When I started this blog, I hadn't intended it to be the journal-only format that it has become. I was thinking about what being fat is like, and all I could think about was how much it hurts to be fat. Physically and mentally. And it isn't about how others perceive you, but the voice in your own head. It isn't for anyone to judge who needs to lose weight and who doesn't. We all have that voice inside that lets us know how proud or disappointed we are with ourselves. The physical hurt is one thing. It is a world of 'nots'. Not being able to ride rides with your kids, or play ball with them, not being able to sit in a desk at school without being squished and cheated of breath. Not being able to tie your shoes without feeling like you are going to pass out, or walk for what should be an acceptable distance without feeling like you are going to die. Not being able to sleep well. Not being able to sneak past the chairs in a restaurant like your normal-sized friends can. Not being able to hide, even in black clothing. Not being able to buckle your seatbelt. Not being able to sit in any one position for extended lengths of time. Not being able to...I'm sure my readers can fill in their own 'nots'.
We all know the health risks of being overweight, but the mental pain is equally damaging (and negatively-motivating) than the physical for most people I know who deal with weight issues. You assume everyone is staring at/laughing at/judging you, maybe even using you as an example of what not to do with yourself. You constantly abuse yourself verbally, telling yourself you are weak and stupid and ugly and not worthy of any kind of success. You start to believe every negative thing that anyone says about fat people in general, and internalize it as if it had been said directly about you. You battle yourself, searching for the "rock bottom" that will just be horrible enough to magically motivate you to try to change. You block all positive thoughts, peppering them with your own internal negativity, until the only thing that you can believe in, and be certain to bring you comfort is the very foods that have put you in the place you are now. It is a vicious cycle. We eat crap because we feel like crap, and vice versa.
Most overweight people I know (and even a bunch of 'normal-sized' women I've encountered) are so unhappy with their body image. Yes, our society/media have a lot to do with it, but buying into the idea that you are not a worthy human being unless you look like Angelina Jolie (or Brad Pitt, for that matter) is all about what YOU determine your own self-worth to be. All my adult life I have been obese, and I continued to blame everyone else for it, from the FDA and their outdated pyramids that our mothers did and outstanding job of sticking to, to my parents, to my friends and enemies and everyone else in between. In the end, once I began my journey toward health, I began a journey of self-acceptance and in the process I had to "own" the fact that I am obese because of the choices I made. And while I knew I could never start a weight loss journey before I felt ready to committ to it, the positive things happened because of my taking those steps toward health, not before it. Motivation comes from being proud of yourself; taking a step in the right direction, and realizing that if you challenge yourself to take a different path than the one you have always chosen, that you will grow as a person, and begin to heal. And the positives begin to build upon themselves. After a tough workout, where you really gave it all you had, not only do you feel like you can conquer the world, but your body will repay you by repairing itself. And in a short time, those workouts will become easier for you. Imagine how that boosts your spirits, to know that something that was difficult for you before is now quite accomplishable. That is where the motivation comes from. Triumph over self-defeat; not letting yourself off the hook.
The journey toward health should never be looked at as a negative thing, if you focus on the things you can't have, you will never succeed. What I choose to focus on is the fact that I can have whatever I want to have, whenever I want. No one is monitoring my success and there is no deadline, I am accountable to no one but me. But, if I chose to go down that path, I will have to pay the consequences, even if no one else knows. Because that ugly little voice inside my head is just waiting to point its finger of disgust at me.
I have been fortunate to have been "prescribed" the South Beach Diet by my doctor. I have never found an easier way of living healthy. No one believes me until they try it and get past the first few days, then after a week they exclaim, "I can't believe I don't want crap anymore, and I lost X pounds!" My doctor has been very pleased with my bloodwork, and more impressive than that is that I am pleased with the whole package. I am not intending for this to be an ad for South Beach, I am just happy to have found a lifestyle that I can stick to easily because it deals with the chemical reactions in my body, instead of assuming that willpower and discipline will be enough. Everyone who has been successful in weight loss has had the fortune of finding the program that works for them, and then challenged their mind to continually be an active participant in the journey. All my 'nots' are melting away, and I am feeling physically better than I have in years. And that nasty little self-defeating voice inside me has been gagged and confined to the far corners of my mind. I have decided to take control back, as a well-deserved gift to myself. And so can you, if you believe.