By ROSIE WATERLAND
Since I’ve written about my weight, there have been a lot of questions about what I’m doing to lose it. It almost seems like (some) people are okay with my obesity and happy to read what I have to say, as long as I’m doing everything I can to change it.
It’s sad that there are people who think that, as an obese person, I don’t deserve to be heard unless I’m apologetically talking about what I’m doing to change my body. What’s even sadder is that, not that long ago, I agreed with them.
I hid in my room and watched TV like I was supposed to, and had no plans to venture out until I had a body that others would find acceptable.
But lately, I’ve been trying something new. I’m going to describe it here so that I have a place I can send the people who want to know what I’m doing to lose weight.
So, what am I doing to ‘lose weight’? The answer to that is this: absolutely nothing.
I never actually intended to write about my weight. In fact, I was certain I could keep it a secret until I was ‘thin again’ (wear long-sleeved tops and avoid people – the perfect plan). But putting off living until I’m ‘thin again’ hasn’t made me thin again. Putting off living until I’m thin again has only achieved one thing: putting off living. And at 26, that’s pretty sad.
I spent the first half of my twenties in hiding. Initially because of my C-PTSD. Then, once I had finally begun to see the light at the end of that tunnel, I looked down at my body and didn’t recognise it. It was fat. Huge. Obese. I went from avoiding life because of panic attacks to avoiding life because I was terrified that chairs would collapse beneath me. Out of one tunnel and straight into another.
So I went into fat-lockdown. I was so ashamed of myself and my body that I refused to live my life. I didn’t go after the career I actually wanted. I stopped going out with friends. I could probably count the amount of times I went out last year on two hands. I watched a lot of TV. And it was all because of this rationalisation: ‘I’ll live my life when I’m thin again’.
Then I had a piece of writing published where I admitted I was fat.
I know the word ‘admitted’ sounds strange, because everybody who sees you obviously knows that you are. But I honestly thought that if I saw as few people as possible (and covered up around the ones I couldn’t avoid) that nobody would ever have to know. Everybody would still think of me as ‘the old Rosie’, ‘the thin Rosie’, and in the mean time, I would lose the weight and they would be none the wiser.
So writing a piece about my obesity and the reality of how it had affected my life was like a massive coming out for me. Having it published on Mamamia and going on TV sealed the deal. I was fat. And now everybody knew.
I thought I would be mortified. After all, this was the exact humiliating situation I had been trying to avoid. But my world didn’t collapse. The majority of people weren’t horrible.
Old friends reached out to me and didn’t mention my weight at all. (I’m not sure what I was expecting. Probably something like: ‘Dear Rosie, you’re massive now. Gross. Regards, your old friend Jimmy.’)
Writing that piece and receiving such a positive reaction was like dipping my toe into the pool of life. I admitted I was fat and people didn’t care. They still read my writing; still thought I had value and something to offer regardless of my size. That was a big deal for me. After that, I began cautiously dipping my toe a little deeper to see how it felt. And let me tell you something: I liked it. Living my life seemed like it could be quite enjoyable, actually.
I wanted more of that pool. I wanted to learn how to dive in. So, not long after my Big Confession, I started seeing a body-image specialist (Louise Adams at Self Essentials – highly recommended) who had all these crazy ideas about loving myself in spite of my size.
The fact that I deserve to be loved and valued in spite of my weight is not a concept that I’m used to. The fact that I have just as much right to chase my dreams now as I did when I weighed 60kgs is difficult for me to get my head around. Impossible even. According to this crazy lady, loving myself should be the goal, not weight loss. And once you love yourself, health should be the goal, and not a perfect body. Huh?
She made me realise that hiding away because I feel ashamed of myself hasn’t motivated me to lose weight; it’s just made me want to eat more (a cruel irony). And it’s true. Despite nutritionists, doctors, trainers, gyms and diets, I’ve been steadily gaining weight for the last five years.
But none of the experts ever asked me why I was eating too much in the first place. They just told me that it was wrong and my body deserved better and I should stop. Well, obviously; but how do you stop when you don’t actually believe that your body does deserve better? If you don’t love yourself, why would you think that you deserve to be healthy?
And – probably most important of all – how do you stop when you eat to handle your negative emotions, and the way your body looks has become one of the main triggers? Being ashamed of my size made me hate myself, and that shame had pulled me into a vicious cycle: Shame=food=weight gain=shame=food=weight gain. I was stuck and I needed to shift focus. So for the last couple of months that’s what I’ve been trying to do. I’ve been trying to forget my weight and focus on my happiness. I’ve been trying to forget the body I want and focus on the life I want.
And do you want to hear something crazy about this crazy lady’s ideas? They’re working. I’m starting to feel like I have some worth. I’m daring to imagine a life for myself that I never before would have thought I deserved at this size. I’m thinking about changes in terms of health and not weight.
The other day, I willingly went for a run (willingly being the key word) – not because I wanted to lose weight, but because I wanted to have more energy to run around with my niece. That is a HUGE shift in thinking for me. And let me tell you: it is so much easier to motivate yourself to make healthy choices when they are about the life you want and not the body you want. And it is so much easier to picture the life you want as a possibility when you are coming from a place of happiness and self-worth.
So from now on, I’m putting my head before my body. And when nosey/ignorant/entitled people demand to know what I’m doing about my weight (you’d be surprised how often it happens), I’m going to say this: ‘absolutely nothing’.
And when that inevitably baffles them, I guess I’ll have to explain to them what I’m doing in a way they’ll understand: in the form of a diet (it’s not a diet, but trust me, these kinds of people won’t get it otherwise). Let’s call it The Self-Worth Diet. I’ll help them out here:
For people who are baffled by what I’m saying, here is what I’m trying to do in diet form:
The Self-Worth Diet.
Basically, this diet has nothing to do with losing weight. It consists of completely cutting out shame and gorging on self-worth. Success is not measured on the scale, but on my body’s ability to do the things I want it to. The difference between size and health is clearly defined.
The Self-Worth Diet is not easy. Feeling good about yourself in spite of your weight is extremely difficult, especially when it’s been deeply ingrained in you that you shouldn’t. In fact, when almost everyone around you measures your worth according to your size and not your health, it’s almost impossible not to keep your goal from shifting back to your weight.
Many people don’t understand this diet. It makes them angry that as an obese person, your top priority is self-worth and not weight loss. They don’t think you deserve to love yourself until you’re thin. It takes a lot of discipline to stick to The Self-Worth Diet in the face of that anger, especially when reaching a place of genuine worthiness and love may take some time.
But it’s important to remember that weight loss should only be the by-product of this diet, and not the goal. Your ultimate goal is to have a life filled with health and happiness, and you cannot reach that goal without first having self-worth and self-compassion.
End of diet.
(If framing what I’m doing like a diet still doesn’t help certain people understand what I’m trying to do, I can always just tell them to fuck off. Because, you know, it’s NONE OF THEIR FRIGGING BUSINESS ANYWAY.)
Is it easy to concentrate on my health and self-worth instead of my body shape in a world full of quick fixes and ‘What Happened To Her Hot Bod?’ magazine covers? No. It really, really isn’t. But I’m trying. Loving myself in spite of my size is a huge shift in all the core beliefs I’ve held about personal value and worth my whole life.
But the good news is, judging by how much deeper my toe goes into that pool every day, this whole ‘love yourself first’ thing is working.
So there you have it. I’m doing absolutely nothing to ‘lose weight’.
But I am working my arse off to change my life.