Thursday, September 17, 2009

Over The Hill

This past February, I turned thirty eight years old (in the Happiest Place on Earth© and with Tom Cruise by my side. No kidding, I swear!). People tell me that being in my late thirties hardly qualifies me as elderly, but I confess that I don’t really believe them. To me, the litmus test for “old” is simple: You are old as soon as you no longer understand the young people—and I don’t. I don’t particularly care for much their music, I don’t get their clothing choices (how do they even keep their pants up when the ‘waist’ falls below their butt cheeks? Is this the reason for the triangle stance they’re always lounging in?), I can’t STAND texting lingo, and I think most of them could use a haircut for God’s sake. If that doesn’t qualify me as old, nothing does.

But even if 38 doesn’t qualify me for the senior citizen coffee discount at the local Burger King (which my 63 year old parents take unholy advantage of, I might add. My mother has actually gotten up early and driven to BK to pick up coffee for herself and my Dad all the while ignoring the perfectly good coffee maker in her own kitchen. I suspect it’s because the local grocer doesn’t give her 25% off of her bag of coffee beans just because she happened to be born in 1946.), there are still some venues in which I’m definitely not a kid anymore. One of them is right here in the blogosphere.

I started my website ( in late 2006, and that means that as weight loss bloggers (or “floggers” as we’re sometimes known) go, I’m practically a geriatric. Do a web search for weight loss related blogs, and you’ll turn up approximately a kajillion sites. Start clicking on them, however, and you’ll soon realize that the vast majority of them fall into two categories:

1. Relatively new blogs by people who are in the first several weeks or months (or days, even) of their current weight loss effort, and

2. Pages long abandoned with their last entries a static reminder of better times.

Given that weight loss is generally impermanent in nature, it makes sense that the websites it inspires are equally so. If statistics say that only about 3% of us will ever achieve the holy grail of weight watchers everywhere by taking (and keeping) the weight off, then it’s probably safe to assume that some 97% of weight loss bloggers will disappear along with the success they had at the scale. I understand this, but it still makes me sad.

One of the most insidious side effects of obesity is often the loneliness that comes along with it. The internet broadened the definition of community to a global scale and helped to bring people with common interests together in a way that has never been possible at any other time in history. It’s been an especially welcome tool for the weight loss community, I think. Since the fat is off limits for discussion in nearly every venue of polite society, it can be really hard to feel like you’re not the only person on earth who is dying beneath the weight of that silence.

For me, the internet finally gave me a place that I could look out over the crowd and see my own face staring back at me. I have taken so much solace, inspiration, and solidarity from reading the blogs of other people battling obesity. I revel in their successes, I am angry for the injustices they face, and I am heartened by the fact that they’re out there writing down all the things that we’ve never really had a place to say out loud before. And when they fade away, it makes me sad.

Most blogs are started in the early stages of the journey, in those first heady days of success when it feels like we’ve finally got this whole weight loss thing figured out and we’re anxious to share our secrets of success with the world—to tell them that if WE can do it, so can they! In our weight loss childhood we’re full of the hubris of youth, the certainty that our goals are in sight. It’s a force to be reckoned with, one that is powerful simply by virtue of the fact that it hasn’t been tested by reality yet. But when the fall comes (and make no mistake it WILL come), it often catapults us right into the next phase—a little something I call the weight loss “adolescence”. Our bodies are changing, often faster than our minds can catch up to them, and of a sudden what was once so easy feels a little awkward. What we once knew for certain, suddenly doesn’t seem so simple anymore. It’s a rough period. One that, frankly, most of us never make it out of. And it’s been the death knell for many a weight loss blog. When we stumble, when the high we’ve been riding (and writing) out starts to wane, many of us just stop talking. Our blogs become ghost towns, our past successes frozen in time and our silence speaking volumes about the present.

