Memory Lane: The Obesity Lies

You’re about to read a Memory Lane Post: one of my favorites over the past year.  Little did I know when I wrote this post, originally published on February 1st of this year, that it would create as much buzz as it did by gaining the most combined comment/email responses of any other post I’ve ever written.  Most were extremely supportive – I’d say roughly 85 percent; however it did stir up some anger and other raw emotion in several readers, especially when featured on another, widely-read website.  Because of the amount of thought, discussion and opinion generated – as well as my own introspection on the topic, this remains one of my favorite posts.

While at the library the other day, I was browsing through the self-help books.  I flipped through a worn-out, oversized paperback and came across a chapter about abusive relationships.  I was going to continue flipping past that chapter because I thought it didn’t pertain to me, but the first paragraph grabbed my attention and really stuck with me long after I put the book back onto the shelf.  It was about abusive relationships.  The chapter wasn’t about the physical abuser, but the emotional abuser.

I am paraphrasing here as I did not check out the book, but it went something like this:

People have a tendency to remain in abusive relationships because there is something they get in return; something that is satisfying them just enough to make them stay in their current situation.  Think about reasons why you may be keeping yourself in an abusive situation and journal about it. 

I thought about that statement for a long time as it pertained to my obesity.  I started wondering why I let myself stay in that unhealthy body for so long. Could it be true that I was an emotional abuser?  What on earth could I have possibly gained from remaining heavy?

One night I began writing.  I posed the exercise as a question that I could identify with and I thought I’d share what I wrote:

What did I gain from remaining in a morbidly obese body for so long?

It was convenient. If I was at a buffet and wanted dessert for dinner and fried meat for dessert, that’s what I ate.  I had no interest in, nor did I issue any self control.

I required little maintenance.  When I was obese, I wore comfortable clothing all of the time.  Elastic ruled my wardrobe.  Shopping was easy, too.  All I had to do was look in the Hanes section of Wal-Mart and pick out things in XL.  I didn’t even have to try anything on.  And tops? I didn’t have to try them on, either; the bigger the better (I bought into the illusion that the larger my shirts were, the thinner I looked.)

I convinced myself that I was saving money.  Not having to worry about keeping any kind of style allowed me to have the same attitude about my hair.  I rarely had my hair cut.  I’d just wash and pull it back into a ponytail every day; problem solved.  I never got a massage.  I never got a manicure or a pedicure.  Basically, I never allowed myself the luxury of being pampered and I told myself and others that it was because I needed to save money. Truly, the reason was because I never felt I was worth it.  

I excused myself from stressful situations (even if it was unhealthy to do so).  I never had anxiety about going to the doctor because I refused to go.  I didn’t like being reminded that I needed to lose weight so I’d put off my appointments and only go if I were quite ill.

I felt protected.  This was an illusion, but at the time I felt like the bigger I was, the less I could be hurt by people.  The truth of the matter was that by keeping myself heavy, I had an excuse to keep people away.  No one would get the chance to hurt me, but no one would get the chance to know me, either. 

I had less guilt.  If I ate crap for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, well – that was just normal so I didn’t really stress about it.  I didn’t experience any guilt if I didn’t exercise; of course this was because I didn’t exercise. 

As sad as it was, there were times I thought well, this is the way I am, so I just need to live with it. I held on to the belief that I was fat because that’s just the way it was.  It was scarier to change than it was to stay the same and so, I schlepped  through life and made up these little lies along the way to make me feel better about why it was easier (dare I say, better?) to stay in a morbidly obese body.

So maybe there was abuse going on in my life.  I’d been abusing and degrading myself for years, using excuses and negative thoughts -  in part through the simple act of denial.  Because I didn’t want to participate in life I told myself those things so I could stay heavy – which would then prevent me from participating in life (and round and round she goes.)  Eventually, it became exhausting to carry on like that; some people manage to do it all their lives.

When the misery began to outweigh the appeal, I knew it was time to change.

Have any of you ever used an excuse to remain stagnant about a situation in your life?  Maybe like me, change seemed too hard, scary, or just a little too out of reach? 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is the final in my series of Memory Lane posts, marking my blog’s anniversary on September 20th.  This is also the last prize I have in my goodie-stash for you:

If you’d like to win this great water bottle, just leave a comment and you’re automatically entered (unless you instruct me not to include you in the drawing.)  You’ll have until September 20th at 9 PM, EST to enter.  The winner will be picked by Random.org and announced during Wednesday’s blog post.  I welcome and look forward to comments from everyone, but per contest rules, please remember that only US readers can be included in this drawing.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

XO,

Ellen

54 thoughts on “Memory Lane: The Obesity Lies

  1. Tim

    I’ve really enjoyed these memory lane posts, Ellen. I still can’t believe it’s been a year. I think i’m approaching my year soon too (note to self: must check 1st post date). I hope to see you around on here for many more years :)

    Reply
  2. Connie G.

