Saturday, April 10, 2010

#97 Chaffing Thighs and All That


Is there such a thing as fat serenity? A friend of mine told me that when she was going to Overeater's Anonymous, she spent years "in" Fat Serenity. Part of her knew she wasn't really happy, but the other part wanted to accept herself for the way she was. There are many factors to achieving happiness in life. One way is to achieve satisfaction with your body image. The media, with their skinny models and actors, has told us that being thin is attractive. So, is being 10 pounds over weight unattractive? Some people may feel that way, and some may not.

Let me say here that I believe you can have FS. I mean, really, it's all relative. If you've struggled with your weight for years and finally reach a weight where you can feel comfortable and are able to maintain it, then good for you. The number on the scale is only meaningful to you. For example, I used to work with a man who, for at least 20 years, weighed between 250 and 270 pounds. He was 5'10" and all the charts and doctors told him his weight was too much for his frame. One day he told me that although his life was good, and that no one made him feel fat or self conscious, at least to his face, he needed to do something because he wasn't happy with his body. He always felt slightly removed from that happiness because of the way he felt about himself. He told me that the way he saw himself reflected in everything he did and in all his decisions. Happily, he was finally able to find an eating/exercise plan that worked for him, and he has been maintaining a weight range of 200-210 pounds for the past 8 years. Another man at 5'10" might think 200-210 is "fat", but for Mr. X, it is a dream weight. He knows, feels and accepts that he is still somewhat overweight, but it's at this weight where he feels most happy and healthy. He has achieved a form of FS; he knows he's overweight and he has a positive body image.

If you are not healthy, I think Fat Serenity can be dangerous. I read an article in a fitness magazine years ago that posed the question, "What good is being happy if your weight is a danger to yourself?" It talked about how people think they are happy... while popping pills for their high cholesterol, their diabetes, their joint pain, their heart problems, etc. Of course we can still have these types of problems and illnesses without being overweight, but the point is with modern day medical care, we can mask our weight induced illnesses.

An acquaintance I met on vacation [who I would consider obese], told me that dressing "people like her" had become nicer and more fashionable in the last 20 years. For many years, the fashions for those not in the department store size ranges was pretty awful. Everything was tent-like and stretchy, had awful patterns, and every fat person looked alike. Now there are stores that cater to the very large, and the clothing is fashionable. Does this mean if you look good, then maybe you'll talk yourself into feeling good? Is this FS? There is no judgement here! When I quit smoking I gained 40 pounds in 3 months and weighed 160 pounds. I too was able to find clothing that was high fashion and made me look attractive. Yet, did I feel good and attractive? Not really. Under those pretty clothes, my thighs chaffed, my feet killed because my shoes had gotten too tight, my knees ached terribly when I climbed more than 4 steps, and my tush spilled over too many chairs for me to count.

What it really comes down to is being happy AND healthy at whatever weight you are. We humans have an amazing way of seeing what we want to see and ignoring that which is right in front of us [I ignored that cigarette weight for six months before deciding to do something about it]. I know how hard it is to lose weight. I know how hard it is to maintain a weight loss. There is a saying, "be true to yourself". I don't know about you, but this rings true for me.

In the end, that's all we can do... find [our own] serenity.

Quote of the Day: "A diet is when you have to go to some length to change your width", author unknown


Jeanie said...

Lots to think about in this post. I was struck by the fact that the popularity of the "extra size" stores says there must be such a thing as fat serenity. On the other hand, I have so much sympathy for someone who has a great deal of weight to lose. I know it is possible because people do it, but it just seems so overwhelming. I know how I struggle with just a few pounds up and down. As you said, it does come down to being happy and healthy at whatever weight you are.

Marc said...

Your babble raises some interesting questions. Can an obese person be happy? Sure, we all know lots of happy, wonderful, loving, and secure overweight people. The next question is, should one who is overweight, to the point where health, mental and physical, is affected, be satisfied with who they are, enough to feel serene with their status? Are they entitled to feel serene, and at what point along the "fat" scale should one cease feeling serene? Who is entitled to make that determination?

Being at peace with oneself is a tricky issue. There are some who are so driven to being as "perfect" as they can be that serenity never kicks in, and there are others who do not have as much drive. The prior might ask, am I smart enough, pretty enough, a good enough athelete, thin enough? The latter might not be as concerned.
Certainly, societal tolerence and acceptance of being a certain way plays into one's ability to accept oneself for who one has become. The medicines and clothing that you write about are part of the acceptance package, but at what point is a third party entitled to step in and say, "wake up", this is not good for you, you can be better?

