I’m a member of a couple of wls groups on Facebook, I have an Instagram account that’s dedicated to my wls journey (I only follow wls accounts there, so it’s all weight loss pretty much all the time). I spend most of my screen time reading about weight loss stories, looking at before and “after” photos, bombarding my mind with images and narratives around losing weight. Most of the time (I would say probably 99% of the time) people talk about how happy they are being thinner than they were when they were fat. I understand that, I see why people want to put that message out there because there’s this idea that all fat people are (besides lazy and gross) totally miserable because they’re fat. If you’re depressed and fat, it’s not because you have a shitty job, or because you have a chemical imbalance in your brain, or because you’re going through a rough patch in a relationship. It’s not because you just lost a loved one, or because people treat you like shit (because of aforementioned fatness) or because you’ve suffered trauma of some kind.
It’s because you’re fat, and you know it, and you hate it and hate yourself. So, the solution to that is to be thin. When you get thin, the depression will go away. And sure, some people (probably a small percentage) are depressed specifically about being fat and losing weight helps them feel better. But it’s not a cure all for all your woes. Also, not all fat people are depressed in general or depressed about being fat specifically, and that idea totally oversimplifies depression. I don’t know if you can tell, but the whole thing really grinds my gears.
But I get it. I want to fall into that happily-ever-after story of the once fat girl who was saved by weight loss and spent the rest of her life happy and thin. It’s simple, easy to consume. In our society it just makes sense, it’s a love story that people can really get behind. A love story where you get to fall in love with yourself, a new and improved self that is approved by society. In fact, it’s only with that approval that you actually get the chance to love your body. You don’t get the happily-ever-after until OTHER people tell you it’s okay (how fucked up is that?). And you learn to crave their approval because it means you’re a good person and worthy of being loved and being seen and you’re worthy of being treated humanely. So yeah, I understand the pull towards that narrative, I get why society repeats it over and over again and I get why formally fat people focus their attention on that being their story.
It’s just not my story.
To be clear, I’m still fat. My body is not one that people would use in an after photo to inspire/shame people into believing that weight loss is the path to happiness. According to my BMI, I’m still obese. I still shop at the fat girls clothing stores and my shirt size still contains an X or two. That may or may not change in the coming months, but I am fairly sure that even I continue to lose weight, I will never be thin. I won’t have the flat stomach I dreamed of as an adolescent, nor will I have a thigh gap– and my bones, which I tried for so long to expose, will not protrude in the ways I once wanted them to. Even if I were to get down to a “normal” BMI, I would still have plenty of excess skin to deal with for the rest of my life, skin that sags and gets in the way and makes lumpy what should be flat.
So I will never be thin. But I might not be as fat as I am now. It’s possible that this surgery will pull my body back down into a more acceptable range of fatness, one where I can still be considered sexy “for a fat girl.” People may treat me better because at least I still lost a lot of weight and even if I’m not thin I at least fought the fat as best I could. And people will try to push me into that narrative– they will imagine me as once totally miserable, suffocating from my too-much-ness, but pulled up and out of misery into almost happiness by the salvation of weight loss. They will want me to tell the world that the surgery saved my life, that I’ve never been more healthy or more happy or more motivated. They will want me to say that my life is better now that I’m no longer fat. But I don’t think I will be able to say that and have it be true.
I know, I’m only 4 months out from surgery and I can’t tell the future. However, I know my story and to a certain extent I know myself enough to realize that this surgery isn’t going to solve all my problems. The only thing it does is make a person’s body lose weight. And, weight loss has never been my salvation. I can’t say that I’ve always been happier at higher weights, that would be a lie. However, my most depressed and dysfunctional moments have revolved around weight loss. My darkest memories are of times when my eating disorder has been the most out of control, when I was obsessed with everything that went into my body, when I was counting calories and the hours between meals got longer and longer and I was sick. And while I was in this place, hating myself and my body and totally obsessed with losing weight, everyone seemed to be cheering me on. No one seemed to notice how much pain I was actually in. They thought I was happy– I must have been, because I was losing weight. And weight loss=happiness, right?
Not for me. At times it has felt that weight loss, and all that it brings into my life (a raging eating disorder, obsession over numbers, comments about my body, a hyper awareness of my body and how it’s perceived in the world) has actually led me to periods of deep unhappiness. I’m feeling it right now. I’m not saying that it will always be this way, or that the weight loss is the sole cause of this unhappiness and depression, but it plays a major part in it. I may not have always been happy about being fat, but I didn’t spend all of my time hating it either. Right now in the beginning/middle of this weight loss journey, I certainly feel depressed and I hate my body. All of the eating disorder behaviors I thought I had gotten rid of are creeping back up and I feel out of control, and once again I’m getting praised for my progress even though I’m making it by hurting myself. It’s maddening to be back in the place.
I got this surgery because I wanted to be healthier and I thought weight loss was the answer. The jury’s still out on that one (how can I be healthy when everyday I feel like shit?) but I think it’s one of those processes where it gets worse before it gets better. I think I also got it because I had hoped that the eating disorder would be thrown in the bio-hazard bin along with the part of my stomach the surgeon removed. I was very, VERY wrong about that, and now I’m paying the price.
I’m really sad that I was wrong. Being free of my eating disorder was the happily-ever-after story I was looking for.