I was the fat girl growing up. If you know what that means, you know, and if you don’t, you don’t. But I was the girl who was always wearing tee shirts to the pool, always avoiding being in pictures, always feeling ugly at school dances. The girls made fun of me and the guys pretended to like me as a joke. And even though I wasn’t huge, by the standards of my upper-middle-class, WASP-y hometown, I might as well have been a circus attraction. Being bigger — at my peak, I was just under 200 pounds at 5’5 — felt like the bane of my existence. If I only was thin, I thought to myself often, I would suddenly be happy. My problems would go away, and I would be happy.
As you can probably already guess, becoming thin — I now weight just under 130 at the same height — did not magically solve all of my problems. It never does, as far as I understand, and the people who once felt like the Fat Kid seem pretty much always doomed to be at that mentality, no matter what the scale or their pants size says. This has been my experience in a big way, and it also stems from the fact that being and remaining thin for me is a costly experience.
First, I only eat very “good” foods. I talk about this a lot with my therapist (who is, himself, a big expense of my “getting thin” journey, because so much of my weight issues stemmed from emotional, compulsive binge eating), but I have very much moralized food in my head. So my diet is now full of words like organic, macrobiotic, raw, gluten-free, vegan, etc. I also have a gym membership, trainer, and somewhat-expensive home equipment and workout clothes. I have embraced fitness and health as a lifestyle, but I can admit that the holistic aspects of it are only a certain part. A lot of it is about being thin, because I’m paranoid of getting bigger now.
And I know that this probably sounds very un-empowering, which it is. I don’t intend to be a role model for anyone, and I know that (as my therapist often repeats), my worth is not defined by my size. But I put a big amount of money (all told, probably $6,000 a year at least), specifically into my pursuit of a certain body and, by extension, a certain mental state. My mental state right now could probably be defined as “work in progress,” because even though I met and exceeded my goal weight, I don’t feel half the satisfaction or victory that I thought I would. My therapist says this is normal, but that doesn’t make it any less disappointing to me.
If I had to advise based on my situation, I would just say that there are a lot of things you’re going to want to change about yourself at all times, and you have to really decide what is important for you and your betterment, and what is about external factors. A lot of people who struggle with their weight have a very hard time deciphering between “I want to get healthy because I don’t feel good and I’m not treating my body right” and “I want to look good so people will like me.” Those two things often have nothing to do with each other, but they get so tangled up that you can’t tell apart what you’re spending on.
My weight has become my biggest expense, and my biggest obsession, because I let those two things become very intertwined. I am trying this year to focus more on health — ie, eating the good foods because they’re good for me, not how they make me look on social media or when I’m out ordering them with friends — and less on image. I also want to start allowing myself to be less “perfect,” because I know on a rational level that food isn’t “good” or “bad” in a moral sense. I have become obsessed with only making the right choices when it comes to food, but that is not a way to live my life, because sometimes the right choice is just something delicious that makes you feel great.
My next step in my ~body journey~ is learning moderation, and being okay with going up a few pounds on my period. I know that probably sounds like not much, but that minor fluctuation still sends me into a tailspin, and can even cause me to binge still out of a feeling of defeat. Controlling these feelings, and allowing them to wash over me without getting caught in their undertow, is my biggest challenge. Because I now know that the obsessive feelings of being righteous with my food and my body gets me caught in a vicious cycle just as much as binge-eating alone in my car on my way home from school in a fast food parking lot. Both of these things are about extremes, and about thinking that something as silly as food is going to make me any happier on a personal level.
I want to stay my weight, but I want to do it the right way. And the first thing I’m getting rid of, financially, is my personal trainer. I can now feel confident going into the gym and maintaining my fitness without someone egging me on, and I can trust myself to go when I’m supposed to without being embarrassed to explain it to someone or losing the money I paid my trainer. These are big steps for me, and mean that I can start really moving towards saving money while still being fit.
My body and health are ongoing struggles, and I’m still working on really understanding and loving who I am, especially when it comes to the body I’m living in. But I’m getting there, and I’m finally learning that health doesn’t have to be a luxury item.