Another blogger on a website I write for posted an excellent blog about the story I’m about to address today, and I felt extremely compelled to put in my two cents as well.
It’s about David Smith, aka “The 650 Pound Virgin” of TLC fame. I remember watching the show when it aired. (I know … shame on me, tuning in like all the other freak-show fans to watch a human being’s private life splayed open and dissected like one of those rubbery frogs we all practiced our rudimentary scientific skills on.)
Anyway, I remember watching the show and watching his facial expressions as he began losing the weight and thinking, Hmmm … there’s a lot going on in there. He was doing his best to hide it – smiling, acting happy and proud, working out like a real go-getter, and blushing modestly at all the praise that came his way.
I could relate, because I rapidly lost a lot of weight at one time in my life too – not as much as David, but enough to qualify as a lot of weight. I remember my dismay when I looked at my much smaller body and admired how it looked (and was quite in awe of myself, I have to admit -- I was not without narcissism) … but still feeling exactly the same underneath. I remember my dismay when I realized I wasn’t a different person at all. I may have looked quite different, but the woman inside was completely intact.
Not that I didn’t love or value that woman … but I also knew that she had a lot of issues. A lifetime of them. And a lot of them came from being fat.
This is what angers me so much when I hear people religiously touting diet after diet, and proclaiming that theirs is the miracle diet that will finally get the weight off for good. We all know those diets don’t exist … but let’s just play devil’s advocate for a moment and pretend that there is a miracle diet that gets the weight off for good. Okay, so the weight is off. Now your life is supposed to be perfect, right?
I cannot think of a better example to prove this fallacy than David Smith. If you didn’t see the show when it aired, go to Youtube and check out some clips. Look at how hard he worked, how he struggled, how he fought to lose the weight. (And he is just one of many, many people who have done the same.) He underwent painful surgeries to get rid of the loose skin that was aesthetically displeasing to his newly trim body. Do you think he willingly would have put most of the weight back on after all that suffering? Do you think he didn’t realize it was creeping back on?
But he couldn’t stop it. He couldn’t prevent what was happening. He was returning to his old body, his old self, his old habits … because nothing except his body had changed.
Why do people believe that thinness equals happiness? Here was this 650 pound man who had no friends, had never had a girlfriend, was housebound, had basically no life, and who at one point had actively planned his own suicide. Then, relatively suddenly, he was “normal”. He was proclaimed “okay”. People called him cute and studly. Women were suddenly interested. How do you think someone who has been isolated and depressed for most of his life would react to this sudden acceptance into society?
I could see it in his facial expressions during the show -- especially one excruciating segment when he went to a bar to try and meet women. He was obviously terrified and didn’t know what the hell to do. Of course he didn’t. How would he? BUT HE WAS THIN. So what’s the problem, some people will undoubtedly ask.
The issues were obviously still there. Unless the issues that underlie being fat are dealt with (and a great deal of us have them, to some degree), losing weight will never be a victory.
All fat people feel, at some point in their lives, that they have been excluded from a select group of preferential people. If they lose a lot of weight and suddenly become “worthy” of inclusion into this select group, do you think they’ll be happy about it? Why the hell would they?
Why would anyone want to hang out with and share any part of themselves with people who told them they were ugly and lazy all their lives? I think all people who have lost a lot of weight struggle with this issue, and I think a lot of us have pretended and faked friendliness with people like this for awhile. But sooner or later, the resentment and general distaste kicks in. We realize that hanging with people like this is really a betrayal of our own values, and I think that’s a big part of the reason the weight comes back on. These people don’t really love us, and we know that. So we hurry up and get fat again so they can kick us out of their group. That way, we don’t have to take responsibility for leaving that cabal of thinness ourselves.
David’s so-called saviour, motivator, personal trainer and BFF, Chris Powell, who was all buddy-buddy with him during the show when he lost the weight? It's been reported that he's no longer his friend. You’re not surprised, are you?
Apparently, David’s girlfriend (who met him when he was thin) has stuck with him so far, which frankly surprises me. I just hope that in his despair and humiliation at regaining the weight that he doesn’t undertake another drastic weight-loss regimen. (I just discovered this video on Youtube, where David appears set on doing exactly this.)
This sad story reteaches us all an extremely important lesson. If you’re unhappy with your life and you’re fat, simply losing weight is not the answer. You need to ask yourself some very deep, hard questions, and be honest when you answer them.