A reporter wrote me and said, “I’m doing an article about the fairy tale of weight loss—can I interview you? And I said what? Of course! Holy crap! And the article came out today, and is here, and after some terror and then some encouragement, I managed to read it. The completely fabulous Pastaqueen is in it too, and says many smart things. And the whole thing turns out to be kind of awesome.
The article was a chance to talk about the conclusion I’ve come to, the whole point I’ve been trying to make this whole time: while being skinny is far, far easier in this world than being fat, being skinny does not solve all your problems. Losing weight does not give you the perfect life you’ve always dreamed about. I don’t know where I got the idea—the wicked media? the inside of my own crazy brain? the people who told me that I should be ashamed of being fat, both the well-meaning people who told me for my own good, and the assholes who take fat people personally?—wherever I got the idea, I had it internalized.
No matter how illogical I knew it was. No matter how often, when I was being very considered and rational and reasonable, I reminded myself that my weight was not the problem, I had a secret tiny flower of hope, of conviction, that once I lost all the weight I had to lose, I’d never have any problems, ever again. And even if I did have problems, I’d be too happy to notice them. Skinny = beautiful, beautiful = happy, sign me up for weight loss surgery.
I lost 160 pounds, or thereabout. I am very, very happy, in many, many ways. Strangers don’t find me disgusting and feel the need to share the roots of their revulsion. I don’t stand out, and I can fit just about anywhere, in this world that’s built for a specific size of person. I can breathe more easily, walk more easily, I have been known to break out into a run. Things have been good, in a lot of ways. So many ways. Enough ways that I do not regret having gotten weight loss surgery, even though I deeply, absolutely regret all the years I spent hating myself for something so stupid, and waiting for my life to start and things to get better once I found a way to not be fat any more.
I don’t think I gained weight in order to hide from the world—I think that weight and size are much more complex issues than that. But I think it was comfortable and easy to let fat be my whole problem. And when I was left with no fat, but plenty of problems—I was the only one left to blame. It’s like I’ve cleaned out the flooded basement, which is great and all, but now I have to actually address the cause of the flooding, and it’s harder than you think. It’s so much harder than I was led to believe.
I should have known; I mean, I did know. But I didn’t believe it. I think the feeling is so much more common than anyone thinks. I think the focus is “lose weight! lose weight now! lose weight fast!” but no one ever, ever talks about what happens once you’ve lost the weight. You’ve spent so much time being fat, trying to not be fat any more, you never had a chance to really think about what it meant to be skinny. You’ve spent your whole life with a fat-person identity, and then you’re left as a skinny person and no idea how to reconcile the two parts of your life. You’re supposed to forget all about the person you were, and just be happy and thankful.
I’m not asking for pity and compassion and tiny golden tears rolling down the struts of your tiny golden violin. What I am trying to say is, yes, I am glad to not be fat, to not have to deal with all the physical and emotional realities attached to being fat, because it is truly hard. But being faced with the blunt, raw psychological reality that I’ve still got problems to work on—that losing weight was just the beginning, and never was anything but that—is more disheartening than you can imagine.