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Feeling Vulnerable: Lynn's Response to "Question from Readers to Readers"

Posted Jan 22 2009 6:31pm

By Lynn Haraldson-Bering

Whenever I weighed more than 200 pounds, which was several times in my life, I was like reader Vickie who said she felt “safely on the sidelines” when it came to sexual issues, and Linda who said she felt like she was wearing a suit of armor. And like Bobbie, whenever I lost weight in the past and started getting more male attention, I felt vulnerable and would start back up the scale again.

I owned an antique store from 2002 to 2005, and it was during that time that I got to nearly 300 pounds. My store was the one place I felt emotionally safe around men because I thought none of them paid attention to what I looked like, or if they did, I was just “Lynn who happened to be obese, but mostly who liked antiques” – a totally asexual opinion. Granted, my husband always said I was pretty, but I just figured he was being nice. I was the authority on whether I was attractive or not, and at that time I deemed myself not.

Then a man who visited my store several times a week said to me out of the blue, “You know, I like my women big like you.”

I felt sick to my stomach for a number of reasons, one of them being I felt vulnerable. This guy (idiot he was because he was married to a fabulous and much thinner woman) found me attractive, which blew away my belief that no man would think I was attractive at 300 pounds. I was hiding my sexuality behind 300 pounds, couldn’t he see that? I hated being viewed sexually, especially since I found my body so repulsive. I avoided looking at my body and made excuses for my obesity, like if I avoided it, it would go away or no one would notice. I just wanted to be Lynn who likes antiques, not Lynn who is a sexual being with a serious weight issue. 

But yet, people did notice, for good or ill, and in time, I faced that sexual vulnerability and worked my way down the scale. I believe the only reason I’ve been successful in maintenance is because I got honest with myself and confronted my fears from the very beginning. Do I still feel vulnerable? Yes, a little. But I don’t ignore that feeling anymore.

I saw Mr. Creepy yesterday at WalMart. He was sitting on a bench near the checkout lane I was in. He kept staring at me and picking his teeth with a toothpick. I know he didn’t recognize me, but I did wonder if he still thought I was his type. Ew.

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I very much understand the pressure Alice feels losing weight in a small town. I live in a town of 6,500 residents. I chose to not attend Weight Watchers meetings for the same reason Alice gave: it would feel like the whole town was watching. I didn’t trust that I’d actually lose weight, let alone keep it off, so I decided to lose weight through WW online to lessen the pressure. I find, however, that I feel more pressure at goal than I ever did losing weight. I like to think I’m staying focused in maintenance for myself, but I know part of me stays focused because I know others are watching. It’s a motivation and a vulnerability all in one.

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Both Mary and Mari-Anne brought up a similar fear I had as I lost weight, that of the unknown. I still grapple with that at goal. In the past, I wasn’t emotionally safe from my insecurities and vulnerabilities at any weight. At goal, I’m still learning to trust that I know how to stay thin, and that I can deal with the emotional and physical challenges that didn’t suddenly go away when I put on a size 6. I’m also realizing I had value and worth at every size, and not just because a few guys liked how I looked when I weighed 300 or 150.

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As I was writing this, a comment came in from Rita who said regarding compliments, “At least in my mind, there is an implication that I must have really looked bad before. How do others respond to this question?

Compliments are easier to respond to now than they were even a few months ago. Like Rita, and as Mari-Anne pointed out, I wondered if people thought I was good enough before I lost weight. I have faith that most people who congratulate me or make a comment about how “good” I look only mean it in the nicest way. I’m the one with the doubts about what they “really” mean, and so it is up to me to look inside for the answers.

I truly believe losing weight and maintaining is 90 percent emotional. But with these thoughts and realizations comes such incredible potential for growth (and I don’t mean the physical kind). This is why I love people like Bobbie’s husband. For those of you who might not have seen her comment, she was telling her husband how, a few weeks after reaching goal, she was beeped at by a carload of man-boys. Here’s the rest of her story:

“Now for the epiphany. Later that night I was telling my husband this story and how that honking at me made me want to run inside and get the first sweet thing I saw. He said, ‘Bobbie, you' re not a 20-year-old bimbette. You are a mother of two wonderful kids, an MBA, a high up hospital administrator, a teacher of anatomy and physiology and a smart and savvy woman. Why would you let something like that bother you? Revel in it.’ That discussion changed my life. Since then, I have felt no discomfort nor shyness nor insecurities about the way I look. If I get an appreciative stare (which are fewer and more far between now), I smile to myself and revel in it!”

I thank you all for your comments, and I wish you much revelry in your reduced bodies and in your clearer, more focused minds.

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