|At the beginning of March:|
Goal achieved... but at what cost?
Not the answer you were expecting?
Women in modern American society are constantly reminded that thin is the ideal.
Thin = Pretty
Thin = Desirable
Thin = Good
People who lose weight quickly and keep it off are considered success stories. We all want to know their secrets... How can we be thinner too?
What people forget is that weight loss isn't always a positive sign. I could be a considered a weight loss success story, but my experience is not something you want to emulate.
When I bought my wedding dress back in October, I told the seamstress I wouldn't be losing any weight. I've tried losing weight many times and trying to diet never seems to work, so why would it now? I have blogged about dieting in the past, along with the OCD struggles that come with it, and I am well aware that I suck at dieting effectively. The last thing I wanted was to buy a dress that wouldn't zip on the big day. I decided to watch what I ate and maybe if I was lucky I would lose a pound or two.
What I didn't account for was that between working two jobs, taking tutoring clients for my own business, house hunting, and wedding planning, I wouldn't even have to try to lose weight - the insane amount of stress and the ensuing anxiety flair-ups that followed would do the work for me.
Some people reach for food when times get tough, but I stress starve. When I feel like I'm drowning in responsibilities and struggling to find time for basic needs, food is the first thing to go. If I start to panic as to what to tackle when, a meal is an easy thing to cut while prioritizing - an unnecessary time suck that can always be postponed. 10 more minutes of sleep vs. breakfast? Sleep always wins.
On top of that, if the anxiety gets too extreme, I often do not even want food. I start to feel disgusted at the mere idea of it. Keep food away from me and let me take a nap.
I know this is not healthy. My weight has not been this low since I was 22 and had an OCD/mental health breakdown while trying to figure out what to do with my life. I know that in these extreme circumstances I need to find a better way to balance getting nutrition and fulfilling my obligations. The real tragedy here though is all of the positive reinforcement I have been getting for these unhealthy behaviors. Because thin is the goal, once the weight started to fall off, the compliments started to pour in.
I do not have an eating disorder, but this experience has given me more of an idea of the seductive nature of the process. I have bought clothes in sizes I never dreamed possible, and I couldn't help but feel like I had accomplished something when they fit.
But perhaps the craziest part is that I still do not really feel thin. My weight high was 142 pounds and I always thought if I could just get down to the teens again, I would be happy. At the beginning of March, when I hit 119 (23 pounds less), it didn't even feel that different. So what weight would be low enough? Is there a weight that would make me satisfied?
At my final wedding dress fitting last week, I was warned that I need to maintain my current size - any more weight loss and the dress will not fit. I have been hovering around 118-119 for the past month, my weight maintenance supported by some lovely dinners out and a decadent Vegas bachelorette weekend of indulgent eating.
During this final countdown, I know I need to schedule meals and jump on to the self-care movement to stop my weight from slipping any further.... but part of me still can't help wanting to be thinner. I have to work hard to fight against ingrained cultural beauty standards that value image over health.
If this experience has taught me anything, it is to be very careful when dishing out weight loss compliments. Sometimes weight loss is a sign of illness. For example, my grandmother wanted to be thin her whole life and ultimately only reached her goal when she contracted pancreatic cancer. Then there are the stress and anxiety situations like mine where mental health imbalances are manifesting physically. One of my friends lost a lot of weight before her wedding because the stress of wedding planning on top of her intense grad school program actually gave her an ulcer.
Next time you are feeling dissatisfied with your weight, remember to practice gratitude. Having an appetite is a blessing, and enjoying a good meal is one of life's great pleasures. If you are at a healthy weight and you feel good, there is no need to make yourself miserable trying to "lose those last 10 pounds." Take it from someone who lost them - you may not even notice that they are gone.