I didn’t gain weight accidentally. I didnt gain weight because I simply couldn’t resist the chocolate or couln’t be bothered to exercise. I didn’t gain weight by having my four children. It didn’t creep up on me. I gained weight fairly rapidly and almost deliberately. I gained weight because I was unhappy and it was easier to be invisible than to face the world.
In our body concious world the person who doesn’t conform to the norm can be excluded from society and excused from normal social interaction. The public politely ignore you and your differences, and in doing so, they ignore you. This phenomenon has been well documented and anyone who doesn’t ‘fit’ can tell you about invisibility. Just ask the elderly or disabled about it. Or ask a fat person.
When you gain weight, you challenge what society accepts as attractive and sexual. Why I gained my weight is no ones business but my own, but it was a very effective shield against having to be the grown up, sensual, attractive woman I am now. Ive said before, that the moment I made real efforts to slim, was the moment I finally left childhood behind and started to grow up and into myself. I began to relate to others as a real adult for the first time. I stopped allowing myself to be treated as some pseudo teenager and the more weight I lost, the more ‘visible’ I became.
Not every person who gains excess weight has a real, deep unhappiness lurking. Many do glide into obesity accidentally. I suspect though that the really morbidly obese, unless they have a medical reason, do need far more help and support than can be found in the pages of a magazine diet supplement.
Im also NOT making assumptions with my next statement, but there is a well documented link to extreme weight gain and childhood or adolescent trauma or sexual abuse. By making yourself as unnatractive as possible and removing all traces of sexuality, you reduce the chances of becoming a target for abuse. People, particularly women, who feel traumatised by relationships can sometimes, even unconciously, don the cloak of weight or unnatractiveness in order to remove the risk of loving or being loved. This is obviously generalising horribly and this theory has many flaws and exceptions, I’m basing my comments on my own life experiences and the convesations Ive had with many morbidly obese women who attend my motivational chats. Time and time again I hear heart breaking stories of sexual or physical abuse, abandonment, childhood trauma or feeling a failure.
Catherine, a serial dieter, at least fifteen stone overweight attended one of my talks. Afterwards we chatted and she told me her story. She been abandoned by her mother in the care system and the victim of domestic violence in her first marriage openly admitted to me that even though she had found a wonderful second husband she hid behind her weight. She found a man who loved her despite her size and felt loved for herself for the first time.
Its one of the ways I feel the major slimming groups fail those with life changing amounts of weight to lose. Those groups are brilliant at helping you shed a few pounds or make a few changes. The consultant who run the groups cannot possibly provide the professional support and psychological help to those who are using their weight as a shield. Invariably, the dieter fails due to the wrong sort of support being given and the cruel cycle of failure and emotional eating carries on.
I dont know what the answer is, because clearly the NHS is under enough strain already and its going to be tough to train the legions of part time mum, part time slimming consultants up to the levels needed to be able to cope with the needs of people like Catherine.
I suspect though that the medical world needs to think about therapy sessions as well as subsidised gym memberships when treating the very overweight.
I didn’t get the psychological help I needed at the time I began my weight loss journey, but then my story wasnt as extreme as the Catherines of the world. I still found it very, very tough going and the mental adjustments needed to complete the metamorphasis were and still are very challenging. Im very lucky I had incredible support and understanding. I would love to find a way to get that support to everyone who needs it.