I was compensated by Med-IQ through an educational grant from Novo Nordisk, Inc. to write about the realities of obesity as a chronic disease. All opinions are my own.
When I hear someone say the words, “I see you” they invoke such a strong emotional response for me. I immediately feel a lump build in my throat. Two years ago I would have suppressed that lump and wiped the feeling away with a resolve that said, “I got this, it doesn’t matter, let’s do this damn thing.”
I was a master of diminishing my own emotions, so much so that I am just now, at the age of 38 learning to feel. To have emotions. I now allow that lump to escape my eyes in streams of salty tears that I cannot control.
I see you. That’s all it takes to turn me into a puddle.
When I look back on my life the overwhelming theme is that I was never good enough, or at least that’s what I remember. Not being the best at anything meant that I wasn’t actually good at anything. Talents don’t exist for me because being vulnerable with words isn’t a talent, it’s just who I am. Good things only happen to me because I’m able to trick people into thinking I’m something I’m not because I’m nice and a people pleaser.
I wanted people to see me and they did. Just never enough, or not in the way I needed them to.
Now that I am learning to feel emotion, and having to look at my whole self, I feel as though I’ve reverted to childhood. It is an uncomfortable and unsure time. When I look into a mirror of myself from the shoulders up, I can feel appreciation. As you reveal anything lower than that, I begin to see only flaws, shame and failures, I can feel my full self retreating further inside my being where I detach and watch the highlight reel of my life from a dark place. All I see there are the things that could have been done better, the ways I could have worked harder, all the wrong choices I’ve made since I was 9.
That’s 30 years of shame that I wear like a vest.
I am mean to myself, I always have been. I say things about myself, to myself, I would never say to a friend. It can be hard to tune that voice to the positive, but learning to do that is an important step in self-love. When you love yourself, you want the best for yourself. How does that sit with you? It was hard for me to write, true as it is. I have begun a Joy Journal. Every day, I recall and write down the kind things people said to me. Even if it was a compliment about my hair, I write it down. I don’t allow myself to counter it with a deflection, I breathe the compliment in, write it down, repeat. Then I write down three things I love about myself. Sometimes, it’s the same 3 things, but at least I’m getting things down in writing. My hope is that some day I look back on these words as a woman who really loves herself and cry about how lost I was in 2020.
This time of uncertainty and physical distancing has forced me to try to get in touch with my whole self, and I’m not good at it at all.
Everywhere I look, I see people doing the most and some days it’s all I can do to get out of bed. I’m frustrated that my gym is closed and that I don’t have the whatever it takes to put my workout gear on and pound out a workout. I’m frustrated that I’ve been eating the way my endocrinologist wants me to eat and nothing seems to be changing.
My therapist and boss and friends have all been encouraging me to practice self-care, but what I’ve learned is that I don’t even know what that means. I don’t know what self-care entails because I don’t even know myself well enough to know really what makes me happy. When I was young I felt I had to take care of my family because times were tough and I had to be a big girl. Then before I could even drink legally, I became a mom and then a single mom. I had to push my own desires aside so that I could provide and just do what I had to do.
I got married to a man who was extremely career-driven and we had two more kids so my life continued on this path of making sure he got what he wanted and the kids got what they needed and it never occurred to me that I might want or need something too.
So when people say they see me, I melt.
I’m not sure what they see in me, and even when they tell me it doesn’t stick. I’m genuinely looking forward to the day where I believe that I am enough, or the moment I see myself the way people tell me they see me.
I just don’t see it, and I don’t see a world where that exists for me, even when I look hard for it.
Yes, I do feel pride for some of my accomplishments. Sending a child to college that I raised largely by myself is one of them. As I’m writing this, that is the only thing I can think of that makes me feel pride. Maybe that is why I feel so broken every time my son says he can’t do something. I think of all the ways I failed him that he would think that way, and don’t see any of the ways I did things right.
You’re probably wondering what this has to do with obesity, and for me that’s easy. It has everything to do with it. I have attached my worth to my body since childhood. I have never seen myself as beautiful or worthy because of the way my body doesn’t reflect the societal vision of beauty.
Even now that I know obesity is a chronic disease, it’s hard to separate that knowledge from the way I feel about myself.
I am not my body.
My worth is not tied to the way I look. I work hard to be healthy on the inside and out, and I hope some day I love my body as much as it loves me. Until then, I’m in (loads) of counseling and working to help my children appreciate and love their bodies.
I am so proud to be partnered with Med-IQ for another real talk about obesity being a disease and not a choice people make. Weight is complex, not just calories in and calories out, and health is so much more than body size. Blood pressure, blood cholesterol levels, and body composition are all better measures of health than someone’s body size.
When we treat someone differently because of their body size, we stigmatize a disease and cause immense damage to that person’s psyche. Believe me, we feel it. We see you looking at us when we’re out in public, we hear the comments you make, we see you when we’re walking down the aisle of an airplane, we know what you’re thinking.
You wouldn’t do that to someone with diabetes or cancer. Stop doing it to people with obesity. Know better, do better, right?
So do better and spread the word. See people for who they are and not the size of their pants.
Med-IQ is conducting an anonymous survey and would appreciate your input. The survey, which includes additional education on this topic, will take less than 15 minutes to complete. Survey responses are shared only in aggregate. Your responses to these survey questions will provide Med-IQ with important information about your experiences with obesity and your care team, which will help us develop future educational initiatives. Once you’ve completed the survey, you will have the option of providing your email address to be entered into a drawing administered by SOMA Strategies to win 1 of 10 $100 VISA gift cards. If you choose to enter, your email address will be used only to randomly draw the winners and notify them of their prize and to send a follow-up survey as part of this same initiative.
Please help us with this. Help me with this. Do it because you love me.