Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dear Family & Friends

Dear _________,

I want to share with you some of my deepest feelings. I am trying to get myself healthy. However, as I go along the journey there are some things that I need, and some things that I don’t need. There are also going to be good days and bad days so be patient and don’t give up on me. Here are some random thoughts from a big person to those of you who have never known what it is to be big, or can lose weight like some people sweat on a 105 degree day in humid Florence, Alabama.

1.       Please don’t put me down. I put myself down enough. If you don’t have something nice to say, or if you can’t say what you need to say with love and concern just keep your thoughts to yourself.

2.       If I am a teenager please don’t tell me things like, “You would be beautiful if you just lost 50 pounds.”, because what I am going to hear is that you don’t love me, you think I am grossly ugly, and that I am unlovable in my current condition. I may never recover from this.

3.       If I am your spouse and I ask you to exercise with me to help me stay motivated, even if it means walking at my waddle speed, please do it, don’t dismiss me because I will feel unloved and I may go eat another bag of cookies as I suffer in silence.

4.       If you are sitting at a table with me and you see my plate piled high please don’t make comments me to your slim friends sitting around the table with you about what is on my plate, especially when yours is piled high too.

5.       If you are my personal trainer please push me and motivate me, but never act like Julianne Michaels. I am not on The Biggest Loser, I can’t exercise hours each day, but I am trying and need you to help me learn what to do to get the best workout for my body in each session I have with you.

6.       Remember, it took years of training my brain to be unhealthy to get here, and now I have to retrain my brain, break food cravings, and I have to let go of one of my best friends…food. It is tough, and if you haven’t been here you don’t know my struggle.

7.       Please don’t judge me as lazy because I am big because you don’t know me. You don’t know what an effort it is to just exist as a big person.

Thank you, _____________.

If you are reading this and you have a loved one in your life who is dealing with weight loss you are probably very concerned about their health. Many times the people closest to me have been the ones who have hurt me the most about my weight. Sometimes it is not even their fault, it is my faulty thinking.

The best example I have of this situation of my faulty thinking is with my sister Molly. She and I are very close. She is one of my biggest supporters, I get motivated talking to her, I get loads of information about health and nutrition from her thanks to her own research, and she is one of my best friends. Yet, sometimes, I still feel like the ugly duckling, next to the beautiful swan, and just can’t compete. I feel this way but Molly has never told me that I was ugly, never acted like she was embarrassed to be seen with me, and the only time(s) my weight/health has ever been discussed with her it has been with love and concern for me. To me this is the perfect example of the negative thoughts an emotional eater may have that leads to poor self image and poor self esteem.

Molly and I will always be different, even if we were physically the same size. If I gained or lost 100 pounds from where I am right now, my sister would love me the very same. Yet I know a weight gain would make her very concerned for my health, and a weight loss would make her very glad that my health has improved.

As for parents, you are in a very delicate situation. If YOU do not set a good example of a healthy lifestyle before your children then you are at fault. Kids learn from us on every level. Monkey see, monkey do. It stands to reason that if you eat fast so will your kids. If you eat fatty, sugary foods so will your kids. If you skip meals so will your kids. Do you get the picture?

If you have multiple kids here are some things to consider. They are all different. They have different thought processes, and different emotional needs. They all need time with you. They all need encouragement from you. Please don’t compare your children to one another so that they feel the need to compete with each other to be the best. It is very damaging.

If you want your kids to exercise it probably won’t do any good for you to be the drill sergeant sitting in the recliner and yelling at them while you watch TV as they do sit-ups and push-ups at your feet while hoping their butt isn’t in the air too much or that their feet stay on the ground so they don’t get yelled at more. It also is not going to be effective if only one of your kids has to do this because they are the only one with a weight issue. Nope, you are most likely doing more harm than good there.

You probably are not going to be very effective with teaching portion control around the family table by ridiculing your kid with the weight problem for what is on their plate in a hateful way. Most likely this will only make the kid feel stupid, afraid to eat with people around for fear of getting into trouble, and if there are other children around the table they will learn that it is okay to make fun of the fat kid.

If you really want to totally mess with your kid's head then make statements like, “If you would just lose 50 pounds then you would be the prettiest/most handsome kid I have.” That will really, really help a young person struggling with weight issues to feel good about themself and get motivated!

If you are a parent that is concerned about the health of a child, and the other parent is overly critical about the weight issues there are some things you can do that would help. Make sure to positively motivate the kid. Make sure they know you love them, that you are willing to exercise with them, fix healthy foods and eat it with them, and make sure that they know YOU accept them like they are. If possible try to talk with the othe parent about the negative way they are dealing with the problem.

Many of my issues with food came from a very problematic childhood. My parents did not have access to the internet to get information about health and nutrition. My dad especially in his messed up way wanted me to be healthy, but for years I thought he did not love me because I was fat. He was doing what he thought was best, but it led me to binge eating in private that just compounded a very serious problem. Momma did try to ease the pain that his words and actions caused, but you can’t undo some things they just have to be dealt with and life has to move on. I don’t share this with you to demean my folks. I love them dearly. I share this in hopes that if you are dealing with a teenager/preteen with weight issues that you seek first God for guidance, and then a health care professional, counselor, or someone who struggled with weight as a child for advice on how to approach the kid in a positive way. TRUST ME, if you go about it the wrong way, your child may have LIFELONG issues with food and a healthy weight.

