Sadly, because society is not giving up on stigmatizing higher weight people any time soon, if you are higher weight and want to live without feeling its oppressive impact, you’ll need to stop believing that being unable to lose weight or keep it off is a moral failing. There are people fighting to eradicate weight stigma, but change takes time. In the meantime, you can buy into the lie that there’s something dreadfully wrong and defective about you for being higher weight or you can stop internalizing this falsehood.
The results presented in “Living With Obesity: Expressions of Longing” or even reading the abstract describing this study (V. Ueland, PhD, RN, E. Dysvik, PhD, RN, B. Furnes, PhD, RN, 1/22/20, https://doi.org/10.1177/2377960819901193) are enlightening and provocative. They conclude that many higher weight individuals believe that their size is a burden to them and others. They’re “subjected to a cultural understanding that obesity is a moral failure caused by lack of self-control. This pressure can lead to self-stigma and self-objectification. A hostile or indifferent view of oneself can create further alienation, and feelings of being not quite human may arise.” If you feel like this, you’re not alone.
Three themes of longing emerged from this study:
- Longing for normality: Participants wished not to be judged, seen as different, or as standing out. Out of this longing came the desire to hide and also to live with greater freedom. They were disturbed by weight stigmatization from others and themselves.
- Longing for what was lost: They yearned for the body they previously had while also feeling remorse and guilt that they no longer had that body. Fatigue from fighting fat alternated with a fierce desire to continue the battle to slim down.
- Longing for simplicity in life: “The interview materials suggest[ed] a yearning toward knowledge of self, finding room for oneself, experiencing joy, being at ease with oneself, and living a good life.” Participants also felt a longing “for a functioning body and a yearning for a slimmer body.” They wished to relax into their bodies and ignore the criticisms of the outside world as well as their own harsh self-critiques.
Listen to and attend to your longings. Do you toss them all out as if they were one and the same or do you view them individually so that you can learn from them? What do your longings tell you? What can you do with them to help you grow and heal whether or not you lose weight or become more fit? What longings do you ignore although they have nothing to do with your weight? What are you afraid to do because of your size—aside from it?