you will revert back to the same person you were when you were fat.
Paranoia and/or vanity may ensue. This is why so many former fatties turn into sluts. When you are fat, you are protected by a thick layer of invisibility that normal people are not allowed. After you lose weight, the shield disintegrates, you realize how much eye contact strangers make, and it either gets creepy or encouraging. This is why I wear more makeup now. Before, leaving the house was a simple task - no pressure. After, it suddenly became a full-fledged performance! It takes a long time to choose an outfit if you assume that 300 people will be analyzing it throughout your day.
Everyone has their own definition of FAT and NOT FAT, the invisible line they draw. For a lot of people, that line is way too unforgiving. Most importantly, it is different for everyone. The way I picture myself at my ideal weight is probably equivalent to a size 2's ultimate nightmare. When I was at my heaviest, I kept thinking "I would be THRILLED to be a size 14 again." Now I'm below 14, and I'm still not satisfied. Why does this happen? Well, the brunettes want to be blonde, that's all I can say. It's important to be able to recognize this flaw in our own perceptions. Think about how much your self image fluctuates on a day-to-day basis. In the space of a week, I whip back and forth from feeling like a freight train to feeling like Kiera Knightley. Sometimes this flips in the space of five minutes. But when I think about people I know - my friends and family - my image of them never changes. I have to constantly remind myself to astral project out of my body and judge it as if I was my best friend.
In a way, this explains one of the biggest fatty frustrations: skinny people complaining about how fat they are. Some do it to fish for compliments, some do it because they can't be happy unless they are miserable, but most do it because body image is NOT a reflection of their actual body. Body image is a (mental) visual representation of security, confidence, adherence to personal rules and standards, and what you imagine other people are thinking about you (and how much you care). Each one of these measurements is changing FAR more frequently than any actual part of your body. But the change in these mental levels manifests as a perceived physical difference.
I don't know anything about actual psychology of weight loss, so don't take any of this for scientific fact. This is merely my own personal analysis of my own personal experience. If you really want to know what it feels like to lose weight, then do it. And newsflash: there isn't one special way. Find your own solution, don't wait to read it in a blog. For me, it was vegetarianism, a job with extreme physical labor, and calorie counting. Why? Because I have control issues, and each one of these things involves following a higher authority/rule that outweighs (pun intended) my temptations. Maybe you are super competitive, so your weight loss solution is something like the Biggest Loser. Personally, I would get kicked off of that show for revenge-bludgeoning the trainers with dumbbells in their sleep.