A few weeks ago, my dear friend and mentor Jen Larsen‘s memoir came out. It’s called Stranger Here, and in it she recounts how she underwent weight loss surgery and lost 180 pounds. Here’s the book description from Amazon:
Jen Larsen always thought that if she could only lose some weight, she would be unstoppable. She was convinced that once she found a way to not be fat any more, she would have the perfect existence she’d always dreamed of. When diet after diet failed, she decided to try bariatric surgery, and it worked better than she ever could have dreamed: she lost 180 pounds. As the weight fell away, though, Larsen realized that getting skinny was not the magical cure she thought it would be—and suddenly, she wasn’t sure who she was anymore.
Jen has always been open about her experience, and how surprising, disappointing, and upsetting it was to discover that weight loss wasn’t the cure-all she’d always believed it to be. It wasn’t the magical solution that the world proclaims it to be. It made her feel so much better in so many ways – healthier, stronger, able to undertake tasks that had always seemed impossible before – but it didn’t change her inner self.
But the diet industry, the health care industry, even the fashion and beauty industries all want us to believe that thin = happy. No matter how awful you feel, no matter what your problems are or how deep-seated they may be, if you just shave off a few pounds you’ll be cured. And that is simply not true. Psychological, emotional, personal, career, and relationship work that needs to be done now at your current weight will ALSO need to be done if you lose weight. You will still be you on the inside. Jen was, and it shocked her to realize that.
I don’t mean to say that weight loss hasn’t drastically changed the lives of some, or that it’s not worth pursuing if you feel personally compelled to do so. Some people undertake weight loss and make massive emotional-personal changes simultaneously. But it’s worth noting that it’s not the weight loss itself that has improved their inner lives, it’s the accompanying changes and work.
This may seem overwhelming or upsetting if you’ve been considering weight loss as a potential road to an improved life. But it can also be liberating to consider. After all, it’s further proof that the little number on the scale does NOT define you. And that you can find serenity and happiness no matter how much or how little you weigh.
Needless to say, I’ve read Jen’s book and think it is amazing, inspiring, brave, brutal, and important. Her story isn’t unique, I’m sure, but she’s one of the only people who has stepped forward to share it publicly with anyone who cares to listen. So we’ll just add that to the long list of reasons why I’m proud to call her my friend.
Image via cynosure.