If you’ve struggled with losing weight, have you ever wondered if being heavy provides some benefit, protection, or safety?
It’s not easy to think about, and certainly not something I ever considered until I started losing weight in late 2000 and had a moment of panic. It took me completely by surprise, particularly since I hadn’t lost that much – twelve pounds out of an eventual 135. But I had enough of a start to know that I would get to my goal, and that frightened me.
As I wrote in my journal in November 2000:
“If I go through with this, which I have every intention of doing, I will at some point have to deal with the fact that I will be attractive. That shouldn’t be a scary thought, and yet somehow it is. Because in that case, if someone rejects me, I won’t be able to have the comfortable, superior thought that it’s because of my weight – it would be because of me.”
I had never before realized how much I relied on my weight as a balm to wounded pride. While I’m sure that sometimes people did judge me and treat me harshly because of my weight or what I ate, it probably wasn’t the case all the time.
I simply didn’t want to look at myself more closely to see what might cause someone else to reject me or be mean to me. I felt that I suffered enough in my daily life, with the burden of my size and other adolescent differences, and leaning on the weight as a scapegoat became very easy.
That moment in November 2000 forced me to think that perhaps part of me hadn’t wanted to lose weight those earlier times because I found some measure of unacknowledged safety in my size. Confronting that truth humbled me, making me understand myself in ways that I hadn’t wanted to admit.
On the flip side, only by acknowledging that truth could I let go of my safety net and summon the courage to continue losing weight, recognizing that I did it for me, to achieve my goals, not based on what anyone else thought.
And having come through that, I have learned that while some people may still reject me, or be mean to me, it’s not because I’m a bad person. Certainly I make mistakes, and I can’t please everyone.
Even more important, though, I’ve often found that if people judge me harshly, it’s often not because of me at all – it’s because of their own issues. I only wish I had known that sooner, so I might have had an easier time letting go of that safety to be my authentic self, no matter what size.