One Mom’s Journey from Fat to Skinny to Confident

INSIGHTS

5 Reasons Why Trying to Get Skinny Will Keep You Fat

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I recently read a wonderful guest post on CopyBlogger written by Steve Errey entitled 5 Reasons Why Trying to be Successful Will Keep You Poor. As someone who is embarking on a quest of self employment and hoping to be successful, I enjoyed the article very much, and the more I thought about it the more I couldn’t help but see the correlations between the motivation to be successful and the desire to achieve weight loss.

Steve says…

“Trying to be successful will not help you actually become successful…”

…and I believe the same is true for many people wanting to lose weight, myself included.

Wanting lose weight is such a common goal but there’s a few reasons why I think trying to get “skinny” will not help you actually become skinny and in some cases (I’m a good example of this) prevent you from losing weight and possibly lead to gaining even more.

What is “Skinny” anyway?

So you want to lose weight. You want to be “skinny.” Have you ever really thought about what that really means?

Is it a certain number on the scale? A dress size? Looking good in a bathing suit?

Too many people — myself included — pursue skinniness without knowing quite what it means for us. We see images of airbrushed models in magazines, anorexics walking down runaways or even our friends who have completely different body shapes then ourselves. We are constantly comparing our concept of thinness to what we see around us.

Really think about what being “skinny” means to you. Don’t just embark on an endless journey to look like someone else or fit in a certain size because it just may not be possible. No matter how hard I try, I’m never going to have pencil-thin arms, a smooth ass or small feet. We must embrace who WE are and accept that “skinny” is not a clear vision.

“Skinny” is the wrong motivator

If the desire to be skinny was all we needed to actually lose weight there wouldn’t be a billion dollar diet industry. I was preoccupied with thoughts of being thin from the age of 12 on. I thought being skinny would make me happy, loved, valued. I thought by being skinny I’d be… you know it’s coming…. perfect.

Motivation that comes from others sources (wanting to be healthier, good example for your kids, lowering cholesterol, learning to run) are much more sound and in most cases way more measurable then “skinny” will ever be.

You aren’t as “Skinny” as you want to be now and that’s OK

If you’re working hard to lose weight, it’s easy to dream about reaching goal. But what about now? What’s stopping you from living the healthiest life you can at this very moment? Or making the healthiest food choice? Or getting more active? Waiting for your life to begin once you get skinny can cripple you. Plus…

Being “Skinny” will not make your life perfect

Believe me! No matter your weight or your size your life will not change dramatically if you succeed at weight loss. You will still be married (or not) to the same person. You’ll still be living in the same neighborhood working the same job and driving the same car.

Unfortunately, Being skinny does not change how your brain works. I speak from experience when I say if you have low self esteem when you are fat it won’t go away when you are skinny. If you lack confidence at a size 16 you’ll lack it a size 6 as well. Hitting some number on the scale or squeezing into a smaller dress size will not solve all your problems.

Skinny-ness is a state of mind

Losing weight, for some of us, is more of mind game then anything else. It’s not impossible but it sure is difficult to achieve a goal that’s so clearly undefined and drenched in emotional baggage. Instead, what I’m suggesting is that you place your focus squarely on becoming a healthy, happy, balanced person, rather than a skinny one and you may be surprised at what you can succeed.

Conclusion

A couple of years ago I wrote a series called 3 Steps to a Healthier YOU! that you might find interesting. After I dumped the I must be skinny/perfect mindset I was able to achieve goals I never thought possible and I’m not only talking weight loss goals but things like a pull-up and running a freakin’ marathon! It’s amazing how a small shift in focus can lead to real change.



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Discussion

There are 37 comments so far.

    Jess

    June 21, 2010

    I completely agree with the vagueness of skinny. I used to only want to be skinny. I want to fit into those skinny jeans. I want to be skinny like that girl. Not any more. I don’t want to be skinny. I want to be healthy. And I know what healthy looks like in my head because healthy has definition (literal, too!) I want muscles. I want to be able to do push-ups (which I can now! real ones too) and pull-ups. Run a marathon, complete a triathlon, cycle a century, climb Mt. Everest. Things like that.

