Last night I learned a lot about both myself and about how easy it is to let others control your thoughts. But let me go back a bit. When I was an overweight kid and a morbidly obese adult, I learned that people can be cruel. One of my most vivid memories from second grade is of one day where I was leaving school and getting on my bus to go home.
I was running late for some reason and as I got on the bus, the bus driver, (who I will never forget, he was not a nice man) said to me, on the intercom, “sit down big mama.”
Of course the entire bus got a huge laugh out of it and I just wanted to go crawl under the seat. I had not really let my weight be an issue before that day and none of the kids had really made a big deal out of it either. But now the idea was planted into their heads, and by an adult. I do not think this man MEANT to give me a label that would stay with me through the end of my school days, but he did.
Once I grew into a morbidly obese adult, I still remembered the sometimes ugly things people would say and I did take them to heart. There was a time where I truly believed that I was an inferior person because of the disease of obesity and that just led me to more emotional eating and to being even more obese and it was a vicious cycle and I was doing terrible things to my health.
Unlike a drug addict or alcoholic, you cannot hide a food addiction. Your body totally “outs” you. It was a tough pill to swallow for sure and my self-esteem always suffered. It was truly not until I met my husband Ben, who loved me dearly at 325 pounds, did I realize that my self-worth was not based on what I looked like and that having the body of a supermodel or a bikini model does not make one a good person or a worthy person. I will never forget my wedding day with Ben. The way he looked at me as I walked my 300 pound body up the aisle was something I had never experienced.
This man did not care about my physical being and for the first time in my life I was with someone who saw ME and not my large body. It was almost overwhelming and I am so blessed to have him in my life. God knew what he was doing when he put us together for sure. As obese people, we can let our self-esteem be so bad that we question those who truly love us.
I can remember when we were dating and myself thinking something HAD to be wrong with this man for him to be interested in me. How sad is that? Instead of feeling thankful to have unconditional love, I thought it was “too good to be true” and tried to find reasons NOT to stay involved because surely I would get hurt. I shudder to think of the life and love I would have missed out on had I let that train of thought take over me completely. Even more powerful to think of, what would my kids have missed out on?
As a society in general, we place so much more emphasis on what others think of us than on what we think of ourselves and that really can get us into trouble. No one should have that power over us, especially a stranger or the media, but it happens doesn’t it? How many times did you think you were just not worthy of something because of your weight problems? How many times did you beat yourself up for not being able to win the battle with diet and exercise alone?
Changing this train of thought only came for me after total acceptance of myself as both a recovering food addict and as a person of value. I think my spiritual life had a lot to do with this recovery. I was blown away by the thought that God didn’t love me any differently when I was morbidly obese than he does now. That was a huge revelation and it aided in my acceptance that Ben really could love me with all of that extra weight. Those things are what lead me to finally have the courage to seek out a permanent treatment for my obesity in the form of gastric bypass surgery.
It has been a long time since anyone made me feel angry or upset or hurt about my body image. I have gone from being 325 pounds and a size 28 and morbidly obese and unhealthy to a size 12 ( I am six feet tall) and being able to do half marathons (yes I take walk breaks and am not ashamed of that, but we will get to THAT point a bit later). I am simply too healthy and happy and comfortable in my own skin to let that happen anymore…..or so I thought……
This brings us to last night. I had a situation where someone who I thought was a good friend, actually turned out to be very different and I knew it was time to go our separate ways. Do you ever have those people in your life that are just not healthy? The ones who do more harm than good both personally and professionally and you just know it is time to move on? I do not encounter these situations often, because I do not let that many get in too close and I am very guarded in business. Nonetheless, it happened and I had to break it off. It was one of those unpleasant things that you know is coming and unavoidable, but you do all you can to avoid the situation? Yep that was me last night and I finally had to bite the bullet and just politely bow out gracefully.
I was totally blindsided by the reaction. Words used were so hurtful and clearly spoken in anger. I was told things like, “you haven’t lost all your weight, so you are a fraud”, and that I was a joke because I did not look like a swimsuit model etc. I was told that being this size, (and not a size 4 as this person is) made me a terrible role model for weight loss surgery patients etc. Then a few moments later came the icing on the cake. I was told not to even THINK about including anything on going from weight loss surgery to being a runner in my next book because I was a fake for walking part of my half marathon. WOW! REALLY? Many of us are familiar with the Jeff Galloway interval running/walking program and know it is s safe and healthy way to run.
