Saturday, May 11, 2013

Jaws -- The Weight-Loss Dilemma

The whole country from news anchors to late night comedians have been giving New Jersey governor Chris Christie a hard time about having Lapband surgery to lose weight. These were the same people who were giving him a hard time for being overweight in the first place. Skinny people just don't get it and that is an American tragedy because there are fewer skinny people every day in this country.

I've been through much of the same thing. I have been overweight almost my entire life. The last argument I remember my parents having before they separated was about whether I was getting fat or not. I was only seven. And I may as well have been invisible. It was as though they were discussing a piece of furniture than needed refinishing.

I spent years being criticized for my weight. Ironically, the more I was picked on for the fat, the fatter I got. This was because I had picked up the habit of eating to comfort myself when I felt miserable -- and I felt miserable most of the time.

My father and stepmother picked on me a great deal about my weight. In college I asked for an extra $9 to be able to take an extra dance class. They were very tight about money and freaked out all over me and denied my request in no uncertain and not very kind terms. After I left the room one of my step-brothers gave them some grief in return. He pointed out that they were always on my case to exercise more but they weren't at all willing to back it up with actions to support me doing what they wanted. I ended up with my $9 and my dance class. I lost 25 pounds that school year.

That single act of support did not change my life. The support began and ended there. So that particular portion of my weight-loss journey was short-lived. From there I ended up diving headlong into years of eating disorders. The first being anorexia, followed by bulimia. Years of therapy helped me emerge from that particular self-destructive behavior.

Years later I ended up in a bad job situation where I was constantly being undermined and at the same time started having thyroid problems at the same time. After years of fairly stable, though still obese, weight, I started gaining weight again. I went on a special weight-loss program that my doctor got me a scholarship for and managed to gain weight while on the diet.

My health deteriorated and I was losing my ability to move. I couldn't hold down a job when I couldn't make it from my car into a building. It was taking all I could do to get from my house into my car which was only the matter of about 12 to 15 feet. Because of my thyroid issues (Grave's Disease) I was not only gaining weight, I was losing muscle.

Like Governor Christie I finally decided that I had to go drastic to save my life. I, too, had Lapband surgery. Not everyone was thrilled with my decision. There is a public perception that reaching this point in your life is a personal failure -- that somehow you are less of a person because you weren't able to just lose the weight. This perceptions persists in spite of the fact that diets succeed less than 2% of the time. They have a horrible track record.

It is no wonder that Christie kept his surgery a secret. Who wants to be judged as a failure when trying to do the right thing for themselves and their loved ones? The procedure is not a guarantee of success, either. I just hope that he has a larger number of people supporting him than I did. Emotional support means a lot.

BTW, "support" does NOT mean monitoring and judging every piece of food that goes into the person's mouth. Weight loss can be hampered just as much by eating too little as by eating too much. Support is loving the person and demonstrating that love whenever possible. Find out from them what you can do to assist in their journey. Chances are they are now on a diet you may not understand.

I lost weight afterwards, though not as much as I would have liked thanks to my wonky thyroid which quickly went too low after surgery. However, I lost enough weight to get myself mobile and able to work again, which was my primary goal in having the surgery. I still struggle every day. I still have a huge amount of weight to lose.

Governor Christie still has a struggle ahead of him. This is not magic, it is a tool. Years later I still cannot eat as much as I used to. So I still have the benefit of the band helping me limit my intake, but I still also hit times when I engage in emotional eating and times when I want to forget about diets and just eat Christmas dinner.

So, instead of making fun of him or expecting him to fail, become a part of this cheering squad. He has taken a big, really scary step in the right direction.

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