The G Male said...

So, in reading this blog post I started thinking about both the topic at hand as well as another point of debate which is how we have the "luxury" of this issue, challenge, obsession. Not to be crass, but do you think folks in certain parts of the world experience emaciated serenity? "Oh, I love the way my clavicle and pelvis are visible through my skin. So glad I have to walk 8 miles to get a cup of muddy water". I guess what I am trying to say is that we are fortunate to live in a land of plenty. True it creates issues (as I personally know very well) but how lucky we are to be able to challenge (torture?) ourselves to eat less if we choose to as opposed to not having enough to eat. I know thats not really the point but it is what came to my obviously damaged mind as I was reading.

OK, back to the topic at hand... So is experiencing fat serenity the same as being blissfully unaware (notice I did not say blissfully ignorant)?

Being aware and doing nothing about it is, in the end, the same as being unaware, not seeing a need to do anything about it at all. The result is the same - an unhealthy specimen, either physically or emotionally or both.

As someone who has been in both places I can attest to the fact that eventually it catches up with you. One day you realize you look awful or that you feel awful or that you both look and feel awful. Hopefully the person that has this realization will then do something about it. You can be fooled by the pretty designer clothes with a 48 inch waist and 28 inch inseam for just so long! Being a Weeble, wobbling in designer duds as you go for a triple cheeseburger just is not the answer. But for the person that has not come to this realization yet, when they finally do, it can be overwhelming. Emotionally crippling. Cycle of obesity reinforcing. Discovering you have a problem can cause a person to run right back to the things that created the problem in the first place. "Damn it I am fat. I am miserable. I will take refuge in cheesecake and readily available elastic waistband acid washed jeans"!

Fortunately society is becoming more focused on the health issues of obesity rather than on just being thin for the sake of vanity. School lunch programs are now being looked at as childhood obesity has rocketed to epic proportions. Heart disease and Type II Diabetes in children has quickly become an issue on the radar of the AMA. Coca Cola has piloted a program to greatly reduce the amount of sugary sodas sold in public schools. Cities are adopting mandates to disclose nutritional information on restaurant menus. Trans fats have been banned from use in NYC.

It looks like the tide may be turning as far as awareness goes. We are not there yet but if this continues I believe the ability to remain in a state of fat serenity will become increasingly more difficult to do.

Now please excuse me, I have had my own head in the sand for so long I luckily need to go dust myself off!

Darren said...

I find it really hard to believe that anyone can be happy when they are severly overweight. Many people will accept it because they have probably thought they have done everything they are supposed to do to lose weight except surgery, although some do go that route.If you look back 20 years ago, obese people were teased now its accepted more because the "teasers" are now having trouble with their weight. On a different note America will cater to anything where there is money to be made but just because its easy to find clothes etc., doesn't make it healthy in the end. Many obese people get caught up and comfortable because now they are being "catered" to and never fully understand their addiction and emotional issues centering around food. The truth about "food" will never be revealed on a wide scale because its too much money in the "cure" and not enough in the prevention.

The Kid In The Front Row said...

How you feel about yourself is so important. I have friends who are overweight, even Obese - and most of them have this same memory -- a memory of being six years old or nine years old and someone telling them they were fat. and it began right there, became internalized; and essentially; that person who told them they were fat became this voice in their own heads; constantly beating themselves down for being overweight.

the reason i tell this story, the thing that is so tragic about it - is when my friends look back at pictures of them being 6 years old or 9 years old - they really weren't overweight at all.

Anonymous said...

I have been overweight for most of my life, and most of my life I have dreamed of being thin. I lost 140 pounds fourteen years ago, and I have now gained most of it back. I struggle daily with the fear that if I try again, I will fail. How do I get out of that mind set? I have had so much responsibility of late, I have just put myself on the back burner, but now I know for my health's sake I must succeed. Do any of you have any suggestions how I can put myself first for once and finally succeed? I have never had any FS but I have tried to tell myself that if it's so hard for me to lose weight, it must be because I am supposed to be this size. I am five foot seven and weigh 265. Nope...that ain't normal!

Bobbie's Babbles said...

Dear anonymous, success breeds success. Put yourself around successful dieters. Jjoin groups both in your hometown and on line. Talk to people everyday about how you feel, what your menu is for the day, what you are struggling with. You are not alone and shouldn't be embarassed to share. People will listen and share back. Good luck. Never say never. I failed many times before I was able to succeed. Go read the blog "refusetoregain" and also read her partner's blog, Lynne's Way.