Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Fat and Happy

"fat and happy"
Fig.: content, as if from being well-fed.

"Since all the employees were fat and happy, there was little incentive to improve productivity."

Fat and happy: its a phrase used to describe a satisfied, contented person with no desire to change their ways. When I hear someone say it, I picture a man reclining in an easy chair, smiling and rubbing his stomach after a big meal of meat and potatoes, happy as a clam. But, in reality, its commonly accepted knowledge that the opposite is true, that being thin is the only route to happiness, so millions go on a personal quest to find happiness through a smaller waistline.

And they come up short.

The tagline of this article, "'Skinny dream' burst by weight loss realities," got my attention because it zeroed in on something that we all fall victim to - the "if only" train of thought. If only I was thinner, then I'd get that job. If only I lost some weight, then I'd have the confidence to try this or that. And for good reason - studies show that people who are overweight are more commonly discriminated against in job interviews or assumed to be of lower intelligence or competency. With the huge emphasis on body image placed by today's world, it is easy to see why weight loss seems like the only thing standing between us and instant success.

At first I was annoyed by the first woman featured in the article. She had undergone bariatric surgery to help her lose over 150 lbs, and expected her life's circumstances to change along with her body. But to her dismay, she still had the same problems at 140 lbs as she did at over 300, and she was pretty bitter about it at first. And I thought, well, duh. Losing weight doesn't make your life better, it makes your body better. Having a healthier body will enhance parts of your life, but it won't magically make your husband take out the trash or your mother-in-law stop being a bitch. (Note: I should point out here that my mother-in-law is a wonderful person and my husband regularly takes out the trash. I am just trying to make a point, calm down.)

There was a long period of time when I worked my tail off at the gym and methodically counted every calorie with absolutely nothing to show for it. I didn't lose a pound. It was incredibly frustrating, and I spent a lot of time being bitter and resentful about it. But I never stopped working out; not only do I truly love to exercise, I knew that the way I was living was smart, and that even if my healthy habits didn't show in my waistline, my heart, lungs, bones, and joints felt the difference.

An attractive body is a side benefit of being active and eating well; it shouldn't be the prize. I can say that as someone who is petite and muscular, but not a knock-out with ripped abs and muscles like people expect after the workouts I put in. My body doesn't reflect the work I put into it, and at 25% my body fat is nowhere near what it should be for my level of activity. While there are some days when I throw an all-out pity-party temper tantrum about that fact, usually when I'm trying to button something that fit fine last year and dammit why the hell do I run every freaking day if not to fit into these jeans, I've somehow come to accept that even if I never lost another ounce of body fat I would never stop exercising or eating clean because I believe in the bigger picture of healthy living.

By the time I reached the end of the article, I felt slightly less annoyed. The women featured had the same realization I had - losing weight is a wonderful thing for your health, but it doesn't change who you are. You still have to deal with stupid crap, you just do it in smaller clothes.

Yes, I am much, much happier now than when I was overweight, and some of that has to do with the fact that I am not fat. Call me shallow, whatever. My point here is to ask you to keep your eye on the real prize - a healthy body that will carry you through life - not someone else's temporary promise that skinny = happy.

I mean, just look at Lindsay Lohan. That girl's a mess.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I really like the insight in this post. It frustrates me when people tell me I don't need to exercise or eat right because I'm already thin. They don't get what the point of it is.