I understand how it happens, how we’d rather say nothing than admit that all those things we were so very sure about turned out not to be as fool proof as we thought. I’ve taken a hiatus or two myself over the last three years because it’s hard to admit when we struggle, especially when we’ve been so sure that we never would again…and said as much, to the whole world. It’s sometimes easier to fade away than to admit that we just weren’t as infallible as we thought we were. I wish it didn’t have to be that way, though. I wish there was less shame tied up in stumbling and that our setbacks and spectacular wipeouts could feel less like failure and more like progress. I wish we could learn the lessons of adolescence and finally grow up and realize that there is truly no end to this journey, no final battle to be won.

A friend of mine sent me a link to a well written, if somewhat pointed, post on a newer weight loss blog filled with broad stroke assertions and the hubris of youth with a note that said “I’ll check back in a year and see how they feel then”. It made me smile. I regularly read some young blogs and all the hope and joy and certainty…and I don’t resent it. I do envy it sometimes, though. I try to soak it in. I use it to remind myself what power there is in new success, and how easily it can slip away.

When I started blogging, I promised myself that I wouldn’t do what so many of my heroes had done before me. I wouldn’t fade away when things got rough, and I’d do my best to try and accept that if I’ll be battling my obesity the rest of my life then it’s a pretty safe bet that the fight isn’t always going to be an easy one. So here I am, bruises and all, still fighting. Over the hill? Maybe. But I can see another one in the distance, and another after that—and I want to make my way up and over all of them.

(Read today's other Theme Thursday posts here)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Theme Thursday: Trying Out a Different Drummer

I am not a morning person.

I do not say this in the annoying, kitschy, self-deprecating cartoon-strip thought bubble way with a dramatic roll of my eyes and a wacky expression (Yeah, I’m looking at YOU, Cathy--“Ack!” indeed.), but with the quiet certainty of fact. In my 38 years on earth I can say without exaggeration that there has never been a single morning (Nope, not even Christmas morning or the first day of summer vacation) where my eyes popped open with the sun and I immediately bounded out of bed with a smile on my face and a can-do attitude ready to greet another bee-you-tee-full day!

My day invariably begins with the jolt of the alarm clock and the subsequent shushing of that clock via the flop-armed slap of the snooze button (though a lifetime of this habit has given me an extraordinarily firm grasp on all mathematical operations involving 9 minute increments) followed closely by a groan and/or a sigh and the eventual settling in of a grumpy resignation that laying in bed for just one (or nine) more minutes isn’t an option and I haul myself out of bed to begin just-another-damn-day.

But although I know this about myself, it doesn’t stop me from occasionally believing that I can work against a lifetime of droopy eyelids and train myself to greet the pre-dawn hours with not only vigor and glee, but a healthy dose of cardiovascular activity as well.

While I am an evening exerciser by nature, every so often I’ll read the accounts of those who wake up at the ass-crack of dawn and lace up their running shoes and meet the sun and all about the benefits in energy level, metabolism, weight loss (and sex appeal, and intellect, and income level, and magical powers…) and I’ll decide that I’ve been doing this all wrong. I vow to change my ways, to fight my nature and set the alarm for an hour far earlier than any self respecting night owl should ever see upon waking, and to get out there and reclaim mornings as MY time. I vow to start a new routine of early to bed and early to rise…and I sometimes (read: hardly ever) even make it past the first day!

I’m on week two of my current morning exercise experiment (which is amazing, since I rarely make it to DAY two) and I have to say that I’m finally realizing that all those promises about my body getting used to the change in it’s regular rhythm and beginning to appreciate the many benefits of A.M. activity is pretty much a load of crap. Ok, maybe it hasn’t been a TOTAL loss, but it hasn’t been exactly enriched my life much either. The time I’ve ‘saved’ for other activities in the evening is mitigated by the fact that I’m too tired to do any of them because if I’d like to sleep for more than three hours in a row I actually have to go to bed earlier. All the extra energy I was promised doesn’t seem to be materializing either. So tell me, morning people--Where’s my payoff? Huh? HUH?

