Fit, Fat & Frustrated: Why I Stopped Taking Diet Advice From Skinny People
When I was in the sixth grade, I weighed more than I do now, in my 40s. I wrote about my experience growing up as “the fat kid”. I plan to write another article about what it was like losing 60 pounds when I was 13.
If You Grew Up Thin, You’re Missing This Key Weight-Related Insight
As a mostly plant-based eater, I’ve been enamored by whole food plant-based superstars like Lindsay Nixon, YouTube sensation, Plantiful Kiki, and physicians like Dr. Neal Barnard. All of these individuals “sell” weight loss in one form or another.
But if you didn’t grow up overweight and have never dealt with obesity, are you really the right person to tell me how to lose weight? Are you able to help me change my fat mindset, leftover from childhood?
I don’t think so.
Fat Child? Fat Chance of Having a Normal Relationship with Food
Maybe this is cynical, but in my experience, most Americans have a messed-up relationship with food, to begin with. We’re either eating way too much, eating for the wrong reasons, restricting food, or trying to convince ourselves that it’s fuel and fuel alone — often to power insanely hard workouts.
And when you add obesity into the mix along with emotional eating — using food as a coping mechanism — things get even muddier.
My own journey with food and eating has been all of the above — eating with wild abandon and hating myself afterward, being so restrictive that I only allowed myself 800 calories a day, using exercise as punishment for “overeating” — the list goes on and on.
Light at the End of the Emotional Food Tunnel
Yo-yo dieting was the norm for most of my life. I’d “eat clean” — lots of low-fat yogurt and cheeses, vegetables, pretzels, and other health food of the 90s — and then binge on cookies, brownies, and Taco Bell cheese quesadillas on the weekends when I couldn’t take another minute of it.
I’d plan binges, especially when having horrible days at work, anxious to get to the kitchen, grab my favorite treats, and collapse on the couch to watch TV. Sometimes I’d just eat mindlessly for a few minutes. Other times I ate until I was so full I physically hurt.
Following a binge, I’d “get back on track” limiting my calories and counting every one, pushing myself in workouts, and restricting, restricting, restricting, until I binged and started the whole process again. I went on to try intuitive eating via Geneen Roth, counseling, and more.
Still, I struggled to be a normal eater.
It wasn’t until I started following a whole food plant-based diet and eating until I was satisfied (what was that?!) that I finally lost weight naturally. It’s also when I began to have a more normal and natural relationship with food.
Note: you do NOT have to follow a whole food plant-based diet to lose weight. But most of us do need some guidance. Whether you’re looking for a structured plan or a general one, it helps to have a guide.
And there are many people selling books, courses, workout routines, and more online that haven’t really been fat. They wouldn’t even fall in the “overweight” BMI group.
Should I really take health and weight loss advice from them? Should you?
Why Look for Previously-Overweight Health Gurus?
If you grew up overweight, too, and still struggle with your weight as an adult you may want a healthy way of eating that doesn’t deprive you or require massive self-control. Maybe you follow a “health guru” already.
If not, I encourage you to look for one who didn’t grow up naturally thin. I don’t believe that people who grew up skinny are the best people to tell us how to lose weight. Why? Because there are two distinct types of overweight people.
There are Two Kinds of Overweight
People fall into one of two camps when it comes to being overweight.
Thin Overweight #1 These people were naturally thin in childhood and adolescence. They effortlessly left food on their plates, didn’t daydream about Twinkies or Doritos during softball practice, and found it easy to say, “no thanks” when offered seconds.
These are thin people. Even if later in life they put on pounds, they still have a skinny mindset. Their emotions aren’t all tangled up in what they eat. They don’t self-soothe with food. At their core, they still see themselves as “a thin person”.
Naturally Overweight #2 These people have always struggled with their weight. They were likely chubby babies and toddlers, moved into being chunky, sturdy children and overweight adolescents and teens. Struggles with weight have dogged their steps into adulthood.
Some “break free” through intense exercise and severely restricting calories. Others are overweight and unhappy. Some are heavier than they’d like to be but accepting of it.
These people are overweight for life — maybe not physically, but mentally. They struggle to say “no thanks” when offered seconds. They may be volume eaters. They likely spend a lot more time thinking about food than their peers with a naturally thin mindset.
Changing your mindset about food, while not impossible, is challenging.
Most Thin Overweights put on pounds after they became more sedentary due to their jobs or after having children, typically in their mid-30s or later.
Sure, they may have lost weight since then. But they don’t really “get” what it’s like to be a Naturally Overweight person for years on end. They don’t know how ingrained and entrenched emotions are with food for many people who were obese in childhood. Typically, they don’t have the same horrible voices in their heads calling them names when they overeat.
They don’t understand the overweight mindset.
Two Naturally Overweight Health Gurus I Follow
I follow a mostly whole food plant-based diet. One of the reasons that this way of eating works well for me long-term is that I can eat as much food as it takes to feel satisfied. Another is the positive impact it’s had on my mental health and emotions.
Two Naturally Overweight health gurus that I follow are High Carb Hannah and Krocks in the Kitchen. I also sporadically get inspiration from Chef AJ who is definitely a Naturally Overweight individual. But her philosophies are a little hardcore for me.
If like me, you’re feeling fat, fit, and frustrated…don’t despair. Instead, look for inspiration and help from people ahead of you on the weight-loss path, those who’ve released weight in a healthy way and maintained it over time. Those who grew up overweight and know the struggle you’re facing. They get it because they’ve been there and done that.
Skinny people might be great guides on your path if you’re Thin Overweight. But if like me, you are Naturally Overweight I suggest you look for someone that you can relate to in your journey for better health and potential weight loss.
Questions? Ideas? Please leave a comment, I’d love to know your opinions on this.
Joy Choquette has been writing professionally for the past 14 years. She loves writing stellar content for clients that really draw in readers, especially in the health and wellness and personal and professional development spaces. Learn more and sign up for her monthly newsletter at www.joychoquette.com