Miserable. That’s the most accurate description I can give to tell you how I felt when I was morbidly obese, or the fat girl.
You see, I have felt the shame of getting off a roller coaster in front of everyone around me before the ride began because the safety harness wouldn’t close with me in the seat.
I’ve quietly asked the flight attendant for a seat belt extender while hoping nobody noticed the hand off to me.
I’ve looked around to see if anyone was watching before pushing the table away from my stomach in the restaurant booth I’ve just squished into.
I’ve sat in the aisle seat (on the plane, in the classroom, at the retreat, in the movie theater, at the meeting), hoping and praying nobody would sit in the seat next to me so I didn’t have to lean out into the aisle to be sure I wouldn’t spill over into the personal space of the person beside me.
I’ve heard my knees creak going up the stairs, hoping nobody else noticed.
I’ve taken less food than I wanted because I didn’t want others to see how much I really could and wanted to eat.
I’ve sat in the driver’s seat of a car and had to adjust the seat back a few notches so my stomach wouldn’t touch the steering wheel.
I’ve declined to go places I was interested in for fear it would involve too much walking and energy.
I’ve sat in the bathtub and had to let out most of the water so it wouldn’t overflow.
I’ve felt the sadness of not being able to do things others could do, like being light enough to go on a zip line or climb up a pole on a ropes course.
I’ve felt the embarrassment of shopping for a t-shirt at a theme park only to find their largest size wasn’t big enough.
I’ve assumed others were judging me when I walked slower than them or breathed heavily going up a hill or stairs.
I’ve gotten into someone else’s car and prayed their seat belt would fit me. When it didn’t, I sat holding it near the buckle for the whole ride so the driver wouldn’t notice.
I’ve hidden food from loved ones so I could binge in private, then felt the shame and sadness of not being honest with them while trying to discretely dispose of the empty food packaging.
I’ve felt not good enough to be loved because who would love a woman who weighed over 300 pounds?
I’ve broken a plastic outdoor chair while sitting down in front of a group of fellow students, faculty members from my Seminary, and esteemed Ghanaian hosts during a mission trip to Ghana.
I’ve been embarrassed to get into a car and watch my side visibly sink as I sat.
I’ve had a grown man wear my one-piece bathing suit which I originally felt good in, as a prank in front of everyone at camp. The fact that it fit him was horrifying.
I’ve tried to sit in a chair with arms and didn’t fit or just barely fit.
I’ve searched for a wedding dress, only to find that most styles I liked weren’t available in my size and the ones that came in my size didn’t necessarily flatter my body.
After I was married, I doubted I would be able to get pregnant because my doctor told me the odds were against me being 35 years old, obese, and having PCOS (poly-cystic ovarian syndrome).
These are only SOME of the things I’ve experienced as a morbidly obese adult. I was overweight as a child, but was never in the morbidly obese category until sometime after college. I’m sure if I thought about this topic more, I could list even more hurtful, embarrassing, shameful things I have experienced.
But my story could easily be your story. There’s nothing truly remarkable about my experience as a morbidly obese woman. The sad fact is what I’ve just described above has been experienced by millions of people in the United States and around the world.
If you’ve never been obese or morbidly obese, you won’t be able to fully know the shame, sadness, guilt, judgment (both internal and external), and negative self-talk that goes with feeling “less than.” If that’s the case, that’s not your fault. My only request is that you have compassion, not judgment, for those who are experiencing life in a larger than normal body. The obese and morbidly obese don’t need you to tell them they’re obese.
Trust me, they already know.
They are living each day not sure how the outside world is going to react to them or what obstacles their physical body will create. And even if nobody says anything rude, hurtful, or judgmental to them, they may be saying those things to themselves.
When you see an obese or morbidly obese person, odds are you’re looking at someone who is wearing their pain on the outside.
Yes, there are some people who have overweight problems due to medications or medical conditions. But they are in the minority. Most of us are battling obesity because of a learned behavior. Emotional eating.
For many, we learned to cope with all the highs and lows of life with food. Something good happens in our lives? Let’s celebrate by going out to eat or grabbing desert! Something bad happens? Let’s commiserate together over food. Wanna have a social life? A dating life? Those often start with a meal out. Or at least at a bar or coffee shop. Do you go to church? How many opportunities to eat and be social do you have there? Lots, if you’re like the churches I’ve worked in! If someone gets sick or dies, people bring food to them or their loved ones.