    I lose weight because it puts less strain on my body to accomplish those goals. I lose weight not to be skinny, but to make me faster, stronger, and more fit. It’s not about what stares back at me in the mirror any more. It’s about what’s staring into the mirror :)

    Jenelle

    June 21, 2010

    “Hitting some number on the scale or squeezing into a smaller dress size will not solve all your problems.”

    AMEN. Put this on my list of things I wish I knew before I started losing weight. My approach would have been a bit different had I realized that being thin isn’t a fix-all solution.

    Carla

    June 21, 2010

    For me, hitting goal was very depressing. After years of trying to lose weight, I felt lost and ‘what now?’ I thought I would automatically be happy. I thought all those cute clothes would look great on me (they still don’t!) I was also addicted to watching the scale go down.

    Like you, I had to change my focus. I started working out several times a week. Now I can have goals of setting a new PR doing a back squat or finishing a tough workout. There will always be someone skinnier than me, but can they do a pull-up?

    Kevin Chapman

    June 21, 2010

    I agree with all of that, I’ve spent 10 years trying to get thin and put on 100 pounds. I’m now focused on being healthy. I wish someone had sat me down 10 years ago and told me what you’ve said in that post!

    Reinaldo

    June 21, 2010

    Excellent points. You’ll see, I was fat, then lost all the weight and try the “fit body” thing for almost a year an a half (for us men, the word “skinny” doesn’t really mean anything, but “fit” might :) ) Then gain again, stayed 30% body fat for like 2 years, and now losing again.
    So yeah, I reached goal and realized that everything in your life (and yourself) stays pretty much the same, life doesn’t magically gets better and if you don’t switch to another goal quick things are going to get messy.
    So this time I’m running the race on fat loss knowing what the goal feels like, and thats a good thing. My goals are more health-related than last time. I wonder how many people will keep trying to lose weight if they knew the champion’s cup they give you when you finish is empty.

    Cindy

    June 21, 2010

    Good points. There are also a whole slew of scientific reasons in the book I am currently reading–Health at Every Size. I’m only three chapters in, but it is fascinating so far.

    Jen @ KUrunner

    June 21, 2010

    While I agree that being “skinny” won’t solve all your problems, there are slews of people in the blogosphere that will disagree with you about it giving them more confidence.

    Personally, at my heaviest, I basically locked myself in my house and didn’t want to go out. I didn’t want to go back to school. I didn’t want to take my kid to the pool. I was afraid to meet new people and try new things.

    After I lost 75 lbs, I was still me, but I was happier. I felt better. I went back to school. I took my kid to the pool. I met some new friends and my marriage was stronger (probably because I wasn’t moping around the house depressed but looking better didn’t hurt, I’m sure).

    Also, current research shows that having a set goal, even if it’s unattainable, is better than a vague goal of being healthy. Saying, I want to lose 20 lbs or I want to run a marathon is more helpful than I want to lose weight or I want to be healthier. (Of course, for every paper that says that, there’s one that disagrees.)

    Karen@WaistingTime

    June 21, 2010

    I am a yo-yo dieter. In the past, I was indeed thin. I was at the goal weight that I wish for now. But back then I wanted to be skinnier! And I am absolutely sure that trying to lose just a few more pounds backfired time and again and eventually led to gaining those few pounds and more. This is a great post!

    Sarah @ Fat Little Legs

    June 21, 2010

    YOU ARE SO RIGHT! This is not a journey about getting skinny. When I started 100 pounds ago to lose weight, all I wanted was to be healthier, to be a good example to my little boy, and to eventually have another baby. It was not at all about skinny. 100 pounds down later, I sometimes have started to feel it is getting more about that… and I try so hard to stop myself. I started this journey for health, and it had nothing to do with a dress size or a vision of what I would look like. I think sometimes I feel a bit dissapointed as to what a 100 pounds lost body looks like – not pretty. But that’s OK, because it is NOT about getting skinny! LOVE IT, and thanks for the reminder.