One of the best things about this weight loss game is that there is an abundance of information out there from various experts and fellow fat-fighters about all the ways in which we can make ourselves more successful in our quest for better health. Unfortunately, one of the worst things about this weight loss game is that the aforementioned abundance of info can sometimes be a minefield of contradiction and complication. It seems like everyone’s got an opinion about, well, everything. When we should eat, what we should eat, what we shouldn’t eat, what exercise works, IF exercise works, what supplements to take, why we should avoid supplements, surgery that might help, why that same surgery is a tool of Satan, drink green tea, don’t eat fruit, pray to the skinny gods, stand on your head, swallow this pill, balance on this ball, wear this magnet, cleanse your colon, blah, blah, BLAH. It can be a bit mind-boggling at times. If I tried to incorporate all the diet advice I’m bombarded with on a daily basis you’d eventually find me curled up in a ball in the hall closet tangled up in rubber resistance bands babbling incoherently about high fructose corn syrup through acai berry stained lips and crying because I ate a handful of cheerios after 7PM.

Ask 100 successful losers for their very best weight loss advice, and you’re likely to get just as many different answers. How do you know which one is the right one? Hint: They ALL are. This weight loss stuff is intensely personal, it’s complicated and multi-faceted and what one person adopts as gospel just might be blasphemy to the person fighting the fat along side them. Since all that shtick they’ve been handing us for years about they key to permanent weight loss being permanent lifestyle change has turned out to be totally true, it makes sense that we might not all march to the same drummer. The longer I do this, the more I believe that the key to finding what works is to keep trying things until you find what works for YOU, that magical combination of elements that helps you find your own routine, helps you settle into the rhythm that feels right to you.

Me? I’m still working on finding my groove, and for now that means that my iPod is charged, my shoes are laced, and the dog is leashed up by 5:30 AM so that I can leave the house and put one foot in front of the other, up hills, down slopes, and over the land until my feet settle into a beat that makes me forget that how damn early it is. I stand on the front porch and look out into the dark and get ready for the day.

Rhythm? Check. Music? Check. Could I ask for anything more?

How about 9 more minutes of sleep…

(This was my take on the Theme Thursday topic of "Rhythm".  You can read the other posts here)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Simple Pleasures...

We had a terribly boring dinner last night. Seriously, while edible, it was also bland--the kind of meal that you can barely even remember well enough the next day to describe it in any detail, appetizing or otherwise. In retrospect, the only adjective that perfectly describes it is B-O-R-I-N-G. And maybe the (non)word “Meh”. And the very fact that it was so unremarkable is what makes it noteworthy enough to tell you all about it.

Every so often I am seized by the realization that, as a citizen of a country that is a study in excess, I need to take steps to simplify my own little corner of this gimme-gimme world. Generally this manifests itself in two distinct ways:

1. I go stomping through the house armed with a hefty bag and an attitude and pick up the assorted flotsam that’s found it’s way into my cupboards, closets and various flat surfaces. If it can be pitched, I pitch it. If it can be donated, I bag it up. If I need it, it’s granted a reprieve and put away for future use. At the end of this exercise I torture myself by dwelling on just how much good will (read: hot fudge sundaes) I could have bought with the cash we spent on yesterdays essentials that somehow became today’s trash. Then I get over myself, enjoy all the pretty order, and get back to the business of accumulation.

2. I get out a pad and pen and take a detailed inventory of everything in my cupboards, pantry, fridge & freezer (and my super secret stash of goodies in the Rubbermaid tub out in the garage. Shhhh. Tell NO ONE.) and vow that until we’ve gone through all the food we already have in the house, we’re not buying any more.

This is not particularly a hardship, mind you. At least not at first. I have a somewhat liberal view of what constitutes a ‘staple’ food, and so am rarely without the fixins for an impromptu feast on hand at any given moment. Drop by my house unexpectedly for dinner and it’s a good bet that I can probably whip you up something tasty enough that you’ll be glad you stopped by. I thank my Sam’s Club membership and all that time I spent in culinary school for my propensity never to be without all the basics of a damn fine meal. But those same things, combined with a food issue or two that I happen to possess, also means that I often find myself with more than enough on hand to feed us for weeks at a time, and I’m seized by the need to use it all up before accumulating more.