    I agree in that whether it’s a abusive relationship with ourselves or someone else that we’re getting something out of it by continuing to be in the relationship. Sometimes it might be hard to figure out the reason but I believe if we dig deep enough we will find it. Relationship wise I find it’s often because of the fear of being alone that causes some people to stay. Weight wise it’s often how hard it will be to change our habits etc.

    Great post.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      I agree completely, Connie. Those of us who have been there can certainly relate to this kind of behavior. And it can be scary to change a habit – especially one that has always brought some kind of comfort along with it.
      Thanks for your comment on this topic!

      Reply
  3. Sam

    This post really hits home. I think this is so prevalent in the overweight population – and yet we all seem to think we are the only ones who feel this way. I could have written your journaling – I have received all the same payoffs from being over weight. But like you, the pain of the weight now out weighs the benefit. I want it gone. Thanks for you post, you are so great! And happy blog anniversary!

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      It’s always a breath of fresh air hearing from you, Sam. I hope you are doing well; I think of you often.
      I’m glad this post resonated with other people; it wasn’t easy to write but being completely honest with oneself rarely is, especially when some form of self-abuse is involved (although that was one of the raw spots people became upset about. They didn’t like that I referred to it as self-abuse.)

      Reply
  4. Karen@WaistingTime

    Now. I think I should do “something.” Get a job, or find a volunteer opportunity, or pick up some kind of project. Need to figure out my “passion,” as Oprah would say. But… I have no idea how to do that or what it is!!

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      I have stipulations too, Karen. Since I have a bad back, I can’t do anything that requires sitting for long periods of time; standing does the same thing, too. Let me know when you find ‘it’.

      Reply
  5. Jill

    I am currently choosing to stay “stagnant” in my life. I think that might be why I keep yo-yoing up and down 10 pounds. When I have weight to lose- I have a goal. A focus. Something I need to do. When I am at my goal weight- I start thinking about what is “next” for me. This is uncomfortable to me. Perhaps if I find what “next” is…. I will be able to maintain my goal weight? This is very thought provoking- perhaps something for me to blog about? Thanks for always challenging me to think!

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      This is one I can relate to as well, Jill. With a goal just out of reach, we’re kept busy and have a purpose, a need to keep going. Once there, your ‘next’ thing will be learning to keep it off. And I wish I could give you a rule book to follow that says exactly how to do it, but once you hit maintenance, you’re very much left to figure it out on your own. (oh, and reach out to others who are there – ME – when you need help, because we’re here!)

      Reply
  6. Mary

    Thank you, thank you for reposting this! This was – and still is – one of my all-time favorite posts of yours. I have a quote from it on a post-it on my desktop to keep in mind, from where you talk about guilt. That’s a big theme in my life these days; I’ll be writing about it for tomorrow, I think.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Mary, I sincerely thank YOU for letting me know that you got something out of this post. I think it’s every blogger’s dream to be able to write something that somehow sparks a fire in another reader, or at the very least lets that person know he/she isn’t alone. I feel very grateful that you shared that with me :)

      Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Thanks for reading them, Greg. It was hard picking out just 4 posts. Not that I had any earth-shattering ones, but there were a couple of others that I liked. Saving those for next year, maybe.

      Reply
  7. teresa

    First, I love the dogs nose in the giveaway photo!
    There are always hidden dogs in your photos.
    This is a great post. I missed it the first time, I guess.
    So important to think about, and not just for obesity, as you say.
    I’ve thought about it quite a lot in terms of my weight, but not in terms of other things. That’s where I’ll delve next.
    Fun!

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Brulee always, and I mean always has to smell whatever it is that I am interested in. He is the nosiest dog I’ve ever had (no pun intended!)

      Reply
  8. Munchberry

    You know what – I think it is important to reflect on why you did something or allowed something unhealthy in your life. Actually examining why you made the change from old behavior to new behavior fit into that thinking to. Who said the unexamined life wasn’t worth living? Whoever said it was brilliant. There is no halfzies there. You know who goes thru life blithely? Idiots. You do. You reflect, you move forward better armed for better decisions or with the confidence that you make good decisions.

    I had a lot of reasons for getting fat, staying fat… some enjoyable, some destructive. I guess you have to look at all the reasons and weigh it out. Is it worth it? It is hard to be circumspect at the moment when you are in it, but if later you can take a deep breath and be honest, I think you can do yourself a real favor.

