So here’s the thing: when you’re fat, many people assume you’re depressed, unhappy, had a terrible childhood, experienced trauma, or are just out of touch (that is, if they just don’t imagine you’re a lazy slob and write you off completely). After all, why else would anyone be fat?
This isn’t to say that fat people haven’t experienced any number of negative things in their lives, including discrimination because of their size. But this just in from Captain Obvious: thin people experience bad things and unhappiness, too. Correlation does not equal causation (shout-out to science lovers!).
Since I can already hear the stories pouring in about how someone’s brother’s teacher’s cousin’s girlfriend’s vet’s therapist’s preacher found happiness and promptly dropped 327 pounds in two weeks, let me say more.
I’ll speak from my own experience (since that’s what I know best!). In my experience, a lifetime of dieting alone can set you up for some serious unhappiness—this is without all the other hard things that happen to us in life. When I was on this path, I always felt like I wasn’t enough—like if I could just fill my life with a million other successes, no one would notice what an utter failure I was because I wasn’t thin. This is a deeply painful belief to hold about yourself.
That being said, though, finding ways to be happy, and even gradually releasing a diet mentality isn’t a one-way ticket to weight loss. The complexity of factors that make up our health and weight are such that no one thing can ever do the trick. And although happiness can sound like a healthier way to lose weight than a fad diet, it still contains the same magical thinking: that there’s one thing just around the corner that we haven’t yet accessed that will be finally be our solution. Also, because happiness is subjective, it can just add to people’s belief that they’re not (happy) “enough” if they haven’t lost x amount of weight yet.
This pressure to be happy/”healthy” (read: thin raw vegans) can be especially intense for yoga practitioners. There’s a myth about us that we’re all chillaxed all the time. Most of the yogis I know, though, aren’t that way (or maybe those are just the ones I choose to befriend)—but many of them are working with ways to address what’s going on with them in the present (or near-present, at least) moment.
So I’m proposing a radical idea: what if we pursued happiness just to . . . be as happy as we’re able? What if we delinked the ideas of happiness and weight? If we lose weight, that’s okay, but if we don’t, that’s okay, too. In this paradigm, the measure of success isn’t determined by the scale but rather our sense of ourselves and feeling good about living in our bodies, doing our yoga practice and watching it evolve.
I think that would make me pretty happy. What about you?