The First Step: Forgive Yourself for Being Fat

What’s the first step to start taking control of a serious weight problem? Figure out what you’re going to eat? Make an exercise plan? That’s the simple answer. There’s something else you need to do and I think it’s the key.

Forgive yourself for being fat.

Last week I wrote about how often I find those weight-focused blogs that document the misfortunes and disadvantages, trials and tribulations of the blogger’s life. I came upon more this week, they’re very common.

The paradigm is for a person who has struggled with a serious weight problem to connect any issues they have in their life to their weight and their eating. The assumption is that these issues have driven overeating and “caused” the weight problem. It’s the ever-popular cliche “I turned to food for comfort.” To follow that logic, we’d have to believe that if the issues are resolved, the weight problem would also be resolved and the person would lose weight, perhaps naturally and easily. We could go further with this logic and assume that when a person’s worries and anxiety are not top of mind, the person is not troubled by food cravings and does not feel driven to the behaviors that cause weight gain. If we are to agree with this we’d have to believe that people with 100lbs or more to lose are apparently feeling stress and anxiety and pain so often, day after day, that just about everything they put in their mouths is some form of self-medication.

So if causal emotion is the real driver behind serious obesity problems, is there an obesity epidemic in our nation or an “emotional issues” epidemic? Has America’s weight problem worsened because our intensely obesogenic culture has exacerbated the traits and tendencies of some people to be larger and to eat more or because people are more screwed up than they used to be?

I’m not a medical professional; I have no credentials of any kind in psychology. But I have been a fat girl my whole life and through the wonders of the blogosphere I have been reading the confessions of countless other fat girls for almost a decade now. One common thread that’s very obvious—people deal with a lot of shame and assign themselves all the blame.

If you feel this shame and blame, I urge you to reject it! I believe that our society has projected all this shame and blame UPON YOU, holding you responsible for violating oppressive beauty standards. Our culture puts such value on physical attractiveness and thinness, that it’s assumed there must be something wrong with you if you’re fat. It’s assumed you’re so weak and care so little about yourself that you make poor choices and suffer the consequences. Our society tells you that if you had any strength, you’d simply “eat less and move more” and conform to the beauty standards you’re being held to. If you don’t do that, ergo, there’s got to be something “wrong” with you.

Stop buying into it.

I believe that many of us are so desperate to find some measure of sympathy for our “transgressions” that we’ll take all the blame upon ourselves. We’ll drink the Kool Aid and go along with the idea that fat people are weak and broken and filled with self-loathing.

Reject the shame.

Our society readily accepts that some people are naturally thin with a naturally low interest in eating. Well, every bell curve has two ends. You can’t have naturally thin people without some people also being heavier by their nature. I could write 20 more blog posts to support this. It’s a FACT. The only difference is society does not make value judgments and impose character attacks against thin people. In fact, we’re told if we want to lose weight, we should “think like a thin person.” Why? Because they have all the answers? Their lives are perfect?

We all deal with something. Each and every one of us. Yes, even thin people! There are a LOT of reasons why some of us deal with larger bodies and stronger cravings for food. It’s not a character flaw. It’s not a weakness. You didn’t stress eat and “seek comfort” all the way to 100lbs or more overweight. Our food-focused culture has messed with your natural tendencies and made it much harder for you to keep your habits and cravings under control. Food is its own driver. Weight is its own stressor. Food today is engineered to be addictive. Gaining weight messes with your head. Society says it’s your own weakness and you’ve bought into the shame. If whatever your personal issues were to be wiped from your memory, I assure you, you’d still have your weight problem to deal with. You’d still be a person whose body is naturally larger and whose brain naturally craves more food.

Forgive yourself for being fat.

Start from a new square one. If you’ve got issues to work on, work on them. If you’ve got a weight problem to take under control, see it for what it is. Stop shaming and blaming yourself right now, this minute. You don’t need to beg for sympathy from a society that traps you in its own misaligned priorities. You owe “society” nothing. You owe yourself peace.


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    • Jen on December 9, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    Amen. Yes. Repeat. Amen. Yes.

    • star on February 20, 2013 at 10:51 am

    i just wanted to say this is what im dealing with you have said everything i have been dealing with my councilor right now and ive held on for a long time, i hope i can forgive myself and form good relationship with food.

    1. Thank you for coming by, Star. I think the best “relationships” are with people who care about you and passions you love! I wish you well!!

    • LostGirl on September 1, 2013 at 2:27 am

    How? When I’ve ruined every picture my family or friends have taken? Ruined the memory for me, and hated them for not respecting that I dont want my picture taken. How will I ever forgive myself for ruining my life because even if Im ever thin again there will always be reminders. There is no taking it back because I will never be able to erase them all. No one to blame but myself. No way to undo it.

    1. Hello. Thank you for coming by. I’m going to call you LG because I do not want to use the name you’ve given yourself. If your family or anyone is connecting your value to your appearance, you do not deserve that. No one does, for any reason. It’s indefensible.

      I do not know your family situation and you’ve written very little here so I can only speculate. Let me be a bit of a devil’s advocate. If your family insisted you be in a photo when you’d given them an excuse to keep you out, clearly they did not think having you in the picture would “ruin” it. If someone made a remark to you later about how your presence “ruined” a photo, they are judging you by your appearance and that is their issue.

      It’s one thing to be uncomfortable with your weight and how it may affect your health and your ability; it’s another to heap shame and blame upon yourself for it. We put on weight for so many complex reasons; it’s our culture that tells us to feel shame for it.

      Carrying around regret for the past will only bring sadness into your present. We can never change what’s past. It’s truly “written in stone.” For anything in life that we can’t change, we have to accept and move on. What helps us is making the most of what we can change—the present moment. We are only given a choice for RIGHT NOW. Every day we have a chance to create a new future’s past.

      I do not like thinking that you are out there, living with a lot of sadness. If there’s something I can do to help you change what’s happening in your life right now, please write me.

      Light & Strength~

    • John on December 20, 2013 at 12:40 am

    Thanks so much for your insights and cogent comments!

    In the late 1990’s, a doctor named Vincent Felliti conducted a remarkable study of the long-term health histories of a large population of middle-class individuals. The study, later referred to as the A.C.E.S, was conducted under the auspices of the CDC and Kaiser-Permanente Health Systems

    A.C.E.S. stands for adverse childhood experiences study; in it, Felitti discovered that in this population of over 14,000 people in the San Diego area, there was a previously unidentified (and strong) correlation between the experiencing of 9 specific traumatic events in childhood (including sexual abuse, parental abandonment, witnessing spousal abuse, among others) and a variety of long-term deleterious health outcomes. Among the outcomes is obesity and/or difficulties with negotiating weight loss.

    There are several outstanding videos and podcasts about Dr. Felitti and A.C.E.S. One place to start is an hour-long article on a CBC radio show called “Ideas”–the specific episode is called “All in the Family.” Another is a talk giving by Felliti that is up on YouTube; the link is:

    The reason why I’ve taken the time to write this is because I, for one, have spent years struggling with my weight and body image. Felitti’s work speaks to the fact that such matters often are rooted in experiences that were excruciating and that we had little control over, and that things like overeating or carrying extra weight is sometimes an unconscious means of protecting oneself. I have worked a lot, in therapy and other outlets, to make some peace with my history, and to be gentle with myself and my body. It has been far more healing and healthy than all the diets and brutal treatment I subjected myself to before.

    I wish you all the best–gentleness, acceptance, and health!

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