I was folding my clothes tonight, putting things away, particularly the new clothes I bought earlier in the day. I have mixed feelings about this losing weight thing. I’ve never known myself as thin, the last time I was thin, I was 10 (or maybe younger). I used to lay in bed at night and wish that some girl who made fun of me would magically be fat the next day at school and that I would be skinny.. true story. As long as I can remember I’ve been fat. I’ve always shopped in fat stores, I’ve always been afraid to sit in an unstable chair, I’ve always thought that any laugh I hear must be about me. I’ve been self conscience and anxious about my weight for 21 years now, it’s a part of who I am.
Isn’t Losing Weight Exciting… Why Was I Scared?
You would think that the notion of losing large amounts of weight would be really thrilling, that I would, if I could wake up tomorrow, thin, wearing some little black dress and be completely happy. On the contrary, I’m kind of glad that I don’t wake up that way, I think I would completely freak out. Because, truthfully, I’ve already started to freak out.
Being obese has meant a lot of things, mostly, it’s meant comfort. Granted, not physical comfort, I’m never physically comfortable. It’s not even emotionally comfortable. I’m constantly worried about what I look like after all. It’s more of a stability comfort. I know who I am as a fat person. I might not like who I am as a fat person, I may really want to be thin and healthy and go shopping (yes, vanity is a big part of my desire to lose weight). But I do not know who I am as a thin person. In fact, I don’t even know what I’ll look like as a thin person.
The fears that go through my head when doing things like shopping for new clothes are real fears, but over the past few months I’ve really taken time to exam those fears, and have really begun to ask myself if these fears were part of the reasons why for so long I did not lose weight. Are these fears what kept me eating junk?
My life being fat has been somewhat predictable. I’ve never been able to rely on my looks in anyway. Some of you might say that even thin people can’t rely on their looks – but I’m talking about something very different. If you are obese, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Being obese sets off alarms for other people. There is an automatic stigma that comes along with being obese. And most obese people have to work really hard to make you think of something else aside from all of that extra fat between you and them. For some this is humor, or over achievement or buying things for other people. This, for me has taken on many forms. When I was younger I took up violin, now granted I love playing my violin, but when I was a teenager I realized that my violin was the one thing between me and other people that took away from me being fat. If I played well enough, maybe people would not see how fat I was. The same went for school, humor, and many other forms of me trying to hide the fact that I was obese.
Generally, I know what people think when they meet me, or see me walking down the street. I know what looks I get, I know this because I’ve been living with it for 21 years of my life. I don’t like it, but it’s all predictable.
That is, until I met my husband. With out getting into all the details, my husband and I had a rocky start because of my weight. It wasn’t him, but people around him that discouraged him from dating me – because I was so overweight. We had a slow courtship, and we completely fell in love. I didn’t have to be someone I was not around him, I didn’t have to make up in some other area because I was overweight. I was me, or at least I was starting to become me. Until I met my husband I really did not know who I was. I was someone beneath a lot of layers of fat, and thankfully he was able to see me for who I was, and not just that, he really thought I was a beautiful person, not just that inside crap, but actually beautiful.
Having someone see me for who I was, and not for who I was trying to be, or trying to hide from was the first step in this journey of becoming thin.
You might be reading this and thinking that you can’t just go snatch yourself a hot, sweet and adorable guy like my husband to help all of your troubles go away.. (But hey, you never know) but until that time comes I really think discovering who you are, right now, as a person who is overweight is only going to help in the journey to becoming thin and healthy. Perhaps the fears won’t be so intense, maybe you will start to see who you will be as a thin and healthy person and be completely fine with that.
11 steps to conquering the fear.
1. Figure out if you are really a bad person underneath all of it.
I’m being serious about this. I was terrified that as a thin person I’d be this horrible nasty woman. I thought that perhaps losing weight would mean that I would all of a sudden realize that I didn’t HAVE to be nice to someone, that I would realize that I could just go completely nuts and start yelling at someone that pissed me off. I thought this because I thought that the reason I let people sometimes walk all over me, was because I was fat, and because I really wanted to be accepted. So I started fixing it. I decided that I needed to become thin inside my head first. Why was I going to continue to let negative people in my life just because I was afraid I would have no friends if I did otherwise? I started taking care of myself, I started not worrying what other people thought as much, I started to look for friendships and relationships that were on more equal ground, ones that meant that I cared for someone and the cared back. Ones where I knew it was not one sided. In part, my fears came true. I lost a lot of friendships and relationships, and found out that some were indeed one sided. But at the same time, what was shaken from all of that was me finding more self worth than being hurt over and over again.
So figure it out – are you a bad person right now? Or do you have something that needs fixing right now? Well then… start fixing it. Seek out help, don’t wait till your thin to figure out some of the deep stuff, start figuring it out now, let it be gradual, just like your weight loss.
2. What is the worst that is going to happen?
You might really have to sit down and figure out all of your worst fears about losing weight. Go through each of them and write out ways to make the worst not happen. If you are married, or if you have a very close friend, sometimes it helps to share these fears with someone, and ask them to help you come up with a plan to avoid the worst from coming true.