    Julie Lost and Found

    June 22, 2010

    I totally agree with this..it’s not about getting “skinny”. This drives me nuts. My best friend uses this word all the time. Of course she’s 100 lbs soaking wet. It’s ALL about “skinny” to her.

    I want to be healthy..and lean and fit. I want to have a normal A1C, be able to run and play with my kids..and wear fun clothes. I have a long way to go but I never think about getting “skinny”.

    Reinaldo

    June 22, 2010

    I guess it comes down to this: once you reach your weight goal you dont get superpowers, you dont become a millionaire. You dont get the girl/boyfriend of your dreams. You dont get to quit your job and live out of the million dollars reward. Did I mention no superpowers?
    Yes, life do get better. Just not as good as you idealize it. It’s better, but not perfectly better forever, and even when you met your goal, you enter again another journey called mantainance. And that one last like a lifetime ;)
    So try to be happy with your fat-self, your weight-dropping-self and your I-reached-my-goal self. The three of them are the same person, even if you dont know it

    Kerry

    June 22, 2010

    I totally agree, losing weight does not help your insecurities. Those go much deeper than the fat. I expected a much younger and prettier version of myself to emerge when I lost weight. Yes, I know that beauty is on the inside, just pointing out that sometimes it’s hard to feel that way. But it IS still worth losing weight. Every pound for the health benefit!

    nic

    June 22, 2010

    Thanks!!!
    I really needed this right now!!!

    Lisa

    June 22, 2010

    Hi Roni,

    My first time commenting, but I have been following for years! I am reading an excellent book called perfect mothers, starving daughters. It speaks to exactly what you are saying, and our quest for perfection. In fact, in a study in the book, researchers call what most girls are looking for “effortless perfection,” and we all want to be/seem/look perfect, but also make it look like it didn’t take any work at all. thanks for always keeping it real roni!

    Jen

    June 22, 2010

    I 100% agree with the self esteem thing. I lost 110 lbs. I had just as horrible self esteem as I did when I was 305 lbs. Now, I have gained some weight back but I worked a lot on my self esteem and it will be different this time.

    Linda Bacon

    June 22, 2010

    Hi. Great post. Glad to see you discussing the issue. Someone gave a heads up to a book I wrote (Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight), which speaks to this topic. Just wanted to alert you to a lot of free info that supports the ideas you’re discussing and may give you more food for thought: http://www.lindabacon.org/HAESbook/excerpts.html. You can cruise through lots of articles there, but you’ll find that the excerpt from the Introduction speaks directly to the topic.

    paula

    June 22, 2010

    Just what I needed to hear Roni. I get so down on myself when the scale is not moving down despite my efforts. I’ve learned that it is more about the journey and process of being healthy. It keeps me sane and makes me feel happy. Great article. Thanks for sharing. This is why I love coming to your site first a.m., with me coffee. Gives me the boost I need. Inspiration, you are…

    Okay, starting to sound like yoda.

    NZGlen

    June 22, 2010

    Ummm, no.

    You’re wrong. Everything does change. You wake up and look in the mirror and feel PROUD. That pride affects very facet of your life. You walk with your head higher, you walk taller, with more confidence and people notice, and (rightly or wrongly) they treat you differently. They just do.

    When I walk into the gym people look twice. People approach me and ask me for tips and looking the way I do. I met my partner (and soon to be wife) at the gym, and without putting words into her mouth I’m quite certain a woman of her calibre wouldn’t have looked twice at me 3 years ago when I was 50lbs heavier than I am now.

    I’m going to live longer, my quality of life is better, my energy levels are higher, I’m happier, I look fantastic, and I wouldn’t go back to being “that fat guy” for anything on the planet.

    Everyone’s different of course, and I’m sure experiences vary greatly, but for me getting in the best shape of my life and has absolutely every aspect of it. Every single one.

    Sara

    June 23, 2010

    Agree completely. Great post. I’ve learned that most often “skinny” was unhealthy and who needs that?! My blog whatztheskinny has changed the word for me (and hopefully others) to whatz up? whatz happenin/the scoop? vs. a weight or # on the scale. We need to relook at a lot of different words in new ways.

    roni

    June 23, 2010

    NZGlen – I’m going to assume you never struggled with weight from an emotional stand point. Ever have a string of “I’ll start tomorrow’s” that lasted years? Ever binged because you didn’t feel loved? Have you tried to starve yourself only to stuff your face because you were weak and broke your fast? Were you ever made fun of for being fat? Looked at pictures of yourself and cried?

