As you may have surmised by the blog name Sweet Sassyfats, I'm not what you would call a "slender" woman. I'm not what you would call an "average" woman. Heck, I'm not even what you'd call a "heavyset" woman. To give you a clear picture of where I fit on the body-size continuum, I must refer you to Gabriel Iglesias' six levels of fat: Big, Healthy, Husky, Fluffy, Damn!!, and Aw, Hell No!!!
Let's just say I've been hangin' out on the corner of "Damn" and "Aw, Hell No" for most of my adult life. But since I grew up on the corner of "Healthy" and "Husky," I've always struggled to fit in to this anti-fat society by doing things that "normal" people do, like having friends, going out in public, holding down a job, and walking up a flight of stairs without clutching my chest and calling out for Elizabeth.
In the past, my periodic commitments to fitness were tied to a weight-loss goal. Anyone who's taken a few turns around the dieting cycle knows the pattern:
Day 1: I'm gonna run a mile every day and eat nothing but vegetables for the rest of my life!! Then I'll get skinny and life will be so perfect! Squee!
Day 2: Yay, running!!! Yay, vegetables!!! I can't wait until I'm skinny and my life is all rainbows and unicorns. Squee!
Day 3: I'm on a roll!! But I think I'll just walk that mile today. And I'll try some of those new vegetable recipes I found online yesterday. Just to keep things interesting, you know? But I am sooo committed to my new healthy lifestyle! All the hard work and sacrifice will pay off some day when I am skinny!!! Squee!
Day 4: God I'm tired! Maybe I should just listen to my body and do a 10-minute walk instead of running a mile today. That should be OK, right? Sigh. Oh goody. Veggies for dinner. Again. This had better be working. I'm doing it all for you, skinny-ness. Some day, you will be mine.
Day 5 - Weigh In: Is that all I lost? Are you fucking KIDDING me?!?!?!?!?!? You know what? Just... screw it!!! Where's my cheesecake?? Where's my remote?? I gotta go lie down!!!
Or something like that. Well my friends, about a year ago I stumbled upon Health At Every Size, which advocates ditching the scale - and the related self-loathing - and engaging in healthy behaviors, just cuz. Fed up with hating myself for being fat, and armed with my new found knowledge of HAES, I decided stop letting the scale dictate my self worth and my behavior. I decided to engage in healthy behaviors for the sake of making my body, well, healthier. And I've discovered something wonderful: when I eat right (most of the time) and work out at the gym regularly, it makes me feel happy.
Yes, you read that right. Eating healthy foods and exercising four to five times a week makes this fat-bottomed girl feel happy. Not deprived. Not punished. Not longing for the day that I can end the stupid diet and eat like a normal person again. Happy.
As a side-effect of these healthy habits, which truly have become habits now, my body shape has changed. When you've been as fat as I have for as long as I have, people tend to notice when you start shape shifting. Wanting to be all positive and encouraging, people keep telling me I look fantastic, and asking me how much weight I've lost. You should see the looks on their faces when I say, "I don't know. I don't track it. The scale makes me crazy." Surprise. Confusion. Disappointment, even.
What?? How can a shrinking fat woman ignore the almighty scale when she's obviously working so hard? Doesn't she want to measure her progress?? How will she know if she's working hard enough??
Well my friends, it's easy. I've learned that the scale can cause way more harm to my fragile psyche than good. When the numbers on the scale do not move down as far as I've decided they should, I feel like I've somehow failed. That my efforts aren't worthwhile. That I should just give up. I lose sight of what my real goal is: improved health and fitness, and that's just not good. So now I measure my progress in new and exciting ways: overall energy level, strength, stamina, and flexibility. As long as I'm doing OK in those areas, I'm a happy camper.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I also measure my progress by the blood work I get every three months. Thanks to my genetic makeup and a lifetime of screwing with my metabolism through calorie restriction, I have the OMGDEATHFAT co-morbities of Type II Diabetes and Hypertension. I gots me them badges during an insanely difficult time in my life, when I was "managing" my astronomical stress levels with coffee, cigarettes, high fructose corn syrup, and lots of cussing. Turns out not to have been the best course of action for stress reduction. Shocking.
As poor as some of my health-related choices have been over the last 38 years, most of the ones I've made in the last 2 years or so have been pretty darn good. My overall energy level, strength, stamina, flexibility, and empirical lab results have all significantly improved, and I feel healthy and fit on most days. Will I ever be skinny? Aw, hell no. Will I always be OMGDEATHFAT? I dunno. But as long as I keep my eyes on the prize - true health and fitness - I'll be OK.