By Joseph Miller
In the summer of 2009, I weighed close to four hundred pounds. That’s big. I dropped to one hundred and seventy by the summer 2012—about average for a guy my height. But here’s the truth: I’m still a fat person.
Losing weight is a struggle. It’s hard if you’re out of shape or if you have a busy schedule. It’s also a lot easier than what comes after. Losing weight has a clear solution: Diet and exercise. Our culture is also acutely aware of the problem. Empathy and support for your struggle aren’t hard to come by.
Physical maintenance and proper eating are much more of a challenge once you’ve reached your goal. A runner doesn’t have much incentive to keep going after he’s crossed the finish line. The statistics for maintaining weight loss are so poor is because people feel like they’re done. But food still exists when you’re a normal weight. And you still need to exercise. Forever.
Worst of all, our culture is a lot less supportive after you’ve bought those new clothes. I lost weight rapidly after I introduced regular, aggressive exercise into my routine. In the months that followed, rumors circulated my place of employment that I’d had “the surgery.” I laughed it off when the subject arose. But I was disgusted and hurt that the people were so cynical.
Congratulations and praise has only ever made me like a charlatan. Shortly after my weight loss, someone patted me on the back and told me they wished I could whip their daughter into shape. I’m no guru. I’d hit a pint of ice cream harder than a heartbroken teenager if you put it in front of me. Positive attention can be an incentive for some, but deifying anyone is a mistake.
Our culture also celebrates with food. Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, office parties. There’s cake around every corner. I give a lot of food away. I have to throw a lot more out. There is an expectation that since I’m a healthy weight, I can partake like everyone else. I can’t.
Losing weight is one of the greatest things you can do for yourself. It’s worth every ounce of sweat and every uneaten sweet. But it isn’t the end. I’m still a fat person. I need to keep believing that or it just might be true.
Joseph Miller is a contributing writer.