It is still difficult for me to talk about how being overweight made me feel. While watching the HBO documentary mini-series, I could relate with quite a few of the people who spoke. One of the individuals was a judge who talked about his feelings about being overweight and his inability to solve the problem. He said that he was successful and smart and could do anything else he put his mind to, but he could not solve his weight problem, no matter how hard he tried. I can totally relate to that sentiment. I felt exactly the same way. I'm fairly accomplished, and I have always been able to accomplish anything to which I put my mind, almost to a fault. My husband teases me about how I "stick onto things," my parents say that I was "strong-willed" as a child, and I've been told on more than one occasion how "hard-headed" or stubborn I am. It's true, once I decide to do something, I do it. Except to lose weight. I tried and tried and tried and failed and failed and failed. I knew what to do, I just could not motivate myself to do what I needed to do. I finally did it, but only after well over a decade of being obese. I finally figured it out and now I'm well on my way to my goal and I know I'll reach it. But, I didn't do it alone. It was not by sheer force of my own willpower or my strength of character or my intelligence that got me through. I did it, make no mistake, and I am incredibly proud of myself. However, I did have help and support and I cannot forget that. Everyone from my husband, my friends, my family, and my co-workers, to the teachers and participants in the exercise classes at the gym, the instructors at the weight loss clinic, and my doctors helped me. I have a couple of family members who should get prizes for how wonderfully inspiring and encouraging they are. And I am grateful to each one of these people for the part they played.
So, there are two lessons here:
- As people, whether we are of a healthy weight, overweight, obese, healthy, unhealthy, exercise fanatics, or not - we need to appreciate the position of others. I would never wish the way that I felt, physically or - probably more importantly - emotionally, on anyone else. It was awful. Believe me, overweight people know they are overweight. Generally, they do not like it. If one of them shows up in your exercise class, if you see someone running, biking, swimming, skating...smile, welcome that person, know that they are likely outside of their comfort zone and they are making an effort. I was intimidated when I started this process. I was intimidated every time I tried something new. I still am, to a certain extent, though my confidence is much higher than it was and it is much easier than it was. Your encouragement will help, even if you don't say anything. Even if all you do is smile and be courteous. Recognize the value in the person, this could be someone you love who is trying to get healthy. On the other hand, if you are overweight, don't assume that someone who is fit and healthy got that way purely through the blessings of genetics. It's true, that plays a role, but generally, there is a lot of hard work involved. So, there should be no judging on either "side."
- As someone who had a horrible weight problem and will have to work to manage my weight for the rest of my life, I have to appreciate those people who accepted me when I was overweight, did not judge me (or at least not in any obvious way) and encouraged and helped me when I was finally in a place to lose weight. Some of these people may simply have been doing their jobs or behaving like family and friends are "supposed to" behave, but it made all the difference to me. I am a pretty strong person, and in the end, I did this for myself. I would never have admitted it - but looking back - I needed the support and the encouragement. It was nice to hear it at work when people could see my progress. It was very encouraging to hear my husband to tell me how proud of me he was / is. It was incredibly motivating to feel welcome and comfortable in exercise classes with a bunch of people who were in far better shape than I. So, thank you to those people - and I'll tell them in person wherever I can. I think it is important for people to understand their impact and the value of what they do in their work and in their lives.