I’m fat. And I hate it.
I’ve been fat for years. I think there was a time, when I was young, that I wasn’t fat. At least, I remember a time when I didn’t feel fat. I didn’t live a fat life.
Now I do. I choose clothing that doesn’t cling, feel guilty about eating, suck my gut in all the time, avoid mirrors, obsessively calorie count and wonder why it doesn’t work. That’s how I live. That’s what I do.
Except recently, things have started working. A complex mix of lifting weights (finally an exercise program that I enjoy!), walking everywhere, and three reasonably sized meals a day has meant that I’ve started to see changes. I have biceps for the first time in my memory, I weigh less than I have in years. I’m 95% of the man I used to be. I’m still clinically obese, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Part of me, the academic part of my brain, laughs nervously at all of this. “BMI is only useful on a population level,” it says. “You can’t possibly lose a further 20% of your body weight healthily.” “Fitness is more important than fatness.”
All of this is, of course, true.
But the body hate, honed by years of abuse and expectations, is always louder. “No fats, no fems,” it says. “It’s just calories in, calories out.” It wrinkles its nose as I take my shirt off. “Don’t you want to be healthy?”
I know my body hate well. I know it personally, as an integral part of me. I know it from the perspective of those who love me, who tell me that I’m attractive and who I tell the same, even though neither of us believes the other. I know it cognitively, as well – I’m no idiot, I’ve read the research that shows that it’s unconnected to actual body shape. I know the signs of body dismorphia far too well.
I’m not afraid of failing. I’ve been failing at being a thin person, or a fit person, or (to my mind) an attractive person for years. That’s an incredibly comfortable place for me to be, it’s one I know implicitly.
What I am afraid of is, if I succeed, what next? What happens when I lose the weight and I have toned muscles and a healthy amount of body fat and I look in the mirror and I still don’t like what I see? Will I know to stop? Or will the temptation to just keep going, lose one more kilogram, restrict calories for one more week, be just the same as it was the previous week?
More than that, will I know to be happy?
Now, I’m not anywhere near a “healthy” weight yet, and I’m not expecting to be in the near future. But I realise that I don’t know what being fit or not being fat feels like. I have no concept of how to know when I’m there.
And then, what next?