Saturday, April 10, 2010

Can You Be Both Fat and Happy?

Last weekend, my husband and I were lucky enough to get to spend a couple of uninhibited hours at the book store while my father took my two oldest children to a play. Alice decided be the best baby EVAH and sleep in the Maclaren, so we both went to the magazine section, got ourselves a huge stack, purchased a steaming cup of coffee and a muffin and went to it. I was intrigued by an article I read in Self magazine--an article where a woman talked about her struggle with weight gain while taking anti-depressants and whether the weight gain outweighed the benefits from actually taking the pills. In the end, she decides that yes, the 80 pounds she has gained makes her more unhappy than ever and decides to stop taking the pills (that she knows work, aside from the side effects) and go in search of another chemical combination to combat her depression.

I have thought about the article a lot over the past week, and even more when last night, I was enjoying myself on the computer and catching up on blogs that I haven't read in a while (once again, Alice was sleeping like a champ), and I read the blog of a woman who had just gotten breast reduction surgery and liposuction on her arms. I have read the blog only sporadically, but the news still surprised me greatly. This is a woman who lives very frugally (in fact, that is why I started reading her blog in the first place) and majored in women's studies in college--a feminist who often discussed body issues with eloquence and knowledge. The blogger was a solid size 12-14, which is around what I was before I lost weight. It amazed me that she would feel such a surgery is warranted and would spend the money on it. But, the more I thought about it, the more I respected her decision. I have often thought about such surgeries myself, and even now, post weight loss, would love to have liposuction on my stomach where there is still loose skin (yeah, gross, I know). The only thing that keeps me from it is the cost and an inability to stop my life long enough to actually get and recover from such a procedure--hell, I can barely find the time to update this blog once a month! As I finished reading, I realized that her decision to have the surgery was guided by wanting to be at her best, and yes, looking for that elusive happiness that we all yearn for.

All this has made me think about my own life. Am I really happier now that I have lost weight? Is it a bad reflection on me (and my vanity) if I am? The truth is, I am just at a better place in my life now in lots of ways--my family is complete, I have a job that does not pay well (at all) but is very, very rewarding both to me and my community and still affords me time to spend with my kids, my husband has a job that provides well and that he enjoys (most of the time!), we have a fun, loving marriage and he is still the only person that I would ever want to go on a long car ride with. Being smaller is really just the cherry on top of that sundae. And it is not that I was unhappy before. There were many times when I was bigger that I would catch glimpses of myself in a mirror and feel very pleased with myself and my look--I dressed well and did my best to flatter the extra poundage. But, looking back, I realize all the tiny, often subconscious, things that I did because of the weight. There were many times that I didn't participate in things because I felt too big or was afraid that I couldn't keep up becuase of the weight. Some of these tiny decisions affected my children, and that is not something that I am proud of. Plus, there were the many, many times I would catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror--at my double chin, or the extra rolls in my stomach, and be just totally grossed out by what I saw. No one should be grossed out by looking in the mirror.

I will say, relatedly, that I am much more aware of my body now, and maybe even a bit harder on myself. There are days now that I wake up and feel like an absolute whale--when the love handles that haven't totally disappeared yet seem huge and when my calves (which I have worked on incessantly, and ladies and gentleman, that shit ain't fun) seem like tree trunks. This is probably slightly insane, but I almost feel like I have a reverse body dysmorphia thing going on. When I was bigger, I would look at myself and think that I looked amazing, and then see pictures later and not even be able to recognize myself. Where did that double chin come from? Are my arms seriously ham hock-esque? Now that I am thinner, I get that feeling a lot, but it is more when I am just looking, not in pictures. Weird, huh? I was talking about it to my mom, and she said it is just because I am not used to myself yet. I think that is a fair assumption.

So can you be both fat and happy? The answer is, I'm not sure. For me, I don't think I could ever be fat again and be happy with myself. Mostly because, at this point, I know what kind of health issues could be related to the extra weight. That line is different for everybody though. Just as I don't think there are any hard and fast rules for fashion or raising your children, there are no guidelines for one's feelings about his or her weight. But it is interesting to think about.

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