The secret irony of successful weight loss

how-you-spell-successThe room was quite and still. A local comedian was on stage staring into the spot light. He had gotten a few laughs and seemed to be doing well at this particularly busy open mic, but his last comment silenced the room. He repeated himself, “I used to weight 450lbs!” This time the crowd responded with the applause he was looking for.

I spoke to him after the show. He said “I never get the reaction I’m looking for when I tell people I’ve lost weight.” I think its because of how he tells people. If he had said “I’ve lost 175 lbs!”, he would have gotten the applause. But who would pat you on the back for being 175lbs over weight? We celebrate the loss, but its only possible because of the failure that preceded it.

I like to watch the TV show Extreme Weight Loss. Each episode follows a single person as they attempt to lose enough weight in one year that they require skin surgery to remove the loose excess skin from their arms, stomach, and legs.

At 31lbs down, I see the signs of loose skin where fat once stretched it so tight that it left marks, now so loose it hangs like a deflated balloon. The idea of skin surgery is not really something I consider as an option for several reason. You have to actually lose enough weight to require it, and there is the constant fear of gaining the weight back after surgery. The weight loss TV show highlights having the surgery as a milestone of success. But…

It hit me. The irony of successful weight loss is that its a testament to a life failure. My loose skin screams to the world that I once was fatter than I am now. When I get asked how much weight I’ve lost, I feel that failure. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

I know people want to encourage me in my journey to self improvement. And I believe there are people that are encouraged by my successes. But, I feel the failure of how much I gained when I’m asked how much I’ve lost.

Its like saying “I used to weigh 31lbs more than I do now.” The crowd had it right the first time – that’s not to be applauded. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I’m making changes. I’m excited to buy smaller clothes and love seeing the scale move in the right direction.

But if I’m going to get accolades, I want it to be for accomplishments not tainted with failure. I’ve completed a marathon. I’ve cycled across three states in eleven days. I’m about to complete my second marathon. There are several things worth celebrating – and I want to focus on those.

Does any of that make sense? What do you think – should we celebrate weight loss without consideration for the failures it took to need it?

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