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The Safety of Being Overweight

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.

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