7 Ugly Truths of Becoming Skinny After Being Fat
Writing about weight loss should feel amazing, a real success story of willpower, determination and the power of change. I should be beaming with pride and accomplishment — and some days I am. But if I am honest with myself, writing about weight loss is really difficult — this is why I have been putting it off for so long.
First of all, I feel ashamed admitting my fatness. It’s not easy to talk about it, even when it’s behind me, even when I already learnt the tools and methods that work for me, even when my fat loss journey is mission: accomplished. It’s not easy to admit that all these years I was struggling with my weight when I always had the power to change it. That I put up with myself, that I postponed healthy choices, that I was lazy or impatient.
It’s hard to write down that only within a year, it was possible to achieve what I told myself was impossible. And no matter how great it feels to look at progress photos, I still cringe at my before pictures, silently shaking my head in disbelief that I let this happen.
In a year, I did the impossible, I went from 213lbs to 140 lbs (from 96kg to 63kg) which means going from 32.8 BMI to 21.3 for my 5'8 (173cms) height. It meant a lot of difficult days and weeks when nothing felt right, with a lot of exercise and dieting, with a ton of new habits that I intend to keep for the rest of my life. [I wrote an article about the mental hacks that helped me because the physical part is simple.]
There are days when I still can’t believe it and while I would agree that it sounds like complain-bragging, believe me, there are a few downsides to losing weight — even when the cons are definitely outweighing the pros.
Losing the fat identity takes longer than expected
My weight loss journey was slow and steady, exactly as it should be. There were no immediate results and quick progress, it was a steady loss of 1–2 pounds a week — which seemed extremely slow at the time. I thought that with this pace I would have gotten used to the changing of my body, the changed way I look in the mirror and in photos.
But it still happens that I catch my figure in the mirror and I get surprised as if I was still expecting the old me looking back at me — with her size 16 jeans instead of size 6. And while visually it is a nice surprise to see me, I still think of myself as someone fat.
When it comes to exercising — I do kickboxing and I started running recently — I still think with my previous fat mind and my immediate response to any new exercise or challenge is that I can’t do this. When it comes to clothes shopping, I still go for clothes that hide me instead of showing me off. When it comes to deciding what to have for dinner, I still think maybe I should skip it completely — instead of going for the consciously healthy choices that I got used to this past year.
It takes a long time to lose the extra weight, but the journey also consists of losing the fat-identity, and it might take even longer.
Being skinny doesn’t mean immediate self-love
When I was fat, I thought that becoming skinny will automatically mean being perfect. Stupid, I know. But when I was struggling with dieting and I was dead tired of the exercise the mental image I was painting for myself to endure the difficult times was my imagined perfect, toned, attractive, skinny body, capable of everything.
Now I am at the weight I always wanted to maintain, I can see that I am far from perfect, and it takes a lot of mental strength to accept that I will never be. I am not as toned as I want to (I’m working on it), my skin will never be as firm as a teenager’s (yeah, who told me that it was a realistic expectation to start with), my body is still my 42-year-old body (and there’s nothing to do about it).
I look a lot better than I used to, I am skinnier, firmer and a hell of a lot fitter and stronger, but body acceptance and self-love are not coming automatically after weight loss. I still need to work on what is going on in my mind, I need to deal with my traumas and continue my healing journey. I still need to learn to love and appreciate myself — which signals that my negative self-talk wasn’t entirely about my body image, but also about other factors that are more difficult to shred than the weight.
In a way, now I am forced to face everything, as I can’t blame it on my fatness anymore. I have to learn to love myself now, when I already removed the obstacle I used as an excuse. And it’s not going to be easy. Body acceptance is tough — skinny or fat.
I am expected to be thin and stay thin
It’s a sad thing to say, but being fat means that people don’t expect you to do too many things — you are labelled as lazy, lacking willpower and discipline. Instead, if you are skinny, you are expected to be skinny and stay skinny. Putting on weight is such a heinous act as if you were committing a crime against humanity, ruining your body, your skin, your fitness levels and you were entering a different universe, reserved for lost causes.
I saw it first-hand, at active team-building sessions when people weren’t expecting me to run the same distance or climb up to the same height — they categorized me before I could have proven them wrong, and I lost interest in proving them wrong. I was a fit person, even when fat — but I never felt any pressure to prove this, so I let them think I was exactly that lazy and incapable person they saw me be.
Now, I am facing expectations. As if being skinny meant that you are fit too; as if it meant that you are always supposed to make healthy choices; as if now you are obliged to jump through every hoop.
