I still have a lot to learn

by Christine on November 6th, 2010

filed under Christine's Life Updates, Eating Disorders

Yesterday was a mental reminder that I still have a lot to learn, that even though I’m only 2 pounds from my goal weight, that my struggle with food will be with me for the rest of my life.

The interview went really well yesterday. I answered all their questions thoroughly and succinctly. I smiled a lot, tried to show that I’m upbeat and friendly. I asked them questions about themselves and about the company. I liked their answers, and I’m far more excited about the possibility of this job than I was before. I will be very surprised if they don’t call me in for a 2nd round of interviews.

After the interview, I decided I wanted to treat myself to a martini for a job well done. I went to a nearby restaurant and had one–only one!–martini and read a chapter in my book. It felt great to sit there and let the post-interview stress work itself out of my bones.

Then I got in my car and started to drive home. Friday at 4 p.m. means a lot of traffic on the highway, stop-and-go traffic, etc. I could have taken back roads to get home, but I wasn’t in a hurry and said, “sure, I can kill time in the car.”  I had soft music on. The martini had me loosened up. I allowed myself to tap into all these emotions related to work just a little bit. For instance:

  • I’m scared to hell that I’ll hate any job that I’ll get.
  • I’m afraid to admit that I don’t want to work a “real job” anymore. I enjoy being home. I enjoy writing on my own time.
  • I’m afraid to have that conversation with my husband because he has already told me that he wants me to start working ASAP, regardless of whether I “like the job” or not.
  • I even contemplated the idea of getting pregnant even though I find the idea of having a child personally loathesome. Just so I can stay home. Which might be the dumbest way of trying to not-work on the planet.
  • I’m scared of money issues and paying our bills.
  • I’m worried that my husband will quickly begin to feel used and overworked. And I’m afraid that and resent me for putting him in that position.
  • I’m worried that he’s disappointed in me. He’s already confessed that he thinks I’m pretty much unemployable and that I’m a “chronic non-worker,” and that opinion hurt(s) my feelings very badly.
  • I feel totally broken, that I’m not good enough. And I don’t know how to fix myself.

In other words…a lot of very deep emotions kind of hit me all at once. I started crying just a little in my car. Then I drove to a little corner market (called “Stewarts” around here) and walked in. I bought a gallon of skim milk for home and a huge package of mini-cookies. Pumpkin flavored, with heavy cream cheese frosting. I took them back to my car and litterally started shoving them in my mouth. I even gagged once. Just shoving them in my mouth. Eating. Eating more. Crying a little.

Then I drove home. I think it was the sugar rush, I’m not entirely sure. But something kind of hit me funny, and I passed out in the living room. It was like a blackout. I woke up four hours later feeling mostly okay. Not so anxious, emotions carefully carpartmentalized, perhaps a little queasy in the stomach.  I made a small bowl of tomato soup, and that killed the rest of my sugar cravings.

I’ve kind of been tired and out of it all day today.

Yesterday I was reminded that I have a lot of work to do, and a long way to go to battle my disordered eating. It’s not just binge eating, either, and I know it. I probably relate the most to binge eating, like I did yesterday. But as you can see from this post that I also have the ability to completely stop eating for very long periods of time.  It all comes down to the same thing: a poor ability to deal with carefully carpartmentalized emotions plus a loose grip on the healthy coping mechanisms that I’ve learn to put in place (“safe” foods I let myself have, healthy behaviors like letting out emotions at the gym, going for a hike, getting out of the house in any way, etc).  Oy. I have a lot left to muddle through.

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Medicating tragedy with food

by Christine on September 13th, 2010

filed under Christine's Life Updates, Eating Disorders

Last night I slept poorly. I had a nightmare that played out in slow-motion. As many times as I woke up, tried to clear my head, and drift back asleep, the nightmare would pick up right where it left off. The worst part is that the nightmare was a replay of real-life past events.  There were real people, real sounds, real smells, real textures. I woke up for the 10th and last time in a pool of sweat, clutching my sheets tightly and breathing quickly in the beginning stages of real panic.

