Published on May 21st, 2015 | by Heidi Stoermer1
The weight of losing
All bodies are good bodies.
I want to make that clear right from the beginning. There is nothing wrong with having a fat body. All bodies are good bodies.
When I was asked to write about my (fat) body, I told Post Defiance that I didn’t want to write an article about how to lose weight. This isn’t that. What I want to tell you about is how strange it is to live in a changing body, one that is at once completely foreign and absolutely home.
I have had a fat body for more than a decade. Today, in fact, is the first day that I haven’t qualified as “obese” on medical charts since 2004. With a lot of support from my doctor, my nutritionist, my partner, my workout team at the YMCA, and random strangers on the internet, I’ve managed to lose 116 pounds. It took me 10 years of fighting against health conditions, of trying every new diet, of arguing with medical professionals, of popping prescription pills daily to finally end up with the right tools.
But here I am, merely “overweight.”
Over the last few years, I’ve become an advocate for body love at any size. I’ve watched activists like Tess Holliday and The Militant Baker take the internet by storm, sometimes whispering to women to love their bodies as they are, sometimes shouting it from the rooftops.
The notion that I should love my body as it is was something I knew but hadn’t implemented. As I began to feel more confident in my 318 pound body, to appreciate its form and function, I also felt the desire to give my body a better life.
The reality was that my feet and hips ached, that my medical conditions were worsened by my obesity, and that I was taking more and more medication to feel (not good but) ok. I realized that if I loved my body and wanted it to work well for me for a full lifetime, I needed to be kind to it. In fact, I’d been cruel to it for years – dieting, working out to the point of pain and exhaustion, even starving myself. Instead, I needed to show it love – healthier food, moderation, and less medication.
So in the same moment that I fell for my bigness, I decided to let it go.
Losing even a small amount of weight can mean huge challenges – social, mental, emotional. You’re told when you embark on this kind of journey that if you have trouble in your relationship, you’ll still have trouble. That if you have trouble with emotions and food, that will still exist after you’ve lost weight. All of that is true. I’ve also encountered attitudes and feelings that I didn’t expect. Some friends seem angry that I’ve managed to lose weight. Others feel I’ve betrayed our shared cause, and am no longer an advocate or ally for people of all sizes.
I repeat, over and over, that all bodies are good bodies. What’s difficult to fathom is that I need that mantra now more than ever.
I had a well developed sense of personal style, which I began to question as I lost weight. Had I been wearing bright stripes and prints (no black!) because I liked them, or was I using clothes as a defense mechanism against people who see a fat body and make judgements about how it should be dressed? Had I politicized my wardrobe without even realizing what I was doing? I overanalyze, maybe, but the truth is that up until January I hadn’t worn pants in more than 5 years. I could no longer say for sure if that was because pants felt uncomfortable, I simply didn’t like them, or because I had been ashamed of my big body.
When I’d lost 100 pounds, I wandered into a shop to check the price on a cute shirt hanging in the window. The salespeople were alarmingly friendly and offered to grab a few items for me to try on. I was sucked into the pitch and agreed, but told them I didn’t think they’d have jeans that would fit. They assured me I was wrong, and without even asking my size, they brought multiple pairs for me to try on. They were snug, but all zipped right up.
It wasn’t the first time I’d cried in a fitting room, but it was the first time I cried bitter tears for my bigger body who never had the experience of walking into a store and finding that everything fit.
I felt outrage for that body, for all big bodies. I wanted to scream at the friendly salespeople, rage about how unfair it was that only this smaller version of my body could be accommodated at their store.
I cried because bodies are the only thing we seem to give greater value to as they lose mass.
I tell people that I didn’t lose weight because I hated my body. I lost weight because I loved it. I wanted it to be healthy so I could take it on every adventure I could dream up. But what I’m learning is that I have to keep making the choice to love it as it changes before my eyes.
Arguably, I looked better naked at 318 pounds than I do now, hovering around 200. The parts of my body that felt luscious and voluptuous are less so. My skin sags, and I am covered in a roadmap of stretch marks. But more than that, what’s replaced the softness of my former form is greater stamina, less pain, and better strength.
In the end, I have the same body now as I did a year ago. It’s a kind of alchemy. What my weightloss has proven is that even at 318 pounds, my body maintained the ability to heal and to change. Indeed, my loss is proof that my body was just as valuable then as it is now.
All bodies are good bodies.