on being fancy

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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.

  23 comments for “on being fancy

  1. April 27, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    You said some very smart things too! Both in the article and in this entry. Congrats you fancy, famous person. (OMG, the article is still on the home pages! Thank goodness there hasn’t been an earthquake or a tornado or something of actual importance to bump us yet.)

  2. kat
    April 28, 2010 at 3:05 am

    Really enjoyed the article. Your writeup here is incredibly thoughtful and articulate. How did you feel about the finish up the article being about your tits?

  3. April 28, 2010 at 6:08 am

    I love you and you are very, very brave. I hate that you are still struggling and hurting and reeling from the disbelief, but really, truly believe that your story will open so many eyes. I hope that’s some small solace.

  4. April 28, 2010 at 7:49 am

    Hi Jen! I saw the article today and figured it was as good a time as ever to delurk and tell you that I think you’re awesome! I used to follow Elastic Waist, and really appreciated your writing there – so raw and moving. So anyway…I feel kind of awkward offering you random support from a stranger, but you rock, so you deserve it :)

  5. Jen
    April 28, 2010 at 11:27 am

    Love this post, would love to see more on this topic (and less of your twitter posts, which I already get on twitter). I’m still trying to figure out how to get to the place where I can get the weight off, keep it off, and feel like a whole person. Why is that so hard? What I’d like is for you to figure it out and let me copy your answer. Would that be OK?

  6. Jim
    April 29, 2010 at 7:59 am

    Jen…so glad I stumbled across this article and then found your blog. I am a weight loss “survivor”. Dropped from 400 to 190 in 4 years all through diet and exercise. Have kept it off now for almost 2 years, but it’s a constant struggle. Always felt like I was a skinny person trapped in a fat body, now I feel like a fat person trapped in a skinny body. I totally agree with you though, thought all my problems would go away with the weight, but they are still there along with new ones!!! When I was fat, I could go without a shirt on and just be a fat guy without a shirt on! Now, even though I weight lift, and have bulked up quite a bit, I dont’ feel I can go without a shirt because I look like a freak! This body I worked so hard for, I have to hide! Anyway, thanks for sharing, I’ll keep up with your entries!

  7. May 13, 2010 at 8:45 am

    Why am I just now seeing this? You are wise, wise woman, and what you’ve written here is so smart. I miss reading you every day, lady.

  8. May 21, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Exactly. And for those of us who are naturally scrawny, we’ve been perplexed by that assumption all along. And by the cruel behavior many direct our way, while they’re making that assumption. Glad to see you’re transitioning through this in style.

  9. lithium_reflux
    July 6, 2010 at 10:03 am

    I’m thankful that I found this page & that you’re still writing. I was also a devout follower of Elastic Waist. I’m 41, sick, & extremely overweight. It’s been helpful to read something intelligent & real when it seems like 99.9% of what is out there is being pushed by someone trying to sell you something. I rarely reread anything these days, but your stuff is an exception. Thank you for that & thank you for the illumination on the 5 lb gain. Truly refreshing.

  10. Melissa
    July 7, 2010 at 8:27 am

    Hi Jen. I too am cosidering weight loss surgery & I can totally understand how you felt. I know the journey will not be easy, but I’m looking forward to it. I hope that you keep writing & updating on yourself..you are an inspiration!

  11. Jane
    July 7, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    I am glad that I stumbled unto your blog. I was going to have the gastric bypass done this fri 7/9/10 but not for my image, it was for my health. I have Fibromyalga and much other medical problems. It is difficult for me to exercis now, both my parents have diabetes – I have gone to get checked. Thanks to God I am ok. I have enought on my plate so that was why I was having the surgery. But just doing the liquid diet a week before has cause problems and I had to cancel the surgery. One of the things I was looking forward to was being happier but you did shed some light on me that trying to take the easy road not always is the right one. I still need to shed a lot of weight but you gave me what I need – the truth and thank u- I wish you success on finding all that u need-true happiness and lose all the weight u need, and I need to do more thinking if surgery is the way to go or not. Thank u so much!

  12. Maria
    July 13, 2010 at 7:51 am

    I am 48 5’7″ and about 270 . . .I have tried diets and exercise and cannot seem to stick to them . . I have been considering weight loss surgery but it seems like everyone is trying to discourage me, telling me I am not that much overweight . . .I just want to be thin so that men will notice me again as I haven’t been on a date in 20 years

  13. July 14, 2010 at 11:07 am

    I had wieght loss surgery about 8 years ago. In some ways it is the easy way. I actually lost weight which I couldn’t do on my own. But it’s all an exchange. Now I have to work at keeping my vitamin levels up. I still get depressed and am still moody. I still want to eat things that I shouldn’t. The surgery does not change who you are but if you are serious and willing to work at it, it takes away a major hurdle in making the changes you want to make. Bottom line though, being thinner makes living in this world easier, physically, socially and emotionally. Oh yeah, I still have to watch my weight but at least there is about 150 lb less to watch.

  14. Dina
    July 14, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    Glad to hear not the only one struggling through the post drama following so called miracle surgery. Well its a miracle we made it out of surgery. Wish i had never gone to such extremes. to late for regrets. i lost 100lbs and gained them all back. Now have lost 70 through diet and exercise and still struggling with all the crap that comes with trying to define what a normal body should be. thanks for the great insight.

  15. Charlene
    July 14, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    Hi, I would like to ask you something. I had weight loss surgery 3 years ago and lost a lot of weight, but now seem to have saging all over from my face to you name it. What can someone do about that expecily the face part?