I jumped out of bed, eager to leave that nightmare behind as quickly as I could. Bad news confronted me nearly immediately – something I don’t want to get into at the moment.  I retreated; I stepped into the shower, sat down on the floor, and cried as I let the water pour over me.

Afterwards I found yet another dead chipmunk in the house; another one of my cat’s kills. A ridiculous parking ticket was glaring at me from the kitchen counter. Then traffic was backed up on the highway, making me late to work.

It’s not even 9:30 a.m. and already it’s a bad day.

I’m having a terrible time shaking the bad memories away, getting the nightmare to go back into its safe compartment of my brain.

My instinct in instances like this have always been to reach for food. I went to the grocery store this weekend, so my cupboards are well-stocked. As I sat on the couch staring at Good Morning America, I kept a running inventory of the food that I could scarf down before leaving for work: canned soup, vegetables, crackers and cheese, peanut butter, omlettes, a bag of candy corn, cereal, rice pudding, etc.

“No,” I said. “That’s not the answer.

Maybe I was thinking about food as a way to distract me from the too-vivid nightmare I just had.

On the way to work I went into the corner store and saw all the Twinkies and ho-hos and Little Debbie’s staring at me. But I said no.  I passed  a Dunkin Donuts, and I felt the urge to go there pulling me like a magnet. But I said no. I passed a McDonalds; I don’t even like their breakfast food, but I was dying to go through the drive-through. No.  I passed three more independent coffee shops. I tried rationalizing a purchase: “A small coffee with cream and sugar would only be about 200 calories. You can afford that,” told myself. No. “A donut is only 150 calories, you can afford that!”  No.

Instead I clutched a pre-packed baggie of green grapes to me like a little girl with her teddy bear.

When I logged into the computer at work, I read Patrick’s blog. He asked, “So, I guess that means we ought to avoid disappointment, right? No, hardly. We need disappointment to become better. Today’s failure is the foundation for tomorrow’s success. Disappointment ought to be given due focus, learned from, and then focus returned to the dream.”

Well, I guess my nightmare didn’t exactly involve a disappointment so much as an all-out terror, and one that I was completely helpless to avoid.  I was a child when it happened, a child! However, despite the nuance in syntax, I think the point remains the same. Not just disappointments, but even real-life tragedies can mold us into better people. Tragedies and horrifying experiences can allow us to be empathetic, sympathetic, and caring people. Plus, when “survival mode” kicks in, it demonstrates just how strong we are as individuals.

Yesterday I came across the blog of a woman named Audrey from Barking Mad, who, coincidentally, lives only a few minutes from me. In a profile in a Woman’s Day magazine article, she writes:

I was sitting against the plush black leather of the limousine as it carried me away from the grave of my 2-year-old son, Joshua, who had been killed days earlier after being struck by a pickup truck. Yet all I could think about was food. With bitter tears running down my cheeks, I closed my eyes and pictured the platters of roast beef, creamy mashed potatoes and assorted pastries that my friends had lovingly set out at the wake. I imagined piling my plate with as much food as possible and swallowing all of it, pushing the pain down as far as it would go. The more I thought about food, the less I thought about seeing those precious brown eyes of Joshua’s closed forever.

Some people cope with the loss of a child by turning to alcohol or drugs. My drug of choice was food. When Joshua died, I was 40 or 50 pounds overweight. In the 20 years since, I have “comforted” myself to nearly 400 pounds.

Read the whole article here.

Like me, Audrey isn’t just dealing with a disappointment; what she is dealing with is a profound tragedy. Like me, Audrey self-medicated those emotions with food; perhaps it takes a lot of fuel to push those memories and thoughts into its appropriate compartments in the brain, I don’t know.  Perhaps food is a distraction; perhaps its medication; perhaps it’s just the need for sensation after the numbness that comes after a profound hurt.