    BUT

    I can see why some might dislike it. Does an alcoholic like when you hold a mirror up to him and say “what are you running from? What are you dulling?” because he is still in the mode of “I drink for pleasure! Leave your psychological mumbo jumbo to yourself. I totally get that. I spent years ignoring truths about myself. Now I hold up the mirror, take a few quick looks and then go have a lie down so I can think about it, but be safe in case I faint.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Thank you for writing your take on this; I greatly value your opinion as I know you look objectively at all the options before making a decision on how you feel. I can see both sides as well. The women who wrote negative comments regarding that post I think were misunderstanding me for the most part – thinking that I was calling them lazy, unattractive, etc. when that was NOT my intention at all. 10 years ago I most likely would have probably hated reading this post as well, who knows. We are where we are, I guess.

      Reply
  9. KCLAnderson (Karen)

    Oh for sure I can come up with LOTS of reasons why it was just easier to stay stuck in my abusive relationship with myself…and then I got a glimpse of something else…an awareness glimmered that maybe, just maybe there was something else out there for me.

    Excellent post Ellen!

    “And the day came when the risk it took to remain tightly closed in a bud was more painful that the risk it took to bloom.” ~ Anais Nin

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Thank you, Karen….and I love that quote you wrote at the end. Such a perfect parallel quote to the point I was trying to make. Thanks for thinking of that; you’re a sweetheart.

      Reply
  10. Ruth

    Susie Orbach hit upon these same themes when she wrote her book, “Fat is a Feminist Issue”–back in the 1970’s. The “theme” being that oftentimes a person remains heavy because it serves a purpose. Good post, btw.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Ruth, thank you for reading and for your comment. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of this book, before. I wish now I could remember the name of the book I was perusing when I thought to write the above post. I’d probably benefit from reading it cover to cover!

      Reply
  11. LauraJayne

    This post is so important – and I’m glad you re-posted it. Anytime that we allow ourselves to remain stagnant in a position where we continually abuse ourselves (yes, I believe that fat talk is emotional abuse) it is SO important that we evaluate that situation so we do not go back again!

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      As you and I both know Laura, we are constantly having to reevaluate ourselves, aren’t we? ‘Checking-in’ to make sure what we’re doing is still working properly so that we can keep our weight in check. We have enough to worry about, and self-abuse shouldn’t even enter our minds.

      Reply
  12. Sharon

    I remember this original post well and the controversy it stirred. But there is so much wisdom in its words. Oh that we could remember that wisdom at the moment we have before making a poor choice!

    Reply
  13. Tami@nutmegnotebook

    I missed this the first time around so thank you for re posting it. I see why it was such a popular post.

    We only keep doing things if there is some kind of payoff -I absolutely believe that. I share a lot of the same thoughts that you had about the pay off of being overweight.

    Reply
  14. Donna MacDonald

    Dang – now I’ll be up all night THINKING! Thanks for a great, thought-provoking post, Ellen. You really hit the nail on the head this time. But then, you usually do!

    Reply
  15. Erin

    Newer reader here .. hadn’t see this post before. It’s very thought provoking and no doubt filled with truth. Sometimes the truth hurts. Thanks for the good brain material!

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Hello and welcome, Erin. So glad to ‘see’ new faces around. Thank you for taking the time to read and for the thoughtful comment. I hope to see you back soon!

      Reply
  16. Kristen

    you are 100% correct. The guilt kills me. I just ate a piece of chocalote and its killing me with guilt. But before all this it would of been no big deal just more calories that were not tracked, and over analyzed. The last few weeks i have been fighting with this very issues. it was easier before and now while i feel better about the way i look. I always over analyize everything. It makes me tired and at times question the happiness factor

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Kristen, I think you are making that transition – the one that hits us all as we move from one body extreme to another. Now, you just need to figure out how to balance who you were with who you are. I still overanalyze things, but am much easier on myself now than I used to be when I ate something off plan. Oh, the guilt though. I pray for the day when food just becomes ‘food’ with no underlying, negative meaning behind it.

      Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Thank you for reading, Rusti – and thank you for your comment as well. Journaling is so great for exercises like this; I hope it’s a good experience for you.

      Reply
  17. Chelsey Sloan

    Wow, this is interesting. For most of my life I’ve been a compulsive/binge eater, but it wasn’t until I met my ex-boyfriend of 8 years that I really reached my limits (and available pants size). I always knew that this was MY problem. I also knew that my abusive relationship with this man was really making it unbearable. I never thought that, in fact, it was ME that I had an abusive relationship with as well. Or perhaps I knew something, it just now gets a title.

