Weighty Matters

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People Mean Well

on June 18, 2012

A good friend shared something with me earlier that gave me flashbacks to early years of being a heavy child, adolescent, teenager, etc.  My poor parents.  In addition to the concern they felt over my weight, the mix of love and worry, I must have frustrated the hell out of them.  I’m sure they felt hopeless when nothing they said, did or tried worked.  I don’t blame them because, loving me like they did, they wanted to do anything that they could to get me to lose weight.  Nothing got through.  Not logic and reason mingled with fear — like when they explained how restricted my life would be if I developed diabetes.

Cajoling and bribery didn’t work either.   When I was a kid, I was obsessed with horses and riding horses.  So were my closest friends.   I wanted a horse of my own more than anything.   One day my father said that if I lost 50 pounds, he’d buy me a horse.  You would think that having my heart’s deepest desire promised to me would have been enough motivation.  It didn’t even trigger an attempt.  I remember being incredibly hurt and angry that the wonder of having a horse was contingent on such a strict condition.

Very often a well-meaning attempt to motivate or push me to do something set off a similar negative reaction.  I’m not clear in my own mind why I’d react poorly to people in my life who honestly meant well and resent their attempts to help.  Looking back and trying to work it out in my head and emotions, I think all these attempts made me feel useless and ineffective as a person.   I think in my response, I was really expressing my own frustration and feelings of helplessness.  I was probably thinking, “Don’t you think I would if I could?”  Along with that was a healthy wish for people to just get off my freaking back about my weight and leave me along.

I think one of the reasons I developed my skill for sneak eating was because I hated the thought that people constantly judged what was on my plate and how much I consumed.  One night I remember an aunt offering me a piece of pie for dessert.  I asked for a small slice and then went into the kitchen to get the coffee pot.  I heard her say, “I can’t believe Mary’s going to eat that.”  In my head I answered, “Then why the f**k did you ask me if I wanted some?”  No, I never said that out loud, but I sure screamed it in my head.  I’m sure she meant well.

To great extent, I got exhausted and fed up with everyone else focusing so much relentless attention on what I was eating or what I wasn’t, etc.   I was really concerned that this would happen post weight loss surgery.  I have to say that I am pleased and grateful that most of the people I work with and my friends consistently respect my boundaries.  They know that I don’t like to announce my weight loss progress on a regular basis, so they wait for Fridays when I reveal my current weight.  I so appreciate their willingness to support me in the ways that I say I need.  This helps in so many ways.

Now that I’ve had weight loss surgery and am experiencing such terrific success and progress and greatly improving my health, I have to give kudos to all of the people in my life who have NOT said, “Too bad you didn’t do it years ago.”  There might be many who are thinking that, but to date, only one family member has said it to me.  She’s done it on the last two phone calls we’ve had.  I have a feeling she might say it in every future phone call.   I give a mental shrug and reply that everything happens in its own time.  It would not be useful or effective to try to explain to her that telling me that achieves nothing constructive.

Oooh, I just got distracted by a story on Nightline.   A new study says that one in 10 bariatric patients develop alcoholism within two years.   Fact is that we have less tolerance for alcohol.  We get drunk on less alcohol but sober up really quickly.

They’re talking about cross-addiction or addiction transference.  I hope this isn’t a surprise to anyone.  I wonder if some of the people did not realize that they were food addicts before they had weight loss surgery.  I am really vigilant about this and do not overdo alcohol usage.  I have wine very rarely and don’t overindulge.  I had a couple of drinks the weekend of my nephew’s graduation.  Most of the time when I go out to eat with friends I order water.  Even though some of what was just mentioned in this news story seems elementary and obvious to me, I’m glad they did the story.  More people need to hear that the weight loss surgery takes care of the physical situation by making it impossible to overeat, but it’s only a tool.  The really important work takes place in the head and emotions.  That aftercare is as appointment as the follow-up appointments with the surgeon who checks your body.

Okay, back to my topic.  As I wrote this and thought back to the early years, I wish that instead of supporting me through a long list of different diets, I wish my parents had consulted a therapist when I was a kid.   I don’t think anyone understood food addiction and eating disorders back then the way that they do now.  How could they figure out the most effective way to help me if I couldn’t figure out what I needed?  I didn’t know what to ask for.  I do now.  I know what I need and I can more easily express those needs.  This makes a huge difference.

I’m not going to blame myself or anyone else for my lack of success earlier over the years.  In retrospect, we all did the best that we could at the time.  Even if it didn’t work, we all meant well.

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5 responses to “People Mean Well

  1. Mary says:

    I hope you don’t mind that I’m going through and commenting on old posts as I catch up on them. I have to agree with Karen that your process here has been valuable to me, too. You give me a lot to think about. I think it’s difficult to know how to be encouraging in the right way.

    I worry about being too encouraging sometimes. I suspect the praise can get overwhelming when a person is feeling fragile.

  2. Mary Stella says:

    Good to “see” you. Hope everything’s okay, Karen. Sending hugs!

    • Mostly okay. Dealing with end-of-school stuff with the kids, now over. And I threw my back out AGAIN which makes me all kinds of grumpy and irritated. Especially when I did it doing something I love – kayaking. Actually it was the getting the kayak on and off the car, I think. Anyway, I’m going to physical therapy and it should improve. It just makes me cranky. I’ve gotten used to regular exercise and not being able to do that and keep on the weight loss trend I’ve been on is hard. I have been turning to food, forgiving myself for turning to food, understanding that I’m turning to food and trying to find alternatives – you know the drill!

      But your posts have inspired a lot of thought. It’s the kind of thought that lends itself to a discussion rather than a comment, so commenting has been not happening. I just wanted you to know how valuable I am finding your processing.

      Thanks for the hugs!

      • Mary Stella says:

        Ouch on throwing out your back! It’s lousy to have an injury sideline you when you’ve been working so hard.

        I’m glad that you’re finding value in my sharing. I hope it helps!

  3. I just wanted to say that although I haven’t commented the last few days, your posts have given me much to think about. The depth of your insights and the strength of your commitment to your new self are impressive and very though-provoking. Thank you.

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