Over the past year, I lost 75 pounds and went from a size 16/18 to a size 2. I did this the healthy and natural way by working out six days a week and eating 5 to 6 healthy meals a day. At 41, I am in the best shape of my life.
During the course of this process, however, I noticed something that I used to dismiss as people overreacting. Often times, overweight people complain they are invisible to others, or thin people discriminate against them because they’re “fat.”
Even when I was overweight, I thought those over the top claims at times. I never felt discriminated against, although sometimes comments from people would cause me to think maybe overweight people weren’t exaggerating.
Overall, I wasn’t happy about being heavy, but I didn’t suffer from self-esteem issues either. I simply chalked it up to bad genes and a slow metabolism, and decided to accept my fate. I am comfortable with who I am on the inside. When I decided to lose weight for the third time in my life, that decision was a matter of health and not looks. It just happens the change in my looks came with it, and I can’t help but notice the change in the way people look at and treat me as a result.
I wish I could say people treat me the same, but they don’t. Even my husband, without meaning anything bad, will say, “I feel like I’m cheating on my wife.” He says I’m like a whole different me, but beyond the weight loss, I’m not. I’m still me.
Now, I might be overthinking it, but since my transformation, I have had way more male attention and feminine compliments in the last year than in the 12 years I was overweight. At first, the attention added to my feelings of success, but after a time, it saddened me because I feel like maybe there is some merit to the claims of many overweight people.
According to the Obesity Action Coalition, “overweight and obese individuals are vulnerable to negative bias, prejudice and discrimination in many different settings, including the workplace, educational institutions, healthcare facilities and even with interpersonal relationships.”
In my younger, thinner years, I would have scoffed at such statements; however, I recall the times when I would watch my overweight family members and think, “I will never let myself get fat!” It even got to the point to where I voiced it aloud. I can’t help but wonder how bad I made my loved ones feel by saying such things. I remember also saying, “They’re so beautiful…if only they lost a little bit of weight.”
Of course walking in their shoes has opened my eyes. Being on that side of the spectrum, I realize how terrible my judgment, regardless if I meant no harm, had on those I loved. Unfortunately, when overweight people are discriminated against, or made to feel less because of their weight, it leads them to overeat more because of stress or self-disgust. It fails to help them focus on what I learned most this time around with weight loss, and that’s the importance of being healthy.
With all this being said, I realize other factors may be involved with the added attention I appear to be getting as a thin person.
In addition to my stance, I have changed my clothing style since losing weight. Unfortunately, clothes designers think that because people are overweight, they want to look frumpy. That has changed somewhat over the years, but it was hard going into a store and finding trendy clothes for thick women. It’s almost as if there’s some hidden code that says if you’re thin, you get cute and fashionable. If you’re not, you get what I like to call “The Nana Look.” Granted, I am a nana (grandma), but a young one at that, and I’m not ready to look like one. I found that the more weight I lost, the cuter the clothes. So yes, my style has changed.
On the other side, there are quite a few overweight people who are confident enough to fight for style, but when people are overweight and self-conscious, they tend to go for the frumpy clothes because everything else makes them “look fat.” It’s either that, or they don’t have the patience to shop because nothing fits right, so they just pick what they know will work.
I also realize that when we lose weight, we walk taller, prouder. I didn’t suffer from self-esteem overall, but being healthy definitely has done something to my gait. I feel strong and full of energy, where before I did not. I often would get sick, or the added weight burdened my bad left leg. For those of you who don’t know, I was in a serious motorcycle accident at 15 (see that story here). Anyways, by getting fit, I no longer have the painful spasms I used to in my leg, and I can now wear shoes with heels again. Heels have a way of making women stand tall as well.
When people are overweight, self-esteem does become an issue, so people look down rather than up. They slouch and try to hide what they view as shameful. There are a few thick people who could care less and stand tall and proud; but sadly, most overweight people don’t. They subconsciously feel people are looking at them and judging, which is sometimes the case. Not to mention, feeling poor because of health issues adds to that.
Weight also makes people look older. I have a friend who, when I was overweight, would tell me I didn’t look my age. He said I looked older. My husband is 8.5 years older than I am, and he would say I look older than my husband. I don’t think this friend meant disrespect, but that’s never something people, especially women, want to hear. Since losing weight, I have people telling me I look like I’m in my 30s rather than in my 40s. I’m not going to lie; that feels good. But telling people they look old can be viewed as a form of discrimination.
Now that I have experienced both sides of the obesity debate, I understand why heavy people feel they are discriminated against. But I also understand the importance of being healthy. Regardless, there is a right and wrong way to tackle the issue of obesity; focusing on the physical is definitely the wrong way.
When people see me today, they tell me it’s like they’re seeing a whole different me. I look so different. I agree with that, but only because I’m healthier and stronger. We all want self improvement whether we’re fat or thin, black, brown, white, etc. To go about encouraging one another to achieve self-improvement, we must do so in a positive rather than negative way.
I’m not saying we have to tiptoe around the topic because of hurting people’s feelings. I’m simply saying there’s a right and wrong way to address the importance of losing weight. Prime example, when people who are struggling with weight ask me about my weight loss, I focus on the health benefits and how it has changed the way I feel, not just the way I look. I hope that by showing, people will say, “Hey, she lost weight and feels great! I want to feel the same!”
The good news is people can with the right motivation.