I have never been overweight. I’ve been close to it. Between 2018 and 2019, I gained thirty or more pounds because of medications that tossed my metabolism over the edge of a building. I am a recovered anorectic, so you can imagine what that amount of weight gain does to one’s mindset. Despite feeling absolute disgust toward my own body, one thing I didn’t do was blame myself.
I realize I am in a privileged position because I have never gone through life with anyone commenting negative things about my body, even when I gained all that weight, even when it was noticeable in places like my stomach and thighs. Even so, none of that offered me any comfort; I, too, started internalizing the hatred larger bodies received and developed an empathy for them I couldn’t have before. I already knew losing weight was tough. I already knew those with larger bodies were at a disadvantage. I already knew they needed support. But you cannot truly understand something unless you experience it yourself. And I have never had to go through the process of weight loss and didn’t think I ever would.
It was absolutely frustrating trying to start the process of weight loss. I couldn’t lose anything. Even when I deliberately cut back what I ate, all I was doing was preventing anymore weight gain. I was even training for mountain bike races, so I was lifting weights and biking many miles a week with no true increase in calories–I was afraid to increase calories, even with increased exercise. I wasn’t starving, of course. If anything, my appetite also plummeted with this drop in metabolism. Even with a change in medication, I dropped five pounds and plateaued. It took experiencing worrisome side effects of my medications to have an entire overhaul in dosage and immediate release to extended release for anything to start happening. In fact, I don’t know if anything really started happening until I started taking medication for my ADHD. It’s not a stimulant, but weight loss is a side effect.
I have been using my waist as a measure since the scale is triggering. I have lost probably 2-3 inches off my waist. The only reason I measured recently is because when I looked in the mirror my waist looked noticeably smaller, almost to its normal size. I estimate I have probably lost 50% of the weight I put on.
Weight loss is so damn difficult for women who have slower metabolisms to begin with and who fight an uphill battle with their hormones. Yet, the vitriol I see on the internet against larger bodies is obscene, unacceptable.
We do not know why someone gained weight, and it doesn’t matter. What matters is that people are rarely, if ever, overweight due to laziness. While weight gain because of medications or medical conditions isn’t as common as eating too much, there is usually a reason behind why someone increases their caloric intake to the point where it begins to cause excessive weight gain. Plenty of people are emotional eaters who use food as a crutch. The fact of the matter is that food tastes good, certain meals can induce positive memories and even nostalgia, and it elicits lots of feel-good hormones. Consuming food is a fast way to induce these psychological benefits, whereas things like exercise or even meditation take work.
I developed an eating disorder as a way of coping with my emotions–and my mind was also very, very sick at the time. I discovered this recently when I looked at pictures of myself in the throes of anorexia and was horrified by my appearance, a feeling I couldn’t even muster at the time. I thought I looked great! If you haven’t already deduced, I did not lapse into an eating disorder as a way of trying to lose this weight despite having developed a newfound distaste for my body’s physical changes. This is because my mind isn’t sick; its perception is not warped.
Our bodies generally have a set weight it likes to maintain. Obviously, that set point is individual. As babies, our appetite regulation is on point. We just don’t keep consuming milk past fullness. We can argue hypercaloric foods ruin our ability to regulate our appetites considering they are not very filling for the amount of calories they contain. And sometimes that does happen for some people. They simply don’t understand that even though they’re not feeling satiated, they’re still consuming too many calories. But that doesn’t matter because weight loss is hard, and it’s absolutely terrible to judge anyone in the thick of it. It’s not fun, and there are entire sciences behind weight loss.
Larger bodies don’t owe anyone anything.
I call it concern trolling, where people who think they are well-meaning try to espouse the many negatives of being overweight. People with larger bodies know that. I know that, which is why I fought to get on a regimen that would finally allow me to lose the weight I’ve gained. I’ve talked to many people during my time doing observation hours who admit they needed a joint replacement because of weight gain. Who wants a joint replacement? The recovery is miserable. No one needs to be reminded of the health problems that come with excess weight when concern trolling is everywhere and unavoidable.
When I initially discovered all of this weight gain, I was blindsided and unable to process the first 20-lb. gain that I saw. I had not increased my food intake, and at the time I thought the only reason you could gain weight on meds was due to a possible increase in appetite. It was confusing. I was so upset that I was almost in tears. Originally I thought it was my birth control, but nothing happened when I stopped it, which is why I started blaming the medications; I wasn’t wrong. I’m not an emotional eater, after all. If anything, I stop eating with an increase in stress. During my last lab weekend I barely ate anything from severe anxiety due to lab practicals.
I remember how disgusted I felt looking at a body that shouldn’t have been mine: being able to grab a handful of my stomach, having not even a centimeter’s space between my thighs anymore, not being able to fit a pair of favorite jeans, switching to sweats and skirts and dresses because it’s easy to hide.
I’m sure this disgust wouldn’t exist if larger bodies weren’t so vilified. Women’s bodies are especially torn asunder. Men get to have theirs called dad bods while women’s bodies are just fat bodies, subject to humiliation and scorn because many people believe women exist to be pretty for others and not ourselves.
And if we don’t, we deserve scorn.
It’s all unbelievably unfair, and the people who need to read this message won’t because they are stuck in echo chambers bleating hatred at their walls.
I have only recently begun to accept my body again. That is only due to the weight loss. I don’t want to sit here and type that I ever hated it. If I did, I would have relapsed into anorexia. I would have deprived my body of its favorite foods (I never cut out anything). I would have spent my days with some sort of self-hating chip on my shoulder. I wouldn’t have ignored its changes during 2019, the year I trained for various races. I didn’t spend moments reflecting and crying over it and being angry that I could not lose the weight. I just couldn’t. Cutting back anymore on my intake would have starved me.
But I get it now. I understand just how truly difficult it is.
For those who tear apart people with larger bodies, remember that one day you, too, could be struggling trying to lose an amount of weight you didn’t mean to gain.