Everyone deals with a tragedy, at some point, in their life, whether it’s the loss of a parent, a child, a pet, or some other trauma. Tragedy is one of those things that is quintessentially human; everyone will experience it at some point. I suppose it’s a matter of how you channel that experience that defines you. Will you allow the tragedy to hold you back? Keep you from your goals? Will you allow it to desensitize you, make you immune to other peoples’ hurt and suffering? Will the wounds of your tragedy make you so sensitive to the suffering of others that you never allow your own wounds to heal because you are constantly adopting the pain from others?

In Patricks’s blog, he referred his reader’s to a post by another blogger named Jody. She writes:

Is living in the past destroying the present and the future? Can we take power from within to overcome this? What are the lessons learned?

I wish I knew the answers to this. This morning, with the raw hurt of my nightmare too recently behind me, I’m not sure that I DO have the power to overcome the memories. I’m not sure what I’ve learned from this in the years since it’s happened; considering my recent obesity, I’m not sure that I’ve learned any really valuable lessons or used the experience to make me a stronger, better person.

I can say that I HOPE someday these memories will:

1.       Make me stronger physically and emotionally

2.       Make me empathetic to others

3.       Give me the fortitude and resolve to make myself a better person

4.       Help me to overcome my disordered eating patterns, rather than serve as an enabler for disordered eating

My question today is this: How do you transform a disappointment or tragedy into something positive? I don’t think wishing and hoping for it to be true is enough…so how does one achieve this?

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Starving

by Christine on September 8th, 2010

filed under Christine's Life Updates, Eating Disorders, Short Stories

That was it. I had it up to here with being fat. Careful consultation with BMI calculators, nutritionists, doctors, and various attempts at fad diets just weren’t cutting it. Regardless of the plan, the steadfastness of my effort, it didn’t matter — the weight just kept pouring on. I was killing myself at the gym, going both at 5 a.m. before work and at 7 p.m. after work, but it didn’t matter. The weight just kept adding up, up, up.

I was 190 pounds and I could see the 200’s creeping carefully closer. I wasn’t piling on the weight quickly, but at an average of 2-5 pounds per month, it was slow but steady. I knew that unless I took drastic action, the weight would just keep piling on.

I decided that on Monday I would stop eating entirely. Surely THAT kind of calorie deficit would be enough to let my body know who was really in charge here. Oh, I had done a mini-fast before…maybe 10 days long…and I knew that it wouldn’t be an easy road, but it would surely be easier than the dieting + exercise + killing myself mentally that had been happening for months at that point. Surely anything, even outright starvation, would be easier than that.

I figured Monday would be the easiest day to start, because the first few days are the worst on any fast — the relentless need to eat, the real hunger, the pretend hunger, the obsession over food are always the worst. Weekends are the hardest times on any diet because of the temptation lurking in every social event. Work days were structured, rigid. I could do it, if i could just get past the first five days.

The plan? Eat nothing. Nothing at all, save 100 calories or less of liquids per day, such as watered down juice. I could have all the 0-calorie soda I wanted. The plan would make a huge calorie deficit, and surely my body would either lose weight or collapse.  At that point, I was A-ok with either outcome. If I collapsed, maybe the doctors would finally take me seriously.

Day 1 came. I woke up and went pee. Standing naked I logged my starting weight. 190 pounds. I went into the kitchen. Grabbed some water, filled up a few bottles to take with me. I looked at the food on the counter, saw the remaining veggies on the counter. Knowing that my husband wouldn’t eat them, I threw them out. I went to work, avoiding the free donuts and bagels. I took a diet soda and nursed it. My stomach growled. I looked at the clock, mentally checking to see when lunch would be, out of habit. I’m stronger than this, I told myself, and sipped my soda some more. For lunch I went rollerblading, thinking every second of the way about all the food I would not allow myself to eat. The afternoon was torture. My stomach was shrieking, but I told myself that it was all worth it in the end. I went home and gave my bathroom scale to my hubby, telling him to “hide it good” and not bring it out until this time next week.  He shrugged, knowing that I was on yet another crazy diet, and agreed. For dinner I had some watered down apple juice, maybe 20 calories. I smiled, knowing that I was beating it this time. I went to the gym.

