I lost 100 pounds in a year. My “weight loss secret” is really dumb.

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A year ago, I weighed 285 pounds. Today I weigh 185, which is more or less optimal for my 6-foot frame. Losing 100 pounds has been maybe the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I feel better physically. I have newfound confidence in my ability to accomplish my goals. I’m more fun to be around, as the veiled bitterness that used to inflect interactions with my friends has evaporated. Indeed, all these fundamental feelings of self-loathing I’d been struggling with for as long as I could remember have disappeared. Basically, after convincing myself that I was a failure — a belief in which I saw my weight as both cause and effect — I’ve removed the limitations that I once placed on myself, and it’s because I lost 100 pounds.

I desperately wish that weren’t the case.

I say that because everything I’ve just written perpetuates our noxious, damaging cultural narrative on weight and obesity. Ours is a culture that simultaneously incentivizes people to gain weight and stigmatizes them when they do, and then offers the bullshit promise of instant weight loss through some miracle diet or incredible exercise secret.

I’m no expert on weight loss. I wouldn’t even consider myself an expert on my own weight loss. But if nothing else, the experience of losing 100 pounds has given me plenty of time to reflect on what that kind of transformation means, and how I was miserable not so much because of my weight in and of itself but because how I thought about, how I understood my weight. That’s part of why weight loss can’t really be understood without context, both in terms of a person’s overall health and in terms of the larger society in which we live.

Here’s what I learned from losing so much weight — and from the life changes I’ve experienced as a result.

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