Being fat means that people don’t expect you to do anything, and in a sense, it is liberating. Being skinny means you need to live up to these expectations, and it creeps into other areas of life, not just physical capacities, but also in terms of motivation, willpower, mental health. I am still trying to find my own way amidst these new expectations, figuring out what I really want to prove and what is just a mere external pressure I am facing and ditching.
Weight management never ends
When you are fat, gaining 5 pounds is okay. Losing 5 pounds is only an accomplishment for you, and gaining it back doesn’t make a real difference. People don’t notice nuances — they only notice huge changes that cannot be left without comments.
When you are fat and you go put on some weight after a lazy weekend, no one notices it — but you. When you are skinny, 5 pounds is a lot, especially if you go through a great deal of effort to lose it. Knowing how difficult it can be to lose the last 5 pounds will stop you from indulging, binging or having cheat days.
This should be a good thing, right? Well, not that much. This past year, my biggest learning was that this weight management never ends, and if I allow myself cheat days (I hate the term, and I don’t believe in cheat days, but it’s commonly understood, so I will use it here) then I will have more difficult times to get back on track. It means that if you are conscious about your weight management, you can never really let go of your goals. It always comes down to choices and you always need to make the optimal choice — be it on your birthday, at Christmas or at a party. This kind of disciplined thinking was unknown to me before, and as much as I believe this is the way to go, it can feel really daunting to follow it forever.
Weight loss means a loss of strength
When I was fat — and fit while fat — I had zero problems moving the couch or opening a heavier door with the sheer weight of my body. Now, I experienced that some things are just heavier than me and my body can’t move them just by its weight.
I am doing strength training and lifting as part of my exercise journey, but it doesn’t yet replace the power of the weight I used to have. I am still not blown away by the wind, but I can feel some negative effects from carrying less weight on my frame.
Also, I see how people try to help me with things I used to be able to do on my own — assuming that I am not strong enough. As a bigger girl, I was always used to not getting any help, looking at my dimensions, I was assumed to manage things that required strength.
I am perceived as weaker and I feel weaker, and it’s not a pleasant feeling.
Weight does equate with beauty
While there are a lot of people who feel offended when we celebrate people losing weight (think of Adele or Rebel Wilson) I personally feel great if someone comments on my weight loss. I don’t feel offended, I feel flattered that they noticed it.
And people do notice me more. Even now, still wearing masks and heavy winter clothing, I catch glances from people (men) on the street, I see how I am looked at differently, I see how now I am allowed to take up more space. I stopped being invisible. Maybe it also has to do with the confidence I gained, but I always held my head up high even before and I never noticed people looking at me the same way.
And as much as it makes me feel good about myself, it partly enrages me that I am still the same person I used to be. I am just as smart, just as witty, just as funny as I used to be — only now I am walking around in a smaller body which is considered to be more attractive.
It is sad and superficial that people think more of you when you weigh less. It’s depressing that now I have more opportunities — more jobs, better promotions, better dates, better relationships — than before. Say what you want to say, I hate this too, but it doesn’t change the facts that beautyism exists, that more attractive people get better wages, can move up the corporate ladder quicker and obviously can land more attractive partners. It’s a bittersweet feeling for me and I haven’t yet decided how I feel about this.
My body feels uncomfortable at times
This last one seems so funny, after all of the others of identities and societal constructs of beauty and weight, but it is a downside for me. I have lived in a fat body for so long that I got used to how it feels to walk, to sit, to lie down.
Now, when I sit down, after having lost my protective fat layers from my bottom, sitting on uncomfortable chairs with no cushions feels really uncomfortable. I can feel every bone in my bum and I tend to fidget to find a position where it doesn’t bother me. The same thing happens when I am lying on my side and my knees are pressing onto each other, almost hurting me. And don’t get me started on my hipbones that have been covered in comfy little cushions all my life, and now that they are out, they make sleeping on my belly really uncomfortable.
Yeah, cry me a river, girl, right? But this journey of getting used to a new body is not always easy, just like it is not easy to handle the growth spurt as a teenager or a changing body throughout pregnancy. Just because I wanted this, doesn’t make it immediately easy to handle it.
All in all, weight loss is great — if this is what you want. But fat or skinny, there are always difficulties in life that you need to deal with and ignoring the difficulties just because they are the side-effects of what you wanted is not healthy. Whatever you are going through is valid, and you are the only one who is allowed to judge you for what you choose to be thinking about.