As, for siblings, you have the potential to be a good influence or a bad one. We don’t often think about the feelings of others when we are young ourselves, but we should. Be an encourager, and try not to make fun of the big kid in the family.

To all of you other friends and family members out there, especially ones that have never had to deal with a weight problem, please take heart about the things you say. One time, I was at a family gathering. One of my relatives whom had had a baby about four months previous and was already down to her pre-baby weight humiliated me. She had no intention of doing it, but she did. She stated, “Are you going to eat all of that?” The answer was really, “No, probably not.” (You know how it is at family gatherings, you get a little spoonful of everything and end up not eating half, you just want a taste of the different foods…I will admit overeating was most definitely going to happen, but I digress!) But, because I was sitting down with Mrs. I-can-lose-baby-weight-faster-than-any-woman-on-the-planet, and another very skinny woman who had chimed in with, “My, I don’t eat that much in a week!” I felt like a big old pile of worthlessness. I just snapped out with my customary everything is great in my world smile and a big old, “Yep, and will probably go back for seconds!”

Those ladies will never know how awful I felt that day. I wanted to cry. I wanted to get up and leave the table. However, I did not want to make a scene. I did not want to tell them as they made comment after comment about food and weight as we sat there that I wished I would drop dead, that I wanted to punch them in the face, or that the biggest comfort to me at that moment was knowing that one of my aunts had made her punch bowl cake and I was going to have a great big piece as soon as I ate each and every bite on a plate of food I didn’t even want anymore. BUT, I had been conditioned as a teenager to show no emotion, to pretend all was well, and the best way to get even with the world was to do exactly what I wanted too, not what was healthy for me.

Thankfully I also had many wonderful friends. The people I babysat for throughout my teenage years have no idea how much I NEEDED them. I always felt appreciated and accepted. One of them, who is now one of my most dear and best friends, even made it a point to tell me that I was beautiful, and that one day the world would see it too. As for all those children, they did not care if I was big or small, they just wanted to play, have stories read to them, and to go swimming!

Now, if you are struggling with weight issues and this is a letter you would like to share with your own family or friends that is great we have something in common. However, it is VITAL that we as emotional eaters, binge eaters, etc, deal with the fact that it is our job to control self. When we cannot control ourselves then we are out of control. Plain and simple, we are out of control.

If you are following this blog and wonder how this relates to Steps To a Healthier Me, I understand. I have found when I ask myself questions like: “Why are wanting to eat?”; “Why does this PERSON’S actions/words have so much control over you?”; “Who are you trying to please with THIS weight loss effort?”; etc., that I can really focus on the root of my problem which is usually that I am not leaning enough on the Lord, that my faith is weak, and that I am ignoring the big white elephant in the room instead of dealing with problems in life with other people in a Biblical manner. Until, I can learn to deal with personal relationships in a healthy way I may never overcome emotional eating. However, it is MUCH easier for me to deal with any problem no matter what area of life it is in when my WALK with GOD is goind well! Sometimes, that take brutal self-examination, and some very hard conversations with people who are hurting me.



Thank you to everyone who is being so kind via comments and emails about this blog. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and suggestions. PLEASE if you know of anyone who is struggling with emotional eating or binge eating please share this blog with them, my email address, or my Facebook page with them. They may be feeling alone and seeking someone that knows their personal struggle in order to find their way to their own journey to a Healthier Me. I don’t have all the answers, but I am not afraid to look. I will be glad to be a resource of encouragement for them. Thank you again.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for all you're doing, Leah! It's encouraging to see the steps that you are taking to be healthier - including forgiveness to ourselves and forgiveness to others. We all have our own personal struggles that we must overcome. My goal is to lose the 35 pounds I've gained since being married and having kids (those aren't excuses, just!) I grew up with a stellar metabolism and could eat everything I wanted and never worried about exercising or counting calories. I had created some horrible eating and thinking habits that I'm finding are hard to unprogram. Even when I was thin as a rail I had a running list of things I didn't like (more like hated) about my body. I have always been very insecure...and still am. I hope people understand that about me...sometimes I am super quiet and shy not because I'm a snob, but instead because I battle insecurities and a super low self esteem. I think that has to be one of the biggest challenges when it comes to weight loss is 'dealing with the feelings'. Especially trying to break that cycle of feeding my feelings instead of feeling my feelings. People that have never experienced the emotional side of this don't know how easy even unintentionally harmful comments can take a toll on someone. For instance, my friend who sells weight loss stuff told me when I started the program "You're going to look so good." Ouch! As if, after I lose weight, THEN I will be an acceptable human being. As if there is something horribly flawed about me because my metabolism seems to be stuck and I'm not perfect. Okay, I KNOW that she did not mean any of that....but that was my personal interpretation of that statement. That's not what she was telling me...that's what IIII was telling me. This is all part of taking steps needed to heal our mind & spirit while we heal our body. Some people make weight loss look so easy, but for others it can be a complex process. And Leah you are definitely on the right path and doing great! Thanks for letting me gush here, if that's okay.