3. Is it worth the risk?
It might feel like there is so much risk in the unknown. What kind of person will you be? What will you look like? Will you be the same person you are now? Measure the risk you are taking. Consider your life now, and ask yourself if you are worth that risk. Do you want to be healthy? Do you want to be around longer? Despite the fear in the risk, determine if it will be worth it.
4. The new body.
This one scares me the most. I don’t know what I look like as a thin person. I don’t like the way I look as a fat person, but I know what I look like. I have had so much fear over this in the past that I couldn’t watch before and after pictures of other people with out freaking out. I was most afraid of other peoples reactions. Especially, people who haven’t seen me in a long time, and especially people who I know have problems with my weight. There is a part of me that does not want to know the answer to “Do people care about what I look like”. I know this answer, sadly there are people, even some that are close to me that really do care about what I look like. Losing weight means I have to face that fear that people do indeed judge me based on the way I look. Of course, I know this is happening now, but I also know that in losing weight I will feel that a lot more. I’ve never had to worry about anyone looking at my body, or complimenting me on my body, and as I continue in this process I get more people saying things like “Wow you’ve lost weight!” or “You look great”. This might sound great to some, but for me, someone who has tried to hide my body all of my life, it’s a big huge fear that I’m working through daily.
5. Who are you right now?
I think one of the more powerful fears for some are that they will all of a sudden become a terrible person when they lose weight. They will become arrogant, leave their families, start sleeping around with random strangers or something. It’s important to really focus on who you are right now. If you wouldn’t do horrible things right now, chances are you are not going to do them as a thin person. Be confident in the person you are, right now. All of the traits that make you a good person now are not going to magically go away with the weight. The weight is not what is making you funny or caring or loving, those things are you, and are not part of the loss you will go through on the scale.
6. Surround yourself with positive people who like you right now.
In January we moved across the country and decided to travel full time. We also decided that we would devote our lives to our health and really discovering all that living a vegan life meant. We could have probably done this where we were, but we needed the change, and we needed a clean slate. If you can’t just up and move anywhere you’d like, it might be time to start simplifying your relationships a bit. Take stock of the people in your life who just love you for being you. People who would love for you to get healthy for yourself, but have no other motives for you becoming healthy. If there is someone – even family who is not healthy for you, start figuring out how you can draw big huge boundaries and not have them impact your life and health as much. This one was really hard for me. I used to be a champ at keeping negative people around me, and letting them really get to me. Now, I really focus on the people who just love me right now, as I am, not as I could or should be.
7. Keep pushing through despite the fear.
When you feel the fear start to come on – do something about it. Get up and go for a walk to think about it. Go do something healthy, rather than something destructive. I think that we tend to do something that is bad for us when we feel like we need to slow down progress. We might not even do this intentionally, it’s something that we just find ourselves doing all of a sudden, and we might not even know why. When you get even the slightest feeling of fear, stop what you are doing, and decide to take a few moments to pause and do something healthy. Reverse the pattern of reacting to fear by stuffing it down your mouth, and start working the fear out.
8. Remember it’s not overnight.
Remember that like all change, it is gradual. You will not be thin tomorrow and you will have several months to adjust to your new body. Each stage of your progress is one that you will be able to fit in comfortably. I look and feel much different than the person I was 120 pounds heavier, and I know that as I continue to lose weight (almost 150 pounds more) I will keep changing. But I also know that it will not be sudden, and I have time to adjust to each of the milestones in my weight loss.
Losing weight gradually and at a good pace is not only good for your body, but it is good for your mind. Adjust slowly, and the fears will not be as intense.
9. Finding what’s exciting about all of it.
Start looking forward to your new healthy life. Think about the things you want to do that you can not do right now. Make a list of those things and refer to it often. As you become more and more healthy start doing things on that list. When you can ride a roller coaster again, do it! When you can run for a few minutes, do it! Get excited about your new body and your health.
10. Finding out that all of your problems are not because of your weight.
For some, the fat is a comfortable excuse for a lot of things. You might think that you just can’t date right now because of your weight, or you can’t be out going. Maybe you can’t go after that job, or get the nerve to try something new. You might blame all of your current troubles on your weight, and that might be comforting to a degree. I know for me it has been, I can just blame my weight on all of my depression, anxiety, and troubles. The fear though can come when you realize that you might not be able to blame your weight for your troubles much longer. When you don’t have the extra fat, who will you blame for your troubles? It might be time to start taking ownership of your troubles. Stop blaming the weight, and stop thinking that all of the problems you might have are just because of your weight. Thin people have problems too, and you won’t be the exception to the rule. Start the process now, and stop blaming your weight on the problems you might have.
11. Keeping it in perspective.
Always remember who you are and all that you are inside. If you need to, seek out professional help to get you through the process that is completely okay, and I would even say necessary for a lot of people. Being afraid is okay, sabotaging your progress and your effort is dangerous. You have come so far already, just in starting the journey, do not let fear get in the way of that.