The Myth of Thin

Share

Reaching goal weight has advantages, but it doesn’t solve all your problems

When I was much younger and much heavier, I sincerely believed with all my heart that all I had to do was lose weight and get thin, and my life would turn into a happy wonderland. This idea helped me tolerate being painfully obese in a world where it was much less common than today.

As I dreamed of better, thinner days to come, I ate. And the more I ate, the more weight I gained, and the more hope flickered out – at least until the next diet attempt. This is how the “thintasy” became entrenched in the diet-binge cycle.

“As I dreamed of better, thinner days to come, I ate. And the more I ate, the more weight I gained”

I imagined that once I finally reached goal weight, all my dreams would come true. This notion was fostered by my mother, who also believed that “the world will be your oyster.” I didn’t know what an oyster world would look like, but I did imagine what would happen if I was thin.

First, I’d be able to walk into any store, and try anything on (all stores would have my size) and everything would fit perfectly and look sensational. (Note, unlike today, back in the 1950s and 1960s, there were no stores for plus-size women, absolutely none!)

My second fantasy was that any guy I wanted would automatically be attracted to me. Moreover, I would have no romantic pain and no annoying relationship issues (after all, thin people always lived happily ever after). Third, I would get whatever job(s) I wanted, and as a thin person, would somehow automatically acquire the skills to do them.

In short, being thin equated to some magical power whose formula signified true happiness in every way. Forever.

Unfortunately, this did not turn out to be the case. When I finally reached goal weight (in my 30s), I was shocked at how a bolt of happiness (and its corresponding fashion, romance and job success) did not come along for the ride. Now, a new scientific study has proven that physical weight loss on its own does not translate into happiness.

In fact, the study (which involved almost 2000 people) showed that although physical health usually improved, factors affecting mental health (e.g., depression) often got worse! And no wonder.

When I reached goal weight, my first shock and disappointment came in the fashion department. While all stores carried my average size, the outfits I liked were often out of stock. And, many of the clothes I did try on either didn’t fit properly or felt uncomfortable for various reasons. That was a huge and unpleasant surprise.

“Now, a new scientific study has proven that physical weight loss on its own does not translate into happiness”

I was even more disappointed in the romance department. While being thin helped me feel more confident in how I looked, I hadn’t learned through experience how to deal with the trials and tribulations of dating. What’s more, being thin didn’t automatically make me attractive to all men. (I am now grateful for that, for I would definitely not have been able to handle that kind of attention.)

And when it came to jobs, again I did feel more confident when applying, but I often had to start at the bottom, and slog away to acquire skills (like everyone else!) Another unpleasant surprise.

In other words, being at goal weight was certainly preferable to being obese. But it was far – very, very far – from the be-all and end-all I had imagined.

“Surely, mental wellness and emotional wellness are key factors that should not be overlooked when people face losing weight”

The authors of the study concluded that when people are encouraged to lose weight for physical health reasons, they might be better served if they also had mental health support, to help them manage. I was fortunate to have such support.

We already know that maintaining a weight loss of any significance is usually more difficult for people than simply losing weight itself. Surely, mental wellness and emotional wellness are key factors that should not be overlooked when people face losing weight.

Psychotherapy or mental health support during and after weight loss can help prevent putting those pounds back on again, along with their accompanying misery. And acknowledging the myth of thin for what it is – a lot of wishful, highly unrealistic thinking – can also ease the journey.

Share