I was chatting with a friend this week when she congratulated me on all the weight I’ve lost and how proud I should be of myself. As usual I didn’t know how to respond. I didn’t think “Oh yeah, I’m the most awesome person on the planet. Bow down before me and balance this bowl of seedless grapes on your head for me” was going to fly. I ended up playing it down and said “Well, I’m still fat” as if this should negate my achievement or something. Like I was Michelle Kwan and someone had just congratulated me on winning the silver Olympic medal and all I could muster was “Well, it’s not gold.”
But when I got off the phone I reflected on my statement and realized it was sort of a lie. I honestly don’t think of myself as being that fat anymore. From a math and statistics view this might seem silly since I’m currently hovering right on the line between obesity and overweight according to the flawed yet ubiquitous BMI system.
However, from a life and living perspective the majority of things that sucked about being a fat person have disappeared from my life. I’m mobile, fit, and I can fit in most chairs and transit vehicles, be it cars, trains or planes. I can find clothes, I don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed by how I look. When I play the “Is she fatter than me?” game at restaurants or the grocery store, I actually get to win a lot of rounds.
Which makes me wonder, is there some official dividing line where I get to say I’m no longer fat? Is it when I can no longer shop at Lane Bryant? Is it when my BMI finally hits 25? Is it when my body fat percentage reaches a new low? Is it when my boobs finally stick out farther than my belly? I suppose regional and time variances come into play too, considering Kate Winslet and Kelly Clarkson are total fattys by Hollywood standards, but a bit on the thin side if you’re looking for a 15th century Botticelli beauty.
To an extent, being fat is a state of mind. While you’d be a bit delusional to be a 500-pound person who thinks they’re thin, once you start moving into the more “normal” body size range it just becomes a matter of opinion – the opinion of the culture that you live in, the opinion of the people you interact with every day, and most importantly your own opinion. You can be an 80-pound anorexic and still think you’re fat.
I remember wondering at the beginning of this journey if I would always think of myself as a fat girl no matter how much weight I lost. “Fat” has been one of the first five words I’d pick out when writing the “definition of me” for so long that I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be able to adjust to a time when it wasn’t. So while that time might still not have come, and I still have extra pudge on my belly and my butt, I find that more and more I’m leaving the “fat” state-of-mind.
There were times when if I’d found a magic genie in a lamp I would have wished for him to make me thin this instant. But I’m glad my life never crossed over into a state of magical realism and that I’ve been taking this slowly. In the almost two years I’ve spent slimming down I’ve had time to gradually slide into a thinner self-concept, which was just the right amount of time it took for that self-concept to fit, just like those cute size 18 jeans. (I told you I was still fat!)