Guilt for Success

So this might sound really dumb, crazy, etc. This doesn’t usually happen. It’s not like it’s an everyday thought or occurrence, but it’s an intrusive one when it comes. I googled weight loss guilt, and I saw articles pop up, but none that were able to articulate what I sometimes feel. I was raised in an environment where I always thought I was overweight, even when I was not. I weighed 173 as a 5’8 high schooler, which is not bad at all. “Overweight” by BMI standards, but I was healthy, active, and strong. Still, I grew up with a family that told me I was unhealthy and overweight. I grew up truly believing there would be a high probability I’d break 500lbs on the scale one day. I don’t know if this sounds ridiculous, and I’m sorry if it does. I have mostly forgiven my family for this, particularly my mom, because I know it comes from her own personal low self-esteem, and wanting more for me than a life of unhappy yo-yoing. But in college, my weight spiked to a record 239lbs. At this point, yes, I was overweight. I had developed binge eating tendencies, I drank alcohol that loaded on the pounds, and my inactivity, bad food choices, lack of sleep, and constant stress contributed to a very, very unhealthy lifestyle. But in May, I began changing that. Currently, I’m down 45lbs, and teeter around the low to mid 190’s range. My goal would be to eventually get down to 160, as that would put me in a truly healthy range, but I don’t think it’s too low for me to maintain. My problem is, I have this weird guilt that hits me when my family compliments my progress. I feel like I'm doing what I’m doing for me for the most part. But then at times, I feel guilty for conforming to what the world wants me to be. Smaller. I always pretended I was happy with how I looked, and I guess there’s a guilt and pain associated with failure in this area. Why couldn’t I be happy as a slightly overweight person? Why couldn’t I be a true champion for body positivity that was content with myself? Why can’t I even still, love myself how I am? I don’t want to hear anything from anyone about how I should “talk to someone” or “seek therapy.” I already understand those implications, as I study mental health in school. I just want feedback to see if this ever happens to anyone else. Do you ever feel like you’re “giving in” to the expectations of change? How do you deal with it if you understand?

Replies

  • rheddmobile
    rheddmobile Posts: 6,841 Member
    My history is a little different from yours, but I do understand where you’re coming from. We have the same height. I was actually underweight through high school and college, then gained weight after a leg injury made me less active. Yo yo dieted and at one point was up to 272, which really was not a healthy weight for me. Got diabetes, decided to get some sense, currently maintaining at a healthy weight of 150, which for me is hard but not too hard. Anyway, in the middle part of this was a part where I was very big on accepting myself and very scornful of “little women” who felt the need to eat nothing but salad to conform to society’s expectations of them. I claimed that I was happy. But it wasn’t actually healthy, and the sort of happiness that comes from not feeling the need to make an effort is not the same as actual happiness.

    It’s possible to be supportive of people at whatever weight and also understand that being obese isn’t a great thing. It’s just not. I’ve been 5’8” and 173 and you’re right, it’s pretty good. It’s overweight, but not overweight enough to pose a medical issue. But it doesn’t look great, on me at least, and it’s harder to run fast, to lift your weight on a pull up bar on a climbing frame. The warning signs are there. And 239 is edging up to morbid obesity which frankly sucks. When I was morbidly obese I could barely walk to the mailbox. And I got a lifelong incurable metabolic disease as a result. So good on you for making a change before it got to that point and not doing that.

    Your family sound like butts. It’s okay to feel rebellious against people who treat you badly. It’s okay to toss your head when they compliment you and think, “I didn’t do it for you.” Probably you should just think it, and not say it, because it’s just nicer not to be a jerk back to people who are jerks. But if you want to say it I wouldn’t blame you. And it’s natural to dig your heels in when you find yourself needing to do things that your abusive parents once forced you to do. If you’re studying mental health you know this is a whole thing. For me (I had truly abusive parents) it sometimes comes out in weird ways, like refusing to pay bills or renew my driver’s license until it’s past the date and it’s ridiculous. I have to sit myself down and say, “They have no power over you anymore, and you can make a choice to do what you need to do.”

    Would it help the societal guilt to focus more on your health and less on your appearance? Looking better is an awesome side effect of losing weight, but shouldn’t be the primary focus anyway. Get some strength or speed goals, do some stuff which you couldn’t do easily when you were heavier. And remind yourself every day that you are making a choice, your own choice, to do what you really want to do. You don’t have to cut off your nose to spite your parents. You are allowed to make different choices as an adult than you made as a child. For one thing, you have better tools for taking control of your life, your exercise, and your way of eating. Best of luck to you!
  • NovusDies
    NovusDies Posts: 8,940 Member
    This is one of those reason/logic/rationality vs passion/emotion situations where reason needs to take precedence. Health is too long term to make your decisions on emotion. The implications of carrying more weight than you need reach far beyond how you were brought up or body positivity. You should not choose to weigh more. If you are stuck and having a hard time losing it is one thing but if you can do something about it now you owe it to the future you to do it. She will greatly appreciate it. If she chooses to marry and have kids her future family will appreciate it too.
  • seltzermint555
    seltzermint555 Posts: 10,742 Member
    edited December 2019
    I kind of get it, too.

