In order to have the best chances of success for our IVF treatment, I needed to lose at least 15kg (33lbs). It wasn’t last year’s resolution (which was to always take the stairs and to sit up straight), but I started the process around about the middle of January last year. Since then I have lost 20kg or 44lbs. I have come down from a size 20 UK (16 US) to a size 12/14 UK (8/10 US).
This may seem like an astonishing success. Friends and family are very vocal in their praise and admiration. In fact, nothing I have ever achieved, not renovating a house, writing a novel nor gaining a Masters, has ever been received so positively as becoming thinner. And I am decidely ambivalent about all of it.
I didn’t like the way I looked this time last year. It was hard to find clothes that looked good and were comfortable. I felt guilty all the time. I felt like everything else I had achieved meant nothing because I was an obese woman. I resented the fact that, at 40, if I were a man, I could slide into a rotund middle age without losing my status in society. Losing weight has not taken those feelings away. I don’t feel constant guilt any more, but I still feel that for most people, my weight means more than my achievements.
Losing weight wasn’t particularly difficult. Once I got into it, I enjoyed leaping about my living room with increasingly heavy weights. I like running. I don’t miss alcohol at all and I like the food I cook. I found what worked for me. So I don’t understand why my weight loss is treated as an incredible achievement. All of the other things I have done were much harder and are much more important to me.
There are definite drawbacks to being thinner. I am much more visible now. I don’t care for male attention, mostly it creeps me out (I’m that kind of lesbian). The blatant staring is far more uncomfortable than my clothes ever were. People assume I take up less space in the world – I have to fight for possession of the whole of my seat on the train. I feel like my excess flesh protected me from the world and now it is gone, I am exposed in a way I never noticed before.
Being thinner may have raised my status in some ways, but it has sexualised that status. It reminds me that as a woman, I am always defined by my body.