Alasdair Wilkins lost 100 pounds in a year and he says it is probably the best thing that ever happened to him. He says, "I feel better physically. I have newfound confidence in my ability to accomplish my goals. I'm more fun to be around, as the veiled bitterness that used to inflect interactions with my friends has evaporated. Indeed, all these fundamental feelings of self-loathing I'd been struggling with for as long as I could remember have disappeared."
The thing is, he wishes none of this were true. He wishes this weren't true, because it reinforces all the worst parts of our society.
He explains, "Ours is a culture that simultaneously incentivizes people to gain weight and stigmatizes them when they do, and then offers the bullshit promise of instant weight loss through some miracle diet or incredible exercise secret." He says he wasn't miserable because of the weight he was carrying but because of how he thought about it and himself.
Here is some of what he says he learned:
Obesity is a societal and environmental problem, not an individual one
The numbers are staggering: The latest data says
that a third of all adults in the United States are obese, and another third are overweight. The obesity rate in particular has skyrocketed in the past half-century, so this is still very much a new problem. And the obesity epidemic doesn't exist because more than 200 million individual people lack willpower, or love food too much, or are too lazy to exercise, or whatever other crap is routinely trotted out to explain why any one person is fat.
It's so much easier to be a fat man than a fat woman
I really doubt I would have had the luxury —the privilege, you might well say — of constructing a life in which my appearance was this studiously undiscussed topic if I weren't a man. It was no healthy sort of way to live, but it sure beat the alternative of family, friends, and even strangers routinely pointing out I was fat. And that's been a constant theme whenever I've discussed my experiences with women who have struggled with their weight. With the very best of motives, my mom would tirelessly deny I was fat even when I was 100 pounds overweight.
...there are some pretty clearly socially defined roles that fat men can slip into: the funny fat guy and the smart fat guy, for instance... it would be a mistake to generalize too much, and either way this isn't really my story to tell. But it's enough to make me fairly confident that another advantage I had, both while being fat and while losing weight was that as a man, I could live in a space largely free of judgments.
I needed to lose weight, but that doesn't mean everyone has to
There's a robust medical consensus that obesity is associated with a whole lot of serious medical issues. There are health risks to being fat. But there are also health risks to making oneself miserable by going on unsustainably extreme diet and exercise regimens.
Maybe if we can build a society that looks upon weight in a healthier way — not to mention how obesity disproportionately affects historically marginalized groups, a colossal issue beyond my ability to reckon with here — then we could start having more nuanced conversations about an individual's responsibility to their own weight.
All very good points, I'd say. If you'd like to read more, head on over here
. What do you think of his story and journey?
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