Day 2 I turned into a raging, angry psycho beast. I glared at everyone, avoided the phone and restrained myself only to emails. I shut my office door and spoke to as few people as possible. I bit all my nails off. My stomach continued to shriek, and I continued to drink Diet Pepsi. I could nurse a regular 20 oz bottle all day and still have some left over. Lunch involved rollerblading for distraction. When I got home I went through the refrigerator and cabinets and threw everything away that hubby wouldn’t eat. Not a thing remained. I went to the gym.

Day 3 I was so tired I could hardly keep my head up at work. For lunch I slept in my car instead of rollerblading. When I got home I went to sleep and didn’t wake up for the rest of the night.

Day 4 my stomach stopped grumbling nearly entirely, and I realized somehow of the brilliance of my Day 3 happenstance “plan:” If I could just sleep, I wouldn’t have to worry about eating at all! I was lethergic and tired, but not quite as cranky. For lunch I went for a walk at the nearest mall. When I got home I popped 2 sleeping pills and fell asleep before dinner.

Day 5 my brain was completely incapable of stringing together two coherent sentences, but a sense of calm came over me. I was fatigued, and that was easily remedied by taking more sleeping pills when I got home. Still not food. Five days and not a thing to eat.

Day 6 and 7 were the weekend. I slept as late as possible, then tried to clean the house, read a book, or something. I asked hubby if we could NOT go to dinner, but I agreed to a movie. Both days I took sleeping pills. Seven days and not a thing to eat.

Days 8-12 were work days. The manic adrenaline kicked in. I couldn’t sleep at all, and I was incredibly hyper, like I had just injected pure caffeine into my bloodstream.  Enblazoned with a sense of hope that this was the energy blast I needed to lose the weight, I spent every non-waking work moment scrubbing my house, diving into my autograph hobby, and going to the gym (yay for a 24-hour membership).  I didn’t sleep a wink for five nights, and I didn’t eat a bite either. My stomach stopped talking entirely. I wasn’t hungry at all. It was perfect. At one point I realized that I hadn’t pooped in a week or so, so I took some laxatives. I was doubled-over with cramps and agony, but I was incredibly happy that I eliminated something. Surely that was another pound or two of weight lost! Victories!

Days 13-14 were the weekend again. I asked hubby to go camping with me. Out of house, no chance for temptation! I survived two more days of not eating, but the lethargy was starting to come back.

Day 15 I called into work sick. I took sleeping pills and slept all day. Fifteen days and I didn’t eat a thing.

Day 16 my body seemed to normalize a little bit: I wasn’t frantic, and I wasn’t too lethargic either. I wasn’t bursting with energy though. I could think a little clearer. I settled down to work, but the habits of eating at work were hard to break.

Day 17 I cheated by eating one-quarter of one slice of ham at work. It was there staring at me. I wasn’t hungry; I ate out of habit. 30 calories. I nearly called the whole starvation diet off, but decided that 30 calories wouldn’t ruin the entire “plan.” I went to the gym to work out for 2 hours of heavy cardio in retribution.

Day 18-19 were normal, if there’s such a thing as “normal” when you’re not eating a thing. Water started to get too boring, so I threw in a squeeze of lemon. I had tea for one “meal,” and although the smell was wonderful, the taste was vile.

Day 20 was Saturday. We had dinner plans with friends. I didn’t quite know how to handle that tactfully. “Thanks but no thanks, I’m on a no-food diet.”  Hmmm, not so much. I mulled over the menu online for hours beforehand. When we got there, I ordered a bowl of soup. I had maybe 3 or 4 sips of soup, and mostly pushed it around with my spoon.  Eating was, for the most part, avoided. Success! 20 days with only two “slipups” of a very small amount. For the most part, I had gone 20 days without eating.

Day 21, more of the same. Day 22, more of the same. I kept going, not eating a thing, sometimes sipping on apple juice, or, even better water with a little apple cider vinegar (known as an appetite suppressant).  I didn’t die. I didn’t have a heart attack. My moods evened out for the most part. My thinking went in waves: sometimes clear, sometimes foggy. My moods fluctuated from sleepy to alert, to a little frantic, but for the most part I just existed. I just kept going. And going. And going. It got easier, the longer I went without food.

