When was the last time you were embarrassed? How do you react to embarrassment?
In the year 2010, I decided to lose weight so I started a rigorous exercise (walking) program and monitored what I ate. It was successful in that I lost 50 pounds in about 6 months. Unfortunately, the reason I was successful was not my reasonable lifestyle changes – it was because I was ill and easily obsessed with the idea of losing weight. I became a zealot – preaching about the value of treading water to burn calories and how much spinach I was eating every day.
These were symptoms of my disability, but because I was a “success” (aka “thinner”) – few people noticed. Oh, there were some who were polite when I went on and on and on and I’m sure they wondered what happened to me. But I had tons and tons of cheers and shows of support from people who probably didn’t realize that losing an average of 10 lbs a month and being fanatic about it were red flags, not fitness wins.
I didn’t share my triumphs to solicit praise; I shared them because I genuinely and honestly thought I was helping. I was completely delusional about all of this and feel embarrassed now.
I’m not embarrassed because I’ve gained most of the weight back. I’m not embarrassed because I fell off the wagon – I’m actually grateful to be healthier overall.
I’m embarrassed because it was cringe-worthy, eye-rolling self-aggrandizement and I was nothing more than a show-off and a know-it-all. I was the kid standing on the playground bragging about some accomplishment, earnestly believing that I was helping others with their lesser lives. I’m also slightly embarrassed that no one felt comfortable confronting me.
I was obnoxious and rude and oblivious to the impact of my conduct on other people.
It is understandable that people want support when they make a lifestyle change or meet a health goal. But it is never “not obnoxious” to work that into everyday conversation. I have many friends on Facebook – good people – who document all of their health choices in painstaking detail. I’m sure they have their reasons, but I take them out of my filter because it reminds me that once you start down this path – it is very black and white, the people who try to “take care of themselves” and “those who don’t.”
We become tedious voyeurs of the choices of other people who aren’t devoting all of their free time to training for a 5K, walking on their breaks and consuming leafy green veggies. And naturally those other people (now including me) start opting out of those judgmental conversations thinly veiled as “support.” They aren’t supportive, they are giant screams of “look at me ” with the caveat of “I’ll never go back.”
Well, you might and if you do, it is not a moral failing. I take medication that promotes weight gain, but I still lose a few pounds every month. I don’t exercise because of some other symptoms. I’m hoping that starting a PT regime will help me with that. Maybe not. But all of my vital signs are good and strong. I’m fat and out of condition, but otherwise healthy. I can work on the out of condition part, but I have a very good reason why I ended up in this space.
I hope like hell I don’t revert to posting every fitness win on my Facebook page. To me, that’s a red flag – can I make changes in my own life and appreciate them with my immediate family or perhaps a community like SparkPeople? And leave it be? Because I can’t honestly say that it was about a healthy lifestyle or a commitment to change – I think I was delusional enough to just want to be skinny and pretty and damn the costs.
Not everyone who is doing this is struggling with mental health symptoms, but I don’t believe them when they say they are doing it for themselves if they are bragging about it. I just don’t because I’ve been there. Now when someone is sharing their struggle to follow a strict diet while undergoing chemo and talking very honesty about how fucking hard it is, that seems different. People don’t decide to take a course of chemo.
Mind you, I know that we should be able to talk about our health, our welfare and our disabilities in every day conversation. But there’s something about a “lifestyle” that tips the update into a lecture. If I wrote status updates like ‘took my morning meds’ ‘opened the bag of cereal without cutting myself” ‘remembered to eat lunch’ – you’d find it tedious and dull even though all of those things are just as critical to my health as eating spinach, perhaps more so.
There’s something compulsive about diet and exercise status updates in social media – they evoke strong reactions in a way that “took my daily multivitamin” doesn’t. And that compulsive element is dangerous. At least for me. I’m going to try to remember that to avoid the allure of “I want to be skinny” from infiltrating my recovery.
And because everything that I posted sent a message that you were somehow not as awesome as me because you were making different choices, I am sorry for that. I regret it. I hope I learned a lesson.