When You Lose Weight, This Isn't Going to Change—and That's OK
Weight: 221 pounds
Lost in 2 Weeks: 2 pounds
Total Lost: 32 pounds
New Year, New You!
If you have eyes, you've probably seen this about 450 times a day since December 26. You might think the new year would bring on a new catchphrase, but that never seems to happen. Though it's not anyone's intention, whenever I see this promotional phrase, I hear:
Finally, quit being a garbage human and actually become a decent thin person!
Or if I'm in a really bad mood, it becomes:
Hey, you fat piece of crap, why don't you make an effort to join the only worthwhile segment of society—thin people!
Obviously, my own insecurities lend an unnecessary subtext to that four-word phrase. I understand why gyms across the country promise a "new you" starting January 1—after all, for most of my life, that's exactly what I wanted. Sure, I wanted to wear a smaller pant size, but mostly, I wanted to be someone else. Someone with plenty of friends and agents knocking down their door. Someone who never spent conversations at parties thinking, The girl I'm talking to is looking around. She doesn't want to talk to me. I'm being boring. How can I not be boring? Ugh, she wants to just leave, but you trapped her in your stupid conversation. Why did you start talking about scones at the Puyallup Fair? That's not interesting to anyone. She's looking around again. She's probably looking for a knife so she can stab herself to give her an excuse to get out of the conversation.
I always thought that losing weight would magically transform me from an awkward oddball with a fear of social situations into a paragon of fierceness with confidence to spare.
But that's not how it works.
In my late teens, the fantasy about losing weight always revolved around guys. Sure, nobody likes me now, I thought. But if I lost weight, maybe someone would lower their standards enough to date me? Until I was about 22, I truly believed no guy would be sexually attracted to me. I figured I might just trick a guy into liking me, and out of desperation, he'd settle. I knew I was fun to be around and would make a lovely girlfriend, but what rational male would want to sleep with a girl with a fat stomach?
These are all things I truly believed. And I wasn't sad about it. It was just a fact. A day on Earth has 24 hours, the lunar cycle controls the tides, and I'm sexually abhorrent—all equally true statements to my young brain.
I didn't pull this sad frame of mind out of nowhere, either. My history with romance seemed to prove my hypothesis correct: I never got asked to a dance, I never got a candy gram on Valentine's Day, and I only got as far as a kiss on the cheek (me kissing him) with my high-school boyfriend—who ended the relationship the next day because he "didn't want a physical relationship." In high school, if I went to a guy's house to "help him with homework," we really just did homework.
After one dance (and yes, I'd asked the guy), my date said we should just go hang out at his house. His parents were in Hawaii, and we had the place to ourselves. Guess what we did? Watched Ghostbusters. He made no moves because he was completely uninterested. And after high school, I spent lots of time getting ignored in bars while dudes hit on my friends. I got through all of college without a single date. So, it wasn't completely unreasonable that I thought my chances at romance were dim.
During that time, I always fantasized that weight loss would be the tool to end my loneliness. Lucky for me, I found a lovely guy and married him—without having to lose a pound.
But although I found the love I was so desperate for, my weight loss dreams didn't go away. Weirdly, they got stronger.
By my mid-20s, I started seriously dieting. Though I didn't realize it at the time, I wanted a new body for a "new me." The depression that really blossomed in me around age 30 was starting to take hold, and I figured if I could lose weight, it would somehow change all the things I didn't like about my life and myself.
So I lost 40 pounds, and there were good things about it. People would tell me how good I looked, and there was an unspoken feeling that I'd somehow earned a greater level of respect from my peers by being thinner. I was proud that I was working hard and seeing results.
But there were bad things too. I became obsessed, and I'd freak out if something I ate had more calories than I'd realized. I was worried that I wasn't working out hard enough and burst into tears if the scale went the wrong way. As I looked in the mirror, I only saw my stomach. My fat stomach. It was still too big. Soon, my weight loss slowed. People didn't compliment me anymore. I was still working hard and not seeing any results. I was thinner, but it wasn't enough. I was still me.
So, when I see all those New Year, New You signs, it takes me back to all those desperate days of hoping that a new body would completely transform my life. This time, even as I'm losing weight, I know that if I'm unhappy now, I'll be unhappy 50 pounds from now. The scale is just a tiny part of the "transformation" all those gym ads promise.
I fully believe that I'll hit my goal weight. And when I do, I'll be the exact same person in a slightly smaller size. So this time, as I work at losing weight, I'm working just as hard to appreciate my life and put my mental health first. Plus, I often have to remind myself that I'm a delightful person, and it's pretty fun being me—even in a variety of sizes. This year, my motto might be: New Year, Same Me, Lucky You.
Amber Petty is an L.A.-based writer and a regular contributor to Greatist. Follow along as she shares her weight-loss journey in her new bi-monthly column, Slim Chance. Take singing lessons from her via Sing A Different Tune and follow her on Instagram @Ambernpetty.
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January 10, 2019 at 05:00PM
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