I’ve always been an overachiever. So when I went to college, I didn’t stop at the freshman fifteen. By the time I graduated, I had gained over forty pounds. Fortunately, a few years later, I lost it all. And I’ve kept it off for over ten years. But it’s been a struggle, one that has shaped my habits and lifestyle.
However, a lot of people simply don’t understand my choices. At times, they think my behaviors are quirky, extreme, and even weird. However, losing a lot of weight and trying to keep it off can do that to a person. To help those who haven’t lost a lot of weight understand people like me, here are five things that only a formerly fat person will understand.
1. Food obsessions don’t end.
I was obsessed with food at an early age. I actually viewed the school lunch ladies as role models (no joke). In fifth grade I went on a three-day field trip and all I thought about were the large amounts of food I would eat in a new place. At least at that age, my metabolism was fast enough to not gain too much weight.
I am still obsessed with food—just in a different way. Now it is channeled into counting calories, having an intricate knowledge of where I can and can’t eat, planning out my meals out at least for the day, and other borderline obsessive behaviors.
And yes, I am sometimes “that guy” who insists on having healthier options at Christmas dinner or not going to a certain restaurant with friends because there is nothing low-carb on the menu.
But if I stop caring, I start to gain weight again. It might seem obsessive, but it beats being forty pounds heavier and experiencing all of the drawbacks that come with it.
2. We have a love/hate relationship with food.
I still love food. A lot. I look forward to eating out and still believe every event is better with food. I even eat “unhealthy” stuff when it fits into my overall diet and calorie goals.
However, my choices regarding food got me in a very unhealthy situation both for my physical and mental well-being. This means that as much as I love food, I also have a degree of animosity towards it. I have to keep food in control or it controls me.
So lots of my friends don’t realize that one day I might eat ten deep-fried boneless wings slathered in blue cheese and the next day want nothing to do with them (especially if I’ve already eaten too much already).
I know it’s confusing and seems wildly inconsistent at times, but it makes perfect sense to me.
3. There is still a lot to prove.
Each summer I like to participate in an extreme race called the “Tough Mudder.” It involves running along eleven miles of muddy trails and completing fitness-related obstacles. The reaction from friends and acquaintances is typically, “You’re doing what?”
Considering how walking up the stairs and not losing my breath used to be a small victory, an extreme race seems a tad overboard.
But in a way that is the point. Many of us who lost weight still vividly remember how we used to be: the excess weight holding us back during gym class, getting cut from sports teams, and so on.
So most of us still have a lot to prove. These efforts might come across as bragging or overcompensating, but it’s a personal reminder that not only have we made strides, we are a long, long way from our former selves.
4. We are proud of our weight loss.
My dad has lost over 140 pounds. When he meets new people, he will sometimes show them the notches on his belt at his former weight. It’s a little odd, but it’s a source of pride. And it should be.
If you’ve never lost a lot of weight, you don’t realize how hard it is to do, especially if you keep it off for long periods of time. Our bodies haven’t quite adapted to the modern Western lifestyle and are still engineered to fight off the next famine (i.e. gain fat). Taking weight off for the long term is extremely difficult.
And although I don’t show off belt notches, I am proud of what I’ve done. Losing weight and keeping it off puts me and others like me in pretty elite company. We deserve to enjoy it.
5. The weight is gone, but not the issues.
Some people claim they are a skinny person stuck inside a fat body. However, for individuals who have lost a lot of weight, remnants of the fat person still remain. Obese people aren’t treated very well and everyone who used to be fat, especially while young, experienced teasing, rejection, and heartache connected to weight.
We’ve all internalized that to a degree, even if we are currently fit and better looking. Those “issues” can still come out at times. However, our past can also be a great motivator. It reminds us to stay healthy, fit, and looking and feeling our best since, in the end, that is far better.