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How To Support The Fat Person In Your Life

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I'm the fattest I've ever been in my life, but coincidentally, I'm also the happiest.

I was on Facebook doing what most of do on Facebook (passing the time in a mindless fashion) when a Facebook status in particular jumped out at me. I don't know the person who posted it very well. We went to high school together, and while my class was small, even so, we weren't exactly the best of friends. 

Her status read: "Eat less, exercise more, lose weight, it's not that hard." Since we aren't IRL friends, I only know a couple of things about this former classmate: she has adorable kid, can do tremendous makeup, and she is really passionate about exercise.

I'm not just talking aerobic, either; this girl weight trains! She's someone I have admired from afar for what seemed like her willingness to admit how great being physically strong was. I thought she was a great example of how to stay positive, how to motivate people, and how being strong and being female doesn't mean you have to sacrifice all the femme aspects of who you are if that shit matters to you. To be clear, I still think that.


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But her status bummed me out. And then it made me really mad. I sat there staring at it for a while. I even started trying to write a reply, but in the end I couldn't do it. Still, the status sat with me and the more I think about it, the more important it has become to me say something about what she had to say. 

Yes, on the surface, the basic arithmetic behind weight loss is simple. She's right: if you cut back your caloric intake, up your exercise, you're going to lose weight. Also, I'm not REMOTELY opposed to exercise.

Even if you aren't cutting back on your calories, exercise can have important benefits. Studies have shown that getting your heart rate up for even 20 minutes a day can improve your overall mood, and as a person whose mental health has long been a struggle, exercise has been key to keeping me sane. 

The problem is that her status was a mathematical equation, and when you break down weight loss that way, you're removing the human element. I'm a fat woman — this is well-established. I've been fat my whole life, and it's not because I don't understand what I need to do to lose weight. In fact, if you ask most fat people what is required of them to lose weight, they'll be able to tell you. 

It isn't that we don't know how to do it, it's that human bodies and human experiences are different. What works for one person might not work for others. A person with a slow thyroid might struggle to lose weight, whereas a person with a typical thyroid could drop weight eating the same things and doing the same work outs. For some people, cutting back on calories isn't as easy as it is for others because for some people food is a loaded issue. 


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If you were one of the few, the lucky, the people born who just view food as a source of energy to keep us alive, power to you. However, it's important that you know that not everyone out there has the same relationship with food that you do.

For years I used food as a drug, something that wasn't meant to keep me alive, something that was supposed to dull my sense, distract me, stupefy me, make me happy, or at least, make me feel full. When you've got issues with food, "full" and "happy" are feelings that get easily confused. 

I'm proud of how far I've come in regards to my relationship with food, but I'm not naive enough to think I'm "fixed." I'm the fattest I've ever been in my life, but coincidentally, I'm also the happiest.

When I met my boyfriend a year and a half ago, I stopped working out. It didn't happen all at once; it was gradual. Now I'm getting back to the gym, and it feels tremendous. I'm also trying to eat mindfully but food is different than other drugs: you need it to live. 

Developing a healthy relationship with food and exercise and your body is something that can take a lifetime to achieve. While it might seem like saying something like "eat less, work out, lose weight, it's not that hard" is how to motivate people, it's disregarding how complex the issues of food and self-image are for a lot of people.

In theory, not binging on a bag of Twizzlers in the night is easy, right? You put away the Twizzlers, you don't eat them. But when the alternative is eat the Twizzlers or think about how you're going to die alone because you're so broken, well, frankly, the Twizzlers are going to win sometimes, and that's FINE. 

If you want to know how to stay positive and motivate people to make a positive change in their lives, support them; don't yell Nike slogans at them. The world is a pretty dark place most of the time, I think we can all agree on that. Putting each other down isn't tough love, it's disconnection from our fellow man, and we can and should do so much better than that. 


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Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York with her cat, Batman. She hosts the love and dating advice show, Becca After Dark, on YourTango's Facebook Page every Tuesday and Thursday at 10:15 pm Eastern. For more of her work, check out her Tumblr.

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