Time kind of stopped and stood still. I was numb all over, mentally and emotionally. I was just existing, and barely, at that. I had this intense self-loathing that crawled over my skin and sucked the life out of my soul. I couldn’t walk past a mirror without looking dispassionately at my image, hoping and praying that the next day I would wake up looking some someone completely different. I wrote hateful things on my bathroom mirror, like “fatty” and “ugly” and “weakling.”  I would wear a rubber band around my wrist and slap it HARD when I thought about food. Eventually, after a few weeks of that, I was a little bloody around the wrists, so I started wearing the rubber band around my ankles instead. I would daydream about getting shripwrecked on a desert island or going on Survivor; I’d be FINE without food. I’d be the last one standing at the end of it all.

It’s no wonder to me that religious ascetics used prolonged fasting as a way to empty the mind and get closer to God. I’m not religious by any stretch, but there’s a period when your brain stops struggling with what might be and what was and, with its numbness, is content to be in the here and now. (This type of religious fasting is called anorexia mirabilis and has been around for centuries.)  All religious have used fasting to reach that point of, oh I don’t quite know what to call it — accepted clarity, perhaps.

For 70 days I didn’t eat a thing, except for five teeny tiny little slipups. At day 70 I thought I would finally weigh myself. I asked hubby for the scale.

187.0 it said. 70 days of not eating and only three pounds lost.

At that point I completely gave up on myself. I got into my car and drove to the corner store. I bought a handful of candy bars and ate them one after another. The sugar made me vomit. I cried some. Then I took a sleeping pill and slept it off. The next day I ate everything in sight, and the day after that, and the day after that. Until I was 225 pounds.

Weight loss surgery was the only option I had left.  Nothing else worked, not even outright starvation.

I don’t know why the weight loss surgery worked when nothing else I did made a dent in my weight gain. All I know is that I’m so grateful that it has worked.

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Eating in Secret and Hiding Food

by Christine on June 30th, 2010

filed under Christine's Life Updates, Eating Disorders, Gastric Banding Surgery

Eating in SecretDo you have any “secret” food that is hidden in your house that only you know about?

Do you “hide” food away?

Do you eat in secret?  At night when everyone is asleep? Do you sneak into the kitchen when your kids go outside to play?

Do you feel guilty when you eat certain things, making you want to eat them secretly?

Chocolate candy bars.

I have a stack of them. Mr. Goodbar, that’s my downfall.  My husband doesn’t eat them. The candy bars have nuts in them, which he doesn’t eat.  These candy bars are all mine. I don’t have to compete with a tribe of faster grabbers to snag one for myself. They are mine, all mine!

I have the candy bars on the kitchen counter (I don’t have to fear hubby eating them) but I cover them up with a towel or notepad of paper, etc.

I cover them because I want them to be secret.

I generally only eat the candy bars when I sneak into the kitchen for a water refill when Hubby is safely in the living room. Or, I might eat one if Hubby goes downstairs to play computer games. The eating feels “secret,” which is really silly because I know Hubby wouldn’t care less if I ate them or not.  Usually, I only have a bite or two at a time. I don’t gobble the whole thing down at once.

Eating the candy bar isn’t that big of a deal, really. I don’t want to put anything off-limits to me. I’m not on a “diet,” after all, but just trying to make healthier choices and eat in moderation. Cutting candy bars off entirely would send me into major binge-mode.  That being said, I’ve given this candy bar some kind of power over myself by hiding it, making it “secret.”

HMMMMMM.

Is this disordered eating?
Is this unhealthy?
What would a more positive change to this behavior involve?

That’s the only food I can think of that I hide like that, but in a similar-yet-unrelated tpic…I also hide my laxatives.  There’s a little bit of backstory that I suppose needs to go here. In one of my eighty-thousand-million attempts to lose weight, in a land far-far away, I somehow got it into my head that if food leaves my body quickly, then surely some of those calories would not get absorbed. I was never able to purge (and yes, I tried) but I found some kind of mental relief by taking laxatives.  Big binge? No problem…it’s nothing that four or five extra-strength ex-laxes couldn’t eliminate in a few hours. Owch.