    I was around 165-170 lb at 5'8" when I was in 7th-8th grade and I'm finally back to that at 43 and have been since my mid-thirties after hitting 300+ at one time. I look back and realize I wasn't THAT heavy at 14 but was labeled as the chubby friend, daughter, etc, and I just felt like that wasn't something I could change. I then ballooned to 200 within a couple of years and waaay on up from there.

    Mostly I feel "guilty" for succumbing to societal pressures when I see all of the new body positive models and memes in the current generation. That didn't exist "in my day" (said in the voice of a very old lady). I was in a selfie recently with two twenty-something friends and I was by far the thinnest and oldest one in the pic and it was just a weird feeling, especially seeing how loud & proud these young women are about being plus-sized...wearing very body conscious outfits, etc. It's just weird in general. NOT their attitude...I think it's great (which is another argument for another day). But my feelings about having a totally different body image than I did when I was 20-something, I guess.

    I also don't like feeling embarrassed at times when certain people compliment my weight loss. In some ways I think I'm still rather protective and defensive of my much larger self. I don't want people to have the idea that I lost weight to please them. It's complicated, for sure.
  • NovusDies
    NovusDies Posts: 8,940 Member
    @seltzermint555

    I am not sure if you had any medical issues in your mid 30's at your higher weight but I was also 300+ during that age and it was much easier. I was still really flexible even with the extra weight. However the clock was ticking and my joints started complaining just a few years later. The damage was happening though the entire time and now I am just a few years older than you with 2 knees that will soon need to be replaced. Sometimes my right hip is aggravated too. The extra weight added wear and tear and while I have been able to reverse my hypertension and I assume I will be able to reverse the cholesterol no amount of weight loss will restore my joints.

    In my book body positivity ends where the medical problems begin. Those young girls in their 20's probably have nothing to fear for quite some time but the clock never stops.

    I lost weight primarily for myself. Others were a factor but only because I was not able to do things they needed me to do. There were things I could not do physically that left me out of the action and unable to assist when needed. There were so many requirements for when I traveled that it held my wife back too. She never complained but I could tell she was frustrated at times.

    If body image was the only factor I would have been fine. I really do not care what most others think. Image was not even on the radar of my problems. I have recently started taking an interest in my image but only because so many of my other issues are so improved I now have the luxury of caring about how I look and dress.
  • seltzermint555
    seltzermint555 Posts: 10,742 Member
    NovusDies wrote: »
    @seltzermint555

    I am not sure if you had any medical issues in your mid 30's at your higher weight but I was also 300+ during that age and it was much easier. I was still really flexible even with the extra weight. However the clock was ticking and my joints started complaining just a few years later. The damage was happening though the entire time and now I am just a few years older than you with 2 knees that will soon need to be replaced. Sometimes my right hip is aggravated too. The extra weight added wear and tear and while I have been able to reverse my hypertension and I assume I will be able to reverse the cholesterol no amount of weight loss will restore my joints.

    In my book body positivity ends where the medical problems begin. Those young girls in their 20's probably have nothing to fear for quite some time but the clock never stops.

    I lost weight primarily for myself. Others were a factor but only because I was not able to do things they needed me to do. There were things I could not do physically that left me out of the action and unable to assist when needed. There were so many requirements for when I traveled that it held my wife back too. She never complained but I could tell she was frustrated at times.

    If body image was the only factor I would have been fine. I really do not care what most others think. Image was not even on the radar of my problems. I have recently started taking an interest in my image but only because so many of my other issues are so improved I now have the luxury of caring about how I look and dress.

    Yeah, I've seen that happening a lot with friends as we reach our forties. I definitely don't think being at 300 lb (for example) is a healthy and wise decision. I just think a lot of the body positive stuff is a good switch from being shamed and hiding behind huge baggy tops or being afraid to participate in life, if you know what I'm saying there. I never truly did that myself but knew many, many men and women who have done so due to insecurities about weight.

    I didn't have many really crazy health issues at my heavier weight(s)...but I did have severe migraines from about age 26-35 and after losing about 90 lb they totally stopped and have yet to return (7 years later). My former doctor told me because I didn't have high BP, the migraines were just hormonal. I suppose that may be true, who knows for sure, but I feel like losing the weight "cured" my fairly serious issue. So yeah for a lot of reasons I'm a proponent of weight loss.
  • MarcyMavin
    MarcyMavin Posts: 142 Member
    I think what’s important is that you separate why you are losing ( for your health ) from why your family would like you to be smaller ( probably looks/ something more superficial) If you know you are doing it for your health, you can let go of some of that guilt. I have felt something similar to this guilt, my mother is so excited I’m finally losing. But it would disappoint her to know that I don’t care about how I look, I just want to be healthy. We don’t talk about, I just let her think what she wants, I don’t want to waste my energy on it.