And of course there’s the classic soothing with food. If you’re obese, you know how this goes. Someone stresses you out, hurts your feelings, or has you worried about what they think of you, so you eat. There’s a reason lots of junk foods are called “comfort foods.” In the short-term they bring comfort. But in the long run they can bring on the guilt, shame, excess weight, and lots of discomfort physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
After trying multiple ways to lose weight during my adult life, I had a gastric bypass at age 46. I’ll write a follow-up post soon to share my pre-op and post-op experiences with you.
So why am I sharing these painful experiences with you on the web? Because I know I’m not the only one who has gone through life in pain due to their weight. There are many people who live or have lived like this.
If you’re one of those people, I want to tell you that you’re not alone.
I understand what it’s like to struggle with obesity, and I want to support you.
I have a few ways we can connect, if you’re interested.
First, you can reply to this blog post in the comments below to share your experiences as an obese person.
Second, you can email me privately at writeChristine(at)YourGentleNudge(dot)com (Please use the symbols for at and dot, not the words. Writing it this way helps keep spam bots from using my email address to spam you, me, and others). I would love to hear your stories and experiences about your struggles with weight.
Third, you can join my free Facebook group for people who are considering weight loss surgery or who have already had weight loss surgery. You can find it at Life Before & After Bariatric Surgery-Emotional Support.
Fourth, if you feel you could benefit from one-on-one coaching with me, I am a Life Coach. You can find out more about my coaching services at http://www.YourListeningEar.com.
Fifth, you could join one of my upcoming group coaching 12-week sessions and classes. To be placed on the email list to be notified when classes start and for more information about them, please check out my Success and Support for Surgery page. Or you can email me and I’ll gladly pass along the info!
Your Gentle Nudge: If you are overweight or obese, I want to encourage you to find support. It can be through people you know in person, online, Facebook groups (including my group Life Before & After Bariatric Surgery-Emotional Support), your local bariatric surgeon’s support group, or my 12-week group coaching experience Success and Support for Surgery. You don’t need to feel isolated, lonely, or helpless on your journey.
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Another January has come and gone. Were you able to stick to your New Year’s resolutions? No? Well, you’re not alone! Many people find themselves in the same boat this time of year. The excitement and promise of a new year has worn off. You or someone in your household may have been sick at some point in January. That’s pretty common after the busyness of the holidays, especially if you have school-aged children in your home. Plus, the cold weather and short winter days don’t exactly light a fire under your rear to get things done. It’s no surprise that the vast majority of people fail at their New Year’s resolutions!
If you do an online search about why New Year’s resolutions fail, you’ll find articles on the science, psychology, and spiritual reasons resolutions don’t work for the vast majority of those who make them. So don’t beat yourself up for being in the same place yet again this year. Instead, read on to learn more about why resolutions don’t work and what you can do instead.
1. Resolutions don’t work because they rely on willpower.
Many people do not have the sheer willpower to make significant, lasting changes. This is a very normal and scientifically proven occurrence. However, your lack of willpower can lead to negative self-talk, beating yourself up, and an all-around feeling of worthlessness. And those are not the ingredients for success! Lack of willpower can have a snowball effect. For example, if you make a resolution to eat healthier, yet you go out with friends or family on Friday night and eat pub food or have dessert after that big meal, you’re more likely to decide that you’ve already blown your resolution, so you might as well pig out over the weekend and start again Monday. Worse yet, sometimes Monday comes and goes and we’re still pigging out! So what’s the answer? Here’s 2 suggestions:
*Ditch the expectation that you can change using willpower.
If you think you can build up enough willpower to tough things out and power through change, by Valentine’s Day you will more likely than not become part of the vast majority who fail at keeping your resolutions. To quote Dr. Phil, “How’s that working for you?” So far, my attempts to just “power through” haven’t gotten me very far and I’m always left feeling like a total failure. Even if you are one of the fortunate few who can change through sheer willpower, that can be an exhausting process! I don’t wish that for you or for anyone else’s journey!
*Focus on setting achievable goals instead of making resolutions.
