Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Are You Fat In The Head?

After a VERY long day's work (DB and I junked a 1000 square foot garage plus a major part of our house) we headed out for supper at one of our favorite restaurants where we were happy to find that our regular waitress was back from a months long vacation (we were thrilled to see both her friendly face and her amazing carrot cake!! :). Both DB and I were surprised to see how much weight she had lost while she was away (I'm guessing 30 pounds) and of course I had to ask, "What is your secret?" I was expecting to hear that she had joined Jenny Craig or maybe started some fad diet and so was surprised when she sarcastically replied, "The Pepsi Diet!"....

I laughed and said, "What?" And so she explained how she used to be a total Pepsi junky, drinking well over six cans a day (which added up to over 900 calories), and how a few months ago she had switched to Diet Pepsi. This sudden exclusion of such a huge chunk of calories quickly showed in a weight loss of ten pounds! Inspired, she started cutting out some other major offenders in her diet like her favorite muffins (450 calories a piece) and the multiple chocolate bars she used to eat in one sitting.

What I found really interesting was that when I commented on how tiny she now looks she said, "You know, I dont feel "skinny”....I just feel like me. I've been overweight for nearly 11 years but I've never been fat in my head. I was a skinny kid and young woman and never really battled my now I just feel normal."

That one sentence, "I've never been fat in my head" really struck a cord in me. In that moment I realized that I have been fat in my head for well over 15 years....even when I was technically my ideal weight (or below).

A few years ago, I had the most peculiar epiphany... one that forever changed the way I viewed myself. Wanna hear what it was? Too bad, your gonna!

You see I had just finished a successful yoga session. I LOVE yoga! (But only after a month of doing it. The first month is brutal. Horrible. Painful. Totally not fun at all! But after a month it (sometimes less) it becomes amazing and deeply satisfying. The reason it takes a month to get to the point where I really enjoy it is because (for me) in order to get the full benefit of yoga I must approach it as both a physical and spiritual exercise. When I say "spiritual" I mean my soul, essence, spirit, etc. not the worship of some divinity outside of myself.... anyways, what I love about Yoga is that moment where you become keenly away of your breath and body...your mind is quiet, but at work, acutely aware of every muscle but also in a semi state of meditation, your deep core burns with heat and you can feel your blood pump through every nerve of your body. It is amazing! But when you are out of shape, inflexible and unbalanced, it is really hard to focus on anything but the "Oh-dear-god-I'm-going-to-die-if-I-hold-this-pose-for-another-second", the burning sensation in my quads, my pathetically flat "downward dog" and the distinct possibility that attempting "proud warrior" might land me flat on my ass....All of which is rather distracting from the whole mediation, inner peace, quiet mind, etc. etc. etc..

Anyways, this one day I had just finished a good, productive yoga session and was laying in "relaxation pose", still blissfully content, utterly at peace and totally attuned to my "inner self" when suddenly I realized that the body I had been so attentively listening to- that slow and steady pulse in my neck, that warmth emanating from my belly... that flushed pink hand laying so quietly across my breast, rhythmically rising and falling with the long and deep flow of my breathe- was something entirely and wholly separate from the spirit, essence, soul, whatever-you-may-call-it.... and that being was, somehow, me! I was not my body. I lifted my hand and watched the sun play across the skin of my wrist, marveling at it’s sparkly luster, at the branching forks of blue blood in my veins....I watched as my hand moved through the air as if conducting an orchestra to the beat of my heart and at that moment I realized that my body was beautiful, but also, that it was not me.

And no, I did not eat any funny mushrooms… smoke a funky smelling cigarette…. or take any little blue pills before starting my Yoga exercises....or writing this post.

Given that, I expect you are wondering what all of this hippy-dippy mumbo jumbo has to do with my being fat in the head?

Well, what I learned in that moment was that there is, in a sense, two parts to "myself"- the physical and the spiritual- my body and my soul. What I had never stopped to consider was that these two parts might not be mutually exclusive in feeling or function. I could be fit, but fat in the head; fat in the body, but fit in the head; or fat in both.... regardless of what the scale may read. I realized that changing the way I look will not change the way I feel. I also realized why I am so incredibly embarrassed about my weight around certain people. I knew it wasn't about the way I looked and yet I couldn't quite define the way I felt, except to say that it feels like someone had stamped my deepest darkest secret right there on my forehead for all to see and judge. I realize now that my obsession with becoming slim or fit was my desire to recreate a facade to keep people from seeing the fat person inside.

