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Stop telling me I don’t ‘need’ to lose weight

Written by gaytourism

About three months ago I started seeing a personal trainer because I was so fed up with my weight gain and how I couldn’t seem to get rid of the extra kilos I’d put on.

I probably shouldn’t have to justify my decision to improve my health and fitness to anyone. But when I openly admit to wanting to lose weight, I have to convince people about why I want to. It’s getting a bit tiring really.

Whenever I decline someone’s kind offer to get chips, pizza or beer (some of my favourite things) and I explain it’s because I’m trying to watch what I eat, it’s always met with incredulity.

‘What are you trying to lose weight for?’ people ask. And ever more nicely, ‘but you don’t need to lose weight’.

This is very nice of them to say, but they’re hardly going to say ‘good idea, it looks like you’ve stacked it on a bit’.

But dismissing something that’s important to me undermines what I’m trying to achieve.

This photo was taken just a few months before I put on 20kgs. | Photo: Shannon Power

My big belly

Getting a personal trainer was a huge decision for me, because it wasn’t cheap at about US$65 an hour. I was already working out at a nearby studio about four times weeks.

But it seemed no matter how much exercising I was doing, I managed to keep putting on weight. Since, mid-2015 I have incrementally gained more than 20kgs (44 pounds/3 stones).

I know that a lot of that has to do with ageing, but it still worries me. I’m worried because I have put on the most weight around my belly. Depending on what I’m wearing I often look very pregnant.

It got so bad that at my grandmother’s funeral last year, many of the attendees came over to give me their congratulations, knowing one of her granddaughters was heavily pregnant.

‘Best of luck with everything,’ they’d say as they rubbed my belly, before turning in horror when they saw my actually 40-week pregnant cousin.

Probably not the most appropriate time to burst out laughing, but my brother, cousins and I definitely got a laugh out of it.

Photo taken upwards of shannon who is scaling a rock face. she is holding a steel cable in a purple gym top and smiling down over her right shoulder at the camera

Even though I’ve put on 20kgs, I still do some kind of exercise every day. This is me hiking Melbourne’s arduous Werribee Gorge Trail. | Photo: Shannon Power

Why it’s dangerous

I did some research into belly fat and found out carrying too much weight around your belly was extremely dangerous. It was at that point I knew I needed to get serious about losing some weight.

Many studies have found that if your waist is bigger than 35 inches (for women) or 40 inches for men then you could be in some serious trouble.  Visceral fat that gathers around abdominal organs has been strongly linked to an increased risk in heart disease, cancer, diabetes and dementia.

My family has a history of diabetes, so that makes me at even greater risk with my big belly.

But again, why should I have to explain the reason why I want to lose weight?

Shannon sits on a boat in a line of men whose faces are blurred out, she is wearing black bikini

Still body proud even if I’m bigger than I’ve ever been. | Photo: Shannon Power

Mental health

Another reason I’m keen to shed these extra kilos is because they represent a dark time in my life.

I went through a depressive stage from about the middle of 2013, where I struggled to get to even get out of bed. I was at the start of my journalism career, when I moved cities three times in two-and-a-half years.

Moving around so much while battling mental health issues meant I put healthy living on the back burner. At the time it felt better to get boozy most nights of the week with my friends and eat whatever I wanted.

I eventually prioritized self-care and drank only in moderation. But the damage has been done. And now I really want to undo it because my extra weight is a physical reminder of a really dark time in my life. As you can imagine, I also don’t want to have to talk about every time someone asks me why I’m trying to lose weight.

shannon standing in a club in a long sleeve dress surrounded by a group of girls, their faces are blurred out

Shannon’s going away party just before she moved to London. | Photo: Jarrod Brown

Body positivity

While I’m occasionally self-conscious of my extra kilos, I’m definitely not unhappy with my body. My weight loss goals are not really tied in with how I look.

I spent my 20s with bad body dysphoria where I often thought I was obese and unattractive. Which was the exact opposite of reality. I regret not enjoying myself more and spending too much time worrying about my weight.

Body image and body positivity is a huge issue in the LGBTI community and we should celebrate everyone’s body, no matter how they chose to live with it.

I know I’m not ‘that’ big, but I feel like my weight could dangerously spiral out of control if I don’t do something about it now.

But I definitely want to stop explaining myself to people.

My weight loss journey has been strictly mapped out alongside a fitness professional. I plan to take it slowly and won’t resort to crash dieting.

So what’s the problem? Why do people keep making me feel bad for trying to lose weight? Surely it’s my body and can do what I want with it?

And if I said ‘I just want to be a skinny bitch’, that’s also my choice and not one I have to justify to anyone.

I’m trying to lose weight because I want to and that’s all there is to it.

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