This is How it Feels to Fail

Baby, I’ve been here before.

I weighed myself at the gym on Tuesday, and it was the same.

I shouldn’t be surprised — my trainer, if I told him, wouldn’t be surprised. I told him back at the beginning that it would be an actual miracle if I lost any substantial amount of weight. He said “We’ll see,” but I don’t think he’ll care if I never lose anything as long as I keep coming in, keep getting stronger, and keep paying him for sessions.

I probably will keep doing those things.

My blonde, model-thin, 20-year-old nutritionist from don’t be fat class, which is what I call the weight-loss study I’ve been in for the past ten months, would not be surprised. I have told her and all her colleagues that I’ve been this weight, this actual weight or maybe five pounds to either side of it, for the past 10 years or more. I told them not to expect any weight loss.

They put me in the control group.

My wife was not surprised when I told her. She did seem a little surprised that I was upset.

I don’t have a good reason to be upset. But I really am.

I know that weight loss isn’t an issue of virtue, and that being fat isn’t a punishment. For me, being this size now is just reality, however I got here.

I can wish things were different all night, but it won’t get me anywhere.

I tell you, It still feels unfair when nothing changes. I don’t like knowing nothing I do will ever make a difference.

And believe me, I’m trying: I’ve been pretty good at intermittent fasting, save over holiday travel, and even there I spent more time making “good” choices (smaller servings, no desserts) than “bad” ones. I haven’t been super consistent at the gym since November, but I’ve been making it at least once a week, and hitting my step goals more often than not, and avoiding sugar, and walking the dog. I swing my arms when I walk to and from the bus. I go to the restrooms on different floors of my buildings. I take the stairs.

I’m doing most of everything that magazines have told me to do. And websites, and my very unhelpful class, and my trainer. I’m going on 950 days of calorie tracking in myfitnesspal. That’s over 2.5 years.

And I’m still here, still wearing the same size pants.

I know this is not the time of year to say this. New year new you! Resolve to change! You can do it! ads are all over the everything, and I’m going to be someone’s excuse for dropping their New Year’s resolution.

But it’s true: I’ve been working to look better and possibly lose weight for the last year and a half, and all I’ve gotten is strong and exhausted.

And I’m aware there’s more I could be doing — if I stopped eating carbs, or started doing really serious cardio, or just quit eating altogether again, I might lose a size or two. I could start smoking.

I could probably talk a doctor into a gastric bypass, if I tried really hard.

I’ve heard it has really great results for the first year or two.

Losing weight when you’re really fat is a question of willpower, and the more times I try, the more different things I try, the more obvious it is that if I want to ever be thinner, I’m going to have to have ever-increasing amounts of willpower for the rest of my life.

It’s an ever-moving target — sometimes my doctor says “Lose 5–10% of your bodyweight” or “Try WeightWatchers,” or “As long as you’re active, it’s less important,” but 10% of my weight is only 30 pounds, and WeightWatchers doesn’t work any better fpr me than any other diet.

I also know that I want to fit into my pants next year, and that the next doctor will just ask me to lose another 10% of my bodyweight, and that the last time I went on a diet I ended up 10% bigger, long term. Forever. Over 10 years now, with no sign of stopping.

Forever.

What will happen this time, when I seem to be losing nothing at all?

And I still wish that I could hate myself smaller. Or love myself smaller. Or be smaller. Some days I feel like, if I could just…hold…my…breath…long…enough, I could get through, break free, live the life I’ve always dreamed of. Be thin, finally.

Be beautiful. Be famous. Be rich. Be happy.

I realize this is a problem, a disorder, that the problem is in me and my mind and in the broken prescriptive voice of society, telling me to be better by being smaller, like in this beautiful and terrible history piece from Danielle Friedman:

But it still hurts, and tastes like dust.

It still smells like ashes.

Looking in the mirror every morning still feels like failing.

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Photo by Devon Janse van Rensburg on Unsplash

I still write sometimes, and I have a buttload of already-written stuff. So there you go.

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