When people sign up to receive The Skinny Daily Post by mail, they have the option of answering some questions that help me understand more about who’s reading this and what they might be looking for.
I ask about topics/themes, and one of the possible topics is “self-loathing.” I had someone ask about that the other day, because they thought it was an odd, or possibly out-of-place topic in that list. Now the person who asked is someone who struggles with 10-20 lbs. of extra weight. I can see why it confused him. The people who understand that choice – and it’s one of the most frequently selected topics – tend to weigh more (among 300 blessed souls and counting!).
Obese and morbidly obese people are old acquaintances to self-loathing. Despite a stellar personality, a keen intellect, passionate interests, selfless service to family, community, or profession, despite wealth, power, or the possession of a really cool car, if you have a lot of extra weight, you are likely to host a self-hating demon in your head. One that’s hard to silence.
When I coach people personally, and when I was morbidly obese myself and facing ANOTHER diet, it’s the little self-hating demon who’s hardest to fight, whose voice takes over every time.
I had coffee just recently with a friend who’s bright, intelligent, witty, wise. She’s fluctuated in weight all her life, and in the process of losing weight several times has become intimately familiar with every diet plan devised. She knows how to lose weight, how her body will respond, how much exercise she needs to fit into her busy schedule to make the weight come off. She knows everything she needs to know. She’s well equipped for dieting.
But she just can’t seem to get started.
Oh. Man. What’s more frustrating than that?
I asked, innocently, almost absentmindedly, “Is it because you think you’re not worthy?”
I wish I hadn’t. The flood of tears that followed surprised both of us, screwed up her makeup AND mine, and made her feel embarrassed in her favorite coffee shop. (Of course that’s what coffee shops are FOR.) She might forgive me some day.
People feel and are asked to feel all sorts of terrible things about extra weight. They are despised for it, reviled for it, overlooked because of it. People assume laziness, lack of control. They assume gluttony. Knowing that’s what people think wears down your ego. You begin to feel unworthy, lazy, stupid. Some little part of you may believe what you’re hearing or what people are thinking.
Though many overweight people actually eat the same amounts, or sometimes less than their skinny friends, they think of themselves as gluttons because their weight appears to be evidence to the contrary. That is, they believe the popular, rather than the scientific, notion of what causes obesity.
The truth is, obesity researchers will look you in the eye and say they have no idea what causes obesity, but they don’t believe it is always caused by feeding habits or behavior or psychology. Sometimes, yes. But very often, no. That’s why they’re looking so hard for genetic and biochemical causes.
Okay. Great. So now we know it may not be our fault. That may not be enough to silence the little voices in our heads. But it’s a start.
On the other hand, learning to lose weight and to maintain weight loss to overcome genetic, biochemical, or lifestyle predisposition DOES require modifications in behavior. Long term modifications in behavior. Lifetime modifications in behavior.
When you face that hated statistic (which, along with the set-point theory has been and continues to be challenged by ongoing research) that 95% of people who lose weight regain it within 3 to 5 years, you are apt to believe that weight loss is hopeless, futile, possibly self-destructive. Statistics like this will do that to people.
And you’re likely to give up quickly if you do start to regain weight after returning to your normal eating habits. It will quickly convince you of your hoplessness, your destiny as a stupid, fat glutton.
Don’t go there, brothers and sisters.
When you work hard to lose weight, yes, your metabolism will lower bit. But you know what? It will climb back up once you reach your goal weight. It won’t climb back up quickly. It will do so slowly, and so you must increase your food slowly, SLOOoooooooowwwwly, to avoid fast regain, emotional upheaval, feelings of futility, fatalism, self-loathing.
What does that mean? It means that the 95% may well have regained their weight because, though they are successful losers, they stink at maintenance. Though they know how to lose weight, they don’t know how to maintain a thinner body, to live like a thin person.
Living like a thin person means you move more, eat less than YOU did before. Not more or less than your sister, than your brother, than your neighbor or co-worker. It means that compared with YOUR habits before weight loss, YOUR habits after weight loss must be different to maintain the weight loss. And that means planning to live differently.
Was my friend really ready to lose weight, really equipped? No. Why? Because she wasn’t ready to change her life. Why? Because it meant spending time on herself. spending more time cooking healthier meals, spending more time at the gym, picking up and practicing even more healthy habits than she already had.
And that’s the stinker. This is no lazy woman. She walks every day already. She cooks plenty of healthy meals. But she needs to do more, forever, for herself. Change the fabric of life in her family. She hasn’t quite been ready to disrupt life in her household, and didn’t think she had the right. You know, being a lowly, lazy, stupid fat person.
Her assignment is to sit down with her family, and ask for their support and patience while she discovers what it’s going to take to lose the weight, and to expect that this won’t be a “diet kick,” but will result in permanent changes. I expect she’ll be surprised by how quickly and completely they’ll support her.
We’re always afraid of creating disruption with our new ways of eating and exercising. But I recommend you don’t try to guess how the people around you will react. They may, and usually do, surprise us. They may think you’re more worthy than you give yourself credit for being. They may think your well-being and good health are worth even the most dramatic upheavals, whatever it takes.
If they don’t? Well. You may have a bigger problem than weight loss to resolve. And I’m sorry for that.
So, today, this weekend: Think about whether you’re worthy. Write about it. Talk about it. Think about it. Tease the little demons out of their hiding places in your cranium and shout them down in your journal.
(You are SO worthy,)