When the Weight Comes Back
Trigger warning: Extreme weight loss discussion.
Three years ago David Smith was all over the news, including The Today Show. He was called the 650-Pound Virgin on a TLC special about his weight loss. There were photos and videos of him displaying a spectacular amount of loose skin, left over from losing more than 400 pounds without surgery. His trainer started hawking some kind of food measurement devise for weight loss.
This week, David was back on The Today Show talking about regaining 300 of those pounds. He weighs 500 pounds now. He has a girlfriend, though, so maybe people will stop connecting his sexual status with his body size. The Today Show video claims David’s relationship with the trainer who helped him lose 400-plus pounds in two years is “frayed.” Chris Powell still uses David’s story and video to sell that food measurement system.
David is a great example of the plain fact that losing weight is not a cure-all. He had social issues, for instance, when he weighed over 600 pounds. He had trouble liking himself. Those things didn’t go away just because he could provide the world with a face and a body that more closely fit the beauty standard (except when he took off his shirt and showed off all that skin). He wasn’t ready to be a role model, and he ended up turning first to alcohol and drugs to ease his anxiety, and then to food.
He says in The Today Show that he feels, in his 500-pound body, about how he did in his 650-pound body: afraid that he is going to die. Maybe that’s just a perception. Maybe it’s the effect that losing so much weight so fast, and then putting so much back on just as fast, can have on the human body.
I’ve really been thinking about David for the last few days and trying to get my own head around how I feel about anybody who weighs 650 pounds, or loses 400 pounds and gains back 300. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
First and foremost, David Smith’s body isn’t my business. Sure, he kind of made it my business by agreeing to go on talk shows, etc. But in reality, his body is his own business and I don’t get to make moral judgements about it.
Second, I firmly believe that a 650-pound man or a 500-pound man gets to love himself and his body just exactly the way a 180-pound man does. He gets to not feel guilty about his body, not feel he owes the world an explanation for it. If he wants to move more or eat differently, then it should be because moving more and eating differently feel right to him and maybe make him feel physically better.
Third, it’s pretty clear to me that David Smith wasn’t a sad man who lost weight and wasn’t sad anymore, then gained it back and was sad again. I truly hope he figures out how to be happy, and that being happy can happen in his current body, whether or not it ever shrinks again.