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Fat body vs. mind

I have now had a weight problem for thirty years. But what is the problem, really? I have found that it is not so much the weight itself, having had ups and downs and thinner and fatter periods in my life. There were times when you could say that I did not have a problem at all, that my weight was normal. But my weight never felt right and that was a problem indeed.

The problem is this: thirty years of failure to be the way I wanted to be. For the image of myself (always relative fatness) to match the person I thought I was inside. It was and remains the major source of conflict in my life. The conflict and the struggles is with my singular self. However, a weight problem has not been experienced that way for the individual experiencing it. Instead, it exists as a conflict between mind and body. The mind struggling to be thin, the body struggling to be fat.

But the splitting of mind and body is incorrect and by accepting the narrative of body and mind struggling with each other, we oversimplify to the point of missing the sources and consequences of this belief. In fact, the mind also wants to be fat as the body also wants to be thin. How can both conflicts possibly be true simultaneously? The simplified thinking does not allow for the problem to be this complex. But the fact is, both the body and the mind want to be both fat and thin in some respects.

The mind wants to think of itself a certain way and wants to body to match what it thinks. This is the identity problem in being obese or overweight. For many of us, it is impossible to square the identity of being a fat person with our aspirations (to be fit, attractive, all the other good things we associated with thin bodies.) It is impossible for many of us to accept ourselves and just be fat, because to do so would force us to confront all of the negative connotations of fatness and perhaps accept the negative aspects of our personalities. Thinness in also a proxy for pleasurable experiences we may associated with thinness; sexual desirability, admiration, freedom (lightness), wealth. The pleasurable associations of thinness are deeply programmed into us by our culture.

But this is to miss what the mind thinks about fatness. Fat also has strong pleasure associations. If you are fat, in a sense, there is nothing left to lose (your thinness,) so you may indulge yourself with relative abandon in the food and less active/more sedentary pleasures, of which there are many. And fat has its own sensual qualities (softness, femininity, comfort) which are deeply programmed by our experiences.

And then, there is the body. The body also enjoys the pleasure of food and sows the seeds of its own fatness by creating the appetite and reinforcing the behaviors that lead to fatness. Fat makes has a life of its own, it can create cravings and reinforce eating behaviors and it can do this against the desires of the mind. A paranoid reading of this unique ability might create the narrative of the fat conspiring against and perverting the desires of the mind. “Eat more of this” says the body and the the persuasion is so great, the mind is seduced yet again. The body can prevent us from moving, even when it would be better for us to move (i.e. perhaps to exercise.)

Somehow all of this needs to be resolved, whether in favor of fat or thin, and to end the struggle, end the weight problem. In other words, unification of the identity (the mind’s idealization, the body’s actuality, or vice-versa) and harmonization of the desires of the two.

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