‘You’re half the size you were!’ ‘You’ve lost a whole person!’ ‘You’re just shrinking into nothing.’
The people who note my weight loss in these terms want to know, what must it be like to lose so much weight? How does it feel?
I hate to disappoint them, but I usually do. For the most part, it just doesn’t feel all that different.
The real benefits of a massive weight loss are the things you don’t feel or see like blood sugar and blood pressure and heart rate readings. For some people, these changes are profound and make a huge difference in how they feel. But I wasn’t sick enough for it to feel all that different.
Of course I can feel myself climbing stairs without trouble. Summer heat isn’t a sweat. And fitting into the back seat with two other adults is a breeze. A few former discomforts have disappeared. And that’s nice. But beyond these few things, the actual experience of being thinner compared with being fatter? It’s not dramatic at all.
My body usually feels exactly the same. I have aches and pains. Now they’re exercise induced rather than weight induced, but they feel much the same. I feel like the same person. I stare at the world through the same eyeballs. It hasn’t corrected my vision, improved my hearing, altered my personality, my world view, or my attitude. Sitting and writing this to you here on my couch in my house feels just the same as it would have 100 lbs. ago, except that my laptop would have been closer to my face.
I am no more profound. I am not brighter. There is no sudden infusion or depletion of wisdom.
Except when we’re staring straight into a mirror, most of us experience our bodies only peripherally. We catch glimpses of our forearms and hands and thighs in space as we move through our days, but can’t compare them to our old forms when the old form is gone. Instead you begin to be aware of yourself in relation to other more familiar references. So I never perceived myself as getting smaller, but the world and the people around me as getting bigger. It was as if the chairs became roomier, the architecture more generous, my co-workers bigger and taller. In fact lots of people I used to think of as teeny or impossibly bird-like now seem very normal to me.
My husband is four inches taller than I am. But I used to carry so much weight in my thighs and rear end that when we were sitting down, I was taller. I noted this every time we sat in our car together. As I lost weight, I didn’t sense myself sitting lower and lower in the bucket. It seemed as if he was shooting up in height and might go through the roof of the car any minute.
It’s a strange feeling, very Alice in Wonderland, to take up less space in a familiar world. But it isn’t something I notice every day. I notice only when I fit where I didn’t before. And those moments are gratifying but over very quickly. ‘Okay, now I fit. I’m glad.’
It doesn’t take long for people to get over your weight loss and begin to recognize you and forget what you looked like when you were heavy. So normality enters the picture very quickly. No one’s really interested in your weight loss, they have much more pressing things to think about.
It’s just not a big deal.
And I think that’s the best part of all. Because who’s business is it, anyway? It’s yours. It’s mine. So we lose weight and gain our health. That’s terrific. Once it’s done, we can count on living longer in a world that doesn’t pinch us or squeeze us out. That’s better.
It might open doors, if the doors are being held shut by fattists. And many doors are, I won’t kid you. But on the other side of the doors the grass isn’t any greener.
I suppose people ask me because they imagine that being overweight must feel just awful. I don’t know — do they think it feels like wearing a foam suit or something? But we know that for the most part, it doesn’t feel awful at all. It feels normal. We’re just made to feel awful about it.
So. The incentive I offer is maybe less dramatic than what people suppose. It’s simply that there’s a new normal out there for you. It has to do with a longer life, blending in, fitting places. The differences are gratifying, but subtle.