This is something I’ve thought about a lot. People are offended by anything that is inconvenient or (let’s face it), painfully true. This is especially the case with people who are overweight. I remember this very much. When I was overweight, the last thing I wanted to hear from ANYONE was that I needed to lose weight, that I was overweight, that my weight was unhealthy, or that they had a sure-fire way for me to lose weight. All of that went in one ear and out the other. All of it was offensive to me. I was screaming inside my head, “What? You think I don’t know this already? You think I can’t see myself in the mirror? That I don’t see the numbers on the scale? Do you really think I’m that dumb?”
And that’s when it hit me (as I thought about it): people offering the advice don’t consider that you already know what they’re telling you. What’s worse is that when you’re overweight, you’re somewhat ashamed of it. You see people who appear thin and healthy enjoy their lives, doing all kinds of things you’d love to be doing but can’t because of your weight or lack of physical ability or fitness. You wonder if there’s something wrong with you. “Why can’t I lose weight? Am I genetically predisposed to be heavy? Am I just too undisciplined?” I’m sure others think similar or maybe slightly different things, but in my head, those were mostly the top three. On top of it all was shame.
I was ashamed to be so large that people looked at me uncomfortably when I was boarding an aircraft looking for my seat. They were fearful that the “Big guy” would sit next to them and cramp them on their trip. I was ashamed when I would go to a restaurant and have to eat so much food just to sate my appetite. I was too ashamed to order the amount of food necessary to sate my appetite when eating with co-workers or my boss, and would often sneak away after lunch for a second lunch. I was ashamed around friends when we were in my pool as they were able to see my large stomach in full-effect. I was ashamed of myself.
The problem here is that I shouldn’t have been. I should have been happy with who I was. I was married to (still am!) an amazing, incredible, and loving wife. I was the father to two great kids. I had close friends on whom I could rely on for anything. I had a good job, and I had a decent income. These were all things to be proud of, yet were overshadowed by my heaviness.
Why did I feel ashamed? The root of it, as I consider my own shame when I was heavy, was that I was taught to be considerate of others. I felt that my weight and associated habits made others uncomfortable, which in turn made me more uncomfortable. Other people may have a different experience or source for their shame, but this is the root of where mine came from.
Before I embarked on the journey to become healthy, I had to make peace with myself. I had to acknowledge that even though my wife and I were undertaking a huge leap when changing our lifestyle by jumping into a Whole30 that it might not work. I could possibly stay heavy forever. And I had to be okay with that. I had to accept who I was, and love myself.
It’s that love of myself that helped motivate me. It helped keep me disciplined, and persevere. My wife’s love had a huge role in my success, as did her food prep, encouraging words, and all the times she picked me up when I was feeling down, but ultimately, the love of myself and the desire to improve my health drove me hard. I wanted to make sure I was here for my wife and kids as long as I could be. There are never guarantees, but chances were greatly improved that I would have a longer life if I undertook a healthy lifestyle.
There is no shame in being overweight and/or unfit. I do not judge nor look down on anyone who is overweight or unfit. I offer my hand to help anyone trying to improve their health. I will give you encouragement, advice, and celebrate your successes with you. And yes, I’ll be here when things don’t go quite so well, either. I’m in this with you for the long haul.
Be happy with who you are. That person has the power to change everything and to live healthier.