When I was putting together my book Common Ground: Writings on Family, Change, Loss & Resilience and selecting essays for a chapter on weight loss, I noticed a distinct shift in how I had written about weight; “before” and “after” with words, not photos.
While I am grateful for the time in the weight-loss spotlight, I was humbled by the number of people, mostly women, who reached out and described an often overwhelming desperation about their bodies. Nearly every ounce of their self-esteem revolved around a number on the scale, and it made me reconsider my relationship with weight. I began to see it less as something that had to go away and instead, as a part of the overall, complicated picture of a complete self, and I reflected that new understanding in my writing.
In 2012, I agreed to be interviewed for a 60 Minutes Australia piece on weight maintenance. I thought that it would be the last time I would be contacted about my weight story. Then last year, I received an email from a woman who was putting together a special Half Their Size retrospective, a “Where are they now?” edition of People. I wasn’t entirely altruistic when I said yes to the interview. (Any publicity is good publicity when you have another book coming out.) But as long as someone is listening, I will have something to say about weight and all it encompasses.
From 2005 through 2010, my writing focused mostly on my experiences while losing weight and (temporarily) maintaining it. That experience included media exposure, and while that spotlight (Oprah, People, et al) was my choice (no one held my feet over fire), it burned bright, literally and figuratively. My image started showing up online in advertisements for bogus weight-loss products. I was getting mail from “fans” seeking everything from my autograph to absolution. A British tabloid asked if I had loose skin and offered to pay me for photos. I felt I’d lost control of my message, so I declined requests for further interviews and returned to the medium in which I was most comfortable and could retain the most control of my words, image, and integrity: blogging.
I don’t regret most of what I wrote back in the “before” days of weight loss. It was representative of who I was and my understanding of weight issues at the time (although I cringed when I re-read the 2008 People interview). I am, however, glad to be on the “after” side of that topic now. While fat shaming is still a major problem, I’m inspired to read how more people aren’t letting the scale define them. Authors and podcasters such as Aubrey Gordon have helped expose some of my lingering biases about weight and my own weight-related self-esteem issues.
I might not write about it as much as I used to, but I accept that weight is and will always be a part of my life.