Sunday, March 28, 2010

Fat and Happiness

Lately, I've been bouncing around to various blogs written by women who are overweight and not necessarily interested in losing weight. Several themes shine through across the blogs. One is that one can be healthy and fat. Another is that it doesn't have to hold you back in your career. A big one is that, yes, people can be happy while fat.

I have been thinking about my happiness levels now as compared to 9 months ago. It's probably not entirely fair to reach conclusions at this point about how happy I might be if I were thinner, since I'm still very fat. That being said, I can compare my happiness at a life lead close to 400 lbs. and holding as compared to a life lead at close to 300 lbs. and dropping. If nothing else, this post will be a bookmark for the future when I've lost more weight.

When I pondered this point, I realized that measuring happiness is not an easy thing. It's difficult to find a starting point, but I thought I would begin by looking at the things which diminish my ability to be content and how they have been affected by my weight loss so far. The primary factor in reducing my overall quality of life was physical pain and a lack of mobility due to that pain. If I look at both of those factors, I can say that having lost 100 lbs. has diminished my overall physical pain on a daily basis by about 85% and my mobility issues by about 75%. That means my happiness "suppression" due to these factors has been greatly alleviated.

That being said, there are new factors related to weight loss that have also played into decreasing happiness. For one thing, I no longer have unhindered pleasure with food. Setting aside the fact that seeking pleasure and comfort in food is unhealthy on multiple levels, the fact of the matter is that I enjoyed eating more then than I do now on a quantitative level (though not necessarily on a qualitative one). I spent more of my time eating and enjoying it as well as preparing and less shopping for food than I do now. Now, I'm basically imprisoned by calorie counting and treat budgeting such that I get a trickle of the food pleasure that I once did. In terms of the loss of happiness due to a change in eating habits, I've probably seen a 95% loss in food-related pleasures because I'm losing weight.

I also find that I have much less free time than I used to have and can't relax nearly as much as before because I have to constantly deal with food and push myself to move more. I think more about food, and enjoy it less. Because of the vigilance I must exercise in crafting meals, counting calories, balancing nutrition, and making sure I have what I need on hand at all times, I find myself constantly working on preparing meals and cleaning up after them. Anyone who says that eating healthily isn't more difficult than eating junk is a gigantic liar, is someone who has a personal chef doing all of the heavy lifting, or is ingesting a lot of expensive, frozen, pre-made diet meals (which taste bad and aren't really good for you). I'm sorry, but the truth is that it takes a lot of effort to look after your best food interests.

The other factor about losing weight which is hindering my happiness is the fact that I have to go out among people more. Before, I would go out once a week, twice tops, to shop because of my pain while walking. That meant that I was exposed less to people who treated me poorly. Now, I go out for walks 6 out of 7 days a week and get treated like crap (gawked at, made fun of, whispered about, given dirty looks, stared at) almost everyday. That's bound to undermine my happiness. The only thing I can say about this last point is that there is some small hope that, when I lose enough weight to look relatively "normal", this sort of behavior will stop.

For me, the current situation is that I am happier in some ways because of weight loss, but, on the whole, I am not appreciably happier than before. I am less unhappy in some ways and less happy than in others. One thing is clear though, aside from physical pain, I could be a lot happier if other people would mind their own business and leave me alone. Most of the unhappiness I feel about being fat now that most of my pain is greatly diminished is due to how others treat me, not to any inherent personal wish to look a certain way.

As for other fat bloggers who carry the fat pride flag and are doing what they can to convince the world that one can be fat and happy, I say, "more power to you." They surely have more strength to endure the critical glare of the world around them. Of course, the "thin" world around them is never going to believe they are really happy. How can they possibly believe a fat person can be happy when they (the thin people) are doing their utmost day-in and day-out to make you as miserable as possible?

No comments: