Being Fat Makes Me Feel Like A Failure (long)

I ran across a fairly recent photo of me today and was quickly reminded of why I avoid being photographed like the plague. I’m huge. I knew I was overweight so it wasn’t like I was shocked to find out I wasn’t thin, but I don’t think I knew just how fat I actually am. I think I’ve been living in denial. I think I’ve been afraid to face the truth and I’ve been estimating how fat I am by comparing myself with other people, which is really not a good idea.

I used to be thin and athletic and have a nice body. Everyone used to comment on how nice my old body was. I was comfortable in that body, not that I didn’t have body issues back then too, because, duh, how can you not, but I was infinitely more secure and happy instead of ashamed and self conscious. The shame over the size of my body runs deep and I feel like I’ve failed in a huge way by getting fat, like I just threw away the one good thing about me. I miss my thin body. I miss the experience of thin privilege, that feeling that you’re okay in the world and that you’re not being judged and found wanting.

I hate being fat. I hate it more than anything else I’ve gone through in my life. The pain and the shame are horrible. But it’s the sense of failure that really hurts more than anything else, that sense that all I had to do was stay about the same size I was and everything would have turned out a lot differently. Because the sense failure isn’t just about getting fat and being fat, it’s about all the ways I think that being fat has compromised and diminished my life and limited me as a person and I’m not even sure if that belief is accurate.

Here are the ways I feel like I’ve failed by being fat:

1. If I were thin I wouldn’t just be a secretary. I would be more confident and feel like I deserved a lot more. I wouldn’t feel like I had to have a job where I could hide and where people could just disregard me and dismiss what I might have to offer. I wouldn’t think so little of myself and my own life that all I can imagine for myself is an occupation in which someone else’s life and accomplishments are my whole job because I don’t have any of my own. I feel like I’ve failed to launch career wise.

2. If I were thin I’d have more friends. I could think of other things to do with people besides eating. I can’t do a lot of the things friends like to do together. I don’t have the stamina or the level of fitness to go for long walks, or go to the gym. I can’t go shopping with friends because I can’t fit into 99.9999% of the clothes in regular stores which is embarrassing, frustrating and limits my options. I want more friends so badly. I get so lonely. But I lack confidence and don’t feel like I have anything of interest to offer anyone. When I do try to reach out to people I feel like being fat makes me invisible, or that I’m usually looked over because I’m fat. Women can be just as judgmental towards fat women as men can. I know this for a fact. Though I tried really hard as a thin woman not to judge anyone on looks or to value them on stupid superficial crap like weight, sometimes I just did. My own fat prejudice was just too ingrained. I feel like I’ve failed to achieve what I want socially.

3. I can’t do what I want or move around as freely as I used to. I used to love to go for long walks, up and down hills, through state parks, around the city and around the Bay. I used to love riding my bike too. Now it’s much harder. I don’t walk nearly as quickly as I used and I also can’t go nearly as far. I do still enjoy taking walks, it’s just that it’s way more effort now and there’s always the chance that some idiot will yell out of a passing car about how fat I am, which has happened on quite a few occasions. The thought of walking around one of the lakes intimidates me where it wouldn’t have at all when I was thin. Biking is really, really hard now and I can barely do it at all. My butt hurts and my thighs burn after about a block. Biking used to be so easy and carefree. I bought a new bike last summer and took it out for a couple of short rides, but it was just so hard to do. It was the end of the summer so I didn’t get much chance to get back into the swing of it.

4. I feel limited in where I can go and what I can do. I never feel comfortable anywhere. I want to go nice places, but the thought of putting on a dress depresses the hell out of me because it’ll show my fat legs. Just finding anything decent to wear depresses me. There aren’t a lot of choices when you’re my size and what you do find is inevitably designed to look good on a much smaller body. It’s awful. I used to be so fashionable, now I just look dowdy. I don’t want to go to clubs because I don’ t want to be the fat girl there and be either ridiculed or ignored all night. I can’t go to the pool or the beach or a water park because the thought of presenting my body in a swimsuit terrifies me completely. I can’t go anywhere where I’ll have to walk or stand on my feet for long periods of time either. Mike and I recently went to the History Museum for the Ben Franklin exhibit – something I’d been looking forward to – and I could only make it through half the exhibit because my feet hurt so badly because of all the weight on them.

5. I constantly feel like I have to apologize or compensate for my size, like I owe the world an apology for not living up to some artificial standard. Yeah, I know in my head it’s B.S., but I still do it because it’s so ingrained in me. I have to take up as little space as possible. I can’t state my opinion too forcefully. I can’t be as assertive as I used to be, all because I feel like my body is taking up too much space in the world and I’m just repulsive to everyone around me, so I better be extraordinarily sweet and accommodating to make up for the fact that I’ m fat. It sucks.

But it’s the feeling of failure and sadness that I get when I think back on my thinner days that really depresses me. I’ll remember something from the past, and in the memory I’m thin, and then I’m reminded how fat I am now and there’s just this ache. The longing for my old body is terrible. It’s like grieving for a friend that died or went away and left you behind. There’s definitely a strong feeling of loss. I miss my old body. This one has never felt like it was really mine. I feel so trapped in it, like I’m in a jail cell and can’t get out.

I think back on old friends that I haven’t seen in a long time and I just get sad because I wouldn’t want anyone who knew me when I was thin to see me like this, to know how badly I’ve failed and judge me for it. One of the good things about living in Minnesota is that people are a lot more fat tolerant than they are in California and not that many people in Minnesota knew me when I was thin. California is such a culture of the body, and the first thing out of anyone’s mouth when they mention that they ran into so and so is OMG! I CAN’T BELIEVE HOW MUCH WEIGHT S/HE’S PUT ON! There’s no bigger stigma in California than being fat and no bigger failure than throwing away a perfectly good thin body and I think I carry that with me. More than anything I dread the idea of running into ex boyfriends. That’s like my biggest nightmare, to run into one of them and have them see how fat I’ve gotten. I pray it never actually happens. That’s why I never put up pictures of myself on Facebook. I don’t want anyone to see how fat I am.

Dictionary.com defines failure as “nonperformance of something due, required, or expected: a failure to do what one has promised; a failure to appear.” And that’s what I feel like. I didn’t perform up to expectations or requirements. I failed.

This whole sense of failure over being fat also ties in with my sense that I’m nothing if I’m not pretty and thin (and young). In Rape of the Lock, Alexander Pope suggests that the woman in the poem’s hysteria over having a lock of her hair cut off is because it’s a big, big loss to a woman if all you’re valued for is your looks, so this really isn’t a new idea. But when all you see are thin women in the media, that becomes the default for what a woman is. Not just the default standard of beauty, but the default for what a human woman is, and everything that deviates from that is abnormal and less than human and I feel like my own humanity is called into question. How can you possibly fail more than by failing at being a human being? It’s also pretty hard not to believe that I’m valued for anything other than what’s on the outside when all I hear are comments about how other women look or how gross fat women are. That’s the only thing I’ve ever been complimented on, except by my husband. No one has ever commented on whether I’m a nice person, or my intelligence or how responsible and hardworking I am. It’s always, always, always about how I look, not that I don ’t appreciate it, but maybe that’s why I feel like I don’t have anything to offer anyone because no one (besides my husband) has bothered to notice. Maybe that’s why I wonder if I am a nice person, or if I have crappy social skills, or whatever. I’ve never gotten any feedback one way or another, so how would I know?

Slackajawea Slackajawea
36-40, F
13 Responses Feb 23, 2010

Don't hate yourself so much ,be proud of who
you are ,I'm sure your a lot more attractive and desirable than you believe yourself to be !!
Try to be a bit like me ,celebrate your size, be fat and happy hon !

