I recently lost a good amount of weight through dieting, and it's been an interesting experience. Warning: this is going to be a really personal journal entry about something I have never really talked about on dA, or much at all, really.
(Disclaimer right off the bat - this post is JUST ABOUT ME. I always get commenters who are like "how dar u speak for everyone" when I am clearly not doing so, so let's avoid that tomfoolery this time, ok?)
I was skinny in high school, skinnier than I probably should have been, due to illness and other bad things. My body is really not built for skinny. I have wide shoulders and huge...tracks of land, birthin' hips and a round face. But I gained weight eventually because of emotional issues, birth control, quitting smoking, and the physical inactivity inherent in what I do for a living.
So it wasn't like I was gigantic last year, but I had steadily put on weight since high school, and was on the 'overweight' side. I tried exercise plan after diet after exercise plan after diet, but nothing ever worked, so I got disheartened. Eventually I stopped trying and started claiming I didn't care. I just wore big baggy clothes that made me look like a sad tent, and acted cocky. It wasn't a thing where I honestly believed I was happy with my body, but it was better to feign self-confidence than to constantly try and fail to lose weight, feeling like crap each time, all the while seeing every other person in art school be skinnier and prettier than me without any visible effort (seriously, VCU is home to some GORGEOUS girls). I told myself it wasn't my job to be sexy for anyone. A very healthy outlook, but it didn't make me feel better.
Because...I remember how people treated me before I put on weight. I remember how much nicer they were, in general. Strangers would be kinder to me and people I knew seemed to take me a little bit more seriously. I remember how much more respect I seemed to get from everyone. All of that went downhill when I put on weight.
It wasn't an obvious, immediately apparent change, and people who aren't overweight have a hard time believing me that this even happens. But it does. The change was small, but painful. It's the way people looked at me. It felt like I was diminished as a person. I felt annoying, and unwieldy, and inconvenient. I wanted to make myself as small as possible.
When I lost the weight, I was reminded of how different it feels to EXIST as a thinner person. I am treated 100% better now by almost everyone, to the point where it's almost ridiculous. This isn't my imagination or some kind of magical self-confidence trick, and it isn't because I'm holding my head higher or wearing sexier clothes. The difference is night and day. And for some reason it doesn't make me happy. It makes me feel a little bitter.
This is the most unexpected result of my weight loss.
I went home to the place where I grew up, and noticed this behavior in my family as well. When you lose weight people think it's acceptable to make comments like "I knew you when you were two people!" and "I guess that's motivation to put down that second slice of pizza!" even if they'd always been polite to you before. Comments like "you're hot now!" * stung, and I wasn't sure why. It was like my former, fatter self was fair game to poke fun at and compare unfavorably to Current Me.
I feel for that former self. I know how badly self-conscious she was, how much she struggled with hopelessness, how badly it made her feel to look in a mirror. I feel bad for her even though she doesn't really exist anymore, because I was that person, and honestly, I didn't change THAT much. I don't think I deserved to have that hurtful stuff said to my face back then, and I don't think I deserve it now. People were acting like I would stay at this weight forever. And I almost have to. If I ever go back to the way I was, I would remember ALL of those comments, and feel like crap.
It's kind of like when a girl breaks up with a guy and her friends bad-mouth the guy, and then they get back together...she has a hard time forgetting everything they said.
It's not necessary to reference my former appearance in a derogatory way in order to compliment me. With my critical eye I know I look better, aesthetically speaking. I don't need anyone to remind me that I was fat. Trust me...I remember. I remember the pain and embarrassment and frustration like it was yesterday. Better that someone compliment my willpower or the fact that I had achieved something I wanted.
I can't wrap my head around why I feel any of these emotions, or where they originated. I was rarely made to feel actively guilty for the way I looked. In fact, none of my friends or family ever made anything but minor, passing references to my weight. I think it was just a shock to imagine that they had been thinking these things all along, that the positive reaction to my appearance was just an analog for their formerly negative opinions.
And it does annoy me that overweight people are treated with such disdain. I used to think that being bisexual was the worst discrimination I would ever have to face, but I was wrong. While I have been on the receiving end of some homophobic bigotry, it was sporadic, and I could at least feel righteous; also, I don't wear my orientation on my sleeves (anymore). I never felt guilty for being bi. Being overweight I dealt with a subtle drop in esteem from everyone around me, every single day. I felt the media's critical eye on me. I felt the guilt. I felt a constant heat of judgment from everybody. I dealt with people who pretended to be concerned about my health while they were really just annoyed that I was taking up more space than them, and they'd use that as a weapon in order to be bitchy and hurtful. (There is so much irrational, unmitigated hatred for overweight people that it makes me sick.) Mostly I felt fear that I would never overcome my genes, which are stacked against me, and that I would have to feel that way all my life...like, despite being accomplished and intelligent and reasonably nice, I was still less of a person than someone who weighed less, like an arbitrary standard of beauty could decide so much about how everyone saw me.
The fear is diminished now that I found a diet that works for me, but now I just feel conflicted. While I'm happier with my body now, I feel...annoyed on behalf of Former Me. She didn't deserve that misery any more than I deserve happiness for being thinner. I don't want anyone else to feel that way and it sucks that they do.** I almost feel guilty FOR losing weight, because now I feel like I've bought into something ultimately shallow.
Anyway, I don't have any words of wisdom or anything to close out this anecdote, and I probably won't welcome advice, as much as I know people on here love to give it. I am dealing with this in my own way and everyone has a different life story, so there's no funny quip or trite saying that will make me fully understand what I'm feeling right now. Just...please keep in mind that even though I'm this anonymous online persona, I also have a couple feelings and this is a bit of a sensitive topic for me.
If you've felt this way, though, I would like to hear about your experiences. ***
* - all three are actual quotes.
** - Like I said, I am not speaking for anyone but myself, and everyone experiences weight and appearance differently. For some people it's not an issue. Some people enjoy being the size I was and look fabulous doing so. Some people think that overweight people should embrace how they look and never feel bad for not being skinny. I admire that positive outlook up until the point where people are telling me how to feel. In the end, I do set my own standards for myself, and I will decide how to feel comfortable with my own body, thank you.
*** - No I don't have before/after pictures, nor am I going to talk about my diet plan.