So after purging my kitchen of what has passed it’s prime (like, say, a cake mix that expired in January 2007 or a long ignored box of hamburger helper that I remember having before we moved into the new house in December 2006) and armed with a detailed list of what’s on hand, I set about using it up in creative and delicious ways. The first week or two is pretty much status quo as the old favorites make their way through the rotation. As fresh produce supplies are dwindling (thank you Debbie Meyer’s Green Bags! Can’t live without ‘em) the menu gets a bit subdued as bags of frozen veggies are hauled out to round out unremarkable meals. It’s also about this time when you start serving up all those things that someone pleaded with you to buy only to realize that maybe the fact that they are sold by the gross should have been a hint as to the adjective that best described them (I’m refering to YOU son, and the horrible mini-taco appetizer fiasco. Yes, I know they taste like unwashed feet, but they were 12.99 so I’d develop a taste for toes if I were you).

When the cupboards and appliances start to get noticeably bare, the fare becomes hit and miss as tends to happen with forced creativity (Hmm. What can I make with pork chops, frozen ravioli and sugar free tapioca pudding mix?) until I’m eventually facing down an ancient can of sugar free cherry pie filling and an unopened box of frozen spicy black bean veggie burgers and dreading the possibilities. That’s when it’s time to make list and head out to start accumulating all the things we’ll finally be eating when the whole cycle repeats itself in a few months. Ahh. The Circle of Life.

We’re well into phase two at the moment, and after the last onion had been chopped two days ago and there was nary a can of condensed soup in sight, last night’s dinner of steamed rice, frozen green beans and grilled marinated chicken breasts made it’s way to the table. It was a fine dinner. A serviceable dinner. A sensible dinner. A simple dinner. A dinner that most people would happily consume without a second thought. It just wasn’t a typical dinner. Not for me, anyway.

There are people in this world who view food simply as fuel. A necessary part of their day to be consumed and converted to the energy they need to live their lives. I’m not one of those people. Food isn’t incidental in my life, it’s not a pleasant diversion—it’s an event, a sensory experience, an fascination and a thousand other things it probably shouldn’t be…but it is. I’m convinced that while I will likely never be cured of my obsession with food, part of learning to manage my obesity is in learning to make food less important in my life.

As I prepared last night’s dinner, I found myself ruminating on the ways it could have been better. A handful of fresh chopped parsley, chicken broth, some caramelized onion and a teaspoon of chopped almonds would have turned that steamed rice into a damn fine pilaf. A sprinkle of parmesan would have livened up those beans, and a peanut-sesame marinade whipped up on the fly would have made that plain old chicken breast delectable. But, alas, my rapidly improving Old Mother Hubbard impression wouldn’t allow for those kinds of tweaks. And so I sat down with a sigh to my boring meal…and you know what?

It wasn’t half bad.

I enjoyed the food, the company, and finished the meal with a satisfied tummy—and palate, surprisingly enough. I wasn’t tempted to lick my plate, I didn’t find myself coveting what needed to be boxed up for lunch tomorrow. It wasn’t an event, it wasn’t a sensation, it was just a meal. Sometimes food is just food.

Who knew?

Friday, September 4, 2009


In a world where the corporate dress code is increasingly a charming relic of the past, my office seems to be one of the last holdouts. In the last few years we’ve seen a few relaxations of the strict business professional atmosphere, most notably the recent abolition of the mandatory hosiery rule and the inclusion of open toed shoes on the list of acceptable footwear choices. So when we get a chance to get our denim on (at the cost of a $5 donation to rotating charitable cause), there’s nary a suit or skirt in sight. Today we get to participate in what many workplaces celebrate on a weekly basis: Casual Friday!

