The Psychology of Getting Fit
If there’s one question I get asked a lot (second only to ‘How did you do it?’) it’s this – ‘do you feel different?’
Usually the people asking that question are referring to the physical side of it – and yes, I feel completely different. I’m less tired. It doesn’t hurt to get out of bed or the bath. I’m comfortable in my clothes. And so on. That’s all great, and having come this far I can safely say that the pain and discomfort of the journey to get fit is far less difficult to deal with than the day-to-day discomfort of being morbidly obese.
Psychologically, however, losing all of this weight is a strange thing. I’d like to say that I’m the same person I always was, fat or otherwise, but I’m not. I’m still in the position of catching my reflection and being (positively) surprised by it – and believe me, that does NOT get old. But it does throw you off centre a tad, because when you’ve spent years building up an idea of yourself and your identity, only to significantly change it – well, it’s odd.
To me, it really reinforces the reasons that this sort of drastic change needs to be a slow-burn process. Seeing yourself differently because you know you’ve put in months and years of hard work to get there has a very different impact on you than waking up after surgery or extreme, sudden weight loss having been changed by something or someone externally.
Personally, I can completely understand how it’s easy to regain the weight if you suddenly drop 100lbs in a short space of time, because in your head, you’re still the same person. You haven’t learned how to live in a different body, or how to maintain it – and you’re not psychologically prepared for the change in yourself and your identity. Aside from what’s going on in the mirror, I know I’m personally a different person because I’ve built up some pretty hardcore reserves of will power – meaning I can bat aside temptation like a ninja (90% of the time).
This isn’t just about how you see yourself either. Having lost weight, I’ve found myself treated differently by both sexes, and by all ages.
Not differently – better.
Only now can I appreciate how differently other people treated me as a ‘fat girl.’ There’s a certain persona attached to being a fat girl that I know I played up to – I’d try to be louder, funnier, bubblier, cuddlier… You name it, I did it, matching every expectation of what a fat girl ought to be. So I don’t blame anyone for treating me as anything other than that, because it’s a situation I positively courted. What I didn’t court, though, was the assumption – endemic in our society – that if you’re fat, you’re also lazy, dirty, unmotivated, and dumb. I don’t actually know anyone who lives up to that stereotype, and I don’t know why it continues to persist, but I’m pretty certain that I’ve been judged on that basis before – so there’s no avoiding it.
At this end of my journey, though, I don’t need to shout to make my voice heard, because I don’t feel invisible. Men are more respectful (and appreciative of my still-not-insignificant booty – which I’m not complaining about.) I have a lot of amazing girl friends, and they’ve always treated me in the same way – but women I don’t know well treat me with more respect, and don’t patronise me because of my size.
But the thing is, I’m still not exactly skinny – I’ve still got a fair way to go between here and ‘fit,’ and I’m certainly not a model-esque beauty wandering the streets, so the fact that I’m getting attention from unexpected places isn’t because I’ve got some sort of rockin’ bod that demands attention. Nope, I’m sorry guys – I’m still not (yet) Beyonce. So it’s got to be something else that’s making people look at me differently.
One of the things that’s really changed for me in my full-body-overhaul has been my confidence – because I’ve worked hard, I know my strengths, and I know that – comparatively – I look good. I’m strutting along, meaning that I’d estimate that at least 60% of the glances I get from passers-by are because they’re wondering why this short, slightly round girl is walking down Worcester High Street like she’s thinks she’s on the catwalk at Milan Fashion Week. I know that, but I don’t care, because I feel good. I’m comfortable in my own skin, and I’m happy – and while it sounds like a cliche, when things are all good on the inside, it’s obvious on the outside too.
It does mean, though, that I now look back on my old self through new eyes – and while I think I had good reasons for getting to where I was, weight-wise, it does make me sad to look back and realise that I was so miserable before. And I sort of hate writing that, because I don’t want to be a proponent of a society where everyone has to be skinny to be happy. I wouldn’t argue that at all – but my specific set of circumstances meant that, as a fat girl, I was never really happy. The long, painful journey to get to this point is part of the reason I’m happy now, because I’m stronger for it.
So yes, I feel different, and I feel better, but as usual – it’s not just about weight loss. Getting fit is a psychological process, and one that requires a 100% commitment – which is why diets fail. You have to go into it with the intention of changing your life, and be prepared to struggle to make it happen. You’ll work hard, and – if you’re like me – you’ll want to throw rocks at annoying health bloggers on the way. But once it becomes a routine part of your life – which happens sooner than you might think – you’ll realise that you know yourself, and you believe in yourself, more than you thought you ever would. It’s psychological as much as it is physical, but it’ll pay off on both fronts. Promise.