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Gaining by Losing?

You may have seen Special K’s recent ads that invite you to consider, “What will you gain by losing [weight]?” They even have a section on their website dedicated to showing answers to this question, received from those who are taking the Special K challenge.

If you’re trying to lose weight, whether through this program or something else, it’s an interesting question to consider. Yet the flip side is, do you need to lose weight to in order gain these things?

For more tangible items, you may have to shed pounds. Using myself as an example, here are some things I gained by losing weight that I couldn’t have gotten otherwise:

  • fitting into seats easily

  • not worrying if the seatbelt will fit

  • being able to wear shirts with buttons without fear of embarrassment

  • going through small spaces, like tiny cabins and stairs (especially helpful on my tour of the Galapagos Islands, when I was on a smaller boat)

  • being able to fit into a standard wetsuit (also helpful in the Galapagos)

  • being able to borrow clothes

  • wearing clothes that once belonged to my mom

Some things became vastly easier when I weighed less, although it’s uncertain if I had to lose weight, or at least as much as I did, to achieve them:

  • climbing to the top of Mt. Katahdin (almost a mile high)

  • going up multiple flights of stairs without turning red and gasping for breath

  • playing with my niece and joining her on the playground (I especially loved swinging again)

  • having more energy

More interesting, though, are the intangibles, the ones where I wonder if weight loss was truly required.

Confidence. That certainly increased in inverse proportion to my weight loss. Having confidence, in turn, resulted in changing jobs so that I ended up doing something I liked better, taking on leadership roles at my church, trying online dating, and participating in more social events.

Better relationship with my dad. In losing weight, I finally let go of some old baggage related to my parents and weight, which allowed me to talk more openly with my dad about the issues from my teenage years and find resolution and healing.

Acceptance of my body, as I’ve written about before, and enjoyment of physical activity.

Increased love of healthier food and cooking. I never hated healthy food blanketly – I always loved fruits and many vegetables – but I’ve become much more willing to experiment and introduce more variety into my menu.

Determination to lead a life I won’t regret. When I was heavy, I often thought my life couldn’t be happy and fulfilling unless I was thin. When I realized being thin wasn’t an automatic answer, I searched for and found real answers for myself.

Did I have to lose weight for these things? I thought I did, but now, I’m not convinced.

Admittedly, our society makes it very hard for fat people to feel good about themselves as they are, and while some can manage it, many lose that battle. Of course, what I didn’t realize as a heavy person was that people of all shapes and sizes may struggle with self-acceptance, confidence, and self-esteem. Which is why I hesitate to promote it as something to gain by losing.

If you have very specific goals for weight loss that literally can’t be achieved any other way, that’s important to recognize and remember; it will be a great motivator.

But for some of the other goals, maybe it would be good to think of them as things you want to gain, period, no strings attached. Maybe that makes them harder goals, maybe even ones that feel impossible, but if you let your mind run wild and dare to imagine this possibility, do you get a different answer when you ask, what do you want to gain in your life? And when you know that answer, maybe you can start working toward that now, instead of waiting until some unknown future time, like after losing weight.

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