A very large portion of the health industry is devoted to helping people lose weight and stay at their new lower weight, a course that often turns out to be more difficult than the patient or health care personnel expected. Sometimes, a person realizes that she can only go so far and no farther. One possible choice is to accept it quietly. Another is to cross the fine line between fat acceptance and the militant advocacy of obesity.
Writer Selene Milano relates how she has lived through several cycles of making an effort to slim down, alternating with spells of just letting the whole matter slide. She reveals that a person might fall victim to a specialized bit of fatlogic that she compares to cleaning the house before the housekeeper arrives. In other words, at times the writer convinced herself that, before starting another weight-loss program, she would have to get in shape first. It’s a great way to stall for a few months, or forever.
Milano describes the shame spiral of being overweight, and also too embarrassed to do anything about it in a public place like a gym; and consequently gaining even more weight. She describes frustrating encounters with normal-weight people who want to be supportive allies, but somehow mess it up. One woman patted her like a pet doggie and said consolingly, “You’ll get there.”
Milano wants the world to know there is no “there,” or at least shouldn’t be. Instead, she has already arrived at a place where just showing up is worthy of applause, and getting into her workout clothes is another accomplishment, and participating in self-care is more than a journey, it is a destination where she is already at home.
Of course, even with cool people, a new program or a new workout venue can inspire massive insecurity. Extreme self-consciousness makes it impossible to know if the oldtimers are actually emanating waves of judgment and pity, or if one’s own inferiority reflex is out of control.
At one point in the past, Milano enjoyed a period of harmonious progress with hot yoga, and years later decided to give it another go. During a part of the class when the participants are supposed to stand, she felt bad and had to sit down. Guess how the instructor handled that? Milano writes,
At the end of class in front of everyone he said, “If you’re not able to stand for even one full class you should really see a doctor.” Needless to say I was mortified and felt too ashamed to return.
Involvement with a popular but expensive workout regime resulted in the loss of some pounds, but Milano hated every minute of it. Discussing the conflict with her therapist, she was able to work through her feelings and arrive at a better place:
I stopped thinking about working out in terms of weight loss and more about self-care… Until recently, losing weight had always been my primary motivation for exercise, but my objective has shifted to trying to make peace with my body.
Ironically, exercise has helped me achieve that more than it ever helped me to lose weight. Feeling stronger and setting physical goals — and then crushing them — has given me a new found confidence and respect for myself.
Then, she found happiness in an indoor cycling class where “most of the talk is pushing yourself to make goals happen off the bike.” Sticking with this activity coincided with success in other parts of her life, and she does not mind assigning causation to the bike. Milano adds,
If you don’t love it, seek out an activity you do love. Find a place where you are supported and encouraged, and once you become a regular, pass that support onto someone else.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!