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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Self Loathing Will Never Make You Thin

For the past month or two, I’ve been promoting my workshop in various places. Recently, I got an email from a man about an ad I had posted. The subject line read, pleasantly enough, “Please read this” and even had a smiley face beside it. So I was a little taken aback when I actually read it (even though I've heard similar sentiments before).

Without identifying him, I will quote some of what he wrote to me:

I'm a 33 year old male and I weigh 300 pounds. My Doctor says I need to lose 100 pounds in order to be Healthy and not be in any sort of health risk . I am Fat because, I am lazy and I don`t practice good eating habits. As a Fat and Overweight person myself, I am telling you that being Fat and Overweight is nothing to be proud of. When a man or woman is Fat, it is not the responsibility of society to respect them and feel sorry for them. Respect is something that is earned, especially through Hard Work. Nor should a fat person feel sorry for themselves, or even worse, Proud for being Fat.”

This one paragraph both saddened and angered me. I’m not angry at this man for stating his opinion, but I am angry at his whole-hearted acceptance of the fat hatred around him. A lot of fat people are like this: they believe that simply because they are fat, they deserve to be treated badly. Perhaps they feel that the constant shame and ridicule that’s heaped upon them will motivate them to finally lose the weight that’s hampered their lives. I certainly can’t say that I’ve been immune to hating myself. It’s all around us, constantly, EVERY SINGLE DAY. It takes an enormous amount of strength and self-discipline to re-train your mind into believing that despite your weight, you are still a worthy, decent, deserving human being. This is what saddens me.

It’s so much easier to give in to the majority, even if the majority is wrong. That basic human need we all have, to be loved and accepted by others, is so overpowering that some people will embrace a group that hates them in order to gain acceptance from, or to avoid being criticized by, that group. (The irony, of course, is that they will never be accepted by that group anyway.) Here’s another quote from his email that illustrates this tendency, and that horrified me:

“I think I speak for Majority of society when I say that Being Fat and Overweight is Ugly, Unhealthy and is Not a disability.”

First of all, not everyone thinks that fat is ugly. There are many people who can see beauty in fat bodies. Not everyone finds them repulsive. Secondly, excessive overweight is unhealthy. I am not delusional, as some fat radicals are, and deny every health risk associated with being overweight. However, I don’t believe the health risks are anywhere near as dire as the medical community and so-called experts make them out to be. Most importantly, the health risks do not trump any fat person’s basic right to be treated with respect. When it comes down to it, it is a person’s individual choice how to live their life, and if they choose to ignore possible health risks, that is their decision. As far as fat being a disability, I believe it is. I think emotional eating is the number one reason most fat people are fat. Most fat people don’t overeat because they’re hungry: they overeat because it’s the only way they know how to get relief from disturbing emotions. When someone has been using food to cope with negative emotions their whole life, it’s no different than reaching for a bottle of alcohol or a needle full of drugs. Alcoholism and drug addiction are both considered diseases, and I consider binge eating and emotional eating to be addictions.

As far as the "majority" goes, I couldn’t hesitate to point out the most horrifying and obvious fact: Just because the majority says something is right and good, doesn’t make it so. Hitler and the Nazi party were the majority in Germany at one time. They gassed millions of people simply because of their religion. Sometimes the majority is downright EVIL. I believe the way that fat people are treated in this society, except for a few enlightened souls here and there, is downright evil.

If you’re fat, and you think hating yourself is a good way to live your life, I urge you to think again. You can’t possibly benefit yourself in any way if you despise yourself for the way you look. Please realize I’m not advocating being delusional! If there are things you dislike about your body and want to change, then say to yourself, Okay, I’m not too fond of this particular body part. But that doesn’t mean that I’m unhappy with every single thing about myself! Acknowledge what’s positive, and this will give you the motivation to change the negative. Loving yourself gives you the "fuel" you need to accomplish your goals.

Try to realize that you are MORE than your body … that you, as a human being, are a multi-faceted person.  You have a mind, you have an imagination, you have talents and abilities. Try to start loving yourself by acknowledging those positive things, and try and make peace with your body. This doesn’t mean giving yourself carte blanche to eat whatever you want, whenever you want. It means, try to be more conscious of what you eat, WHY you eat, and how it is going to affect your body long-term. Whenever you’re contemplating or actually holding that “questionable” piece of food in your hand, ask yourself: Is this good for me? If not, why do I feel compelled to eat this? If you know it’s coming from an emotional need, try to stop and think it through. What are the emotions driving you to eat this unhealthy thing? Is it safety, comfort, or relaxation you need? Is there another way you can satisfy those needs?

This is a lifelong, difficult process. It’s not easy to change a lifetime of poor eating habits. Becoming more conscious of your inner life, of the “real” you, is crucial to addressing your weight. You HAVE to love yourself. It is absolutely necessary. You cannot do yourself any good if you hate yourself.

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