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 (http://www.skinnysara.com/) 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)
An interesting week
3 weeks ago