Yes, you have the power within you to change, but you have to be smart and focus on creating goals, not making resolutions. Goals that are achievable and attainable are ones which are within the realm of possibility for your life. If I set the goal to become a 7-foot tall Women’s NBA pro basketball player, I’m automatically going to fail since I’m a 5’11 woman in her 40’s who hasn’t played basketball since 7th grade. However, if I set a goal to become a blogger in 2017 making $40,000 per year, I can make a plan to do that. Will I automatically achieve that goal? Not necessarily. But I can create a plan, do research, find resources that will help me achieve this goal, and I can do all the hard work necessary to make this a reality in my life. Here’s an excellent description of S.M.A.R.T. goals and how to achieve them.
*A note about goals.
One of my all-time favorite authors, SARK (Susan Ariel Rainbow) coined the term “micromovements.” Micromovements are baby steps toward your goal. For example, if your goal is to clean out your closet, but the thought of that task is daunting or overwhelming, you can use micromovements to achieve this goal. Day 1 you can open your closet and take a look at all that is there. You could also choose to write down a plan of attack detailing what you are going to do each day. Day 2 you can pick one shelf or section of hanging clothes to sort through. Day 3 you can pick another shelf or section of hanging clothes to sort through. Day 4 you can clean up what’s on the floor. And so on. You can decide how large or small your micromovement is going to be. Essentially, you’re breaking down a larger task into bite-sized chunks, making it much more likely you’ll achieve your goal. The main thing to focus on with micromovements is to do something toward your goal EVERY SINGLE DAY. This builds momentum, which helps you feel good about working on your goal, which creates a feeling of progress, propelling you toward goal achievement. The word MOVE is at the center of micromovements. Your focus here should be on moving, not planning or thinking. Just do it!
2. Resolutions don’t work because they focus on the negative.
Resolutions such as, “I want to lose weight” (focus is on you feeling fat) or “I want to spend less money” (focus is on overspending) spotlight something you perceive as a negative aspect of your life. Okay, I bet you’re asking, “So what ARE you supposed to focus on?” Of course you want to focus on changing things you’re not happy with, but instead of focusing on the negative, try this:
*Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want.
Call it Law of Attraction, your subconscious mind working against you, a curse, or whatever you believe in, but when we focus on something we don’t want to do, that’s the thing we seem to do more of. Have you ever tried to ignore those cookies or potato chips in the kitchen? You may have bought them for the party Saturday night, but they will call your name from the time they enter your home until they have been devoured. Temptation is challenging. Temptation thwarts resolutions. When temptation comes knocking, remember the goals you made which help you focus on what you do want in your life! And if you say you want more chocolate chip cookies in your life, well, just ask if those cookies are helping you reach your bigger goals.
*Have a positive mindset.
So often we experience life through a negative mindset. Many of us complain about the most mundane parts of life. However, if we reframe those complaints and frustrations with a positive mindset, we can change the way we think about and experience our goals. Instead of saying, “I want to lose weight,” which has a negative focus, try something like, “I want to look and feel healthier.” In place of “I want to spend less money,” try saying, “I want to keep more of my money for an emergency fund, a vacation, to pay off my credit cards or (insert your goal here).” Shifting the focus to something positive about money will help you achieve your goal.
3. Resolutions don’t work because they make you feel bad.
Epic fail. That’s what it feels like for many of us when we break a resolution (or two, or five), especially if it’s only been a day or two since it was made. And if you told ANYBODY else about your resolution(s), you’ll feel even worse. Shame. Guilt. Torture. Don’t do that to yourself. Try this instead:
*Ask yourself how you want to feel this year. Then go do that.
Okay, it’s not quite as simple as that. Going and doing what makes you feel the way you want to feel takes work. But putting in the work is the only way you are going to achieve your goals and feel the way you want to feel this year. Did you notice I didn’t mention willpower? That’s because in order to make progress on whatever you want to get out of a new year, you have to decide what you want, how you want to feel, and develop a step-by-step plan to achieve whatever it is you want. Then go do that. You don’t have to wait for a new year, a new month, or Monday to roll around. Anytime is the perfect time to reboot, refocus, set goals, and and work on achieving them, so next year you can kick resolutions to the curb!
Your Gentle Nudge: What goals do you need to focus on moving forward? How will achieving those goals help you live a more fulfilling life?
Please leave a comment below to answer the “Your Gentle Nudge” questions for this post. Add your email in the form below to receive your free Gentle Nudge worksheet, which will help you apply this week’s Gentle Nudge to your life. Thanks for reading!
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