As a fat girl from way back, I have to admit that the love affair this country has with jeans was somewhat lost on me. While I could find jeans in my size, I also found the very nature of denim heavy and constricting (not to mention the fact that the inner thigh friction swish of denim is WAY louder than that of softer fabrics) and not particularly comfortable most of the time so I rarely chose them over more forgiving garments that didn’t hug every curve (read: lump). As I lost weight, though, I started to appreciate the magic of a good pair of jeans. For the first time in my life I wasn’t relegated to whichever pair I could fit over my ass and still manage to button—I had choices. I could try on different cuts, different leg styles, find the right rise for my newly discovered waist and hips. It was a whole new world.

Unfortunately the jeans I’d finally learned to fall in love with simply don’t fit me anymore (I believe that it’s somehow related to the 40+ pounds I’ve gained, but I can’t be sure) and I gave in a few months ago and bought some new jeans. Jeans that were not one, not two, but THREE sizes larger. I reconciled myself to them by asserting that they were only a temporary fix and I’d be back into my beloved smaller jeans…eventually. It turns out that I’m moving in the right direction, and my current fat jeans are starting not to fit--getting loose enough to be annoying, but still not loose enough to be unwearable.

So when I put them on this morning I found that even a trip through the dryer (which I never would have DREAMED of doing at my highest weight) wasn’t enough to shrink up the extra give in the waist and so I had to reach for the old staple of my thin wardrobe that had rarely seen any play as of late: a belt. I pulled my favorite (and only, for that matter) old worn wide brown leather belt (which I didn’t even buy in the fat women’s section of the store! Sure, it had two “X”s in the size, but still—REGULAR section!), threaded it through the loops on my jeans…and realized pretty quickly that it didn’t fit. I’ve got jeans that are getting too big, and a belt that’s too small. Son of a bitch.

After a few deep breaths I managed to fasten the belt using the first hole and was still able to breathe, so I hastily slipped on my shoes, herded the kid out the door and drove off to start the day. The morning passed uneventfully enough for a while, and after my first cup of coffee made it’s way through my system I stopped off in the bathroom and one of those sideways strange angle glances in the mirror stopped me in my tracks. My ill-fitting jeans cinched by and ill-fitting belt have combined to create a perfect storm of unattractive consequences.

It wasn’t so long ago that I clearly recall looking in that same mirror and liking what I saw. My size 18 jeans hugged in all the right places, elongated my legs (which always seem too short for my 5’11” frame and need all the help they can get), held in place firmly by my belt onto my newly defined hips visible beneath a soft long sleeved white t-shirt under the super cute red fleece vest hung fashionably over it and the toes of my sleek black shoes peeked perfectly out from beneath the boot cut hem that barely skimmed the floor.

But today I saw a different woman staring back at me. Swollen feet stuffed into loafers disappearing into jeans that covered Lumpy thighs and a baggy crotch below a round stomach and a roll of fat above a too-tight belt that pressed just enough through the cotton of the simple v-neck shirt over it to announce it’s presence to the world. I wanted to flee the building, grab my purse and use my cell phone on the way home to call in “fat” for the rest of the day, climb into bed and cover my head and have a good cry about what I’ve become. I really, really wanted to do that. But instead I took a deep breath and went back to my desk and told myself that since I already had my big girl pants on literally I might as well hitch them up, metaphorically speaking, too.

Then an hour ago life, as it often does, decided to add insult to injury and Mother Nature bestowed upon me a wardrobe malfunction of the variety that necessitates changing one’s pants as practical matter. So I came home, put on some non-jeans work appropriate attire, and sat down to tell you all about it. (Lucky you!)

So here I sit, infinitely more comfortable, but feeling defeated nonetheless. But I’m also determined that the next casual Friday will be less of an ordeal. I’m finally back on track and the scale is heading in the right direction, and today helped me remember where I want to get back to—and beyond. Everyone needs a nudge in the right direction sometimes, and today was just the kick in the pants I needed.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Lather, rinse, repeat...