    This post isn’t for those that look at themselves in the mirror, want to make a change and then just do it. This post is for those that struggle with self sabotage and feelings of insecurity and insignificance. For the people that believe being “Skinny” will solve all their problems and then get depressed and self sabotage themselves when they fail at dieting attempts.

    You are right, everyone is different but being one of those people who didn’t live up to her potential because she simply thought she wasn’t skinny enough, good enough, pretty enough, to get what she wanted out life, I understand the mental torment that some people put themselves through.

    Bebeccita

    June 23, 2010

    NZGlen:

    “I’m quite certain a woman of her calibre wouldn’t have looked twice at me 3 years ago when I was 50lbs heavier than I am now.”

    What does that even mean? That she’s shallow? That people who are slender or attractive will only look at other people who are slender or attractive? Attraction is a very unique thing, unique to every individual. I feel orry for you future-wife, that she’s going to marry someone who thinks so little of her mind, and so much of her physique.

    Roni: someone retweeted your tweet, and I’m really glad I clicked the link. This is a really well written, well-thought out post. I look forward to reading more.
    -Bebe

    Tracy

    June 23, 2010

    @NZGlen Wow. Did you even read the article? It’s not talking about how you feel NOW – it’s talking about your journey getting there and how to change your outlook to get to the places you want to be. About setting realistic ideas and goals instead of trying to define yourself by your body (which is EXACTLY what you say you do).

    As for your comment about a woman – I am TOTALLY offended. A woman of her “caliber” – really? You make yourself sound like a total moron. Apparently, the only thing you think she likes about you is how you look. How do you know she wouldn’t have looked twice at you? Have you even shown her pictures of your old self? As a woman of “high caliber”, I have dated just about every body type and to be told I wouldn’t have looked twice at someone because of their weight is just repugnant.

    And I just have to ask… What happens when the “fabulous” body you have now starts to go away – because let’s face it as you get older… it will change. Do you think she’s going to leave you because you aren’t perfect? Sounds to me like you have a lot to learn about yourself if you’re so wrapped up in your body image defining you.

    It’s great that your healthy, but it doesn’t sound like you’re mental fit at all.

    Amanda Perry

    June 23, 2010

    Great post! I always tell people (especially women) that the focus should not be so much on the scale, but on how they feel, how much energy they have and if they are seeking to lose weight, how their clothes fit. Numbers can be deceiving. If someone is trying to become ‘skinny’, he/she may focus so much on the scale and fail to notice muscles developing, strength improving and energy levels increasing!

    NZGlen

    June 23, 2010

    @Roni: “I’m going to assume you never struggled with weight from an emotional stand point. Ever have a string of “I’ll start tomorrow’s” that lasted years? Ever binged because you didn’t feel loved? Have you tried to starve yourself only to stuff your face because you were weak and broke your fast? Were you ever made fun of for being fat? Looked at pictures of yourself and cried?”

    Actually the answer to all those questions is no. However I was terribly out of shape, about 250lbs, and I was unhappy. But, the day I decided to make a change I did and since that day I’ve never looked back.

    @Tracy: Perhaps I didn’t articulate that very well. What I meant was back when I was larger, I would’ve look at her and thought “she’s out of my league”. I walked with my head hung low, and has far less self esteem. Would she have noticed the shy guy who never in a million years would’ve had the self confidence to walk up to her? My guess no. Did she notice the fit guy who bounced up to her all smiles and introduced himself? Well, she had little choice.

