The weirdness of weight loss

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Note: If you use MyFitnessPal, feel free to add me or follow me or whatever it is one does there! I don’t consistently track all my food and exercise there though I am a fan of tracking. Most often I use the app to track protein which is the one macro-nutrient I struggle with as a vegetarian.

I’m not sure how to talk about weight loss in a personal sense, when it comes to my story. And for a long time I haven’t had to talk about it. I’ve lost weight slowly enough that it’s not been an issue. Twenty five pounds lost, yes, but over three and a half years. I’ve joked about being a weight loss alpaca, rather than a unicorn. No dramatic transformations here. Lately I’ve been thinking that my weight loss spirit animal might be the slow moving sloth instead.

(An aside: I was happy this morning to read James Fell’s case for slow.)

So this time around is different for me. It’s a change from the big weight losses when I was twenty four (eighty pounds in one year) and forty (sixty pounds in a year).

This time I’m in it for performance reasons, wanting to make it up hills faster, and I’m focused not so much on the number in the scale but instead on eating well and moving lots. That’s stuff I can control.

Unfortunately the rest of the world makes its own assumptions about fatness and fitness, about health and BMI, and about thinness and beauty, and I’m not sure how to avoid them. I could just recommend they go read Tracy’s excellent blog post  about what to say to someone who has lost weight but I think I need a shorter, snappier answer.

People are noticing now because I’m replacing old, too big clothes with some smaller stuff. They notice when I’m dressed in form fitting sports attire. It’s the kind of attention that makes me want to track down a mumu to wear. I start thinking about the joys of baggy sweatpants and hoodies. Warm, comfortable, enveloping, and away from eyes that scrutinize size and shape. The thing is when I’m big and challenging peoples’ ideas of what women ought to look like, I can get my politics on my side. I am much more capable of being out there and proud of how I look as a larger woman. As a larger women loving my body and showing it off is a political act.

When I’m not large I’m less comfortable with the attention and I’m skeptical of the places it comes from. I don’t want your praise for looking for looking more like society’s ideas about what I ought to look like. It’s messy and it’s complicated.

I guess it’s still striking that I like how I look given that I’ll never be a supermodel and I’m not 18 or even 38 years old. But the truth is, I’ve always liked my body. It does fun things (like fat biking) and hard things (like childbirth) and it’s a source of pride and pleasure. I like the stories it tells. That’s not about size, weight, or shape.

I know Nat understands the complicated feelings I have about losing weight, the ambivalence it brings. See her post Losing 20 lbs: A complicated gift.

So there are at least three challenges I’m facing now that people are noticing that I’ve lost weight.

  1. Maintaining body positivity now it’s no longer about being larger. I’m less comfortable being proud of how I look now that it’s closer to society’s idea of what I ought to look like.
  2. Weirdly also losing a bit of body positive community. We have a wonderful plus size boutique in London with great politics and I love their clothes and their events. But yikes, there’s no longer anything there that fit me. That’s a bit sad and frustrating.
  3. Dealing with other peoples’ assumptions and compliments and congratulations.

The other day someone, a friend but not a close friend, asked how I was doing since my father’s death. I’m okay, I said. Not sleeping so well. I’m sad and not quite myself.  I’ve gone from being the Queen of Patience to being a bit snappy and irritable. The friend continued, well you look great. You’ve lost weight.

Really. Really.

Weight loss as a perk of grief? Sigh.

I’ll write more about this later.

Now you might be wondering how I lost the weight. What was my plan?

I did Precision Nutrition for a year and that helped me acquire some better habits. I’ve also worked a bit with local sports nutritionist Jennifer Broxterman. But lately the thing that’s helped me lately isn’t anything I can recommend to anyone else.

Get thyroid cancer, have your thyroid removed, take thyroid replacement hormones and all of a sudden stop feeling hungry? It’s a mixed blessing this not being hungry thing.

Sometimes I need to eat and find myself browsing the cafeteria looking for anything that looks good. It’s weird when you don’t feel like eating but have to. My world has changed.

I’m not sure where my weight will settle. I don’t have as a goal getting down to my smallest size ever but I’d like to be below the recommended max weight for my racing wheels. That’s 175.

(Oddly since BMI is a totally messed up thing, I’m still very much overweight, almost obese. I want to write “technically obese” but I’m not even sure what that means. I’m muscular and so I guess it’s not a useful measure. I think we need to do away with BMI and Catherine thinks it’s time to get rid of “obesity” as a medical term too.)

Have you lost weight and had to deal with scrutiny and comments? What’s your advice for coping? I mean besides shopping for mumus together!

Not this:

But maybe this?

About Sam B

Philosopher, feminist, parent, and cyclist!

4 thoughts on “The weirdness of weight loss

  1. ainsobriety says:

    During my last real episode of depression I stopped eating. It felt good to starve. To inflict pain on myself. To see my body shrink.
    I lost about 15 pounds very quickly. I was already pretty fit, and generally thin. I got thinner.
    I got many “compliments” about my weight loss and dedication to diet. And they fed my inner despair. Perhaps I would be happier if I was thinner….that’s what I heard.

    Thankfully I had a good therapist and Doctor who helped me recognize what was happening.

    So – I never comment on weight loss. You can be looking great. No body commentary required.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sam B says:

      Yes. I stopped commenting after once mentioning to a work friend who had cancer…I didn’t know…that she looked terrific. Never again. Lesson learned.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Tracy I says:

        It’s a really tough one, I agree. One thing I’m really happy about (as a sign of personal growth) is that I’ve pretty much stopped noticing whether the people around me have lost or gained. I’m happy about this because it means that I care about my friends for who they are, not what size they are. I feel it’s a real accomplishment. But I’m not sure my friends who are losing because they are trying to lose appreciate that I don’t even notice. 🙂

        Like

      • Tracy I says:

        Yep. I was there. Mortifying. Learned my lesson too!

        Like

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