I know, I have neglected thee again. Life gets busy and unfortunately I cannot be a full time blogger, but I do love sharing insight whenever I can, so instead of going to bed tonight, I will burn some midnight oil (or 10:00 oil) to reflect on a few things, throw out a couple of updates and hopefully provide a few sparks of motivation for someone!
So, I have been thinking about this topic to write about for awhile. At first glance, it seems harsh, and I think where I am going to go with it can get into sensitive territory, but as a former fat man I feel like the reflection is genuine and thus worth exploring.
The first point of “you’re fat” is one of self-reflection. The phrase is one we adopt and reflect at ourselves in the mirror on a daily basis. By no means would I consider myself “fat” by comparison or definition of the way that I used to be, but we all have those “fat” days. I started paleo again (Day 8 or 9 right now) because the last time I did it, I feel as if I burnt a lot of fat and created some good definition, which I am already starting to see again. As a society, we certainly get caught up in the messages we are sent that our bodies are not good enough, and that is not just for women. Men get these images and thoughts as well, just in a different form. Social expectations make up a large part of how we act and what we do. I know for me, the self-confidence factor is a huge piece of meeting that social expectation. Even if that means going up to someone cute and having a conversation with them; something the old me would never do, but something I recently did nonetheless. Our confidence is constructed out of the fabric of outside voices controlling our inside voices that we are not good enough (i.e. “you’re fat”).
Everything stated above makes sense if you are a somewhat socially apt person with a general sense of sociological issues of conditioning, stereotyping, and social construction. This happens with race, gender, sexuality, religion, etc. etc. etc. It makes sense that if we only see skinny girls or ripped guys in magazines that our definition of “normal” or desirable is shaped. SOC101 type stuff.
But, I want to go a step further into the territory where the truth behind the “socially and politically correct” version of those issues tackles the problems in which they face. Now, by no means do I mean that labeling and social construction happens as a proactive way to get people healthy or analytical about certain things. Many of the images constructed are made to profit and capitalize off of people’s insecurities.
The flip-side of the coin is that You Are Fat. And in this case, I am saying this to me because I would never call another person fat in that way. Before I really turned my life around, I was fat, plain and simple. Although “being fat” is kind of a misnomer (you have fat, but when fat becomes the majority of your body mass, I suppose that is when people find it appropriate to call another person fat). I was fat, and I wish someone had told me I was fat (not in those words, but in some other way). I remember my dad telling me after I had lost a lot of my weight that he had been worried about me the summer before, but he did not want to say anything. That is the kind of thing that love should afford us; the ability to approach each other with concern. I don’t know if I would have taken it well, or if it would have even sunk in, but it would have been out there regardless. Obesity IS a problem in the world, and very much so in America and it is ironic that the same people that capitalize on making us feel inadequate that we aren’t fitting into that skimpy swimsuit is the same people feeding us the 400 calorie cheeseburger with 40 grams of fat.
Marketing aside, being overweight is a real problem, one that many people I know face (and don’t face) every day. For me, I struggle letting people live their own life and being happy the way they are, and trying to give people the gift of a new sense of life that I had. I can’t do it though, that is something that must come within, and I am not here to recruit to effort it is both fruitless and damaging to relationships. What I do want to say is that walking on eggshells is part of the problem we are facing. Surely, I am not suggesting going around telling people they are fat, I am sure they are quite aware of how they look in the mirror, but we need to support others who are having a hard time with weight issues. It is a sensitive topic, one that does require finesse, but would my father be guilty if I had just kept gaining and had a heart attack at 30 years old?
The reason I say this is due to the mental issues surrounding obesity. In a few months I will hit my 3 year mark, which is a big step (it’s the timeframe of when most people regress by). I am mentally stronger than I have ever been in my entire life. Although there are a lot of challenges for me right now, they are positive challenges that will lead me to good things. These are challenges I would have never taken if I still had the weight; I know this. The longer I am in a healthy lifestyle the more unaccustomed to my previous lifestyle I become. It is quite a phenomenon to become someone that you don’t always quite recognize, but it is also empowering.
The issue is complex, but the fact remains that people are struggling with these issues of food addiction, poor self image, improper nutritional education, access to healthy foods, and a variety of other issues that affect not only our healthcare system, but the way we live our daily lives.