    Bear in mind I’m only speaking from my own experience, but this is the paragraph I took issue with:

    “Being skinny does not change how your brain works. I speak from experience when I say if you have low self esteem when you are fat it won’t go away when you are skinny. If you lack confidence at a size 16 you’ll lack it a size 6 as well. “

    For me, being “skinny” (I don’t like that word but I’ll use it here) DID change everything. Absolutely Everything. And you could argue that perhaps all those things would’ve changed anyway if I didn’t lose the weight but the fact of the matter is I’m 35 and they didn’t change until I did. That was my point.

    roni

    June 23, 2010

    I don’t like the word either.. hence the post. As for the paragraph you you had issue with… I said that, again, to those who use their insecurities as an excuse. Some people really do believe that if they would wake up thin tomorrow that they would immediately love themselves. So they embark on a journey to lose the weight, wake up the next morning still fat and then give up. This is a common cycle for emotional eaters. If you have issues with yourself and those issues manifest in extra weight even if you are actually able to lose that weight you may still have issues because it’s probably those issues that contributed to the weight gain in the first place.

    lol I’m not sure if that came out right.

    Long story short if you are insecure and those insecurities cause weight gain, losing the weight isn’t going to fix them. You have to get to the root.

    I think we are representing 2 different types of dieters. I tend to talk about the emotional side of weight loss because that’s where my experience is.

    Anon

    June 25, 2010

    But isn’t it interesting that a majority of the top income earners in this country are “skinny”? Taking out athletes and movie stars, you can still look around at corporate big wigs, top law firm partners, heart surgeons, etc. and you’ll see an overwhelming percentage of appropriate weight people. I do think being seriously overweight can hold you back professionally, as it can give the impression that you’re sloppy or lazy. Your also not someone that your boss may want to send out as the face of the company, regardless of what great work you can do behind the scenes. I think being physically healthy and at an appropriate body weight can open doors for you that would other wise be closed — though of course you’re still going to need the mental skills to back it up, at least in most cases.

    And I think it can change your romantic relationships — yes, you’ll still be married to the same person, but if that person is more physically attracted to you and/or you’re feeling more confident/sexy/attractive, your relationship is likely to change for the better. And if you’re not married, you still won’t be, and while of course the person you date/marry is a million things more than a body, you have to admit that physical attraction is still an element. Being “skinny” (healthy, appropriate weight, whatever) may open many more dating possibilities — people who might have been physically out of your league and never given you a chance to see if your personalities clicked, are suddenly willing to ask for or give phone numbers. Suddenly when someone searches online for matches in certain parameters, you aren’t automatically ruled out. Friends may be more willing to set you up. I just think there’s no denying that there’s a different thought process in picking a blind date out for a friend who weighs 350 than there is for a friend who weighs 150 — personality is still key, but you have to recognize that some people just won’t be attracted to very heavy people.

    roni

    June 25, 2010

    Anon – The one thing you have to understand is that there are loads of people out there, specially women, who ARE at a normal weight or WERE at a normal rate but because they don’t look like a Victoria Secret model they “think” they are fat and then some of them (myself included) become fat.

    This post is written for them. The ones that can’t lose because they are crippled by their own desire to be skinny. I understand that is sounds crazy to someone who may not have that experience but I know first how the desire to be “skinny” can lead to very unhealthy habits and a vicious cycle of yo yo dieting.

    AstroNutrition

    June 27, 2010

    That’s a really great article. A lot of people who are trying to lose weight often set their goals to skinny, neglecting their body’s needs and starving themselves to insanity. I was down that path once, but now I know how important it is to stay healthy and lose weight at the same time.
    Essential Weight Loss Handbook

    sui

    June 27, 2010

    I love this post. SO, so true.

    Gala Sherrick

    October 21, 2010

    Again, a good post, Great stuff. I’ve made a point of reading other posts on here and I you’ve got some nice content. I’ll be back.

    Rosie

    August 31, 2012

    I don’t care what skinny means!! I just want to be it! Maybe then girls won’t stare at me and laugh, I’m not even proper fat but I’m not skinny! I’m 13, I try and try, I’ve been trying since I was eight! HELP!

