March 12, 2012

Terrible things

Interesting fact: I have never seen "The Biggest Loser." I tried once, a few years ago, before I started to get healthy. I only watched about ten minutes before I got frustrated - mostly with my own resentment. It wasn't fair ... these people were given the opportunity and the means to obtain what I wanted most in life, and I was stuck on the couch without a clue about where or how to start.

I still don't watch the show, for different reasons. But I've never forgotten that feeling of jealousy I used to have. Instead of being inspired by their hard work, I was angry at the tools they'd been given, the ones I coveted for myself. No one was here to cook nutritious meals for me and only serve healthy portions. No one was here to push me as I worked out, to tell me to go harder and move faster and work longer.
Well, of course, they're losing weight - if someone put me in isolation away from the foods I binge on and forced me to work out for hours every day, I'd lose weight too.
Because I didn't have exactly what they had, I seem to have decided that weight loss was, for me, impossible. And I always got a sick pleasure from hearing how some of the contestants regained some/all of their weight back.

It's funny. I always said that I wanted to lose weight more than anything, but it wasn't true. I didn't want it more than I wanted to overeat to the point of physical pain. I didn't want it more than I wanted to sit on the couch and watch movies for hours and hours. It took 23 years before I got to the point where what I truly wanted most was to be healthy. And in the meantime, I spent a lot of time wishing for someone or something to intervene, to hand me the tools I needed to get on the right track.

I'm not proud of this, but at 345 pounds, I used to wish for really terrible things to happen. I would lay in bed, hoping and wishing that I'd be in some sort of accident - just a broken leg or two, maybe an arm as well, nothing more serious - because I saw that as the key to recovery. I hoped to be hit by a car, or to fall from somewhere high enough to injure but not necessarily kill. I just wanted to be hospitalized. If I was in the hospital, I could only eat what they served me. I wouldn't be able to get out on my own to buy food to binge on. Exercise would be non-existent at first, but as my body healed and I lost weight, it would become easier.

I often think about a young woman named Michelle who was also a participant in last summer's Whole Foods/Plant Strong diet challenge, whose body became gluten and dairy intolerant after having her appendix out, if I recall correctly. The plant strong diet was difficult for her because she absolutely could not lose any more weight without it becoming an unhealthy low. She had to eat tons of healthy, plant-strong, yet calorie-dense foods. In the past, I might have wished the same issues on myself, and I certainly would have been upset and jealous. It was so selfish. I would have seen what I could gain from her serious health problems, instead of her daily struggles and the difficulties she encountered while learning to live with her new restrictions.

I'm very ashamed of these thoughts. I was willing to sacrifice my health and safety (and possibly even the safety of others) in order to be forced to learn self-control.

And the thing is, I didn't see the irony. I loved hearing about the Biggest Losers regain their weight once reintroduced to the real world, but didn't stop to consider that the same thing was due to happen to me if my fantasy was ever realized. You could have strapped me down, regulated my food, and screamed at me until you were hoarse, urging me to exercise and feed myself right. I might have even lost some weight. But it would not have stayed off. As soon as I was left to my own devices, I would have been back to my old habits and the weight would have crept back on.

Michelle's is one of the challenge blogs that I still follow, and her most recent health concern is a possible fructose intolerance - so now even her fruits and vegetables are limited. My heart aches for her, and I am so, so grateful for my own ungranted wishes. Every day, I get to choose *if* I want to eat well and exercise - and I love myself and want to properly nourish and care for my body, so I do. Some people, for any number of reasons, don't get to make the choice.

After all my false starts and jealous wishes, I found the motivation to lose the weight the right way. It happened when it wasn't about the haves versus the have nots, when improving my day-to-day struggles became a bigger priority than making sure I had all the same advantages as people competing on television. When I stopped comparing my journey to anyone else's, it became easier to see just how many strengths I had to guide myself. When it finally became the thing I wanted more than anything, I was able to properly focus on healthy measures.

16 comments:

Michelle said...

Love this post for so many reasons. Envy is never an attractive trait to have.

