{Fat: Ask/Answer} Did I Break My Ability to Be Skinny?

{The Fat: Ask/Answer feature allows you to ask a fat- or fat acceptance-related question and get an individual post dedicated to the answer. You can find the form to submit your own question at the bottom of this post.}

Here’s today’s question, submitted by Indigo:

I’m just learning about the fat acceptance movement. There are things I’m still confused about, though. I am an obese person who used to be very thin. I think my weight gain was due to emotional issues. Now are you saying that if I were to deal with that, it would still be basically impossible to lose weight at this point? Did I break my ability to be skinny?

I can think of so many directions to come at this question. Let’s take them one at a time.

1. I don’t know. Anyone who tells you with certainty whether or not you can lose weight is full of shit. If they try to tell you how you can lose weight, they are full of even more shit. So let me just say that my whole-hearted, most emphatic answer is: I don’t know. The best way to guess about your “natural size” or set point would probably be to look at the size of your parents or their size when they were your age.

2. I’m always a little wary when someone says they know why they gained weight since we get so many false messages about weight. You say that you have had emotional issues and indicate that they aren’t dealt with. I encourage you to work on those issues regardless of whether or not dealing with them will affect your weight. You deserve to be happy, to be satisfied with your life, and to get the help you need to get past things that are hurting you.

3. It is my guess based on the things I’ve read that you probably will never be the size that you were. We tend to gain weight as we age, for instance, so as time has passed your “natural” weight has probably risen. Dieting also increases our set points. If you have struggled with the weight that you are by dieting, that alone may have contributed to your overall weight gain and may have altered your natural weight.

4. I’ve heard from many people who embraced Health At Every Size (HAES) and/or intuitive eating and found that they lost some weight. I’ve also heard from people who gained weight once they embraced HAES/intuitive eating. Finding a way to interact in a healthier way with food and with the ways you move your body may change your weight and it might not (see #1). BUT, taking care of yourself with your food choices, how you exercise or not, and addressing your emotional issues is good for you regardless of what it does to your weight.

5. The best news about all of this and about fat acceptance is that it’s okay for you to be fat. If it turns out you’re fat forever, that’s okay. If it turns out that you get fatter, that’s okay. If it turns out you get less fat, that’s okay.

And finally (dropping the numbers now, I guess!), I think the word choice of “ability” is interesting. We do tend to think of weight and body shape/size as an ability, don’t we? As a choice, an action, something that you do. An important message of body acceptance is that bodies are something we are, not something we do. The things we do can affect our bodies, of course, but when it comes to weight we aren’t as in charge as we think we are. Our bodies are generally doing a good job of taking care of things for us, and it’s when we try to cognitively affect something like weight that things get mucked up.

So here’s a thought: you have the ability to tackle your emotional issues if you want to. You have the ability to change course in your relationship with food if you want to. You have the ability to change your habits surrounding enjoyable physical movement if you want to. You have the ability to learn about all sorts of healthy habits and from that education figure out what works best for you. But leave your weight alone. Let your body simply be, just as it is, not as it was in the past, but as it is now, here with you, as you.


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