Illustration by thelaziestpaw
An onion, a prison, or twenty sets of clothes worn all at once? (See yesterday’s post!)
Maybe those layers of limitation we put on ourselves and need to peel away to live authentically is like all those clothes that make someone look fat when they’re not. A kind of fat suit, disguising the real person. I know about that. I’ve lost huge amounts of weight, taking off my personal fat suit, twice over.
To do that, I had to give up all my excuses, just like I am now with my writing.
Before I could change, lose the weight, I had to deal with some questions. What was the fat protecting me from or an excuse for or otherwise doing for me? What was the payoff for staying fat? I couldn’t lose weight unless I looked at what the key benefit of being fat was. Until I knew that, how could I choose to do anything differently to change things?
When I lost weight the first time, in my early thirties, I woke up one day knowing it was time to change my life. Simple as that.
What allowed me to let go of the weight was suddenly realising I wanted to punish my parents. My fat was my unhappiness made visible. I didn’t need to tell them they’d made me unhappy, they could see it.
I had to make a choice- did I want to punish them more than I wanted health and happiness?
Obviously, I wanted to be happy more. I lost weight, easily and without really needing to try too hard. I just started exercising more, and didn’t want to eat the junk food I’d been stuffing myself with.
There were other issues of course, other road bumps I hit along the way as I lost weight. I longed for love but felt deeply afraid of being hurt by risking a relationship. I’d used the weight to hide myself, to avoid letting anyone get close to me. Literally. If anyone touched me, they didn’t really touch me, they touched the fat. If anyone hugged me, I had an extra six inches between me and them to keep me safe. It felt like the fat wasn’t part of me, something external. My fat suit.
There are plenty of abundantly sexy larger women, women who are the size they’re meant to be, women who are perfectly confident in their attractiveness exactly as they are.
I was not one of them.
Losing weight didn’t change that. I struggled with feeling more attractive as I lost weight. I screwed up relationships with my insecurity and fear of real love. Until I found a man who’d stick with me, no matter what. Then over ten years later, seven miscarriages behind me, I got fat again. Nearly back to my heaviest weight ever.
I had good excuses. My hormones didn’t know where they were, after so many pregnancies. I had a stressful job. My husband lost his. There are always plenty of excuses if we want them.
Oh, I wanted to lose weight. I tried. But it all seemed too hard, for so many reasons. Perimenopause. Crazy busy job with a long commute. No time to cook meant eating supermarket ready meal pasta arrabiata and garlic bread every night. With two or three glasses of wine. And dark chocolate. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t lose much more than a few pounds, no matter how much I told myself I wanted to.
It took a night in hospital with chest pain that could have been a heart attack but thankfully wasn’t to make me look at the truth. The real too-shameful-to-admit reason I didn’t want to let go of my fat. Same old thing, except instead of punishing my parents, I was punishing my husband. Showing him- look how miserable you’ve made me.
After the seventh miscarriage, he refused to let me get pregnant again. His way of protecting me, making sure I didn’t experience that heartbreak again. He would only have sex with a condom. I hated him for that. I thought about all sorts of options, from leaving him, to having an affair, to simply putting holes in the condoms.
I didn’t do any of them. In some deep hidden secret part of me, I was relieved not to have to go through it again. The hope. The excitement of the positive test. The constant anxiety, waiting for the bleeding to start. The anguish when it inevitably did, after one week or sixteen weeks.
The price of course, was giving up on ever having a child of my own.
But hey, it wasn’t my choice, right, it was his. I had someone to blame. Perfect. I could be angry with him for stopping me. Much better than being angry with myself for being too gutless to try again. Or angry with my stupid useless body for letting me down and not doing this one simple thing millions of other women could do. I could stuff those feelings down with food. I could show him how much he’d hurt me.
And I did.
Then, crunch time. I had to choose. What did I want more- to lose weight and cut my risk of the chest pain really being a heart attack next time, or to keep on comfort eating and punishing my husband?
My grandmother dropped dead from a massive heart attack in her fifties. I didn’t want that to happen to me. I still had too much I wanted to do. It was time. Time to stop using weight to show my husband how unhappy I felt. Time to stop hiding the real me behind my fat body. Time to stop using food and alcohol to stuff down my emotions.
I lost the weight. Over eighty pounds, again. I’m now the lightest I’ve been in my adult life, eating almost totally raw vegan and loving it. I’m hoping I won’t put on weight again. I don’t think I will. I’m ready to give up using fat as a weapon or as somewhere to hide the real me.
I’m ready to stop hiding, full stop.
It’s time for me to grow up and own this body and this life of mine. Start living honestly and authentically. Start living raw and wild. Start living more and more as that creative me I’ve only allowed out in transient glimpses.
So now I’m not hiding behind weight, what else am I hiding behind? What other excuses do I need to let go of?
I’m willing to find out.