Ann said...

Mary, thank you for sharing what most of us hsd thought before. You are brave and amazing!!!

Taryn said...

I love this blog...it's so true. Finding the motivation and sticking with it is half the battle. Proud of you for coming so far!

El said...

i love your honesty!!! while reading your blog i am often jealous of all your success and how great you look and all the things you can do!! but mostly i am just amazed and inspired to do it myself.

domwillrunforbeer said...

Mary, I really appreciate your honesty. You are such an inspiration to so many. It's hard to admit this, but often times I wished that I would get the "weight loss" side effect of the leukemia. That's just terrible (and I apologize if my comment offends anyone), but I thought that it would be the easiest way. Now I appreciate my second chance at life, even if I'm not completely happy with my body.

tomadou (とまどう) said...

You inspire me! And I've thought everything you've written here! Actually, I used to use biggest loser as an excuse to binge. My past desire was to lose weight by "mono". I thought I would be happy being sleepy for a few months if it meant I could lose some weight -- how easy is that!? Now, I feel motivated (thanks to bloggers like you) to do it on my own. I'm glad I've got the chance to do it this way, it will make the success much more sweet! :D

Tammy said...

LOVE this post. Thank you for sharing and being so honest.

screaming fatgirl said...

"I didn't want it more than I wanted to overeat to the point of physical pain. I didn't want it more than I wanted to sit on the couch and watch movies for hours and hours."

This sort of statement always makes me uncomfortable because it presents the choice as being lazy and gluttonous over choosing health and strength. That is not the choice most people are making and I'd wager it wasn't the one you were making either.

For me, the choice was physical and psychological comfort in the face of many difficulties (both mental and biological) rather than extreme discomfort (and even pain). It was keeping my identity that had been established in childhood rather than ripping it apart and finding myself shattered by the changes rather than simply being who I had always known myself to be. This aspect of weight loss (I've lost 205 lbs. to date) has been devastatingly hard and is too often underestimated by people who think it's about willpower and deprivation.

The choice isn't so simple. It's immensely complex, and I think it has little to do with food and comfort over hard work and food deprivation.

timothy said...

been there, bein older than you i used to watch richard simmons eating a xl meat lovers pizza, breadsticks, a large bag of chips, and king size baby ruth washed down with a 2 litre "DIET" cola. madness isnt it? i do watch the biggest loser and while some regain is there the last few seasons have really kept most of it off as the show continues to be involved in their lives and many of them work at the bl ranch. tara even did an ironman with an injury last year!

Shannon said...

You are so honest and real - I love that! I can understand where you were coming from with these thoughts. Great post!

Yum Yucky said...

ahhh. this reads like an inspiration book. I appreciate your honesty and courage in sharing this.

h@wou said...

It's something that a lot of us don't want to admit, but we all have feelings like this from time to time. The situations don't even have to be for weight loss, they could be things like, "Oh well she gets more help, so she has an unfair advantage in *insert situation here*" That's why envy is one of the seven deadly sins. I applaud your bravery on speaking about things many of us are afraid to talk about.

Leigh C. said...

Great post. Thanks for being a constant inspiration to me:)

Ashley said...

I'm guilty of that envy as well. I remember even as early as 5th grade, a girl I know had a disease where she could not keep food in her body and she was very skinny. I wished I could have that, too. Sick, I know.

I'm lucky that I only have type 2 diabetes. It's sort of a no brainer that I just need to eat less and move more to get it under control. So in a way, I guess I got what I wanted. Be careful what you wish for is the moral of this story.

Sarah said...

This is just so true. I used to think it was weight loss I wanted but in reality it was just something else. The freedom from obsessing about food, dieting, worrying about numbers and the continuing failures.

Like you, I just wanted health. In finding that, losing weight is just a side effect that sometimes happens.

Frickin' Fabulous at 40 said...

I sometimes skipped entire seasons of BL if I wasn't on the diet train. I didn't want to be reminded of what I was SUPPOSED to be doing myself.