On the second episode of A&E’s Heavy, a recurring theme made itself known. These folks faced enormous challenges, not just with their own food and exercise choices. It became clear that really obese people were surrounded by those who, even though they may not have meant to, enable the atmosphere that keeps these people really fat.
The painful truth emerged that even though overweight people choose what to eat and why, they generally do not get to morbid obesity levels by themselves.
This is not to lay the blame at the feet of the enabler. Fact is, we chose you for that reason. You let us get away with our destructive patterns, so we know we’re going to get little resistance to create a life around us that literally feeds into our disorder. We fill our lives with people who not only love us despite our size but often contribute to the atmosphere that keeps us the size we are. They’re the ones who eat the junk food we do, sit in front of the TV along side us and watch hours and hours of TV. Whenever we’re too tired or run down to cook, they’re the ones who can run out and grab something quick at a drive thru whether or not we recommend it OR prepare a fat laden meal to make us feel better.
They’re also the ones who, when we finally put a stop to this negative behavior, have a harder time making the changes.
They, after all, aren’t the ones with the problem. We’re the ones who our clearly out of control with negative, bad habits that show in our bodies.
But they love us unconditionally anyway, which to the world makes them the good guys. They put up with our health issues, our body issues and the complications that come along with being fat by association. They truly care, but it is as unhealthy sometimes as our own self destruction.
They end up our partners to our own slow suicide, when all they’re doing is trying to make us happy.
They’re the ones who buy or make our favorite desserts whenever we’ve had a bad day, or order Chinese delivery whenever we are sick or in pain. Or candy bars or sodas or any of the other little “treat” they know we love.
Or buy us dinner out and make sure to order the high fat appetizers, decadent desserts or calorie-laden drinks no one should really eat for health’s sake, but just taste so darn good we “deserve” to indulge and “spoil” ourselves.
Interesting word, spoil. Much more apt than treat or even indulge.
It’s as unconscious for them to offer it as it is for us to cave in and do it.
It’s a cycle of sickness for which we both must be accountable.
Many, many years ago Hal Sparks was asked in an interview what kind of girl he usually was attracted to – and he was quick to point out that he likes the pretty specific “type” of someone who is fit. When asked by the interviewer, “fatties need not apply” he clarified that while he could find heavier girls attractive, a relationship with someone who was overweight wasn’t feasible because he had a very fit lifestyle devoted to health. There would definitely be a disconnect between the two.
At the time, I was a little hacked by the response. Just because someone is “thin” doesn’t mean that they are healthy – and I think feeding into this misconception is destructive for both sides of the eating disorder spectrum. The only difference between a thin unhealthy person and a fat unhealthy person is it’s a lot easier to see spot problems with the fat one.
Upon reflection, though, I think I get what he was trying to say. Someone who works out, keeps fit and eats a very health-specific diet isn’t going to have very much in common with a couch potato who eats a lot of junk. And that’s not very conducive to a healthy relationship. This isn’t a superficial issue of what’s attractive or not as much as it is an issue of what’s compatible or not.
So Hal if you read this, I’m sorry I jumped all over you for that.
(But I still maintain you can’t equate thin with healthy… the two do not always align. I just get now that’s not what you were saying.)
Now it may sound as if I lay a lot of blame at the feet of those who enable fat people to stay fat. Like I said at the beginning, an overweight person is completely responsible for the things that they eat and why. While we didn’t get here alone, it is our choice alone to put the brakes on the train before it goes completely off the rails.
It can be a lot harder struggle when those enablers don’t see any need to change their behavior, who continue what may indeed be unconscious sabotage, or take our struggle with food addiction so lightly.
For instance, bringing in cookies, candy and donuts when you know your significant other is trying so hard to beat an addiction with sugar may not be the best approach to keep someone you say you love around for another fifty years.
Offering said cookies and candy can derail someone who has to live by a fairly rigid eating schedule that leaves little room for error if that person wants to see the results they are working so hard to achieve.
It’s not your fault we’re fat. But as we make these changes it’s going to unsettle your comfortable routines, and I hate to say it but… you’ve got to make some changes to come along for the ride.
Going without these sweets or relying on real food rather than easy fast food or getting up and doing stuff rather than watching six hours of TV a night is a lifetime change. This isn’t a fad, and if it is that is to the detriment to the person you say you love.
Help that person make these changes by being supportive and figuring out what you get out of the sabotage – and why you yourself might be resistant to these very important changes.
It can be scary to lose someone you love – and that may be what this feels like. You’re just as comfortable in this world we’ve created as we are. Once these changes kick in it may feel as though the fat person you love is acting like a whole other person.
We kind of have to be. Our addictive patterns that have become such a deep seated part of our personality is what got us to where we are, and it’s the rare obese person who is happy about it. They have to change to literally save their lives, and as much as it disrupts your life this is an evolution that will serve to make your SO/parent/sibling/child/friend BETTER than what they were. They’re going to be healthier, full of energy, happier to have overcome these negative, self destructive patterns.
It’s a good thing.
And it’s a lot more important and long-lasting than a box of cookies.
As long as that box is in the house I am thinking about it. I’m waiting for the excuse to have one (and another, and another.) You think there’s no harm in offering me a bite of one but I’m never going to be satisfied with one bite. That sugar hits my system and I won’t stop obsessing over it until that box is gone.
Sugar works in my brain like a drug, increasing hormones to make me feel better when my body is working against me to usually make me feel sluggish and lethargic.
It doesn’t affect you that way, great. And I know that these are my choices to make – I’m not asking anyone else to sacrifice for my own comfort.
I have to be the one to make these changes.
But I didn’t get here alone. And I’m having a helluva time making these changes alone in an environment where I’m *not* alone.
I just need some help and understanding from the people who say they love me.
If you’re not willing to make this journey with me, at least respect how tough it is for me to make it with all the extra temptation and excuses.
I have a long journey ahead of me. I don’t need any more rocks in the road.
My food diary courtesy of Sparkpeople.com.