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      This was a very difficult thing for me to admit, but notice I only figured it out after I’d had the weight off for a few years. I think it takes an even stronger person to figure out something like this while he/she is knee-deep in it; that’s when it seems to be hardest to look at ourselves. Thanks for reading, Chelsey :)

      Reply
  18. Jan

    Wow! I’ve never thought of things that way, but it certainly makes sense. What a great post for me to read (asking myself that question too….why did I stay at a high weight for so long, lose most of it and then gain another 20 back only to sit there for a year). *sigh* Great post that’s getting me thinking.

    Reply
  19. chrissy cinfel

    This was so interesting to read and really made me think! It does seem easier to stay overweight and eat whatever you want however it is actually much easier to walk up stairs, shop, get weighed at the doctor, wear heels and dresses, and finally start to feel good about myself! Thank so much for posting and it is so true!

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Well, it was like that for me. That was my point in writing that particular post; I was trying to get to the heart of what it was that I was doing to keep myself that way. Some people thought I was grouping every heavy person into the same category; that’s where some of the anger came into play – certainly NOT what I was trying to convey.
      Thank you for reading, Chrissy!

      Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Thank you for reading, Rochelle – and for your comment. Hope to see you around the blog sometime in the future – I love getting to know new readers :)

      Reply
  20. SlimKatie @ Runs for Cookies

    What a great post! I can’t imagine what anyone could find to say about it that was bad or controversial. It makes so much sense!

    Happy blog anniversary–I’ve enjoyed the Memory Lane posts :)

    (Oh, and you can exclude me from the giveaway since I’ve already won one)

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      Hi, Katie
      Most of the people that had ‘problems’ with this post was that I must have hit a nerve of some sort. A few people accused me of calling them unattractive and lazy because they were heavy. I tried to explain to them that I wrote this as an exercise for myself – for ME, not to point my finger at anyone else. Not sure if they ever ‘got it’ or not, though.

      Reply
  21. Marion@AffectionforFitness

    What you say has merit. But often the abuser was another person. You know, there is quite a bit of research directly relating abuse with obesity. A person who has been severely abused is MUCH more likely to be obese than a person who has not been abused. Many people unconsciously try to protect their bodies with their weight. It is also a way to distance a body away from certain people. What we need to do is confront abusers and not let them get away with it, so that survivors can feel free to be safe.

    :-) Marion

    Reply
    1. Ellen Post author

      This is a good point, Marion. And one that I feel, could be one of the reasons why I received negative comments. I think the readers forgot that this was a post about me. About what I came to learn about myself. Not judging anyone else, not pointing the finger, but doing this as an exercise for me. Have I been abused in my lifetime? Yes, I have. I agree that many people who are overweight have been abused; however, in writing this post I had to realize that I had to take on full responsibility to protect myself, because no one else was going to do it. I had to stop that cycle of abuse by getting to the heart of things, even if they were very difficult to admit to myself.
      Thank you for this comment. It provokes a lot of thought and I appreciate you reading it!

      Reply
  22. Julie

    I really valued this post Ellen. I was going to say enjoyed but not sure that is quite the right word! I understand how you felt when writing about yourself and other people being offended/thinking you were speaking for everyone. I have had that experience when commenting on other people’s blogs and been mortified at both offending anyone and upsetting someone else’s readers! There is no doubt in my mind keeping the weight on served me – sometimes it was just as simple as the comfort I got from eating so much, others it was an excuse to not have to go to events as I had nothing to wear. Although a little chicken and egg there, I didn’t have to put myself into social situations where I felt awkward, However, what really got me thinking was your point about saving money. I remember saying to my husband that he should be grateful I was so low-maintainence, not spending money on make-up, hairdos and fancy clothes! He is pretty happy now that I am a higher maintainence (and 120lb+ lighter) but I felt really unsettled after reading that and it took me a while to work out why. I still don’t think I am `worth’ spending money on. I have nice clothes and get my hair done but those are external things that would reflect, to some degree, on my husband too if I didn’t do them. What I struggle with is justifying (to myself) wearing the lovely lingerie I have – keeping on with the less fancy while the other lingers in an overflowing drawer – going to the beautician for waxing, facials, anything that someone else may not know I have had done. I enjoy these things and we can afford them but just seem unable to convince myself I am `worthy’ of having and enjoying them. Much food for thought here, thank you Ellen.

    Reply
  23. deonn

    I really liked your Memory Lane posts. My blog turned a year old on the sixteenth of August, and I can’t believe how different I am as a person in only a year. It’s incredible to read old posts and see the progress that we have made.

    Reply
  24. Wendy

    This is it….this is the one! This is the post I landed on that fateful day that got me hooked on your blog. And your Memory Lane re-posting of it is perfectly timed. I’ve been in an awful few months of weight loss plateau and am beginning to lose my focus and motivation….this is a wonderful reminder for me. :-)
    Thank you so much!

    Reply

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