There's no reason to feel like a failure because of being fat. You sound beautiful to me! And I'm sure you are. :)

I understand many of the challenges that come with being obese. Even being just 40 - 50 pounds overweight isn't accepted well in our society. But when someone is 150+ pounds overweight the problems are amplified. My wife has always been big and is currently 5'0" and 295 pounds. She has had people make rude comments about her weight and treat her differently. She has always accepted and been comfortable with her weight but it still hurts when the world we live in can't treat her with the dignity and respect that all women deserve regardless of their size. However there are also many men that find bigger women attracive.

I never really though of it like that before, but I know exactly what you mean about #5 and feeling like I have to compensate for being fat. Being fat has held me back in life so much, and people say stupid things like, "Just lose weight," as if it's that easy. Well, it's not! At least not for some of us. But I also have to say that I envy you for having a husband. I have never even been on a date, let alone been married, and I would give anything to know what it feels like to be loved. I always assumed it would make the rest of it a little less painful.

I relate to everything in this message. I've never properly been able to verbalize my feelings but you've manage to sum up all the emotions I've been going though - and so eloquently!

I use to be thin as well, I was a size 2 with DD's. I got a lot of attention and praise merely from being small. When a good friend of mine passed away I fell into a depression and gained 150 lbs and my whole world changed. I was treated differently by everybody, people seemed to be disgusted by my presence. Whereas people use to hold doors open for me, now I get them slammed in my face.

It's so funny, I find that people's attitude towards me changes when I tell them "I'm on a diet." I instantly see a lightbulb go on in their head like "Oh! You know there's something wrong with you! I can accept you now that you know you're flawed but you're trying to conform." I hate this more then anything.

I want to thank you for sharing your story. I know that I'm not alone, but it helps to hear from others experiencing the same thing

You're not a failure, that's one of the best write ups on size I've ever read.

My husbands fat and guess how much he earns a year in his pension, 50 GRAND, and he thought he was failing until he got promoted, I say "you can't fail unless god says so"

I feel like that too. I just can't do anything to change.

Hi I'd like to help u when will u be online

It really breaks my heart to read this. Although I want to shout out "YOU ARE A PERSON IN WHOM CHRIST DWELLS AND DELIGHTS" (what great honor), I can understand that you feel like failure and have a huge feeling of loss. It is completely understandable that you miss your thin body and the activities you used to do. It is an unfortunate truth that you are valued more (by the world) as a person if you are thin. Just keep in mind, these people aren't real friends. They don't know you. In fact, they don't even want to go to the trouble to get to know you because they are too hung up on outward appearances. If someone does get to know you (like your husband), they tell you you are wonderful! Every person has something to offer, that is why you are here on earth. In fact, just by writing this post you have touched so many live, including mine. I am terribly sorry for your loss. I wish I could make your feelings disappear, but you will have to work through it and choose a road where you can find a way of accepting yourself again. Good luck and I will keep you in my prayers xoxoxo P.S If it makes you feel any better, I am thin and don't have friends either ;-)

I'm sorry your family gives you a hard time about your weight, OS41. That must be very hurtful. Your mother in law sounds like a nightmare! I have friends like that - totally obsessed with being thin, working out, dieting, etc. that can't help but police my weight as well. Ugh! Just relax, people! I also hear you about the difficulty in finding cute clothes. I've found eBay is probably the best resource for plus size stuff because it's about the only place you'll find a large selection of stuff instead the usual two or three tent-like garments that stores have to offer. So frustrating!

I know how you feel, because when I read this story, everything you said has been going on with me also. It seems like everywhere I look there are super skinny girls wearing tight clothes and look sexy. It's crazy how Hollywood stereotypes are that if you are a size 8-10 your considered fat!! I would kill to be that size!!!! It's so hard to find cute clothes in my size cause everything's made for girls with no hips, ***, or stomach and it makes me so depressed. Even my family gives me a hard time because they like starve themselves and expect me to. My mother-in - law is like obsessed with her body and everything she eats and is always saying little comments to me, even though she swears she's not being rude it makes me feel real bad about myself and have no self esteem

i just love you