Loving My 300-Pound Body Keeps Me Thin

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When obesity has roots in shame, loving our larger bodies (in my case, a 300 pound body) may contribute to healthy, sustainable weight loss.

We’re tormented by our obsession with weight. Losing weight is hard to do, and the overwhelming majority of us gain back whatever weight we lose (and then some). Every failed weight loss effort drags us deeper into depression. It becomes harder and harder to get and stay motivated. On the heels of every failed effort, we grab for anything to numb out, to check out, to quiet the critical, screaming beast in our heads. We drink, we watch TV, we eat. And eat. And eat.

My story began in the standard way. I was overweight from early childhood. By my 20s, the loss-gain cycle had me tipping the scales at over 300 pounds. But 11 years ago, I became an outlier — an exception to the rule when it comes to weight loss. First, I lost more than 150 pounds. Then — and this is rare — I managed to keep it off. It’s been 11 years since I dropped my weight. How have I managed to keep it off when so many people gain it back?

I hit a nerve last month with my “5 Things I Miss About Weighing More Than 300 Pounds” post (see the original post here). I love and am public about loving the fat body I once had, and that caught lots of folks off guard. It resonated with people at every point on the weight loss spectrum. It also made lots of people very angry. How could I — how DARE I — love my old body?

 

Some folks believe that me loving my former, larger body is grounds for a mental health diagnosis. Not only that, but that expressing that love makes me unfit to help other people.

Right.

If I’ve learned anything in the last 11 years about weight and wellness, it’s this: The secret to staying committed to the caring behaviors that results in healthy and sustainable weight loss, 1 and, in my case, to maintaining our most comfortable weight, is to practice cultivating LOVE for YOUR BODY, Past, Present, and Future. 2

Skeptics, hear me out.

Hateful thoughts breed feelings of shame. If I hated my old body, or feared regaining my weight, I would feel tremendous shame whenever I ate the foods that make me gain (in my case, sugar and wheat). To dull that pain, my instinct would be to eat more crap, 3 which would cause me to feel – you guessed it – still more shame. Hating and fearing the fat I lost would all but guarantee I’d binge myself to and beyond the point of pain, and that would all but guarantee I’d gain my weight back, one self-hating shame/binge cycle at a time.

By contrast, loving thoughts breed acceptance and patience. Sometimes I stray from my chosen path and eat something that triggers my food cravings. Because I’ve cultivated love for the body I once had and don’t fear returning to it, I’m able to respond to these slips in a healthier, more caring and mindful than I might have been able to if I were still operating from a place of shame. I accept that I’ve made what’s not the strongest choice for me. I forgive myself. I recommit to eating foods that nourish me and bring me pleasure, while abstaining from the cheap-thrill foods that always leave me wanting. I’ve done this a thousand times since I lost my weight. Every time I do it, it gets a little easier.

The truth is, loving my old body is what has made it possible for me to keep my new body. Writing and sharing the “5 Things” post was some small insurance against falling back into self-harming behaviors, some of which would cause me to gain my weight back. By nurturing love and acceptance for the fat body I once had, I get to honor the beautiful woman I was, while empowering the beautiful woman I am. 4

If you want to lose weight – and even if you don’t – nurturing love for the body you have can help you develop acceptance and patience. Over time, that acceptance and patience will make it easier to recommit to treating your body with care, even after you’ve strayed.

If acting with more mindfulness and care means you’re walking around in a smaller body, nurturing love for the body you once had  – trading in your shame for acceptance and love – will help you continue to make those caring choices.

No matter what you weigh, where you fall on the weight-loss spectrum, and even if you’re content to stay exactly where you are, this simple exercise can help get you started loving your body:

1- Write your own “5 Things”

Make a list of 5 things you love about yourself, about your body, or the life it enables you to live, past or present. Be specific. Be honest. Be unapologetically positive.

2- Share the love

Now share what you’ve written with someone that loves you. If you’re open to it, share your love with the whole world under #StrongLove (if you want me to read it, hook @strongcoffey)

3- Pay attention

Observe the critical voice in your head – the screaming beast, as I like to call it. When does it pop up? What does it say? How much less power would that voice have if you replaced your body hate and fear with love?