We hear, “you’re fat” all the time. Whether it is from the magazine, someone who is supposed to be a support in your life, or from yourself. The fact that it is said is not harmful, it is the way in which it is said. If someone sat me down 3 years ago and said, “I am really worried you are going to get diabetes”. I may have thought “Well, that’s crazy”, but the next time I binged on cake and ice cream, I may have looked at things a little differently. If someone said “god, more cake and ice cream?” I would have been like, “Fuck you”. The reason why so many people stay fat is because of the “Fuck you” response. We close ourselves off to the positive side of a healthy lifestyle because the method of delivery is hurtful. It is also hurtful to recognize that you are treating yourself in a way that is abusive in some ways. We don’t few poor nutrition as abuse, and I can already see someone getting pissed that I said that, but I can reflect and see fully well that when I was drinking 8 – 10 cans of soda a day, I was damaging my body, overfilling it with sugar, calories, and chemicals that would slowly complicate and compromise my level of health. We aren’t taught to take care of our bodies. I remember in high school, my french teacher once told us, “Your body is like a car, and you need to take care of it. It needs oil, it needs gas, it needs tuneups, and it is up to you to make sure you have these things. Sometimes you will need a doctor (mechanic) to help you, but if you are putting tar into your car, it isn’t going to run”. Even then, I didn’t get the full picture, but, oh, how right Mrs. Franck was all those years ago.
We need to stop focusing on the message “You’re fat” and get to the point, “You’re unhealthy”, looking at fat as a problem of vanity is one of the top reasons people try to lose weight. Few people (this is not empirical, just an assumption) go out with the primary goal of losing weight in order to run a 5k or to be able to breathe better. Yes, they may get to those goals if they meet with a personal trainer or start a fitness program, but in the pre-contemplative stages of fitness, people often say their goals are “to lose weight” or “to be healthy”, hinging on nothing tangible to propel them forward. “To not be fat” is a goal I would say that many people set out with, and many people fail because they are looking at the same crystal from a different perspective of light . I did the same thing. I went to the gym thinking, “I need to lose a few lbs”. I didn’t realize I would lose 110 lbs, and I didn’t realize the real benefits of fitness and health. Sure, I feel so much better because I am happy with my body (despite the fact that I still have loose skin and some fat that hangs), but I can also walk up a flight of stairs and not get short winded. I think about that EVERY time I go up stairs (which I make a point to), that I can get through 3 flights without hyperventilating like I used to. If I hadn’t lost the weight, I wouldn’t be at a place where I am trying new things, taking risks, putting myself out there, and living life. Just tonight, I said “I didn’t like kale when I tried it, but i’m willing to try it again”. My motto used to be “ONCE ONLY”, and for something like kale, “NEVER”. We close ourselves off to the opportunities of life if we stay in the constant circle of “you’re fat”. “You’re fat” is a metaphor for “You can’t do it”, “You’re no good”, “You will fail”. The compound messages are set up to limit out interactions with the world around us. I, for one, am not prepared to give up the rest of my life to life in the myst of being fat where 8 cans of Cherry Dr. Pepper passes as “a good day”.
We’re complicated and complex beings with a different perspective and different experiences that lead us to our next path. So, if you are thinking that you are fat, you may be right (and often times we aren’t right, we are just buying into the 115 lb perfect lady or 8 pack muscle dude), and you can change the way you live. We are so used to hearing the “Oh, you look beautiful however you are”, and sure, we all have beauty within us, we all have positives and challenges in our lives, but when someone is receiving the dual messages that they are not good enough from the world and the messages that they are perfect the way they are from loved ones, it creates a tension within that does not allow for growth or change. People shouldn’t have to fit the molds of the people on TV, but at the same time, people deserve to live long, happy lives; disease free. If you are fat, you don’t have to be fat. Being fat was a choice I made for many many years of my life. Yes, the choices were created by poor living conditions, bad education, lackluster role models and support, and no desire to change. I would say many people facing issues of obesity face similar challenges. The barriers are real, and they are real tough, but I promise you, with every ounce of myself, you can do it. It sounds harsh to say that being fat is a choice, especially since it happens so gradually and without notice often times, but everything we do to our bodies is a has a degree of choice in it. The exception I will note is for children and teenagers who are under a great deal of influence of their support systems, which is obviously a large portion of the population and grow up to recreate the cycle, but cycles that are unhealthy can and should be broken and it is up to us to help each other out on this journey.
Let me know what you think: Total shit opinion or makes sense?