With that being said, I'd like to define "fat". Fat is not number. It is not your body mass index, flat abs or a lack of cellulite. Fat is the feeling of being tired, of heaviness, of discomfort. Fat is not being able to hike, run, play or ride the way I'd like to. Fat is clothes not fitting right, of back aches and chub rub! And fat doesn’t feel good to that inner self either. Fat does not feel strong, healthy, able, alive and well. Fat is not wholesome. Fat is failure, weakness, insecurity, dysfunction. Fat is not a number.

Ironically enough one of my favorite jokes is, "Inside of my is a skinny woman just dying to get out.... but I can usually shut the bitch up with cookies."


  1. You're so right about the mental/spiritual aspects. It's like true softness in horses, where the inside shines through and is consistent with the outside, versus a horse that is only compliant on the outside, or is simply in a frame with no true softness.

    Very interesting post!

  2. Great post. I always seem to feel'fat in the head' these days. I've heard that expression at the end of the post too.Very funny. Another version of it..."inside is a skinny woman waiting to get out, luckily I keep her sedated with chocolate"!

  3. I love this! You have articulated very well exactly how I've felt for most of my life. I've always been somewhere near my ideal weight, but in my head I'm morbidly obese. It's something I fight with all the time, because it threatens to become a self-fulfilling prophecy (don't want to go to the gym with all the "skinny" people, you know?). Not long ago, I read something about body awareness and the TTellington wrap or something...sounded interesting. Thanks for posting!

  4. Wonderful and beautiful post! Your description of body & soul for yourself, was very moving. It also opened a thought for me to ponder on my own self awareness. Thanx!

  5. I have been "fat in the head". In HS I struggled with my weight, so after I had Megan and had lost a bunch of weight from nursing, I still sort of thought of myself as a "chubby girl".

    I was never obese, but in HS, 10 to 20lbs feels like a 100lbs ya know?

    After the weight was gone, I knew I wasn't overweight anymore, but didn't feel smaller. I got really, really skinny for awhile. It sort of slowly dawned on me that when I was in HS, I would have done anything to get down to a size 9 jeans and here I was wearing size 5's and they hung on me.

    It wasn't until I made myself gain 10lbs back that I realized how drawn and tired I had felt all the time when I was too thin.

    I've been a size 7 for about the last 10-12 years and am perfectly happy with it. I couldn't tell you exactly what I weigh now, cause I don't care. Weight is a number and I let it mess with my head for a long time. Now I pay attention to how I good feel(or don't feel) and how much energy I have(or don't have).

  6. This was a very insightful post Chelsi. I realize that it's already been said, but you have just articulated exactly how I have felt for most of my life as well. I don't think that I have ever heard it put quite this plainly or as "right on" as just now. Makes me feel somewhat more "normal", whatever that is. I feel like I have struggled with my weight most of my life, however; until the last several years I may have been a modest amount of weight over "ideal", I felt strong, able-bodied and for the post part, fit. Now, quickly approaching 50 and having suffered a back injury which disabled me for a couple of years...hence the weight gain, I no longer feel fit or able-bodied like before. I'm sure there are several issues besides just the pounds at work here, but I always believed that if only I could be thinner, then I could...insert whatever here...and looking back at pictures of myself when I thought I was fat, I realize I have only been fat in my head. So, does this mean that if I did lost 50 or so pounds and got back to my ideal weight...would I feel thin...could I ever feel thin?? Good things to ponder - thanks.

  7. As you can well imagine it was a post about such a deeply personal topic and so I was all the more grateful to receive such wonderful comments. Thank you for your understanding and for taking the time to express how you feel, it makes me feel better to know that I am not alone and that my thoughts were apprecaited.

  8. What an inspiring post! I have promised my younger daughter that she and I will join a Yoga class at the beginning of December I have lost quite a bit of weight in the last few months too, and I think the Yoga will help tone the rest of it up a little.
    That same daughter also said that she thought her head was getting too small for her body... Isn't that just a hoot!

  9. I was "fat in the head" when I was skinny (I'm talking super fit, defined abs skinny). Now that I'm "fat" as in carrying 20 more pounds I'm "skinny" in the head. Amazing what a dose of chemo can do for your understanding of what's truly important.

    Lovely post today.

  10. Great post; you make me want to take up yoga.

    I need to identify the big offender like your waitress did, and knock it off my diet. Probably bread.

    I saw a plaque just 2 days ago that said, "I'd give up chocolate, but I'm no quitter."

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