The Fat Closet

by Susan Posner

Someone once said that there's a difference between knowing something intellectually and really knowing it with your whole being. For years, people tried -- kindly, and not so kindly -- to tell me what they thought I needed to hear:

- that at 5'3 and 210 pounds, I “might want to consider not having that extra cookie"

- that I "have a beautiful face", “a great personality”, or the not-so-polite;

- "get out of the way fatso", as one diplomatic gentleman passing on a bike once yelled at me.

Did I know that I needed to lose weight? Absolutely. Did I care? Nope. I ate with reckless abandon, discriminating against no dessert. And the thing is, that while I could have eaten 2000 plus calories in one sitting, if you'd have asked me after if I was satiated, I'd have had to say no. That's the thing about eating to appease emotions. The void is vast and impossible to fill. In Lance Armstrong terms, it’s not about the brownie.

So if it’s not about the food, then what is it really about? For me, eating became a means to suppress negative emotions early in life. But eventually, that just became the excuse not to change. I got lazy and being large became part of my identity. I was the fat friend, the fat sister, the fat daughter, and repeating these things to myself only bolstered my reluctance to change - to maintain status quo. It was easier to maintain that dysfunction of playing the fat role in peoples’ lives than risk what I might become if I was actually no longer the fat person, but rather…the smart one, the beautiful one, the fun one, or even the thin one.

Today, weighing over 75 pounds less, I feel like a shadow of my former physical self. More than that, I have emerged from my fat closet feeling more alive than I ever dreamed possible.

I'd like to be able to pinpoint the precise moment that I decided to change...to isolate the incident where I was so ostracized, catapulting me into a frenzy of change. In truth, there was no one moment, but rather a slow recognition that led to my weight loss. What stands out is that I realized that in a short two years, I would turn 30. Though I ignored that I needed to lose weight, if only for my health, I knew with my whole being, that I wasn’t happy. And while I am the biggest champion for larger women who are confident, happy and fulfilled, I just wasn't one of them. And I knew if my family could have bought, or given me thinness or happiness, they would have but it wasn't theirs to give. It was mine.

I read numerous books that encouraged me in my quest -- nutritional, psychological and inspirational. As a result, I adopted a core principle: instead of the self-hatred and self-abuse I'd spent 28 years feeding myself, I made great efforts to be more forgiving of myself, a challenge which perhaps eclipsed in difficulty some of the other radical changes I underwent. Changes to my eating habits…no dairy, no white flour, less junk…6AM wakeup calls to run...run in the wind, in the rain, the snow, the ice.

If you'd had told me two years ago that I would undergo these changes, I'd have laughed in your face, if I hadn’t been too busy devouring a Homer Simpsonesque pink sprinkled donut. Since then, a couple of people have told me that I've inspired them to make some changes in their own life as a result of seeing some of the things I've been doing. I never quite know how to respond to that, and so I borrow part of a quote: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, "Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”

And if I may add to that a principle from The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle…all we actually have is right now. I try not to dwell on the fat person I used to be, and nor can I guarantee that I won’t be fat again one day, because ultimately, living in that fat past, or worrying about what I might be in the future prevents me from really being present now. I don’t just owe it to the world to put my best self out there, I owe it to the doubters, to all those who ever underestimated me and didn’t take me seriously, but most importantly, I owe it to myself and I owe it now. And having spent 28 years in that fat closet, I’ll tell you, I do not want to miss this.