WWI - When we lose the weight: a transition from empathy to sympathy

Numbers on Wednesday Weigh-In: 212, fat % 45.6. Down exactly 1.

The weightloss blogs I read fall into basically three categories (and many overlap) 1) They're just damn good writers, and often very funny, but they otherwise caught my eye because they have a voice that speaks to me 2) The blogger is roughly where I am weight-wise (give or take 20 lbs) and so we have that hovering-around-200-so perspective together or 3) The blogger has been at it (blogging, and specifically about weightloss) for about as long as I have been so we have that "I've been at it for almost a year now and I'm hitting a plateau combined with hitting my stride" thing in common.

I've noticed some trends in the 2s and 3s -- let me know if you think otherwise. Normally I hate generalizations, but there's some common themes I'm finding, has anybody else noticed these?

Among the 2s:

  • The visibility factor (or the lack of invisibility anymore) is manifesting itself. We all seem to be getting noticed, especially by men. We don't seem so fat. Perhaps, to them, we've gone from "fat" to "she could stand to drop a few pounds." As such, we're not used to this attention. Its not just from men, and its not just sexual. We're making more of an impact at work, in the arts, everywhere. We're liking it, by and large, but we're not quite sure what to make of it. And I know I'm wrestling with the idea that "you didn't look at me twice when I was really fat" but at the same time, I'm not turning away the newfound attention I'm getting and I'm enjoying something that, not a year ago, I was whining about not being fair.
    We're starting to be able to buy our clothes (albeit, we're still in XL, or the loose 14s and 16s) at places other than Lane Bryant, or, as Wendy McClure mentions in "I'm Not the New Me," the fat section of department stores. For some of us, we're getting to re-visit old stores we used to live in, for others, it’s the first time we've stepped in there. (I'm in the former group.) It's cool. We can start finally imagining ourselves wearing things other than mu-mus, but at the same time, we're waving the flags at fashion designers to learn how to dress our fat bodies in something other than a tent. So, I guess this means at least we haven't lost our empathy. Its cool, but in my case, dangerous. I'm not done yet, but I'm starting to feel comfortable in my old, not-so-fat clothes, and comfort tends to make me lazy.

  • We're starting to wonder what our perspective is going to be when we do achieve our goals. I know I'm at a point where for the first time in years I'm seeing this as do-able --that I might actually hit that seemingly far goal of 100 pounds. In this respect, I think I'll always have empathy for overweight women, but when empathy transitions to sympathy, when does it become patronizing? And how do we keep from being patronizing, beyond the obvious difference between "I remember when I was there, here's what worked for me" as opposed to (and I've seen this in more than a few books/blogs written by former fat women) "I remember when I was such an idiotic fat cow." That's the easy difference, it gets harder when you realize that, after all these years of being victims of a form of elitism, we're sort of joining the elite. Its like I've written before, I love the people in this phat little club of ours, but given the choice, it’s a club whose eligibility I'd rather not qualify for. I'm seeing a lot of us at this point struggling with this: to remain "fat accepting" yet to want to cast off our own fat. Is it elitist to say: "Well, fine for you if you're OK with being fat or not ready -- for whatever reason (god knows it took me a while to be truly ready to do this) to lose it yet, but its not acceptable for me."? It really is the opposite of the Woody Allen paradox: "I wouldn't want to be a member of any club that would have me in it." We are members of this club, and we want out. Is that an insult to the current club members?

