The weighty issue of weight has been on my mind a lot of late. I’ve been making efforts to lose weight through diet and exercise so it is an area of strong focus. Recently my eyes have been drawn to articles about the delicate relationship between doctors and their overweight/obese patients. I read an article in the Huffington Post where a doctor lashed out at fellow doctors because a patient of his avoided medical care due to how she’d been “made to feel” when doctors addressed her weight. I’ve read other articles about how doctors don’t bring up weight even though their patients are facing increased health risks.
I understand both sides.
I understand the pain, the humiliation of being overweight. The self-hatred that it infects you with which leads to depression, which in many cases leads to consumption of more food. Food can be a drug we use to fill a void, medicate away a feeling, make us feel in control, make us feel good for a few moments. I understand the horror when an overweight patient has to step on the scale or strip down before her doctor. I understand the rejection of society that manifests in whispered (or boldly stated) comments. I understand the loneliness. I understand how hard it is to get started losing weight and keep going when the weight doesn’t seem to want to come off. I get it.
But one also has to look at the flip side of the coin, the area of personal responsibility. Let me preface this by saying I’m not addressing medical conditions that can cause rapid changes in weight such as thyroid or hormone imbalances. I’m talking about what causes weight gain in the majority of us – making the choice to eat in unhealthy ways and choosing to sit on the couch instead of getting some exercise. We make the choice to eat a donut or have a piece of fruit or to have a salad or a pizza. We choose to get on that elliptical machine or to watch that movie on TV. No one else is making the choice for us. We can blame it on busy schedules, family pressures, etc. But the excuses don’t hold up in the end. We can choose a healthy path or an unhealthy path.
When the price we pay for sedentary lives accompanied by bad eating habits is medical issues and blows to our self-esteem and happiness – why do so many make the decision to live that way?
Our bodies reflect our level of self-love, self-care, and inner health. If we don’t have a goodly amount of self-love and inner peace, we are less likely to make healthy decisions. It takes effort to plan meals, read nutrition labels, and calculate calories. It takes discipline to make yourself exercise when your life is already busy.
For me there is not one thing that has helped me keep going in this weight loss battle. It is many things. It comes down to finding that thing inside everyday that makes me get on that elliptical machine or throw in that exercise video.
Time helps too. Because, let’s face it, the initial stages of exercising are not the most pleasurable experience. We have to push ourselves into a space that is uncomfortable in order to get stronger. But there is a pay off. Eventually you reach a stage in exercising where you are rewarded by feeling the endorphins, the sense of accomplishment, the de-stressing. It used to be after a hard day at work I would give into the feeling of being tired, crash on the couch, and order a pizza. Now I know that if I make myself work up a sweat my attitude will be improved and I’ll feel more energized. So I push through the resistance and do it. It takes having the vision to know that the effort put into the food choices and exercising will make you feel better in the long run. As your body gets stronger, your spirit gets more empowered as well. You begin to believe in yourself more. You feel more pride. You find you can change how your see yourself. That is powerful stuff. But you have to be willing to push through a lot of inner resistance, sore muscles, food temptations, distractions, etc. to get there.
Another thing I’ve noticed within myself is an uncomfortable reaction when I am judged positively on my looks. I think women have a love/hate relationship with their bodies and their beauty. From the time we are little girls we get attention when we are pretty. Just look at a little girl in a pretty new dress and how often she is told she is pretty. We learn quickly we get attention when we are beautiful. We learn early that we are evaluated by our looks. We learn to dress, put on make up, style our hair to be attractive. Well, this can lead to a rebellion. I’ve know women who were abused and through a subconscious effort to protect themselves stopped taking care of themselves and gained weight to draw less attention. For myself, I’ve always bristled at the sexual/visually-based nature of men’s attention. I wanted to be liked for my heart, my mind, my soul. My intelligence and heart are my strength, not my curves. Plus I knew I wasn’t the classic bombshell and even if a guy seemed to like me, it was always in the back of my mind he’d drop me for the next step up in beauty when she came along. So for a long while I made myself isolated. I chose to be alone. I did in my looks. It’s weird now that I’ve dropped some weight to see the twinkle in some men’s eyes, to be getting attention again. These are the same people I was invisible to 20-30 pounds ago. I’m trying to see that the attention isn’t just from the new look I have, but also the more positive, open attitude I have. But I admit it is a challenge for me. It is a hard pattern of perception to break.
The bottom line if you are struggling with weight is that there is hope. But it is a long process. There is not a quick fix. The truth is what it has always been – eating healthily and exercising. It comes down to honestly looking inside and acknowledging how you are feeling about yourself, what motivates your choices, and making a choice to love yourself and return to health. Yoga is a wonderful way to begin exercising if you are overweight and beginning a routine. Not only is it appropriate for all levels of fitness, it helps you develop inner peace which is key to staying in the present and making positive choices. I also recommend meditating regularly because it brings you back to a centered mindset, aids in emotional well being, and helps you feel more connected to the world around you. If you can, have a team of people around you encouraging you. We all have days where motivation is difficult and it helps to have cheerleaders in our corner. Find various exercise routines you enjoy so the experience is fun and full of variety. Be gentle on yourself along the way.
And always know you’re not alone. Like I said, I’m in the battle with you. I’ve gone from 154 at my absolute heaviest (not a long period of time) to this morning’s weight of 114 pounds. It’s taken a long time to get here and I’ve got a long way to go. Do what it takes to embrace yourself as you are now as you hold on to the vision you want for your life. Enjoy the process, the journey.