I’ve lost a lot of weight in recent years. Occasionally I get complimented on this, and while it is pleasing to be complimented, I am also uneasy. I have not worked for this weight loss and I have not sought it. I have improved my quality of life, I sleep more, walk more, but I also eat a lot more cake. I’m aware that sometimes I lose weight because my digestive system packs up (usually stress induced). We praise people for weight loss, but it can so easily be a consequence of illness, while radical weight loss can be a cancer symptom. There is an assumption that thinner equals healthier, but that isn’t always so.
People tend not to ask me if I’m happy about this change, the assumption is that being thinner must mean being happier. Thin is not a magic cure all for life’s troubles, and a lot of people get thin, find nothing else changes, get miserable, and pile the pounds back on. It does not give you social skills, or turn mean partners into nice people, it does not bring true love in any reliable way. Thin is not always happier. I find bouts of weight loss make me especially vulnerable to depression – simply a blood sugar issue, and toxins previously stored in fat cells being released into the blood stream.
Eating less can mean having less energy and being able to get less done. That can mean becoming less able to exercise. Thin is not the same as fit. Nor is thin the same as having a healthy diet that provides enough nutrition. Body size and nutrition have no relationship, one can be overweight and malnourished as well.
I had long believed, mostly due to weight loss adverts, that being thinner meant having more energy, being more comfortable in your body and feeling good about yourself. I’ve dropped a number of clothes sizes. I remain uneasy about my bodyshape, and my energy levels depend entirely on how I balance sleep, activity and food. Size has made no discernible difference. I also have trouble walking into clothes shops and finding items that fit me, suit me and appeal to me. I thought that would get easier, but it hasn’t. Apparently my tastes have been a far bigger barrier in this regard than ever my shape has been.
Brains need fats. So does skin. There’s only so much calorie cutting a person can do before this becomes an issue. Refined sugars and carbs may be more of an issue, but these low carb diets are no good if you want to live an active life. I can’t walk the hills without energy in my food.
There’s also the problem of stopping. If thin is good, and more thin is more good, and amount of weight lost is what you post to facebook for your praise fix, when do you stop? When are you thin enough? And what do you do for a praise fix when you’ve not lost another couple of pounds? When being ever thinner becomes a goal, when ‘lose five pounds in a week’ is offered as a good thing regardless of your body size and health, we lock ourselves into a treacherous game. Being underweight is not a good thing. Malnutrition and hunger will wreck your quality of life.
Better to comment on people looking well, I think, than to focus on weight loss. Better to be interested in feeling well, than to be trying to get thinner at any cost.