    KCLAnderson (Karen)

    September 4, 2012

    Excellent post Roni…

    I was in my early 40s when I finally got it together enough to lose some significant weight and all along I had this image of what I would look like once I hit my “goal weight.” I seriously thought I’d look like a supermodel…it would be a magical transformation. The fact that I never hit my goal weight, along with realizing that at 40+, supermodel-dom was just not in the cards for me, hit me hard until I started to accept myself for who I am. Striving for “skinny” was pretty much a recipe for the opposite.

    roni

    September 4, 2012

    Rosie – I feel like you are my younger self leaving a comment. I felt the same exact way that you do. Not fat. Not skinny. Just not happy in my skin and made fun of for, well, a pretty average size body. I know nothing I will say can change how you feel but please know there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. NOTHING. You are 13, focus on enjoying your childhood. Be active, eat healthy and tell the other girls to, well, scree off. It all comes down to confidence not body size. Unfortunately I didn’t realize that until my 30s.

    Cindy

    September 4, 2012

    I wish I had read something like this 10 years ago when I lost 85 pounds. I thought everything would change because I finally looked like “everyone else.” And it did, a little. I got a promotion, men paid attention to me, my family acknowledged my existence, all because I lost weight. And that made me think- so I was insignificant before just because I was fat?

    In the end nothing changed b/c I gained all the weight back, changed careers, and ended a bad relationship (that I thought would be perfect if I was thin and I could fix my fiance’s issues.)

    This time around, I just want to be healthy.

    Bridget

    September 4, 2012

    Dear Rosie – Any girl that would look at another and laugh is a creep. They laugh because of their own insecurities. I have laughed at others and been laughed at myself – I know. You’re 13 – your body is going to go through all sorts of changes in the next few years. Don’t worry about losing weight. Be healthy – eat healthy & be active, and your body will improve as it’s meant to. But don’t diet. Fuel your body – don’t deprive it.
    If I could go back to high school, I would give myself some serious advice. But since I can’t, I’ll give it to you. Seriously, ignore anyone who laughs at you. They are not worth it. If you are in a club or team, make those people your friends: they have the same interests as you and you will enjoy their company more. If you are not in a club or team, or two: JOIN ONE (or two). Find something that interests you and participate. If one of those interests involves physical activity (a hiking club or a sports team) then that may help you engage in a healthy life. But even if you don’t join a sports team, you can still add a little physical activity to your life. Try something new.

    But don’t try to change yourself to please anybody else. And don’t limit yourself to please anyone else, either.

    Rosie – I made so many mistakes when I was 13. I thought I was too fat. I tried to change myself so people wouldn’t laugh at me. I began dieting and gaining weight and I lost myself. Don’t lose yourself. Follow yourself. Follow your passions and your interests.

    Yes, I would say to be active and eat healthy. I do not suggest a diet. If you’re not sure how to eat healthy, than ask your mum or dad to bring you to a nutritionist who can look at your personal needs and teach you how to eat in the manner which will meet your nutritional needs.
    13 is not the age for a young woman to restrict her intake. You will need calcium and vitamins, and a nutritionist will show you the way.
    But do it for you, not for anybody else.

    I’m sure I’m not supposed to swear to a young lady, but I want to tell you something. Years ago, after years of crash dieting and weight gain, I had ballooned up and was morbidly obese. I sat in a restaurant, too ashamed to eat, so I was just drinking a coffee. A group of neighborhood girls was snickering at me. I remember how humiliated I felt. When their whispering was no longer whispering, and I could hear the insults loudly, the waiter (superman, if you ask me) walked over to them and told them “Oh, you think she’s funny because she’s fat? She can lose weight, but you girls will always be @$$holes!” And then he kicked them out. It was great. And it was true. I had never seen it before, but they really were wicked. When I was ready, I lost weight. I met them again, and they were just awful people, even when nice to me they were awful to be around. I wish I had never minded their opinions. It robbed me of years of my own happiness…

    Be happy, Rosie. And be healthy.

    roni

    September 4, 2012

    Thank you Bridget. Thank you. I’m going to email Rosie and make sure she sees your comment.

    Jen

    September 4, 2012

    After losing 80 lbs., whenever I get depressed (for whatever reason), like, I’m not good enough, I feel better knowing where my body is today as opposed to where it could be if I hadn’t lost the weight. I’d rather be depressed and thinner than depressed and majorly overweight!