My sponsee who lost 90 pounds went to Thanksgiving family dinner on Thursday. She was fine with the food. It was her family’s reaction to her weight loss that troubled and actually terrified her.
They fawned all over her, showering compliments endlessly through the day and night. On and on and on.
“Melissa,” she asked me miserably, “was I hideous before?”
Her experience troubles me on many levels. First, I remember when I lost a ton of weight. The praise heaped on me was so excessive, you seriously could have thought I’d cured cancer once and for all.
What is soooo fabulous about weight loss? Why is it so exciting and amazing and the only thing worth mentioning all night? Sure, it’s great if someone’s health has improved, as my sponsee’s has tremendously. But no one at Thanksgiving dinner asked about her blood pressure or cholesterol.
Second, now my sponsee’s self-worth gets connected to her weight loss. Is that her value – being thin? And what if she gains some weight or even all the weight back? Is she less than? Is she less worthy? Is she hideous?
I worry that all this attention will lead anyone who’s lost weight down a dangerous path. When I lost all my weight and the world applauded vigorously (and enviously), I became terrified of gaining weight back. Clearly, I was NOTHING when fat.
And so, I did ANYTHING to keep the weight off, starting with starvation and diuretics in junior high school and moving onto laxatives and vomiting in college. I began drinking heavily, hoping that would stop me from eating and developed a drinking problem.
I lived in a vicious circle/cycle – drink, binge, puke, starve, drink, binge… AND I WAS MISERABLE. I can’t describe it in words.
When someone offered me crack, I had no idea what it was, but I tried it, because I would try ANYTHING that might give me relief. And so it did. And off I went.
So, I worry about women (and men) getting that message that weight loss is…………everything.
Another problem with that particular message – Fat equals bad; thin equals good -really embeds itself.
Let’s say i’m out with some girlfriends tonight and all the guys are hitting on them, not me. A voice goes through my head, “Melissa, you forgot, you are fat and ugly and undesirable.” Doesn’t matter that some nights I get the attention and my friends don’t. No, clearly it’s my body that’s the problem.
Let’s say I’m dating a guy and he loses interest, “Remember Melissa, you are fat and ugly and undesireable.” (It doesn’t matter that the guy happens to have some issues. He’s NEVER been in a long term relationship. He’s terrified of commitment and he even admits it. NO, no, no the problem is clearly that I am too fat and, therefore, ugly and undesirable.)
Now mind you, I haven’t been overweight in decades, but facts lose their meaning here. It got drilled in there somehow – fat, fat, fat, ugly, ugly, ugly. No one will ever want you.
I am going to pause and picture a world where weight doesn’t matter at all. What the heck, it’s my dream so let’s get rid of racism, all prejudice, cruelty and war.
Ahhhh, I feel much better.