I discovered later that there’s a growing movement to include laxative abuse into the DSM-IV definition of bulimia. In my case, I think that the definition would fit. I think I had bulimic tendencies, even though I didn’tvomit my food. Disordered eating, indeed.

There’s a few things ironic in here. Firstly, it’s ironic that I was even approved for gastric banding surgery. My psychiatric evaluation prior to surgery was a big joke — he never even asked me questions about any history of disordered eating.  Even if he had, I probably would have lied. The second bit of irony: I vomit all the time now, thanks to the gastric band. But oh, there’s a big, huge difference between my vomiting and laxative abuse.  I puke because the food is stuck in the gastric band and I need to get it out. When the food is stuck, I can’t breathe. My eyes water. My heart rate elevates. My saliva starts spilling out of my mouth because there’s no place downwards for it to go.  I do not — I repeat, I do NOT — vomit on purpose because I want to eliminate food that I eat.  It’s the intent that’s quite different between these vomiting versus laxative abuse scenarios.

Since my surgery, my laxative abuse has almost entirely gone away.  I don’t get frantic over the food that I eat because with the gastric band, I just can’t “binge” the way I used to.  I’m not frantic, so I don’t feel any need to “purge” the food I eat.  Even if I have that secret Mr. Goodbar on the counter, I really don’t get worked up about it.  That being said, since my surgery I’ve had problems pooping regularly. This week I realized I went five days without pooping. Clearly, in such instances, a little help is needed. I put Benefiber in every I drink, but it doesn’t help. I’ve gotten “cleanser” lemonade things that haven’t helped.  Grapes, prunes, sundried tomatoes, apples…I’ve tried them all.  Sometimes…a little extra action is necessary. Again, there’s a big different in intent her: pooping because you need to versus pooping to relieve your head after a binge.

There’s a cabinet where we keep all our medications, and the laxatives should go there. But they aren’t there. They are hidden, even now. I know Hubby wouldn’t care about it. I know Hubby wouldn’t use them. But I hide them anyway. Why? Why do I do this? When I take a laxative, it’s always, always in secret. And then I feel guilty for doing so.

Hmmm.

I’m not sure how to resolve either of these issues — the hidden candy bar, or the laxatives. What would be healthier ways of dealing with both of these issues?

Many thanks to Prior Fatgirl (link to blog) for making me think about this today….

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Compassion and understanding in an overweight world‏

by Christine on June 12th, 2010

filed under Christine's Life Updates, Diet, Food, Nutrition, Eating Disorders, General Information

overweightI came across a few blogs this week that had similar themes. (It’s funny how blog themes kind of spread like wildfire. If one person writes about vacation, then soon all the blogs that week will write about vacations! I think it’s because people look to other blogs for inspiration.) These blogs typically discussed encountering overweight people – and chairs made for fat people – and the question: should we, as a society, “cater to their addiction” and allow them to be “acceptable and comfortable?”

There’s a large number of people out there in the world that look down on overweight people, thinking that fat people are less attractive, less intelligent, or less worthy of being loved than thinner people.  In fact, there have been a plethora of scientific studies done on this subject.  For instance, workforce.com has released that there exists a prejudice against overweight people who are applying for jobs. An unpublished study by the University of North Carolina showed that people perceive thinner people to be “more influential,” and obese people as “less intelligent, and therefore will be listened to less and their ideas will not be carried out.” The same study indicated that overweight women face greater challenges in the workplace than do overweight men.  To counter these allegations, an organization called the Council on Size and Weight Discrimination is working to alleviate discrimination against overweight people.

Now, I’m not saying that these bloggers look down on overweight people; in fact, most of the bloggers were themselves overweight at some point in their life. Rather, I think the bloggers were bringing up weight-related issues merely as a conversation topic.  However, I personally found some of the comments disturbing. “It’s sad that our super-sized nation is now super-sizing furniture to accommodate us. Then again, I’ve never been unable to fit in a regular chair so I don’t know if it’s humiliating enough to make me want my own sized chairs,” said one blogger. Another stated, “if we accommodate everything there is no need for change even at such unhealthy weights to need larger chairs.”

