Series: Rethinking People with Obesity
It comes as no surprise that we are a food-focused society. In many ways, this is the reason I have gained and lost so much weight over my life. I often say even now, after losing and maintaining over a 100-pound weight loss for nine years, if I just lived in a glass bubble this would all be so much easier. You see, after 40 years of dieting I know how to lose weight; it’s keeping it off that has been the problem. It is incredibly difficult for so many reasons.
To a certain extent, you – my friends, family, colleagues and most social interactions – make my day extremely challenging. Why? Because you feel the need to offer me food – healthy, unhealthy, high-calorie and sugar laden treats, you name it. You feel the need to have it sitting around at the ready in case someone at any given moment may want a little nibble. See that candy dish on the desk? It’s a distraction to me. I don’t want it to be, but it is. Could you please put it in the desk where I don’t have to walk by it 30 times a day? I don’t want a donut either. No, I’m lying, I do want a doughnut, but I can’t. My days are filled with “no thankyou’s” and “I can’t’s.” It’s the life I live to stay healthy.
From your side of the fence, I know you don’t understand. If I had to guess, I think you see food as fun, a safe way to connect with others, a kind offer of respite to an otherwise busy day. After all, who wouldn’t appreciate a homemade brownie freshly baked by your loving hands? You put time and care into it, with the goal of bringing joy to others. I’m sure you also want to be polite and courteous, and leaving me out would certainly appear to be rude. I get it, I do. And for the record, I won’t be offended if you don’t include me in the offer. I repeat: I won’t be offended.
Please, just stop offering me food. Don’t try to tell me “just this one time, it won’t hurt” – it does. Don’t suggest that I take a small helping. One small helping turns into two or three. Don’t ask if there’s something else you can get for me. I just don’t want to be harassed with food. I don’t want to think about food; I try to avoid it all costs. But, if you do feel compelled to offer me food, please just accept my “no thank you” as “no.” I don’t want to see your hurt feelings either, as it makes me feel guilty. I may partake just so you aren’t upset, but your victory comes at my expense.
What would be helpful is if you could be happy for me, for my restraint and fortitude to continue my life as healthy as I can make it.
If there is a moment when I choose to eat that brownie, don’t chastise me, mock me, judge me, gossip about me to others or shine your spotlight on it. What I put or don’t put into my body is my choice. I’m doing my level best to find peace of mind amid the cacophony of food messages we are bombarded with.
If you haven’t lived in the shoes of someone that has food issues it would be difficult to relate to my experiences. Were you reading this thinking I am weak willed? Did you base your conclusion on your mental experience as it relates to food environments or your abilities to interpret and control your body’s signals? Were you thinking, why should my challenge be your responsibility?
I have noticed people work hard at defending their food freedoms. Do you remember, prior to the 1990s, people were permitted to smoke in public places until there was a strong public voice against this unhealthy environment? I’m not talking about the act of smoking, but rather the smoke-filled rooms in which we were all breathing. Is unhealthy food not the same thing? Is unhealthy food the cigarette of this decade? Will we look back at this 30 years from now and say, “I can’t believe we once celebrated a weekly pizza day at work.”
One can always hope it won’t take 30 years.