  16. Barbara
    July 20, 2010 at 2:58 am

    Hello, I have had the bariatric surgery as well. I understand everything you are saying in your article, I had depression and problems associated with fat and problems that contributed to getting fat. A good surgeon will make sure you go through a phsych evaluation so you know and understand what things will get better and what things still need to be addressed. Therapy and surgery were great for me. I feel wonderful after my 125bl weight loss. I still have moody days but because of fat. Good luck to you and all who go through the process!

  17. Judy Gibbens
    July 20, 2010 at 7:55 am

    I am blown away by this blog;and amazed there are so many articulate former fatties. I am contemplating bariatric surgery — 275, 5’6 and been that way for twenty years. I was turned down once because of money probems and am working on my weight; the 275 is less than I am used to carrying. I have lost a little under 10 pounds recently; so good for the self esteem. Scared to death I will go bonkers and gain it all back in a single bad day! My personal baggage is pretty heavy but I am convinced I can do it. I know the hard part is keeping it off — sad experience had already told me that!

  18. Anna
    July 20, 2010 at 8:41 am

    As a therapist who has consulted many women in your situation over the years, I’m so glad you wrote about your truth. I’ll be sharing your article with many others.

    I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to hear a former fat woman admit her anger at the thin world and hate of skinny women in an informative, reflective manner. I get so sick of hearing fat women carp on and on about how they’re discriminated against when they spew their own hate and rage like fire hoses…especially if anyone dares to suggest that that the Holy Grail of Skinny won’t solve all their problems.
    None of my clients are more rageful than the morbidly obese, and it only gets worse when they lose weight. When the entitlement bubble bursts and you find out that skinny people still pay rent, struggle with jobs, feel bad if they gain weight, and don’t have lines of hot/sexy/rich men at their beck and call….the rage becomes volcanic.
    When other humans don’t want to deal with such caustic people, and the former fat woman can’t blame other’s distaste of them on their fat, it gets really ugly. I find that it goes one of two ways at that point: the person does what you did and faces their true problems, or they gain weight again and return to the comfort of emnity, resentment, blame and rage.
    Heroin and crack addicts are easier to deal with than overweight rageaholics with their silent screams, smiles and rampant insistence of victim status.
    Yes, the world is easier for skinny people, as well as for those with sight, use of all limbs, disease-free status, the educated, white, & employed. The number on your scale is only that: the number on YOUR scale.

  19. Sue
    July 22, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    I had gastric stapling about 17 years ago and lost 130 lbs. I am 5ft 7in and was 275. Always a “pretty face” with lots of talent, before I had surgery I was even the girl singer in a 4+ guy band. So, I was not ignored, but I had a husband who one day picked up a full length mirror off the door and said, “You may think you are pretty, and that all these guys that talk to you after you sing think you are gorgeous, but in actuality who would want to f— that? I mean, really, who would?” Well, a year after that, I had the gastric stapling and my weight plummetted to about 135, I was thin, gorgeous, I was confident, I wore clothes that clung to me, I was the sh–. However, the horrible husband that had said those hurtful things shot himself 2 days after my Mom died of brain cancer and then 2 months later, my Dad died of gastric and liver cancer. Well, my weight began rising, we all know who have had gastric surgery, that you can bypass what you are supposed to eat and even if you eat things that “get stuck” on the way down, you can always vomit up the stuck food and start again. About 5 or 6 years later, there I was again, at 250 lbs+, with no singing voice because of all the vomiting and trying to keep my world together. A lot of my weight came back because I self-medicated with liquor and that itself was its own problem to fix. I met a man through a dating website (one that asks about a million questions before you are matched with anyone) after many dates, good and bad. He loved me for ME. I started having more and more problems eating because the gastric stapling had stenosed and left a hard ring of tissue around the top of my stomach, where the esophagus enters, so I had problems eating almost everything. It goes without saying I was miserable and sick. So, I began a long search starting in the gastroenterologist’s office that ended in a gastric bypass. But, I only lost about 30 lbs. I realized that I had not changed what or how I ate or how I moved or did not move my body. Well, I am 3 years out from the bypass and 60 lbs lighter than when I started, I wear a size 12-14 depending on the maker of the clothes, but I still sag where I would like not to sag. I have problems finding a bathroom quickly enough and nausea with diarrhea is my constant companion. I am currently working on aerobic tapes, walking and yoga-type movements for stress release. I also must do exercises to strengthen my colon and rectal muscles or the diarrhea is uncontrolable. Surgery or even 2 surgeries did not bestow on me the “magic wand” that I wanted. Weight loss is a day by day thing and sagginess is dependent upon your genetic body type. The best thing I could tell someone is that there is a LOT of maintenance AFTER surgery that you don’t know about even with all the doctor’s and psychologist’s warnings: Vitamin B injections twice a week, Vitamin D supplements, concerns over osteoporosis, horrible pain if you DO overeat that lasts a LONG time after the thrill of the meal and countless others. Surgery is like a tool in your weight-loss toolbox. And anyone that has ever fixed anything broken knows that you have to use MORE THAN ONE TOOL to get the job done.
    Good luck to you and ALL of you that have had the surgery, are contemplating the surgery or, like me, are trying to cope with problems AFTER the surgery. It is great to be whistled at when you are 53, like I am, but I am not in a bikini when they are whistling. Love, luck, perseverence and fate brought a kind and loving husband into my life that makes this journey bearable. Just a footnote: he LIKES what he sees in my mirror, even if I would like the image to be different.
    Best of luck and health to you all.
    Cordially,
    Sue

  20. August 9, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Wow, Anna. You are really hate-filled and I am sort of sorry to hear that you are a therapist.

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