I recently listened to a This American Life podcast where they discussed this movement of people coming out as fat. In so many ways this seems ridiculous. This is not like someone coming out as gay or transgender or a Cleveland Browns fan. You can’t see those things necessarily but you can clearly see I’m fat.
But that isn’t 100 percent true. The problem is that when I lose weight, I’ll still be fat. There are two types of fat – physical and mental. The physical fat can be resolved (usually). The mental fat stays for life.
In my head, I am a fat guy. That will not change. There is no time in my life where eating a lot of calories won’t appeal to me. I know, and now accept, that I will always be a fat guy. That does not mean that I cannot control some of those impulses. It may, or may not, get easier. I can say with certainty it will not go away.
My mental fat is not that of an anorexic where I see a fat person even if thin. My mental fat is not any type of disillusionment about what my physical shape is taking at all. My mental fat is simply the fact that the guy who wants to eat the wrong things the vast majority of time will always be a part of me.
Accepting this fact is changing my life in a way I never thought possible. I celebrate the smallest of victories over my mental fat. If I stay within my calorie goal, I celebrate. If I go over by a reasonable amount, I celebrate. If I exercise the tiniest bit, I celebrate. By celebrate I mean congratulate myself in the same brain where mental fat guy lives. Every celebration makes that fat guy in my head shrink a little or pushes him toward a corner. I no longer celebrate by allowing myself some sugary snack. The celebration is intensely personal and overwhelmingly emotional.
This has been a process and this is only the beginning. I’m going to fail. I have failed over the last month. Besides celebrating, I also don’t get down on myself and just give up. When I slip, I do so intentionally and get right back on track. In other words, I do everything I can to not feed the fat guy upstairs.
In a way, I guess this is coming out as fat. I’m fat now and forever, at least in some sense. My guess is there are a lot of people like me. We don’t talk about this stuff much, especially in a productive way. Mostly we get lectures or platitudes. The platitudes are worse than the lectures I think but not by much. If someone is fat, please stop telling them, “You carry your weight well” or “You’re not that big.” Bullshit. Fat is fat. That doesn’t mean we are not attractive to someone. It simply means we know we are fat and, telling us that we aren’t, does not create some magic illusion where we see ourselves differently.
Lecturing us is not much better. We are all well aware we need to eat less and move more if we want the physical fat to go away. We aren’t motivated by you telling us what diet worked for you or your fat friend.
What does help is understanding that when we turn down a piece of cake, we need to and that just a small piece may not work for some of us. What does help is going for a walk or a slow run or a bike ride or a hike or any other physical activity we can do together. Every moment spent moving is better than one spent sitting. (Yes, rest is necessary, but you get the point.)
This may sound like a bit of an angry rant. It isn’t at all. This is meant to help me gain perspective about what being fat means. If it helps anyone else understand or gain perspective, that’s a bonus.
I own this word now – fat. Fat is no longer going to rule who I am and how I live. Fat will no longer hold me back or tell me I can’t do something. I own you fat – physical and mental. And now that I am in control, the hard work really starts.