I'm only 5'2". I gained weight, for years. I did not "feel" too fat.
When I looked at myself objectively, I could "see" that I was "fat".
Deciding to start losing it was a conscious decision. I did not firmly decide to lose weight until I saw I had reached about 190 pounds. The weight of many hefty, bossy, alpha type men. I took some time, but knew that enough was enough, and I'd have to start to rescue myself from the danger of potential deliberately engaged ill-health. Just like I quit smoking at age 30-ish, just because it was time.
I did not weigh myself, almost my whole life. I did not restrict eating. I ate whatever I wanted. Whatever quantity I wanted. Whenever I wanted. I started doing this with no restriction at the end of the eighties, just as I was facing the end of my "youth" and turning 40. Prior to that, I had restricted myself somewhat in order to "look good" (well, as good as it was possible for me to look without trying very hard).
Restricting myself just in order to "look good" began to feel very artificial, very much a constraint I imposed upon myself due to external priorities, only, not because I really wanted to.
I think I must have thought, when I reached midlife, "It doesn't really matter anyway - who do I think I'm trying to impress by being "normal"? "
I deliberately did that socially unacceptable thing called "letting oneself go", and flipped my chin at the whole idea that other peoples' opinion would constrain me: some new part of me started to fight for autonomy: I started gaining weight, dropped external constraint, got to know "me", opened a practice of my own, became an adult, lots of stuff all at once. I went through midlife crisis, menopause, felt awful, felt like I was whitewater rafting almost every day, still functioned in the world.
Getting "big" did not happen overnight. Getting on the internet helped me sit still, which helped a lot. I think I had got my biggest by about 2007.
To be honest, something in me liked weighing a lot. Something about me liked having mass. Something in me liked having gravitas. Something in me definitely liked having a bit of weight to throw around. (See recent blog post about posture and anger and dominance.) Completely subjective of course - I could have been knocked over with a feather, probably. But I felt quite strong, never felt handicapped. I proved many things to myself, by being a fat person for a long time.
1. My weight did not really interfere with my life. It has been a successful life, lived entirely on my own terms.
2. My weight reassured me that I was real. Had substance.
3. My weight never stopped me doing anything I wanted to do. Mind you, nothing I wanted to do was ever particularly physical to begin with.
4. Even though I was never very physical, I was always active; therefore, I think I stayed healthy.
All of this is occurring to me, only now that my weight has dropped by another 20 pounds or so.
Part of me is grieving a bit because it wanted to be "big". But, alas, I can't be "big" and stay healthy in the long term, at the same time. I'm just not tall enough.
To be brutally honest, what I learned from being objectively, medically, dangerously, however-you-want-to-define-it fat, or big, was a new boundary, and some kind of internally derived and sensed power, or sense of self.