Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Benefits of Being Fat

Recently, I was participating in a thread on a popular weight loss forum about motivation, and it got me thinking about the many reasons we fail to lose weight. This particular thread was from a woman asking how to get motivated in the face of multiple failures. One of the things I realized as I offered my opinion was that one reason we fail is that success isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, at least for some people.

This is the kind of topic that is verboten when the topic of weight comes up in public forums. It’s a little like talking about smoking and the fact that many people who smoke are often thinner than those who do not and that many people feel smokers look “cool”. These are potential benefits of smoking. It’s not worth the damage to your body or the risk, but these are “benefits” for some nonetheless. We can suppress the notion that they exist, but they are there nonetheless.

By pretending that there is nothing beneficial in being fat, we ignore the roots of many failures. If those benefits are important enough to us, and we do not first make an effort to substitute some other healthier pursuit or source for those advantages, we greatly increase the chances of failure when we try to lose weight because we're layering multiple sources of stress on top of multiple layers of unmet needs.

The “good points” of being fat are highly personalized, though I can discuss some that tend to apply to me and to possibly others here. One benefit is absolutely undeniable, and that is unrestricted access to the pleasures of food. If you’ve ever endured a rumbling stomach, a low blood sugar headache, or the stress of resisting an overwhelming craving for chocolate, you know that just doing what you want when it comes to food is an experience in luxurious joy. Not having to censor and control what you put in your mouth is definitely better than having to do so.

Another good point is that you take yourself off the market in terms of many expectations that others have of you. If you’re overweight, you can take intimacy off the books if you like because you can tell yourself you’ll never attract someone. You don’t have to wonder what’s wrong with you when no one loves you because you’ve got the reason ready at hand. No one loves you because you’re fat. You’ll never find a mate because you’re fat. The injustices of life make a lot more sense when you’re overweight. In many ways, your life is simplified. Bad things happen because you are fat.

For me, I realize now that one of the motivations I had, besides anesthetizing myself with food, was that it gave me an excuse to isolate myself from the sometimes hostile, always rejecting environment that I live in. It made it easier to cut myself off from people who treated me like part of a freak show exhibit. The resulting health issues made it easy to justify doing even fewer things outside of my comfort zone.

As someone who was raised to always put others needs and wishes before my own, it was more comfortable to be too fat to do something than to refuse to do it because I simply did not want to. I was off the hook from the voice that said, “everyone will dislike you if you don’t do what they want,” because I could beg off for physical reasons. Depending on your character, there is almost certainly no end of reasons to be fat as a form of avoidance of certain experiences.

There is also rejection of the fashion rat race and looks competition. As long as you are fat, you’ve decided that you’ve lost the race before it has begun. You don’t even have to compete. Let’s face it, the race is quite daunting and tiring. If you grew up poor and couldn't buy much in the way of clothes or make-up, or don’t have features which society has deemed to be beautiful, you have all the more motivation to take yourself our of the running. Being fat allows you to be the hobbled horse who sits out the entire race.

One of reasons that I know I gained weight as a kid was for a sense of “armor”. As the child of an emotionally abusive mother and and alcoholic father, I was looking to put something between me and the pain. I also think that there is a desire to be “big” so that you feel stronger against the forces that cause you to suffer. If adults are harming you, you want to be one, too. If you can’t get there in years, you can get there in size.

More than one person has felt that being thinner will make them more vulnerable to attacks of a physical nature. Bigger means stronger. Weight adds power. Women who were molested or raped as children, or who fear such experiences, may remain fat because it gives them a sense of power.

One of the biggest benefits of being overweight is that it changes both your expectations of yourself and those others have of you. If you're someone who is a perfectionist or expects an unrealistic amount of effort or success from yourself, being fat allows you to put down many of the burdens you're placing on yourself. That is not to say that being fat is a good thing overall, but it is useful to ponder the ways in which it benefits you so you can deal with the loss of those benefits more effectively when you change your lifestyle.


dlamb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dlamb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leslie said...

I found your blog from a comment on "Escape From Obesity" and I'm glad I did. I am in major struggle mode right now with finding the willingness to finally lose my extra 50 pounds once and for all. (I've lost portions of it many times and then "found" them again.

What I got from reading your post is that it would serve me well to honestly inventory the "benefits" to my staying heavy. Some of your reasons hit squarely with me, to the point that I feel a little knocked of my square when I think about it. But I'm going to do it. I'll be back. Thanks -

screaming fatgirl said...

Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, Leslie. I'm glad that you find this post helpful. To be honest, I continue to find new ways in which having been very fat benefited me and I'm not ashamed to admit that I still mourn them a little from time to time. While I would not go back to the misery and fear I had at a much, much higher weight, I miss the lack of complexity it allowed me to have in my life.