My friend Shay said she had a blog idea for me.
‘This might be a touchy topic Bets, but you should talk frankly about what you think about obesity now that you are no longer in that medical category.’
Here are my thoughts on that topic… 🙂
At the time Shay sent me this note, I noticed a theme in my Facebook feed content; postings on fat acceptance, being ‘fat and happy’, miracle cures for rapid weight loss, rampant and not-very-subtle, fat shaming. (Thin shaming is prevalent and malevolent as well, as my friend Taryn would remind me…)
I feel that 80% of what I typically see is crap aimed at ‘helping’ people feel like there is a quick/effortless answer or trying to aggressively sell the ‘magic bullet’ to losing weight and getting healthy.
The part that I think is largely absent is discussion about managing and solving the oncoming tidal wave of issues headed our way given that 68.8% of our TOTAL U. S. population is currently estimated to be overweight or obese.
Let me say that again…
68pointfreaking8 percent of our U. S. population is currently overweight or obese.
A lot of the information out there is about ‘losing weight and getting healthy’, quick fixes or ‘loving who we are no matter what we look like’… There is not a lot of discussion to be found about solving the core issues surrounding the topic of obesity.
The hard issues and truths.
These are brutally difficult discussions to have because they are about people, their body and their very personal relationships to food/health/society.
So let’s take me for example. I mean, people approached me about my weight periodically. And no matter what ANYONE tried to say or how they tried to say it, here is all that I ever HEARD…
‘Hey, Betsy, I can see you’re fat.
I don’t know if you know that.
Being fat is not a smart life-choice. It’s not healthy. I’m sure no one has ever told you that.
Research backs me up.
I see a heart attack waiting to happen. I see that you are physically uncomfortable with every breath you take. And while you keep yapping about how you’re happy and healthy, I really think you’re protesting so loudly about being ‘happy’ because you’re trying to convince yourself that being fat and unhealthy is OK.
I think you’re too lazy to do the work to make your life different.
Why can’t you do a little work to try to save your own life?
Why can’t you just eat less and get moving..?”
THAT conversation – and variations on it that occurred over the years – never went well no matter who said it, how it was phrased or how loving or well-intentioned they might be in trying to help me find a path to health…
I really think they thought I would listen and not be defensive and immediately change everything I was doing…
What would happen when someone tried to talk to me about losing weight? I would listen, thank them politely for their concern, be utterly humiliated and go find comfort food. Lots of comfort food. And then spend the rest of my life avoiding the person who tried to talk to me…
I obviously have some level of understanding on both sides of this issue now.
I hid from the conversations – real and imaginary – for years. Clinging with longing to those messages and ideas being pushed at me to demand that I be accepted exactly as I was, that society at large (pun intended…) is the one who had the problem with ‘fat acceptance’. Not me. Not my problem if they couldn’t accept what I looked like.
I was part of the obese population and related health problems for a very long time. I didn’t want to face the core issues with my obesity and subsequent lifestyle-induced Type 2 diabetes. I wanted to convince those around me I was fine. I wanted everyone to accept me as I was. I desperately wanted everyone to think I was a beautiful human inside and out. And there were endless conversation with friends looking for affirmation that I was indeed loved and worthy no matter my size.
From where I sit now… I can see that all of my posturing and fervent hoping was simply a way to avoid the core issues that I faced.
I was obese and unhealthy and didn’t want to do the work to NOT be obese. It is a hard work to change that kind of chronic thinking. And it is incredible amounts of on-going, non-stop work, to change life-long habits surrounding food and exercise.
Here’s what I think we need to acknowledge…
Obesity remains a taboo topic.
We have to quit ignoring the hard conversations about how obesity, and all that relates to it, is killing us and robbing our quality of life.
We need to talk openly about how the way to health, from obesity, is in most cases going to be a lot of hard, un-fun, not-sexy, work.
People need to take personal responsibility for their health and quit blaming ‘society’, genetics, life… Those play a role, but in most cases they don’t have to OWN us…
So I’m going to do the only thing I can think to do…
I’m going to work, intentionally and consistently, to help shift the conversations with those around me.
I will talk less about weight and scales and talk more about fitness and quality of life and health.
I will be thoughtful about moving conversations away from diets and tricks and toward talking about life-long, healthy choices.
And I want to talk purposefully and thoughtfully about reclaiming our LIVES from the grip of obesity while we still have the time and ability.
‘You have exactly one life in which to do everything you’ll ever do. Act accordingly. — Colin Wright