Does being thin mean being happy?

By BY Ursula Hirschkorn Time of article published Oct 8, 2010

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What woman doesn't believe that losing a few pounds would somehow make her happier? That if her thighs were less wobbly and her jeans less tight she would become a new woman, that all her problems would melt away with the fat?

We all believe that being slim is the path to happiness because everything we see and read tells us so, from the slender models that grace the pages of fashion magazines to the teeny tiny celebrities in movies and on TV.

Never mind that half of these women are forever in the throes of painful divorces, wedded to serial cheaters or longing to find the perfect man with whom to settle down and have babies. They are thin, therefore they must be happy. Right?

This week a report seemed to back up this thinking. Psychologist Dr Pam Spurr, author of How To Be A Happy Human, found that a woman's weight has more impact on her personal happiness than her love life.

Her 24-year study of thousands of people found that obesity leads to more misery and suffering than being single, while being thin provides more satisfaction than a relationship.

I grew up believing this myth, and it's only now, as an overweight and happily married mother-of-four, that I can say with any conviction what a false lie these women are chasing. Happiness does not come in the form of a pair of size-6 jeans. I know, I've worn them - and grown out of them.

I was a slim child, sporty and horse-mad. It was only when I started studying for my A-levels, grazing on biscuits throughout my revision, that the weight began to creep on.

University compounded the problem further. Pints of cider and late-night trips to the chip shop had me squeezing into size-16 clothes. I went on my first diet in my early 20s, and so began the battle that was to dominate my adult life.

I am now 39 and have yo-yo'd from a size 6 to a size 20, following countless diets over the years. I let the fact I was fat sap my confidence. I even stayed in a bad relationship because my low self-esteem led me to believe I didn't deserve anyone better: we'd been together since I was 17 and married when I was 24, but it lasted 18 months.

It had run its course long before that, but I was always worried I'd never find anyone else - because I was fat. When we finally divorced, I discovered the magic diet I had been searching for. I lived on tears, late nights and heartbreak and the stones melted away to the point where my friends worried I was anorexic.

A size-6 skirt hung off me and I should have been triumphant - it was all I had longed for! But being thin didn't make up for a broken marriage.

Eventually, my heart began to mend, but I was determined that my happier frame of mind wouldn't mean I began to pile on the pounds again. I stuck to a rigid regime to keep my weight under control. I exercised every day and monitored every mouthful that went into my mouth. I went up to a healthier size 8 to 10, but I was still miserable.

My whole life revolved around counting calories and I felt guilty if I ever let my diet slip. I would go out with friends and watch as they tucked into a lovely meal, while I forced myself to pick at a salad starter, convinced that if I let my iron grip on my appetite slip it would be downhill all the way.

I did enjoy having my pick of clothes. I love fashion and being fat casts you out of all designer and most High Street stores. But I am not sure if the rush of being able to wear anything on the rail counts as being happy.

I still recall a celebration party for the launch of a magazine I was working on in my mid-20s. The editor cracked open the champagne, but I refused to drink, as I was too scared of the calories. What a killjoy I was.

Another side-effect was the way I was treated by men. When you are fat, you are invisible, which to some women is hell, but to me was comforting. I knew my male friends liked me for who I was, not because they wanted to come home with them. When I lost weight, male colleagues and friends whom I'd trusted for years all made a play for me. A fellow writer, who had shared an office with me for years without a whiff of flirtation when I was chubby, suddenly lunged at me across a pub table one night.

Another colleague, happily married, developed an obsession with me, and announced one day he'd left his wife for me. All we'd done was share a couple of working lunches. I had to let him down quite brutally.

Being thin was terrifying. It brought me nothing but unhappiness, and it wasn't until I met my current husband Mike when I was 28 through work that I finally found the meaning of real happiness.

A size 10 when we met, I remember the turning point came during a meal together, early in our relationship when he ordered a plate of chips - a treat I hadn't allowed myself for years. Suddenly I really fancied one, and ended up eating half of them.

I have put on weight from that moment on, and I haven't stopped since. Mike and I have four boys now, aged six, four and one-year-old twins. Mike loves me as I am, and never ceases to make me feel wonderful about myself, however chubby I get.

I gained weight throughout my pregnancies and wear size 20 clothes, and am probably classed as obese. But I'm happy!

Would I like to be thinner? Yes, but only because I understand the health benefits. But my emotional well-being was in no way improved by being slender. In fact, I think the tyranny of dieting ruined most of the years I spent slim.

Maybe I will be slim again one day, who knows? But I wouldn't want to be thin and miserable rather than what I am now - fat and happy. - Daily Mail

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