Day 56–100 Days To A Healthy Relationship With Food
I’ve just made up a word — Fatdentity. I took the ‘i’ off identity and put ‘Fat’ at the beginning of it instead.
Here’s what it means:
When you’ve been overweight for a long time, people just think of you that way. If you lose weight, they freak out. You have lost your fatdentity and they don’t like it.
Back in 2016/2017, I lost 2 and a half stone. According to BMI calculations (I know, I know, BMI is imperfect and won’t work for everyone, but I’ve yet to find a better indicator of a healthy weight range for me), once I’d lost all that weight, I was still above the mid-point of my healthy weight range. But, for the first time in years, I was in that healthy range (and it’s where I’m trying to get back to now).
So there I was, at a healthy weight — 2 and a half stone less than the unhealthy weight I had been a year earlier and for most of my adult life. A work colleague I hadn’t seen in a while asked me if I’d been seriously ill. Friends and family said they were “worried about me” and told me I “didn’t look like Andy any more”.
I found it really hard to deal with. I had worked so hard to achieve something that meant so much to me and was undoubtedly a good thing. I was elated. But a lot of people close to me didn’t seem happy. I still get wound up and upset just thinking about it now.
It turns out that people — consciously or subconsciously — not supporting your aim of losing weight is common.
“A Stanford University study showed that over 75% of women ”never” or “rarely” experienced support from friends or family when it came to losing weight.” — Liana Brinded, ‘If You Want To Lose Weight Don’t Tell Your Friends’, qz.com
Liana’s article also introduced me to a term I’d never heard before and, frankly, depresses me:
“DUFF — the pop culture moniker for the “designated ugly fat friend” — suggests that within a group, there is always one person that is perceived as less attractive than the rest. That actually elevates perceived attractiveness levels off the non-DUFFs, say researchers. That’s why nobody wants to lose their DUFF.” — Liana Brinded, ‘If You Want To Lose Weight Don’t Tell Your Friends’, qz.com
That’s different from what happened to me. I don’t think they wanted me to stay big to make them look better. People just struggled with my new appearance. It was like ‘Fat Andy’ was what they knew and liked.
If you talked to them now, they would probably say they never saw me as fat. Just “well-built” or “chunky” or “stocky” (these are words people call overweight men, I know because I get called them when I’m overweight).
There was a weird thing going on too with the link that people made between my appearance and my personality.
Fat people often get labelled as “bubbly” or “the life and soul of the party” or “a big personality”. There seems to be a link between fat and funny.
I used to get told I looked like a famous actor/comedian. He was overweight. I hated being compared to him because we were both overweight. I sometimes challenged people on it. I told them they were effectively calling me fat. They said, no, they were calling me funny. But the thing is they were saying I looked like him, not that I told jokes like him.
So when I lost weight, and people said I “didn’t look like Andy any more” there was this inferred extra level of worry I picked up from them that somehow I wouldn’t be fun any more. As if I could only be a laugh if I was fat.
The whole thing was messed up. And I worry about what will happen this time I lose weight.
The strange thing is, all the time people were worried about me and asking if I was ill and giving me concerned looks, I was absolutely flying. I have never felt as confident, mentally balanced and, yes, happy, in my whole life.
I remember going to a mate’s 40th birthday party and spending most of the night dancing. I usually hate dancing. I feel self-conscious and think I’m awful at it. But when I had proper confidence in my appearance, I went for it and loved it. And there are loads of photos of me that night. That’s because for once in my life I wasn’t avoiding the camera. I just had a brilliant, brilliant night. I felt comfortable in my own skin and had fun.
I question this too.
Do I have a very messed up attitude if I feel I can only be happy when I’m at a healthy weight?
Think of it the other way round though. Say I’d been at a healthy weight nearly all my life, then suddenly put on weight. Would people have said anything about it? Probably not. It’s a brave person who says to their work colleague “Wow, you have gained a LOT of weight recently”. So what is it about losing weight that suddenly gives people permission to have an opinion on how you look?
Here’s the thing. This is my body and my life. I want to have a healthy relationship with food and live at a healthy weight. So whatever I look like, that’s my business and the rest of the world just need to get used to it. If they project a fatdentity on to me, then that is their problem. I’m over it being mine.
On track. And fired up. I’m proud of this project and the progress I am making.
54/56/100 (Number of days goals met/ number of days into project/ 100)
Be responsible about food and weight management. Research a healthy weight, and healthy methods of weight management for you physically and mentally. Remember, you are not defined by what you weigh. I am not a nutritionist.