This is my personal blog and does not necessarily reflect the collective views of Hard Limits Press

Monday, February 10, 2014

TW: weight loss

TW: for a LONG post about weight and weight loss I am an obese person. I don't want to be obese anymore. I think weight loss is one important aspect of health. Health is a complex thing (still kicking around an essay on this subject) and includes not only weight management (some people even need to GAIN weight) but flexibility, strength, endurance, energy, mental health, and ability to engage with an enjoy a variety of things. I intend to go after all of these health markers, but right now it's weight. I'm trying to get down to a healthier correlative weight first. Then switch back over to weight lifting and all the skills that builds. 

My point with this is that recently someone posted an article about the hidden difficulties in weight loss if you've been obese your whole life, like I have, or morbidly obese like so many are. This weight is the result of a lot of complexity. One thing people miss is that it's a chronic condition that, at least in my experience, requires constant management. It's not as simple as just stop eating all of those doughnuts. God, I wish it was that simple. Yes, figuring out ways to avoid consuming harmful foods is a needed part of personal responsibility, but almost no one is obese just because they love doughnuts that much. I love comfort. I love flavor and abundance. I love the security food brings, because it makes me feel less poor and out of control of my life situation. My medication means that even though I've been at this for a couple of months I only have a four pound loss to show for it. Mental illness destroys motivation and sometimes I'm going to reach for whatever will give me those sweet, sweet reward chemicals the fastest. There are a thousand other reasons. 

I'm sort of in the middle here, because I think any group defending extreme weight IN EITHER DIRECTION is problematic. Making an identity out of a condition is always a dicey thing, and the second it starts harming others I think it's wrong. BUT nor can I throw my chit in with those who want to reduce this down to a simple equation of less calories in, weight comes off. Yes, in the main this is true, and knowing these facts is a requirement for weight loss, just like calorie counting, knowing your BMR and TDEE and so on. But what you may not know if you've never fought this battle is that you will weigh everything you ever eat. You will calculate out each bite. You know not to ever, ever let yourself feel hungry because the second that happens all of your instincts against dying in the wilderness kick in and you will mow down your entire kitchen. You have to get up and move and exercise every single day. You're likely not a person who can skip, or your good habits go right out the window. Every time you go shopping for food you have to walk through a minefield of advertising and marketing specifically designed to keep you obese, to keep you consuming without thought over and over. And those bright packages are more than just fuel. They're comfort. They're a blanket for your inner child. Choosing against that (which you will do hundreds of times a day) is a serious struggle. I used to be a drunk and it's really even harder than quitting booze, because you don't NEED to drink to live. You do need to eat to live. You have to face that dragon every day. 

Do I think weight loss is worth it? Absolutely. And there IS an element of personal responsibility. You have to take back your power, like you have to do with so many things in life. Many of us are walking around in a haze of learned helplessness, carrying baggage because we don't even realize it's there, because we've normalized it in order to protect ourselves. That makes perfect sense. Of course we've done whatever is needed to keep ourselves together. Taking that apart hurts. Things will come up that you don't expect. Shame, anger, grief. Those need to be worked through too. 

It's never as simple as just stop eating doughnuts. But it does require you, as trite as it sounds, to realize your worth. It's not as simplistic as JUST LEARN TO LOVE YOURSELF/LOVE YOUR BODY because that's shallow and frankly doesn't work for a lot of people (especially trans people). It's not hug yourself real hard and all your problems will go away. It's divorcing weight from worth, divorcing weight from appearance, divorcing weight from toxic beauty standards and doing it for yourself and how you FEEL, realizing that you are worth the dedication and time it takes to manage this condition. The idea that you deserve it, that you are a separate person from your job, your kids, even your marriage, and that even though you give and give and give, if you're not giving to yourself then you're not living as full of a life as you could. Do it for the energy. Do it for the ability to breathe. Do it for pain free knees. Do it because it will let you get on that rollercoaster you've always wanted to ride. Just don't let anyone tell you it will be easy if you just do it, man, because it won't. It will be one of the hardest things you've ever done. But it's worth it. Even with all the frustrations I still think it's worth it. 

P.S. a lot of people who have an easier time at this will tell you that you must absolutely do only the exercises they do because it works for them. That's bullshit. The likelihood is you have a unique constellation of issues that prevent you from doing a particular exercise. For example, you may be too top heavy to ride a free bike. Your knees might be too painful for you to manage squats. That's just fine, no matter the judgement you may receive from people who don't have to struggle as much. There's always something you can do that will work for you. If your joints hurt, check out water aerobics, that sort of thing. 

Nor is this an ableist thing. If you are in a wheelchair, you're probably already aware that there are a number of physical therapy routines out there that will help you. I have some saved on youtube if you'd like the links. As a blind person let me suggest you run track or lift weights, both wonderful sports even for those who are totally blind. If you're trans and you have dysphoria issues, there's also plenty you can do, depending. If you're a person that binds, there are binding swimsuit tops out there. Check out Underworks. I DO NOT recommend doing other exercises while wearing a binder, though, since it can impede your breathing and hurt your ribs. HOWEVER, there are sports bras out there that will bind to a reasonable degree, and even some that don't look overly like a feminine piece of clothing. If you're a trans woman and you are presenting female, you might feel awkward about swimming. There are swimsuits that incorporate skirts. Look in to suits designed with modesty in mind. And of course regardless of whether one is cis or trans, things like the track and fitness classes of all types are generally open to you. 


Good luck to anyone else on this journey. It helps to talk about the frustrations and I hope some of what I wrote here will help others.

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