Cognitive dissonance

I spent most of yesterday curled up in a ball (thanks uterus, you’re a peach!) so today I gave myself permission to cut the 3 mile run short if I felt like crap. Thankfully, most of the extreme cramping seems to have passed– I felt okay this morning and went ahead with the entire 3 miles at an easy pace. My body seems to be adapting fairly quickly, knock wood. I wasn’t sure about running so far and so often, when I was used to plentiful rest days, but for now I’m not sore.

(tw: weight loss talk follows)

I think the Health at Every Size (or HAES) philosophy is about the best thing since sliced bread. Engaging in fun and rewarding activity, eating food that makes me feel good instead of dieting, and removing weight loss as motivation has revolutionized how I feel in my body and about myself, and I recommend it highly to anyone who asks. The thing is, people who ask are often disappointed by what I tell them– they want to know my "secret", since I’ve lost a visible amount of weight over the last couple years (not enough to qualify as not-fat, but enough to notice and make me buy new pants).

Sometimes when people tell their "How I Found HAES" stories, they say things like "I stopped dieting and started healthy habits and lost ___ pounds!" Linda Bacon even discusses it in her seminal book on HAES, that some people who start practicing HAES may see a small and possibly temporary weight loss. Results Not Typical, of course, but it does happen– though since HAES is weight-neutral it’s neither good nor bad, it’s just bodies doing their thing.

In my case, it messed with my head. Giving up on weight loss resulting in weight loss? Finally getting some of that sparkly thing I chased most of my life, after and because I decided I didn’t want it anymore? Bizarro-world-level cognitive dissonance there. And everyone’s telling me "good for you!" and I want to shout "NO NO I didn’t want this I wasn’t trying I don’t believe in it!" It’s hard to evangelize for HAES when people are asking you "How did you do it?" and you have to tell them it was sort of an accident. Eating what I like and lots of exercise? Not at all a trendy diet.

Plus, I’ve spent my whole life marinating in diet culture so no matter how I tried the weight loss couldn’t be neutral. I worked hard to accept my body at all its sizes, but there were people being nicer and needing new clothes with smaller numbers on them (not to mention being able to sometimes shop in the straight-sized section– so many choices!) and lots of positive societal feedback, including what was lodged in my own brain. As this was happening, I was also aware of how my privilege was changing relative to other fat people, which isn’t always a good feeling when you’re tuned in to that sort of thing and you’ve become used to being a part of a community and now you have to check yourself.

The whole experience was intensely discombobulating. My weight’s settled down now, so I get fewer questions, but there’s still some weird feelings that crop up. I do weigh myself, and there’s always a voice (a tiny, sadly hopeful voice) in the back of my head saying "I wonder if I’m randomly going to lose weight again?" And I still don’t have a handle on what size pants I wear.

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5 Responses to Cognitive dissonance

  1. weighlessfeelbetter says:

    Most likely you will lose weight again. And no matter if you lose some or more lbs, you should always keep in mind that you are fit, so you shouldn’t think about the extra weight, but about how you feel and how much you enjoy running or swimming or exercising in general.

    • G says:

      Yep, I think exercise is lots of fun and I resolve to define my goals as getting stronger and faster while disregarding the number on the scale. :)

  2. gaayathri says:

    It is hard for me to get past the voice in my own head which tells me well maybe you might magically lose weight if you stop thinking about losing weight and wouldn’t that be awesome. I really hate diet culture.

    • G says:

      Marinating in diet culture feeds these little voices, I think. But it’s nice to read and hear from others with loud anti-diet culture voices, it sounds louder when we speak together.

  3. Pingback: 2013 Recap Post | Running While Fat

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