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Is It Wrong to Want to Be Thin?

A few weeks ago, I read an article titled “My weight loss journey with Oprah – and losing the shame of wanting to be thin” by Kristine Lloyd. The title caught my attention because it’s only recently that anyone likely would feel any shame about wanting to be thin.


And while I never followed Oprah’s journey with weight the way Lloyd did, I could empathize with some of her experiences. But not all of it.


Reading the article also raised the question, is wanting to be thin a bad thing?


Being a fat person

I don’t think anyone will argue that it’s easy to be a fat person in our society, though how easy or difficult it is depends on how heavy you are. I’ve learned recently that there are terms to distinguish those variations, sometimes using women’s clothing size as a gauge.


For example, a small fat person (wearing sizes 14-18) will not face the same challenges and stigma as someone who’s superfat (sizes 26-32+), who will face discrimination at nearly every turn.


As someone who used to wear a size 28, I can attest to that. It was a long time ago now, but I remember parts of it all too well. Still, while I wasn’t happy about my size, or the issues I faced because of it (including being denied long-term healthcare insurance), I don’t recall having a thought quite like Lloyd did.


She wrote: “I don’t want to exist in the world as a fat person.”


That struck me as incredibly sad. Yet I’m sure she’s not the only one to feel that way, especially given the recent Ozempic craze.


She also wrote: “I would have done just about anything to be thin.”


That was something else I couldn’t quite relate to because, unlike Lloyd, I never considered bariatric surgery. (She had gastric sleeve surgery.) Maybe I would have if I’d remained heavy as I got older, but it seems doubtful. I’ve never had surgery involving any organs, and the thought of doing that voluntarily makes me cringe.


Shame for wanting to be thin

You might wonder what would make someone feel ashamed of wanting to be thin, given all the societal pressure for people to be thin. I think it’s because of the recent body positivity movement, which encourages people to accept themselves as they are.


I fully support that idea and the Health at Every Size (HAES) approach. It’s very important, and I hope it continues to gain traction.


That being said, I remember being taken aback in 2017 when I applied to join the Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) and was rejected because my website included my weight journey and information about my memoir. As the rejection stated: “…there is [sic] weight and numbers discussed on your website and… your memoir has a strong weight as the outcome focus which does not align with ASDAH and HAES.”


That was the first time I truly recall feeling like I was being shamed for having lost weight, kept it off, and wanting to tell people about it. The ironic thing, as I noted in an email back to them, is that after losing weight, I realized that being a certain size doesn’t necessarily solve anything, and that was part of why I was interested in being part of the organization.


I understand that focusing on weight doesn’t work well, but neither does shame.


Instead of making anyone feel ashamed of wanting to be thin, I’d be more interested in asking what they hope to gain by that focus – because odds are, it’s not being thing, exactly, that they’re after. Do they want to be able to buy clothes more easily, climb stairs without getting winded, have more energy, or be able to participate in more activities?


It’s better to focus on those underlying goals, and that’s what I did. I wanted to climb Katahdin, and given my previous hiking attempts, that didn’t seem possible when I weighed almost 260 pounds. So, something had to change, and it did, and I’m not going to feel any shame in that.


Relationship to food

What also struck me in Lloyd’s article were the comments about her relationship to food. During COVID, she said she was “living alone, cooped up in my home, with nothing else to look forward to at the end of the day except Trader Joe’s fried egg rolls dripping with sticky sweet and sour sauce, followed by milk and Oreos.”

And: “…I will always live with an undercurrent of fear that one slice of chocolate cake will be my undoing…”


And: “So, every day is a fight to distract myself from the cravings, to choose broccoli over baked goods.”


Reading this, too, made me feel sad, but it also made me wish I could help her find a different path, one where she doesn’t experience these things. Because I don’t feel any of them.


During COVID, I was also home most of the time, with just my cats, but I didn’t feel like food was my only comfort or distraction. The cats helped, but I also still had online events with my church, my book group, and other friends. I could still talk to people on the phone, exchange emails, read books, watch favorite shows, etc.


I can’t say I ever really felt worried about gaining the weight back, either, at least not most of it. Because I lost weight so gradually, with so many other changes in my life, after three years it wasn’t even desirable anymore to go back to my old patterns.


And I find the proposed choice between broccoli and baked goods to be false. Why either? I enjoy having vegetables every day, and I also enjoy having a cookie or a piece of cake or brownie or some other sweet every day. It doesn’t have to be either/or – it can be both.


It’s complicated – but let’s leave shame out of the picture

These sorts of discussions are always tricky, and while I wouldn’t make some of the choices others do to be thin, I don’t think making anyone ashamed is the way to go.


I’ll also add this. If I had lost weight a different way, such that I did feel like food was my only comfort or distraction, or that I remained obsessed with and worried about calories or fat or whatever, I don’t think I’d be happy, nor would I be likely to stay thin. So, I remain grateful that I found a different way.


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