Yesterday I watched a documentary series entitled My 600 lb. Life. At first, I watched incredulously. How could the profiled people get so big? Most had unsightly appendages that had formed and weighed them down—like having a 40 lb. child hanging from your groin, or clutching your leg. Some were confined to bed and had to have paramedics come to their house to help them go to the doctor while street crews blocked off traffic. Each had finally reached some moment of desperation where they finally sought surgical help. But as I watched, I realized that whether you have 30 pounds to lose, or over 500 lbs. to lose, and whether you are undergoing radical surgery, or losing through diet alone, the story is often the same: troubled childhoods, self-esteem issues, marital issues, parental issues, molestation, familial genes and traits. Food becomes the issue, but it’s never where it begins. And you can’t really cure the food issue without putting all the other issues under the microsope. Damn.
I told myself that maybe I had healed enough of my troubled past; that I could just drink a smoothie, eat a half a cup of rice, 6 oz. of protein, and a ton of vegetables, and not have to exhume the past again. But after watching those stories unfold, I realized something far more insidious than what we put on our forks and down our gullets is at work. Every craving, every bite, is merely a salve to some deep wound. Even if it is seemingly healed on the surface, a word or slight—real or imagined—punctures the wound and requires immediate treatment. Food is the quick-fix painkiller to the other broken organs in your body.
In spite of all the life changes I’ve made through the years, the various successes I’ve had, the seeming comfort I currently have in my life, I would be my ideal weight if I had truly resolved everything. I have been thin—and fought to get there—and then I gained weight. And gained. And gained. My “tipping point” is obviously different than the people profiled in the series, and my journey will be far less dramatic (and doesn’t involve a surgeon), but the core of my story parallels their story–there but for the grace of God. And I am sure someone who struggles with a mere 30 lbs. after a difficult divorce looks at me and thinks the very same thing.
I have it all: familial issues, habits and genes, low self-esteem, a long-ago divorce, years of battling with the ex, childhood molestation. The whole smorgasbord.
Today I wanted to take a break from “the plan.” I am tired. The palsy that I’ve been dealing with since last spring flared up and I want comfort. I wanted to make popcorn and snuggle under a blanket and watch a movie. I cleaned the kitchen instead. And then decided to write, because I want this journey to be honest (and you can’t eat when you’re typing).
And I am sad. The series has me reflecting on how I got here. In my twenties, I fought to gain control over my weight and became a svelte young woman. I kept the weight off for over five years. I had no clue who I was, how smart I was, nor confidence in the various talents with which I’ve been blessed. Since I didn’t swear, when a leering man made me uncomfortable, I was incapable of telling him where he should go and what he should do to himself once he got there. I didn’t fare much better in love. When my husband walked out, it was the last abandonment I could handle, so I have been alone for a very long time now, kept “safe” in a fortress of flesh.
An old boyfriend resurfaced a few years back and we had a “telephone”romance for about a year, but he liked the idea that I had gained weight. He discouraged any effort I was making to lose weight for our eventual reunion. One of the women profiled yesterday had a husband who did not want or support her weight loss as his predilection was toward extremely fat women. He didn’t care that she was nearly 600 lbs., seriously unhealthy and that their young daughter might grow up without a mother. Watching that dynamic on screen made me very happy that the old boyfriend and I never actually saw each other. Creepy.
Conversely, being abusive toward a woman you’re already in love with because she’s gained weight also makes a man a creep. If you’re a man, and you are reading this, and you love a woman who is suddenly gaining a lot of weight: there is something wrong in her life (past or present). It is NOT about the food. Love her. Help her. Get her counseling (or maybe the relationship is in trouble and you both need counseling). BE SUPPORTIVE. BE ATTENTIVE. There. My public service announcement for the day.
Another woman profiled in the series did not do well because she lied to herself, to the doctor, and basically bullied her poor husband into enabling her desire for comfort over progress. After losing about 100 lbs., she retreated to her old habits and foods. Her selfishness and self-sabotage impacted her entire family. There were so many people rooting for her and she just wanted to lie in bed a victim. She pissed me off. I don’t want my story to be her story, but it also made me realize that it’s important to write about the struggles along with the successes because this is not a straight course to the finish line.
The day is far from over, and I am not sure how it will end. I feel like an alcoholic taking it one day at a time. For this hour, it’s salad over popcorn, and one more small victory.