Write yourself a love list. Share what you uncover. Let’s all support each other and show ourselves some strong love.

Notes:

  1. I witness this with my personal training clients.
  2. Best believe I’m already writing drafts of love letters to my older body (if I’m lucky enough to live a few more decades) – Stay Tuned.
  3. And do all the myriad other things I do to change the channel in my head when I don’t much like where I’m at or how I’m feeling. Being compulsive around food was where my addictive patterns began, but that ain’t the end of my addiction story.
  4. Psst – Same woman, differently shaped.

Comments

  1. Sue Loomis says

    Thank you – I had lost a lot of weight but it slowly came back. I know that its me. I do not want to alter my body with surgery and would like to once again get it off and keep it off. I was trying to think of things I liked about my body – it was hard but I agree with you. Its nice to read about someone that speaks the truth! Keep it up.

  2. Andrea Pelfrey says

    Surgery is not the answer if you eat because of emotions. Shame, fear, feeling sorry for yourself, depression…none of these are solved by surgery. I know that. I had Lap Band surgery that went great. I kept losing fast and experienced endorphins that made me euphoric, even asking for another fill when i was barely keeping down any nutrition at all. Induced anorexia. Turns out my band had slipped and had to be repositioned. it never worked at all after that. Years later i tried gastric bypass. It worked for about 50 pounds, but even though I passed all the psych exams I never healed the self-hatred. I never learned to love my fat and heal the real reasons I overate and binged. Now I am healing these emotional wounds, recognizing my own triggers of sugar, wheat (all grains) and processed foods. I try to eat closely to more natural forms and don’t trust my binge-happy self when I first crave something, just drink some water. Water and coffee are all that I drink. I am learning to love my body and my fat and respect and accept myself as I am. Somehow that is the motivation for me to take better care of myself and my weight loss is a byproduct. I finally found someone who seems to understand that , Kelly! Thanks for your articles.

  3. Judith says

    I am close to cry now because I am struggling so hard to build up that self love which I know is the only way to get out of that vicious circle – while my environment keeps telling me that there is no way that kind of body I am having now (242 lbs) is acceptable. It’s something like once a week where I get the advice to ‘eat less, move more’ or even sentences like: ‘your beauty is a waste, because you are fat’ or ‘your body messes up your life.’

    It’s not my body which messes up my life, it’s those kind of sentences.

    Thanks four your article. I feel so sad now but that’s okay.

  4. says

    Tried everything…in TOPS now lost 80 lbs of 200 I need to lose….been on a plateau for almost a year now and I am scared of gaining my weight back I’ve already lost! I am so discouraged and depressed….feel like what’s the use? I don’t know what is going to happen to me….I really thought I was on my way to my goal……….. :-(. :-(. :-(

  5. Maria Matthews says

    Thank you for being the voice in the dark. The Lord has truly put you in my path, because I discovered you just at the right time. Thank you for being unapologetically you and helping others to do the same. I have no words.

  6. dana says

    So grateful that someone… YOU, are as brave as you are. Like a favorite poem of mine, “The Invitation” by Oriah Mountain Dreamer says… “Are you willing to disappoint another to be true to yourself?” . Thank you fit but formerly fat woman who is cool with that, and has shared that which I struggle to articulate but know/knew others must have felt. Not feeling so alone anymore as I happily ride the merry go round of learning to truly love my being… body and all…no matter what. It’s the only taste of freedom I’ve ever really experienced. It wasn’t when I modeled and appeared lovely to others or when I got big enough to keep self and others at bay…away…it’s only been lately, after decades…finally from a loving and curious place, that I am slowly relaxing, trusting, catching my own self and holding space…it’s scary at times, but there is no turning back and, it’s awesome too. I could go on as this has been my life’s greatest work…and it’s still unfolding…but I’ll end with another favorite quote and this one from a bumper sticker…
    “Once you know, you hella can’t not know”. :-) Thank you Kelly for knowing what you know, and going where you go! Rock on…

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