The Near-Tragic Success Story
Hi, I’m Jason and I lost x number of pounds on Weight Watchers in less than six months. Sounds like a typical diet culture advertisement, right? Well, this was my standard introduction for years following my weight loss in high school. My fun fact, my ice-breaker, my identity.
From the outside, it appeared as though I was one of those success stories you hear about with a happy ending. However, the weight loss was not the end, if anything, it was just the beginning.
My weight loss defined me and I thought it was the one thing that gave me value. This is probably why I lived with an overwhelming fear of gaining the weight back. I thought that if I gained any weight at all, even the slightest pound, then I would look like a failure and I would no longer be good enough for those around me.
This is one side of dieting we don’t talk about near enough. Diets never really end. You don’t reach a goal weight and stay there forever. It’s usually a never-ending cycle of this diet and that diet. Maybe mix in a detox for fun. All the while your mind race. Maybe just a few more pounds and I’ll have that six-pack I want. Then I’ll be happy and good enough. Oh no, I’ve gained two pounds, time to diet again.
Dieting brought superficial happiness. Sure, I was excited to wear smaller, trendier clothes and I loved being praised by others but internal wounds and pain remained. Dieting couldn’t bring back my dad, who I missed terribly. The lower numbers on the scale and new jeans didn’t heal the struggle with my masculinity and sexuality. I still didn’t feel like I was enough.
As the years progressed, my obsession with dieting worsened. Suddenly the only thing that gave me value was the scale. If the numbers went up, I was a failure. If the numbers stayed the same, I wasn’t doing my best. If the numbers went down, I was good…until the next day when the game started all over again. I became a hostage to the scale and nutrition labels.
For a long time, I dieted because I thought it was who I was. I was the weight loss success story and I wanted to keep it that way. I wanted to control how others saw me in an attempt to cover up the pain and insecurity on the inside. Following my close call with colorectal cancer, the reason why I dieted changed. That’s when orthorexia entered the chat.
As we ring in the new year, I know that there are many individuals out there who will make resolutions that involve dieting and exercising. That’s why I wanted to share the darker side of those weight loss success stories you’ll see blasted all over the place for the next couple of weeks.
It’s important to STOP and ask yourself some questions prior to starting any new diet or exercise program.
First, why? Why do you want to eat fewer carbs? Why do you want to be vegan? Why do you want to run more?
Then, what? What boundaries will you put in place to ensure your pursuit of physical health doesn’t outweigh that of your mental health? What are your values? What are your individual goals?
Finally, who? Who are you doing this for? Who are you trying to impress? Who might you be trying to imitate or compete with?
Looking back I can see how my Weight Watchers experience got off on the wrong foot. If I were to ask these questions of myself back then, the answers would have made it clear that this was about a lot more than my weight or my food intake. I was losing the weight to silence the bullies, to fit into society’s standards, to try and resolve pain and insecurity. I didn’t have any boundaries in place, I was willing to go to the extremes to achieve results and it nearly cost me my life.
What may have looked like a success story was simply the first chapter in a near-tragic novel.