Sometimes, I find myself feeling happy/excited when I lose weight, and that causes me to go into a weird cycle of anger at myself for feeling that way and for having some sort of hope that a skinnier me would be better/ happier/something. How can I let changes to my weight not bother me?
Ok, so first: you are not alone! So many people talk to me about this exact feeling.
So, let’s get the easiest part out of the way.
- You’ve been trained from your earliest years to have this kind of reaction because you’ve been taught that weight loss under every circumstance is a positive and laudable outcome.
It’s TOTALLY NATURAL to have this kind of reaction because we live in a culture that is LITERALLY SATURATED with fatphobia. Yes, I know you know this, but sometimes we forget just how effective diet culture is at infiltrating our innermost hopes, dreams, and thoughts. Sometimes it’s important to remind yourself that you’re just human and you’ve had a lifetime of not only being taught that being thinner is better than being fatter, but that thinness is literally equivalent to being happy, healthy, respected, beautiful, loved, successful – not to mention every hero/princess/yacht-owner in every movie/ad/magazine you’ve ever seen is a thin person. You’ve been taught from your very earliest days of consciousness that thin people get everything, and fat people get nothing. And even though we know this isn’t true, your brain was doing its job in picking up on what the culture was putting down.
- Think of this happiness/excitement as a reflex rather than a genuine reaction.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a doctor’s appointment where they test your reflexes. You know, the whole little hammer to the knee thing. You can’t exactly help that your knee reacts. Somewhat similarly you’ve been taught to have a reaction that is reflex-life when your weight lowers. Try to imagine that feeling of happiness or excitement as a knee-jerk reaction. It doesn’t have to mean anything intense about who you are. It just IS. The fewer resources you dedicate to these feelings the less power they will have over you. So rather than feeling anger about these feelings, just let them happen and allow them to move right along. It happened. It’s done.
- Liberation isn’t a game of perfection.
It’s diet culture (and normy culture in general) that teaches us that there is such a thing as “failure.” My favorite thing about the pursuit of liberation is that it’s all about you making the life you want on your terms. Don’t worry that you’re doing “it” wrong. It’s all part of the process, and there’s no way to it but through it. You are not stronger than the whole entire culture, but you don’t have to beat the culture you just have to take care of you.
- Revel in the confusion.
I’ve come to realize that confusion is, like, the genius tax. I’ve really been working at this one lately: celebrating the confusion. Confusion is a sign that you are thinking critically about something, and we live in a culture that teaches us not to be critical of stuff. Take a moment to revel in the choice you’ve made to be critical of diet culture. You’ve fuckin’ won the smart person lottery, girl, because you’ve done the detective work and found that something just “isn’t right here” when it comes to all this diet shit. And that’s super fucking special. Frealz.
- Remind yourself: You are trying to heal from diet culture while still being immersed in it.
This is one of the greatest challenges of folks who are trying to heal from diet culture and fatphobia. Many people who overcome trauma have the advantage of the trauma being in the past. With diet culture, we cannot escape the thing from which we are trying to heal. This is super challenging, and it’s very important to cut yourself a massive amount of slack.
- THOUGHTS don’t make you the person you are. ACTIONS do.
Finally, I have tons and tons of thoughts that are, like, gross and awful and, frankly, sometimes I have thoughts that if executed would lead to jail time. Girl, a LOT of jail time. It doesn’t matter that some of my (or your) thoughts are terrible, all that matters is what I (or you) choose to do with those thoughts. It sounds to me that you have made a choice: to stop putting your life on hold in pursuit of weight loss. That’s a fantastic choice, and an at times challenging one. What matters less than your momentary excitement or happiness around weight change, is your commitment to actions that reflect the things that matter to you.
Hope this helps!
Dear Virgie is a weekly advice column by Virgie Tovar, MA, author, activist and one of the nation’s leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the editor of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press, November 2012) and the mastermind behind #LoseHateNotWeight. She holds a Master’s degree in Human Sexuality with a focus on the intersections of body size, race and gender. Virgie has been featured by the New York Times, MTV, Al Jazeera, the San Francisco Chronicle, NPR, Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan Magazine Online, and Bust Magazine. Find her at www.virgietovar.com.