There are a lot of resources out there on how to lose weight. And my experience losing weight is that most of them are from people who have never been fat or have been made fun of for being overweight.
So they can provide excellent information on nutrition or exercise. However, most of these experts have no idea what it’s like to be overweight and the thought processes that come with it. Let me tell you what you can expect. I have been there. It’s been my personal struggle my whole life and I can provide perspective a lot of fitness experts will never know.
Growing up I was the fat kid. I was big my whole life. It was something “I was supposed to grow out” of but never did. One day during the summer of 2010 I decided to lose weight. To officially go on a diet. I was twenty years old and I was never going to grow out of it.
My parents were generous and paid for me to meet with nutritionists and set up a diet plan. Knowing what I know now about nutrition, I can tell you it was a low carb diet emphasizing vegetables and protein. Pretty simple frankly. At the time I knew nothing of nutrition, and it was a great way for me to jumpstart my weight loss. I was amazed at how quickly the pounds melted off.
What I didn’t know was that eating right was half if not less than half of the battle.
The mental struggles that came from my experience losing weight were and still are the most surprising part. When you’re dieting you expect to be hungry. You expect to not eat sugar. You don’t expect to be angry and resentful.
The Mental Game of Losing Weight
I have no doubt there are tons of people who can fix their eating habits and not have to deal with a single mental struggle. However, I am not one of those people.
I can only assume the difficulties I face are due to having always being overweight. It was my identity. I was the funny fat kid. As soon as I lost weight I lost who I was.
The other issue is on some level I am a food addict. I love the feeling of a full stomach. And if I experience any emotion I know exactly which foods pair well with it.
Fun fact: Processed foods pair with almost every emotion. Funny how that works out.
Below are some of the mental struggles I found, fought through, and am still fighting through.
How People Treat The Overweight
For a while, I came to hate other people. Our society treats overweight people terribly. Overweight people are monsters. It’s likely something subconscious or some sort of cultural programming. Very few people will outright admit they hate fat people. But my experience is that the majority of people hold some prejudice.
If you’ve been overweight your whole life, you have no idea you’ve being treated like a second class citizen.
It’s subtle things. People smile at you more. Girls are willing to talk to you. In general, people are willing to talk to you. All of a sudden I felt popular.
It seemed like people hated my old self, but I had not changed as a person.
This realization was the source of a lot of anger. I was a good person. I was friendly. I always tried to make people laugh. In my experience Losing weight had not caused my personality to change or to become a more valuable human life. And yet people treated much better because I was thinner.
Thoughts crept into my head like, “They’re only being nice to me because I’m thin now.” Or “They’re only my friend now, had they known me before they probably would have made fun of me.”
I don’t have much advice for getting over this. The only thing I can say is that it made me appreciate the friends I had and the good people I knew all the more. And when meeting new people and dating it was an added thing I looked for.
There are decent people out there. And I say cherish them and those relationships as much as you can.
Handling The Loose Skin After Such a Weight Loss
When I started my weight loss journey. I pictured myself at my goal weight with a sixpack and wearing a bathing suit. Well, I got to my goal weight, and I had the complete opposite of a six-pack. I had loose skin.
It was incredibly frustrating to reach my goal weight and still dread taking off my shirt. Weight loss is filled with those types of let downs.
I was reluctant to have the surgery. It felt like cheating. I had lost the weight through diet and exercise to have a doctor make the final adjustments felt like all the hard work was in vain.
I was wrong. Yes getting the surgery is an artificial way to look good. But by overeating artificial foods I had made my self look like no human should. It makes sense to correct that would require some level of artificiality. I had lost 100 pounds through diet and exercise. And I lost another 10 pounds of skin thanks to the doctors.
After I graduated from grad school, I got the skin removal surgery. As far as I know, there is no natural way to remove the skin. And while I don’t have a six-pack and I now have a giant scar wrapped around my entire torso, I can take my shirt off.
I highly recommend the surgery.
Still Hating Yourself Even When You’re Thin
You’d think after losing 100 pounds and going through a painful surgery I’d finally be happy. But I wasn’t. I remember taking my shirt off in the bathroom after the surgery. Scars still fresh. And hating the way I looked. Yes, the extra skin around my stomach looked better. But now my man-boobs were the problem.
This is when I realized I probably would never be happy with how I looked. I had to accept the past.
Twenty years of morbid obesity wrecked my body. Mostly in superficial ways, thank goodness. But it also shaped who I am today. I’m more aware of people’s perceptions. I am able to recognize truly good people. I know a lot about nutrition. I know a lot about myself.
The imperfections are my battle wounds. And I’m proud of them. Most people haven’t done and can’t do what I did to lose weight and change my life. I know that. And when they look at my stretch marks and my man-boobs, I like to think they know that too.
A Healthy Weight Is Life-Long Struggle
Perhaps the most frustrating or sad part of my experience losing weight is realizing that is going to be a life long struggle. Since losing my initial weight, I’ve gained weight. And then lost it again. In total, I’m sure I’ve gained and lost 300 pounds, maybe even more.
Knowing that this was going to be a life long struggle was heartbreaking. I thought once I reached my goal weight all would be good. Life would be sunshine and rainbows every day. That’s not how it goes, and it was naive.
The truth is this my struggle. I take solace in the fact that there are worst struggles out there. Alcoholism, heroin addiction, you name it, are all worse. When you’re addicted to food it’s really hard to ruin your life binge eating. It’s pretty easy to do that if you’re a drinker. Knowing that if I have a bad stretch not all is lost brings me comfort.
But in the end, this is my burden. And it’s almost entirely a mental one.