What happened to compassion? Equal rights?  Would you expect a woman in a wheelchair to climb a flight of stairs?  Why should you expect an overweight person to be able to fit in the same seat as you? Isn’t this type of physical comfort and accessibility to public spaces exactly what the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) sought to achieve since its passage in 1990?  Not all humans are built with the same stature; why should furniture be built in a one-size-fits-all mentality?

In one of my favorite blogs, The Daily Diary of a Winning Loser, Sean recounts his horror of plastic outdoor furniture. At 500 pounds, plastic furniture would collapse under his weight. Furthermore, booths at restaurants were so uncomfortable his circulation would get cut off. No, typical furniture is not made for people of all shapes and sizes.

People say that by making allowances for overweight people, that they are “enabling” or “condoning” their behaviors. I think what makes me so upset about this topic is that not all overweight people have weight issues because they are lazy or make poor food choices.  In fact, many overweight people fight weight issues because of underlying medical or emotional issues.  Furthermore, it’s not for an outsider to judge WHY one individual is overweight (unless you know their particular situation intimately).  If you could walk a mile in my shoes…

I have struggled with yo-yo weight gain and weight loss for pretty much my whole life. Believe me, I didn’t gain weight because I was lazy, and I certainly put in my fair share of effort in taking it off. Over the course of five years, I saw seven different doctors and nutritionists. I joined a gym and used it regularly. I had a personal trainer. I woke up at 5 a.m. every day for months to work out. I got physical activity in at every opportunity. I rollerbladed at lunchtime and hiked up mountains on the weekends. I kept a food journal and tediously tracked every calorie I consumed. Despite all this effort, I gained weight.  Each doctor would say, “Gee, I don’t know why this is happening. I’m sorry, I cannot help you,” and so I would seek out another doctor to help me figure out why the weight was coming on and to help me take the weight off. Each doctor failed.  The nutritionist would look at my food journals ever week, sometimes make suggestions, but eventually said, “Look Christine, I just don’t know why you can’t lose weight.”  Every single person I saw gave up on me until my most recent doctor said, “nothing else is working. What do you say we look into bariatric surgery?” The surgery changed everything.

Lack of compassion for overweight people is an issue that is near and dear to my heart. I have several friends with overweight daughters. Their kids (6-14 years old) are all active, healthy, and happy, but they are all overweight.  I think in all their cases this is due partially to genetics, but it’s also partially because their parents do not feed them healthy meals several times a day; in all cases the parents allow junk food and fast food to fuel their childrens’ tummies. Do you blame the child for being obese? When that child turns 18 do you start to blame her for being obese?  At what point does weight become their fault instead of a cause/effect of someone else’s actions?

I have a family member that is severely obese.  She has suffered through many medical issues, such as cancer and subsequent chemotherapy, as well as depression, thyroid problems, etc. Is her obesity her fault? Would I ever deny her the ability to sit in a wide chair because I didn’t feel that she’s worthy of being comfortable because she is overweight?  Not on your life. I love her to pieces and would give her the world if I could.

Good heavens! I think the world could use a lot more compassion and understanding and a lot less finger-pointing and blaming. My response to some of the disturbing comments I’ve read this week: Quit worrying about whether a wide chair in your office lobby is “enabling” someone to be fat and instead take some responsibility on yourself. Approach the overweight person and ask, “Is there something I can do for you?  Would you like to go for a walk with me at lunchtime to get a little exercise?”  Every fat person in the world has a mirror; every fat person in the world is aware of their size.  Many are even aware of the health risks associated with their weight.  The last thing that person needs is for the rest of the world to deny them the right to a good job, health insurance benefits, access to and comfort in public spaces, or simple human love and respect.  I challenge everyone to reach out to an overweight person today and try to make a positive, lasting impression on them.  Invite them to walk with you, or share a healthy recipe.  Rather than point a finger at them, reach out to them.  It will make the world a much nicer place to be.

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