And among the 3's:
  • Those of us who have been here for almost a year (I started this blog in November '05), I think we're hitting our strides and understanding that we're in for the long haul. I can just picture the ones who have been at this for a few years now, just smiling at us and remembering the day when, as many of us are starting to post, it hit them that its really going to happen, that goal (mine is 100 pounds) isn't just a pie in the sky. We're using "when" instead of "if" to precede the clause "I lose the weight." I've already seen some people trying to decide what the tattoo is going to say, they're shopping for clothes they know don't fit them now, but will someday. There's some door we all seem to have busted through, the difference between, say the weightloss blogs that started up fast and then disintegrated after a few months, and us, who have gotten through some kind of barrier. I don't know when that occurs -- its like in child development, you can tell a new mother to "Wait it out, trust us, the kid WILL start sleeping regularly after about 6-8 weeks." When is that line that we have to cross that brings us to the next level. I would have loved to have known, the way I was told (and can pass on to a new breastfeeding mother) that it really does get better after the colostrum's done, and your milk comes in. It’s a gift I would love to be able to give to some dieting newbie -- get past, what, 6 months? -- and you too will start to believe it. I'm going through my archives and I think I started believing in my ability to get to my goals after about 4 months, slowly, bit by bit. I think the best advice I can give to somebody who's new is to don't just look at your weight. Look at your measurements. Look at your ability to run/bike/swim a mile in whatever baseline you have. Look at your ability to tie your shoes without doing it from the side. (Look at the fact that you don't have to stick to velcro shoes!) But I'm wondering what the next level is, and what I have to achive at the next level. And I'm also wondering what the next level's challenges are. I know what they are here, at least for me. They're to not get cocky, to not get lazy, that those huge differences didn't just happen overnight. My noticing them happened overnight, in reviewing my archives, the things that got me excited were things that I tried out of the clear blue sky: those Old Navy pants, being able to run for more than 10 minutes, being able to lift my hips off the floor recently. But the methodology that got me there didn't happen overnight. That took close to a year. MUST REMEMBER THIS.

  • We're also getting philosophical. We're kind of beyond the basics of what plan, how many calories are in this, etc. Its big picture for us now. Digging into why are we doing this, what fundamental changes are we struggling with, etc. This is the scary part. We are starting to realize that to get to that next level, its not just a diet. It’s a serious change in the way we do business with ourselves. The fact that we've lasted this long proves we can do it. But will we? Are we ready to make that change? We all seem to be answering yes, even if we don't know exactly what those changes will entail. I sure as hell don't. But it’s a hellava ride, and I'm looking forward to reading back in a year to see if I figured it out.


Jeckie said…
I think you hit something important with #2, V'ron. The idea of "I'm getting attention so it mustn't be THAT bad" is a tough one to break through. I think that has always been my downfall. I'm not what I would consider "big". I've hovered around that 200 pound mark for years. I wear a size 14/16 and don't look 200 pounds (mostly because a lot of it is in my chest)... so it's hard for me to get over the "I'm not that fat" to the "but I need to do this because I'm not healthy and if I don't now I WILL be" mentality. But I think you're on such a great track that this won't deter you... keep up the great work! (and keep passing along those "secrets" 'cuz I need them BAD! :) )
Amy said…
some of us are also in the "oh my god i've been at this for nine months and i'm still fat". i'm hovering around reality.
BigAssBelle said…
what a great post. i am kind of finding myself shocked/horrified/irritated with all of the reading i've done at the criticism directed at the fat (women, especially) by the newly thin.

it is so virulent that i think it's almost something fear-based. "if i can figure out all of the ways i'm not like HER, i will never go back please oh please oh please." so i can see someone fat as weak, unmotivated, too accepting, lacking self esteem, pride, whatever and i can pick all of the reasons i'm NOT that way, ergo i am safe.

this puzzles me and it bothers me and i guess i need to work on it. i am very much of the live and let live school, also very much aware that i haven't a clue why one day it becomes possible to get rid of the weight when i've essentially tried every day for 30+ years.

ugh. just blathering. off to the gym :-) i love your thoughtful writing and your insights.
CactusFreek said…
I find other peoples weight loss blogs very helpful. It's one of the biggest factors in keeping my motivation up, and i'm really grateful for that! :o)
Lori said…
I'm being redundant by saying it's a great post but it really is. The intro was true, #1-4 were spot on and true true true.

Thanks for writing that, I really appreciated it.
angelfish24 said…
Just started reading your blog this past week and wow this post was awesome. I guess I fall into that 4 plus months on the healthy eating program and still at that 'can I do it phase' and 'yes, I am ready to do it'. But also in the back of my mind is all the years of trying and losing a good amount and then getting higher and higher and not examining why. So I'm not looking at that and why I've chosen to stay fat and what got me here. Of course, the emotional aspects and eating because of them is the main one that got me here. I was formerly thin and so I know it is possible to get there again. I'll just keep plodding along and them will be an old timer at this, but the difference this time will be no quitting when it gets tough! Like your blog, thanks.

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