Sunday, June 20, 2010

Maybe You Can't

What would happen if you went to a doctor and told him you wanted to lose weight; he ran a few tests, and told you that, for a variety of reasons, that you simply cannot lose weight. It could be that doing so would endanger your health in some bizarre fashion or you simply don't have the right physiological disposition. If that happened, aside from wanting to walk around all day with a sandwich board saying, “I am fat for medical reasons” on one side and a giant blow-up of the doctor's diagnosis signed and certified on the other (so people wouldn't “blame” you for being fat), what would you do? How would you feel?

Sometimes I wonder if people would be relieved. How many people are fat and full of self-loathing because they think they should change, but fail when they try? How many hate themselves because they are told that they are disgusting and out of control? Would a medical “license to be fat” like a plump “007” relieve them of their low estimation of themselves?

This morning while I was washing dishes (another of those mentally empty tasks which sets my mind wandering into deeper thought territory), it occurred to me that it might be easier if someone had a crystal ball which they could look into which told them definitively that they could or could not lose weight. It wouldn't matter if it was psychological or physiological; the important thing is that you would know for certain that your efforts would be futile if you tried. Would that breed absolute despair or total relief?

For me, it would create despair because my main motivations in order of importance have been the cessation of physical pain, improved mobility, and stopping the emotional abuse and prejudicial behavior from fat haters. Losing weight will fix all of those problems. Being told that I could not lose weight would mean living in constant pain and essentially being disabled by that pain when attempting any but the briefest walk. For those who are not (at least, yet) in my shoes, I wonder if they would just be happy not to be “responsible” for their weight problem and would be freed from the constant mental battle of trying to change their habits, failing, feeling demoralized, and trying again. I know that I went through a similar cycle of failure for many years until this time when I seem to be succeeding. You know the feeling, you fail so many times that you stop trying because you can't face the prospect of failing once more. Note that I am reluctant to declare the “war” won when I've been winning battles for only a year. This is, after all, a lifelong issue, and I hope to be fighting the good fight for at least another 25 years.

This morning, I spent some time pruning my RSS feeds of dead and defunct blogs. Many of the blogs I unsubscribed from were from people who started out very gung-ho and determined to deal with their weight problems effectively “this time”. Their blog comment boxes were filled with encouraging messages saying, “you can do it!” A good many of them have abandoned their blogs because they couldn't do it. I wonder if they really “can't” do it because they don't have the right environment, physiology, or aren't in an emotional place to address their problems. Maybe they never will be, and I think that's something we have to accept and treat with compassion. Nobody wants to be unable to “put down the fork” (a phrase I detest). If they really could, they would, because for the vast majority of people, living life as a fat person means a life of difficulty and despair.

One of the signatures on someone's post or blog somewhere once said something like, “the only thing standing between you and success is you.” I think that that's true, but “you” is a formidable obstacle that is very hard to clambor over. We can't keep simply telling everyone that they can lose weight because we think they should be able to or because we have been able to. There are multitudes of personal changes that have to take place in order to succeed at losing weight and keeping it off, and some people cannot do it. They really cannot. Accepting this fact is not “giving up” on anyone or encouraging them to give up on themselves. It is actually the first step in ending judgment and fat prejudice and allowing people to stop torturing themselves about a part of their lives that they can't change for either physical or psychological reasons.


Tamzin said...

You have some very interesting ideas on here and I've enjoyed reading your recent posts. Looking forward to more. Glad I found my way here.


screaming fatgirl said...

Hi, Tamzin, and thank you for your kind words and taking the time to comment. I'm glad you found your way here as well!

Angela said...

I honestly am beginning to think I am that person who can just NOT lose it. I work out more than I ever have. I eat better and less than I ever have. And yet, the weight it not going anywhere.

I am glad that I don't rely on a number to make me feel lovable or worthy. But yes, sometimes it would be nice if my hard work was reflected physically.

I do move better than I have in my entire life, so that is something.

screaming fatgirl said...

Hi, Angela, and please allow me to apologize for the delay in posting your comment. Sometimes I can't get to moderation for a few days.

I think that it's good to simply accept that you may be someone who "can't" if that ends up being the case. You're doing what makes you healthier and feel better, and really that's the most important thing. Every person has a "set point" for their weight which is really hard to lose below, and while society wants us all to have very low set points, that's just not the way it is.

As long as your actions lead to your improved state of health, that's all that really matters. The rest (any weight loss) is just icing on the cake. Good luck and my best wishes to you.