Wednesday, December 30, 2015

It’s Not That Simple: The Complexity of Obesity

I know I’ve already posted today, but this is one of those articles where I just have to share right away. When I get the inspiration, I have to go with it. I hope this will be as thought provoking to you as it has been for me. Writing is my coping mechanism and these are the results.

Sad woman holding a bathroom scale is leaning against wall

It has been a few years since my feelings have been hurt. It’s safe to say that I’ve grown enough as a person to be able to recognize when someone is projecting their insecurities onto me. Sure, their comments might irritate me but I wouldn’t say that my feelings have necessarily been hurt.

The last time I remember having my feelings hurt was when I was playing volleyball and a guy said something a little unkind to me. I even wrote about it and, oddly enough, named it “Getting My Feelings Hurt”. I had lost a lot of weight at that point, worked out regularly, could run miles at a time, etc. However, it was a sports activity like this that brought back all of those feelings from gym class in childhood. And there I stood with my feelings hurt, feeling awkward and fat. As a side note, I’ve long since forgiven this guy and I believe he’s actually a pretty nice guy—but I’ve never forgotten how that made me feel and I think that’s important to note.

Today, my feelings were hurt. Deep down hurt. The kind of hurt where you can practically feel your heart breaking. Again, I felt like the misunderstood fat girl standing alone on the navy blue line painted on the freshly polished wooden floor while the team captains argued over who would “have to take me” on their team.

As you know, I am so excited to have found my nutritional program. I love the way that I feel and I love that I am seeing progress on the scale & losing inches. I literally want to share it with anyone and everyone that I know, but I don’t because—well, I don’t want to be annoying.

I have participated in an online training program with a local personal trainer who has hit me up many times asking me to purchase her programs, etc. and that’s perfectly fine. I know that this woman is a successful trainer with many clients and I have always made it a goal to train with her in person sometime when I could afford it and when it would work out schedule wise.

Knowing that she has clients just like me, I knew she was someone that I definitely wanted to share with right away. Imagine if other people just like me could get the help that I’m getting—the thought of that made me so happy. So I shared with her—simply by giving her a video that explains our current health crisis and how this nutritional program addresses it.

She responded very rudely to me. I could tell that she was taking me completely wrong so I tried to make it right with her, it’s just who I am—I don’t like adversity and I wouldn’t intentionally try to make someone irritated with me. I wanted her to know my intentions were in the right place.

To sum it all up, she told me that changing your diet and exercising is all it takes to lose weight. I wanted to point out to her that while those are important, there is so much more to it from an emotional standpoint as well as a chemically within the body—if it were that simple, we wouldn’t have the obesity crisis that we do.

She told me that we have a problem with obesity today because people make excuses.

And so, I am obese because I make excuses. Do I make excuses sometimes? Yes. Is that why I’m obese? Definitely not. That is like calling someone who is obese lazy, not knowing anything about the person, simply because you see that they’re overweight.

The very sad part is that this is the message she’s giving her clients, including those people who are just like me. “You are obese because you make too many excuses. You’re lazy.” And I know all too well how that makes a person feel—not good enough. Eventually, we start to believe it.

Sometimes I just want to say, Don’t be a cover band; Jillian Michaels is already taken.

I don’t like the philosophy that what obese people need is someone to be tough on them and to break them down to nothing. That’s what has happened to obese people their entire lives. That’s not the answer. (I even wrote about this concept here!)

Addressing emotional problems is the answer and it has to be done in such a way that it makes the person believe in themselves, to take pride in who they are, and to have the courage and strength to achieve it.

Those of us who are chronically obese, for lack of a better term, have a unique life experience—it’s just different. I would bet to say that applies to all of us who have had a weight problem our entire lives—I just don’t think you can escape it. I recently had a converstaion with someone just like me who has battled obesity her entire life, despite constant efforts at weight loss. I can tell that she gets me and I totally get her when we talk. It’s a special bond that we chronically (and post-chronically!) obese people have.

We know what it’s like to be treated as less than.

We’ve had people who barely know us call us lazy, when in fact that’s far from the truth.

We were picked last for every sports game.

We came home from school and either ate our feelings or cried our hearts out to our moms.

We were never noticed by the guys we liked (until that special one!).

We know what it’s like to feel like we stand out when all we want to do is hide.

We think every laugh we hear in public is someone making fun of us.

We have been dieting almost every moment of our lives.

We know what it’s like to be degraded by health professionals. (remember this post?)

This list could go on and on. For myself, I know that this has made me the person I am today. Do I wish I had been skinny my entire life? Of course! But I don’t think I would be who I am today if I had been.

This emotional and psychological complexities are not excuses. They’re just honest truths.

They are not permanent barriers, but they are walls that must be broken down one brick at a time. Dieting and exercise alone cannot tear down these walls—this is coming from someone who has lost a large amount of weight by diet and exercise only to gain it back again because I didn’t fix those core problems which center within my mind.

It’s safe to say that common feelings amongst us chronically obese individuals are guilt and shame. Would you agree?

Guilt that we’re not skinny enough, good enough, fast enough, pretty enough, etc.

Shame that we carry our struggles in the fat that encircles our bodies.

We are embarassed to be who we are. We may even hate ourselves. We’ve grown to doubt our ability at practically everything because we’ve been told by society our entire lives that we aren’t good enough.

My fellow chronically obese friends (and the rest of you too!) let me be the first to tell you:

You are enough.

You are a survivor.

You are worthy.

You are beautifully made.

You are strong, just look within—it might be hard to see at first, but strength lies within your soul.

Coming to the realization that not only are most chronically obese people misunderstood by many health professionals, if we seek out help we are often misunderstood by those in the fitness industry also.

How can a professional help a chronically obese person without any effort to understand the person as a whole—mind & body. If only there were a specialty where a professional received both psychology training as well as fitness, etc. It seems like we’re missing pieces of the puzzle as we try to confront the obesity epidemic.

There is no amount of will power that will lead to long term weight loss and fitness if there is work that needs to be done psychologically. Believe me, I’ve tried and failed miserably.

More people need to reach out to psychiatric professionals for help with these issues. It’s not something to be ashamed about—you’d go to the doctor if you had a heart problem, right? You get the point. Therapists can help you fix issues that you thought would always be broken.

Our bodies are made up of chemicals and what we put into our mouths has an influence on our minds and bodies on that chemical level. Food can be like a drug—on a chemical level—where we are actually addicted. We wouldn’t tell someone who is addicted to alcohol that they’re lazy because they struggle with alcoholism—we recognize that chemically, their minds are compromised by addiction. How is obesity different?

Simply reducing calories and exercising does not fix that—anyone who believes it will is not educated enough on the nutritional issues that we face today.

There are so many misconceptions about those of us who are chronically obese. We are not sub-human and shouldn’t be treated as such. Instead, we should be judged by our character rather than the abundance of fat that we carry.

As such, this personal trainer will never get my business again because she showed me her character and it wasn’t very pretty. I don’t know what it was in her life that made her that way, but I am sorry for it.

May we all be kind souls, one to another—no matter what we look like. Just as you and I have unique stories, so does every other person with whom we rub shoulders with. We’re all struggling, but some of us just have the physical signs to show it.

People may not remember what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.

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