|By Amy Alkon|
The happiest place on girthQ: I started taking medication that makes me fat — about 80 pounds overweight, which is a lot on a 5’7” female frame. Cutting calories and exercising will not change this, and I cannot stop taking this drug. It alleviates a serious mental health problem, allowing me to function normally, which is pretty much a miracle. Still, thanks to my weight gain, I am getting super-depressed. I think people must look at me like I’m some undisciplined pig. My cute clothes no longer fit, so I bought clothes that hide the weight. I’d love to date, but I’m so uncomfortable looking at myself naked that I can’t imagine letting anyone else do it.
A: It isn’t fair. It’s not like you spent the year locked in a room with Ben & Jerry and Colonel Sanders, yet here you are thinking people must look at your butt and wonder whether you beep when you back up.
Although you say cutting calories doesn’t help, you should ask your doctor whether cutting carbs might. There’s evidence that a low-carb diet (with adequate fat intake) is the best way for most people to lose and keep off weight. It also seems to alleviate or even beat down some diseases — for example, eliminating diabetes symptoms in Dr. Jay Wortman and very possibly being responsible for the reversal in progressive multiple sclerosis symptoms in Dr. Terry Wahls. (See drjaywortman.com and terrywahls.com, and read “Why We Get Fat,” by Gary Taubes, for the dietary evidence based on his vetting of thousands of studies.)
But, let’s say there’s no way for you to lose the weight. Well-meaning friends will tell you things like “sexy is a state of mind,” which will seem like the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard in light of how you probably feel you resemble the state of Texas. Actually, there are decades of studies showing that “walking the walk” — acting the way you’d like to feel — is one of the most effective ways to change how you feel.
For example, experimental social psychologist Dr. Dana R. Carney had people assume power-broker poses like sitting with their hands behind their head and their feet up on a desk. Subjects only assumed two different poses for a total of two minutes, but this led to measurable psychological, biochemical, and behavioral changes. Those who were assigned the power poses had their levels of the dominance hormone testosterone shoot up. They reported feeling significantly more powerful and “in charge,” and their willingness to take risks in a subsequent gambling test suggests that they meaningfully increased their confidence.
Findings like Carney’s make the “just walk the walk” advice I found in the book “Stop Calling Him Honey” sound a lot more hopeful than hokey. The co-authors, Maggie Arana and Julienne Davis, advise body-loathing women (of all sizes) who want to feel sexy to strut naked, in high heels, in front of their mirror. They tell you to watch yourself running your hands up and down your bare skin, tell yourself, “I’m sexy,” and really mean it, feel it — and to keep at it until it eventually starts to ring true.
If that still sounds like a fool’s errand (even with the help of Jose Cuervo and James Brown), it might help to have a role model. Look up YouTube videos of 200-plus-pound indie rocker Beth Ditto, who struts around in body-hugging dresses, corsets, and fishnets like she invented sexy. Beth Ditto’s fatitude inspired Nikki, a friend of Arana and Davis’, to start walking tall and wide in form-fitting, cleavage-baring clothes instead of dressing like she’s apologizing for not being built like a paper cut.
And sure, there are a lot of guys who won’t date above a size 8 or 10, but you don’t need to attract “a lot of guys” unless you’re opening a sports bar. There are men who prefer the larger ladies and those who don’t have a stringent requirement for any sort of body size, but what no guy wants is a woman who’s piled on the shame.
Work on adjusting both your head and your appearance. Spend money on your hair, makeup, and a new wardrobe — no tentwear! — and go to one of those bra specialty stores where a little old Hungarian lady will yank you into a bra that fits. And keep in mind that in a world of people shoving their problems behind the furniture (especially stigmatized problems like mental health issues), you’re doing what it takes to be mentally healthy and functional. If you look at your weight from this angle, it seems you’ve got good reason to march through the world like you’re all that and 80 pounds more o’ that.
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