I’ve been a little stressed lately. Ok, a lot stressed. But while the atypical shenanigans afoot in my life lately might be making my head spin like the Tasmanian devil, you’d likely only notice this if you looked very, very closely—and only when I didn’t know you were looking. While I might be fairly well known for having a penchant for the dramatic in some (read: many) situations and will fight ferociously for the well being of those I love (or hell, who I barely know if I detect the faint whiff of injustice in the air), I tend to hold my emotions pretty close the vest when something is bothering me. This has always been my M.O. according to the people who raised me. My father tells me that even as a very young child trying to get me to divulge what may or may not be bothering me was a lot like performing dental work on an unwilling patient, like say a raccoon. With rabies.

There is, however, one relatively reliable barometer of my mental status at any given time. If you want to know if I’ve got a lot on my plate, then just look to see how much I’ve got on my plate.

I admire those people who, when the going gets tough, fall squarely into the “tough get going” category. When there’s a crisis to be tackled at work or in the life of someone I love, I am totally one of them. But in my own life, when the going gets tough—the tough go to Long John Silvers. Or at least they did last night.

I didn’t set out to engage in fried fish therapy, mind you. In between drop off and pick up duties I actually intended to stop for a few things at the store and then hit the gym. Instead I wolfed down up a #7 seafood lovers platter with a side of clams and then took a nap (which is pretty much the same thing, right?). I could tell you that I felt bad about it at the time, but it would be a lie. Despite the fact that I’m not really even a fan of Long John Silvers (seriously, I think they should cut out the middle man and just replace all their dining room seating with toilets), every bite I took of that meal had exactly the effect I desired, each mouthful dulled the rising panic within me and left me calm and sleepy and tired enough to forget about everything that drove me to eat it in the first place. It was a familiar feeling.

Looking back over my life and at how my weight has fluctuated through the years, it’s not terribly difficult to see a pattern emerge. When harmony reigns, the balance in my life is reflected in my eating patterns and my resolve is strong and sure. But when that balance is thrown off kilter, the ground feels less sure beneath my feet and I find myself stumbling around trying to regain my footing while old habits seep out of the cracks in the foundation that seemed so strong just moments ago. I find myself reaching for food and the comfort it brings, the hazy calm that settles over me with each bite, with each swallow, with each sigh of relief that comes when the gaping hole inside of me has been filled up for the moment. Never mind that it won’t last, or that the low that follows will spin me farther into despair. All that matters right then is that temporary comfort is better than the alternative.

When the fog lifts, it occurs to me that the first step to restoring balance in my life is often taking control of my weight, and restoring my power over food usually snowballs into giving me the energy to deal with the things that threw off my balance in the first place. When I look back to see what lessons I can take with me for the next time things go haywire, it frustrates me because the line between cause and effect is blurry. Balance equals control, chaos upsets control, loss of control makes chaos worse, rock bottom chaos leads to regaining control, control facilitates balance (lather, rinse, repeat). The chicken versus eggishness of it all makes my head hurt.

So when I woke up at 5 AM with a headache, it wasn’t exactly a surprise. Neither was that familiar feeling of self loathing it brought with it. I spent some time kicking myself for what I’d done, mentally listing and re-listing my sins and calculating the damage, thinking about how long it had been since I’d done something like that. As I lay there in the dark I asked myself if this was as low as I needed to go, if I was ready to be in control again. Turns out I was. So I got up, brushed my teeth, put on my sweatpants and went to the gym.

I feel good. The darkness is lifting, and what I couldn’t face last night doesn’t seem as scary today. I feel in control, like I’m ready to find balance again.

Lather, rinse…

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Cone of Silence

Obesity is a lonely business. Because the most visible thing about us is often the very last topic up for conversation, we don’t often get the chance to talk about the fat in any meaningful capacity. We’ve erected a ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ barrier around the subject, drawn a chalk line of propriety that we rarely allow to be crossed even in the most appropriate of circumstances. Whether you’ve always been the fattest person in the room, or you live in a world where you’re one amongst many, there’s not likely to be a whole lot of conversation about that fact encouraged, or even allowed.