I was so hurt!
WAIT! STOP THE PRESSES! Did I just do EXACTLY what this person wanted me to do? Feel hurt? But, the new me doesn’t DO THAT! The new and improved me knows that dress size and being able to model a bikini in a magazine does not equate health!! The new and healthier me just left an appointment with my doctor last week where I was praised for my success and the size of my dress never came up. For a split second, I, The Bariatric Guru, the person who’s mission in life is to help other weight loss surgery patients actually looked at my husband an said, “Ben, is she right? Am I really a fat failure and a joke for not looking like her?” He just looked at me dumbfounded. And just that quick, it hit me.
WHAT WAS I DOING? WHAT WAS I LETTING this person do TO ME?
I realized quickly that this feeling of inadequacy was left over from the old me. Then suddenly, I went from that feeling to one of being hurt. Then quickly to one of anger. How dare this person question my health and success and worthiness to work with my bariatric community? I, for one second, contemplated a scathing reply. Then my spiritual side took over, thank God.
I had to realize that people who lash out and attack others are feeling inadequate themselves and just do not know how to deal with their feelings and want to blame others for their bad feelings. My emotions quickly turned to pity for this person. I really did feel pity that someone could be so ugly and hateful and thoughtless. Professionalism aside, would it make me feel any better to lash back? No not really. Okay, sure, I am human so yes maybe for a moment it would feel good. BUT in the long run, I would be no better than this person if I did that so I kept my short reply pretty sterile and included my well wishes and told them I would be praying for them. That was so hard. But I really did ask God to help this person.
The people in this picture are some of the main ones who really matter. They make me feel loved along with the rest of my extended friends and family and listeners and WLS (weight loss surgery) second family. I have to remember them all when I encounter something like this situation. I am so blessed to be a part of this big loving extended family that is the WLS community
The old me who didn’t feel much love towards myself would have let this eat me up and I would likely have been very unprofessional and unkind in my reply. I realized last night that even as we recover, it is still easy to let ourselves slip back into the self-doubt and into wondering if we are a success and into comparing our body to someone else’s to “measure” our level of success. That is SO UNHEALTHY! We are all different and have different weights and sizes that are right for us and a good healthy place to be. I urge all of my WLS family to really take this to heart and know that you are all wonderful beautiful people who are on a mission to improve your life and health and no matter where you end up, you must love yourself and not ever let anyone make you feel inadequate again, even for a split second.
Easier said than done as I proved last night right? We are all in fact human and yes just like it happened to the ever-confident Erin Akey last night, it will happen to you. When it does, just remember how far you have come to change and improve your life and to TAKE BACK CONTROL and then you too, like me, will snap right out of it once more.
I would also encourage you, during times when you feel bad or like you are not a success to surround yourself with people who know the truth and know you are a success. There are some great people in this community with excellent blogs and lessons to be had on this very topic. Just look for example at some of the women involved in my conference series. Dr. Connie Stapleton, Cari De La Cruz, Yvonne McCarthy, and Laura Preston. Check them out for positive inspiration. There are so many more. Too many to list here so forgive me for leaving anyone out!
Besides the love and support of Ben, one thing that really helped me last night going through all of this was to be able to talk to some of my good friends in this community and my best friend who is not part of this community and to hear the reaffirmation that I am of value from them. I guess we are never truly recovered or immune are we? But that is okay. That is what makes us REAL. What service would I be doing if I lied and said “oh no that person’s ugly comments did not bother me.”- NONE!
I also took a few minutes and went back and read some of the email and comment cards following last Saturday’s Bariatric Breakthrough Challenge and that helped tremendously. If you are able to touch even one person along this journey and make them feel better about themselves, then you have done a huge service to this community. Never forget that! And never ever let anyone steal control of your emotions or self-worth! And remember before you ever get angry and lash out at another how those words can make you feel. Ask yourself if it is really worth it? Chances are it is not.
Love to you all!