When it comes to weight loss, it's too often not just about getting healthy. It's about a fantasy. The fantasy that skinny means perfect. Skinny means happy. Skinny means it all comes together and you never have to worry about anything again. One woman was astonished to find out this wasn't true when she lost 180 pounds -- and life wasn't magically transformed into something out of a fairy tale. After having bariatric surgery, Jen Larsen, who wrote a book about her experience, says:
I was skinny, but my life wasn’t suddenly and magically perfect -- and that completely astonished me.
She found out the hard way that external conditions don't change your insides. It's like that old saying: Wherever you go, there you are.
Six years ago, at her top weight of 318, Larsen -- who had failed at every diet -- opted for surgery. She rapidly lost more than half her body weight. But something terrible happened. Larsen was shocked to discover that the secret life of fabulosity exclusive to skinny people wasn't there. Larsen told the Daily Mail:
The problem was that I lost all those pounds, but I didn’t have to change a goddamn thing about my self. I didn’t have to address any of the emotional or psychological issues.
I didn’t have to figure out why I had been depressed -- why I was still so, so depressed, despite the fact that the one thing I thought had been ruining my life was suddenly gone.
Larsen made a common mistake -- she just happened to focus on her weight. Most of us walk around thinking, "If only ... " If only I had the perfect partner. If only I had a different job. If only I had a better apartment. If only I had more money. If only I had a child. If only I could change my nose, breasts, face, etc. ...
And yet if you look around, plenty of skinny, beautiful, rich people with great spouses, kids, and nice homes are miserable. There is nothing, and I mean nothing external that can make you happy, except temporarily. The only thing that can make you happy is what's in your mind.
As a lifelong skinny gal, some people might be surprised to hear that I have incredibly stressful days. I have deaths in my family. I get health issues. I get rejected and dumped. People are still rude to me. I lose jobs. I lose friends. In short, I go through the same stuff every other person goes through. (I thought life would be perfect after I published a book. I can assure you that didn't happen.)
Yes, we are all happier when we can pay the bills, when our job is fulfilling, and when our spouse is pleasant. But that's only until something crappy happens and then we're back to square one. And, believe me, crappy always comes along.
Larsen's weight loss wasn't for nothing: She admits she had more energy, feels better, her back pain went away. And no doubt, if she follows a good diet and exercise plan, she's healthier. That's worth a lot.
But not even healthy can make you happy. Plenty of healthy people commit suicide. Larsen seems to have learned this lesson, but she says, "I don’t know what the answer is, and I don’t know how to make it happen, and I don’t know what to do except keep yelling about it, wherever I can."
Actually there is something you can do to be more at peace (I prefer that to "being happier" -- which is loaded with idealistic connotations). And it's not weight loss. It's compassion for yourself and others. It's gratitude for what you do have rather than resentment of what you don't. It's acceptance of life with all of its ups and downs. It's helping others. And it's never ever comparing your insides to other people's outsides.
Have you ever thought being skinny would make you happy?
Image via TobyOtter/Flickr