But the great equalizer of our time, the Internet, has changed that. It turns out that there are literally millions of people out in cyberspace who are learning every day that they’re not alone in their battle with the bulge. There are approximately 1 gazillion weight loss blogs to be perused, and countless weight-related online communities with thriving memberships offering something for everyone on the subject. For me, finding a group of people who looked like me and were facing obesity on the same scale as my own was an unexpected gift, and being able to look out into the crowd and see my own face staring back at me was a singularly freeing experience.

And yet I’ve found that, like most things, too much solidarity isn’t necessarily a good thing, and everything I’ve gained by finding a place where I finally fit in is sometimes offset by the occasional loss of perspective that comes along with it.

My favorite weight loss message board is one that was created to give a home to those who are struggling with morbid obesity and face the monumental task of losing hundreds of pounds to achieve a healthy standard goal weight. It’s a very welcoming community, and the positive nature of the board is an attractive draw for many who call it home. Every once in a while, someone will show up on a fact finding mission asking for advice about their friend/spouse/loved one who has a severe weight problem. I have no real problem with this phenomenon, and although there are those who resent the occasional sightseer, I give most people the benefit of the doubt. Just today, someone popped in to ask advice about a loved one who’s weight has gotten so out of control they can barely move and are having difficulty breathing, but yet refuses to engage in any conversation about their weight problem. Tough stuff.

I sat back for a while and waited for the inevitable onslaught of responses that would advise the questioner that obesity is a very personal issue, that her loved one already knows that they’re overweight and reminding them of that fact is just being cruel, and it was only polite to speak about their weight when invited to, remembering that until someone is ready to lose weight that any criticism will likely only make things worse. As I visualized the admonitions about unconditional love, I found myself getting really, really pissed off. Not at the person asking the question, but that they had to ask the question at all. What is it about obesity that makes us still treat its discussion as an etiquette conundrum instead of the serious, dangerous health issue that it is?

What if this same person had told about how their loved one was starving themselves to death, that their weight had reached such a low number that they could barely move their wasted limbs and that their breathing had become visibly shallow and labored beneath their emaciated rib cage. Would we be talking about preserving her self esteem and remaining silent on the subject? Would we encourage the questioner to love the dying woman unconditionally because weight is a personal issue and that she already knows she’s anorexic, so to bring it up would be impolite? Would we tell her to sit back and wait until her loved one was ‘ready’ to help herself?


We’d be telling her to batten the hatches, dial 911, alert the medical professionals, call in the troops and stage an intervention to let this poor soul know just how much danger she was in and how it was affecting the lives of everyone who loved her. There would be ambulance rides and tearful pleading and declarations of support heaped upon her like a tidal wave, and we’d applaud as it crashed into the shore.

But when fat is killing someone, we tell everyone to just back off…with love. And I think that’s crap. It’s unjust. It’s patronizing.

Morbid obesity isn’t a lifestyle choice. It’s not a “personal” issue. It affects the quality of life of every family member and loved one around us—and yet we demand they remain silent on the subject. How often have we required those who love us to bite their tongues about the choices we’re making, had them sit right beside us as we devoured more and more of what was stealing our breath, our mobility, our very lives? How many times have we raised a hand to halt them telling us their fears, have we warned them against expressing the anger our out of control habits have caused them with just a look? And how often have we felt justified in doing so, in proclaiming that we’d do something about it when we were ready to—and not before? How often have we demanded their support in our weight loss endeavors, only to prohibit them from showing disappointment in our failures?

There is a piece of conventional wisdom we always throw around that says that no one will ever be successful at losing weight unless they are doing it for themselves. I disagree. I believe that some of the most powerful motivation we ever have under our belt is the desire to do right by those we love. And just maybe the gap between “unwilling” and “ready” can be bridged when someone precious to us has the guts to say, “I love you. I’m scared for you. I don’t want you do die.”

The enemy of change is silence. Obesity will never be elevated above a mere character flaw unless we allow the conversation to begin. So let’s start talking.