I Lost 86 Pounds and Learned a Few Things
Chris Higgins

Weight loss and circumstance

First off, I’d like to say congratulations to you, Chris Higgins, because you set to achieve something and you worked hard to get somewhere and that hard work is worth a lot.

I’d like to also point out some things to your readers. By doing this, I’m not devaluing or denying your accomplishments — but rather putting what you achieved in a different perspective.

I’m sure you would agree that not every single person in the world has your exact set of circumstances so it’s important that those people in different circumstances understand how their circumstances may change things. I hope you don’t take this personally, because it’s not how it’s intended.

Circumstance #1: Money

Money is a huge reason for your success. Hiring a personal trainer, affording the transportation to and from the gym on a daily basis is expensive for most people. According to WebMD, the average cost of a personal trainer in the US can range from $15–100 per hour with the average being $50 per hour. So that’s an extra $250 per week with a total of $1000 per month which many, many people do not have.

Even a gym membership, which can range from $25–50 per month can be out of the price range. Meaning that for a lot of people with jobs just like yours… it’s impossible for them to reach a point where they can afford to hire someone to keep them motivated.

Circumstance #2 Food availability and culture

When I moved to California when I was 14 from living in Kentucky and Virginia, one of the immediate things I noticed was how colourful the vegetables were in California.

I grew up with working class/poor parents with very little money. I ate free lunch and free breakfast. Most of the vegetables I ate came out of cans/tins. I thought it was weird that vegetables crunched. I grew up in the South where most vegetables are boiled to mush topped with butter and salt.

I had to learn to eat healthier, to get rid of the palate I had grown up with and acquire new tastes and it is a process that has taken me years and it has only been possible because such healthy food has been readily available in California and now where I live in London. I can afford fresh organic veg.

But when I moved back to North Carolina for two years, I survived on iceberg lettuce and very little veg options. You just couldn’t get decent quality veg out there unless you could pay loads for organic. And many people, even in urban areas, live in food deserts where they unable to procure fresh fruit and veg, even if they want to.

When my mother was taking care of 4 kids, she had to make the choice. Buy a pound of ground beef and Hamburger Helper and fill us up or take that same $10 or so and buy a bunch of veg that wouldn’t fill us up and we’d complain about. Sometimes, that’s a big choice too.

Circumstance #3 Mental health

As a man, you receive a lot less messages equating your weight and size with your entire worth as a human being, which isn’t true for a lot of women. This can really make the entire business of losing weight difficult.

To use my own personal example, although I am non-binary, I have experience socialisation which has told me that my worth can be equating to my attractiveness, and thus weight. Years ago, I used weight loss and dieting as a means to abuse myself and degrade myself if I had eaten to much or not done enough exercise.

Right now, I use the FitBit programme to focus on eating healthier and getting enough exercise and I don’t weigh myself because weighing myself gets me back where I was years ago, abusing myself and making myself feel horrible which would inevitably make me depressed and therefore less likely to exercise.

Depression and other mental health conditions can discourage people from getting active and staying active. And then the lack of activity can make one even more depressed. It’s a vicious cycle. If I don’t get any physical exercise, my panic attacks can resurface in a nasty way and my anxiety increases. But yet, if I have increased anxiety, the last thing I want to do is work out. It’s tough to shake that off.

I’m not trying to assume anything about your mental health. Maybe you did struggle and you just don’t feel like disclosing that here. That’s fine. But mental health can be a huge deterrent to physical exercise. And sometimes, as you said, socialising includes food and drink. And food and drink can improve your mood when you’re feeling low.

And although many people find exercise can improve their mental health, that’s not the case for everyone. So having the mental health to back you up for a big endeavour like this is huge.

Circumstance #4 External support

It’s fantastic you’ve had really positive support from your spouse. And I wonder if there were instances of going to the gym that weren’t all together too positive for you, because there’s loads of evidence that demonstrates that fat people can get made fun of at the gym. Especially women.

This is perhaps one of the biggest deterrents to exercise there is. If you can actually afford to go (the membership cost as well as the transportation), and then get made fun of or humiliated when you get there, it doesn’t inspire you to continue.

And exercising outside, on your own after work, can present a physical danger for women — and not necessarily free you from being harassed for being fat in a public space.

Partners can also be “supportive” in all the wrong ways, applying pressure to their partner to lose weight, by any means necessary, even if it’s unhealthy or damaging self esteem.

I’ve also experienced difficultly with my own family making fun of me for choosing healthier foods and going to the gym, or spending extra time pointing out when I wasn’t eating something healthy and contributing to my guilt over it. Many people don’t have the benefit of supportive partners or even family that would help them.

Circumstance #5 Time

Having the time to go to the gym is a huge reason for your success. If you had children or if you had to work more than you current work, you would definitely not have the time.

I walk 40 minutes 5 days a week because I can walk to work. I also have a gym by my work I go to at lunch because I have a lunch break. But most of my jobs have not allowed me to walk or bike to work because they were an hour away by train. Two hours a day on a train and then another hour and a half at the gym took away a lot of my energy when I had to do it and it didn’t inspire me to continue.

Not to mention, time is also a huge reason people don’t eat healthy. Microwave meals are faster than cooking something from scratch. People who don’t have time to go to the shops frequently may waste money buying fresh fruit and vegetables that expire before they have the chance to eat them. Time can be a huge factor in poor diets and lack of exercise.

Circumstance #6 Health

I have a thyroid condition as well as a disability which affects my metabolism and how tired I can be. While your body did respond to the work you’ve done, it’s well documented that people with thyroid conditions can have an incredibly difficult time losing weight.

This is why weight loss is never my number one goal in an exercise and nutrition programme. I’m almost always aiming to do a certain amount of exercise (which the FitBit helps me out enormously with) and eat a certain amount of vegetables. If I were to focus on weight loss, it would be detrimental to my mental health because of the previous poor relationship I had with weight and exercise previously but also because it’d be pointless if my body didn’t respond to it.

Having a body that responds to diet and exercise can only be beneficial because it means that you can successfully diet and exercise, but also because when you are no longer overweight or obese, doctors will no longer treat you poorly. Many overweight and obese people die of preventable conditions or develop complex conditions because doctors assume their problem is their weight and refuse to look any deeper.

Not to mention, many healthcare providers still use the BMI guide as a measure of health despite the fact that BMI has been proven to be an inaccurate measure of health and the BMI goalposts historically shifted in 1998 which made 30 million Americans “obese” or “overweight” overnight. And yet, doctors still swear by it despite all evidence.

I was recently denied a breast reduction because my BMI is too high. There is no restriction for people who’s BMIs may be too low however despite the fact that underweight people pose a higher post-surgery risk.

If you can’t lose it, don’t feel bad

This list of circumstances isn’t exhaustive and I’m sure other people will be able to point out things I couldn’t recognise, but they’re worth pointing out.

Now, again, this is not all to say you didn’t work hard Chris. You totally did and I applaud you for it. I just want to make sure that those folks out there who can’t for any of these circumstances don’t feel like it’s their fault, because it really may not be.

And I want to encourage anyone of any weight classification to explore this series of links and facts about fatness debunking some of the most common myths even health professionals believe.


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