Miserable. That’s the most accurate description I can give to tell you how I felt when I was morbidly obese, or the fat girl.
You see, I have felt the shame of getting off a roller coaster in front of everyone around me before the ride began because the safety harness wouldn’t close with me in the seat.
I’ve quietly asked the flight attendant for a seat belt extender while hoping nobody noticed the hand off to me.
I’ve looked around to see if anyone was watching before pushing the table away from my stomach in the restaurant booth I’ve just squished into.
I’ve sat in the aisle seat (on the plane, in the classroom, at the retreat, in the movie theater, at the meeting), hoping and praying nobody would sit in the seat next to me so I didn’t have to lean out into the aisle to be sure I wouldn’t spill over into the personal space of the person beside me.
I’ve heard my knees creak going up the stairs, hoping nobody else noticed.
I’ve taken less food than I wanted because I didn’t want others to see how much I really could and wanted to eat.
I’ve sat in the driver’s seat of a car and had to adjust the seat back a few notches so my stomach wouldn’t touch the steering wheel.
I’ve declined to go places I was interested in for fear it would involve too much walking and energy.
I’ve sat in the bathtub and had to let out most of the water so it wouldn’t overflow.
I’ve felt the sadness of not being able to do things others could do, like being light enough to go on a zip line or climb up a pole on a ropes course.
I’ve felt the embarrassment of shopping for a t-shirt at a theme park only to find their largest size wasn’t big enough.
I’ve assumed others were judging me when I walked slower than them or breathed heavily going up a hill or stairs.
I’ve gotten into someone else’s car and prayed their seat belt would fit me. When it didn’t, I sat holding it near the buckle for the whole ride so the driver wouldn’t notice.
I’ve hidden food from loved ones so I could binge in private, then felt the shame and sadness of not being honest with them while trying to discretely dispose of the empty food packaging.
I’ve felt not good enough to be loved because who would love a woman who weighed over 300 pounds?
I’ve broken a plastic outdoor chair while sitting down in front of a group of fellow students, faculty members from my Seminary, and esteemed Ghanaian hosts during a mission trip to Ghana.
I’ve been embarrassed to get into a car and watch my side visibly sink as I sat.
I’ve had a grown man wear my one-piece bathing suit which I originally felt good in, as a prank in front of everyone at camp. The fact that it fit him was horrifying.
I’ve tried to sit in a chair with arms and didn’t fit or just barely fit.
I’ve searched for a wedding dress, only to find that most styles I liked weren’t available in my size and the ones that came in my size didn’t necessarily flatter my body.
After I was married, I doubted I would be able to get pregnant because my doctor told me the odds were against me being 35 years old, obese, and having PCOS (poly-cystic ovarian syndrome).
These are only SOME of the things I’ve experienced as a morbidly obese adult. I was overweight as a child, but was never in the morbidly obese category until sometime after college. I’m sure if I thought about this topic more, I could list even more hurtful, embarrassing, shameful things I have experienced.
But my story could easily be your story. There’s nothing truly remarkable about my experience as a morbidly obese woman. The sad fact is what I’ve just described above has been experienced by millions of people in the United States and around the world.
If you’ve never been obese or morbidly obese, you won’t be able to fully know the shame, sadness, guilt, judgment (both internal and external), and negative self-talk that goes with feeling “less than.” If that’s the case, that’s not your fault. My only request is that you have compassion, not judgment, for those who are experiencing life in a larger than normal body. The obese and morbidly obese don’t need you to tell them they’re obese.
Trust me, they already know.
They are living each day not sure how the outside world is going to react to them or what obstacles their physical body will create. And even if nobody says anything rude, hurtful, or judgmental to them, they may be saying those things to themselves.
When you see an obese or morbidly obese person, odds are you’re looking at someone who is wearing their pain on the outside.
Yes, there are some people who have overweight problems due to medications or medical conditions. But they are in the minority. Most of us are battling obesity because of a learned behavior. Emotional eating.
For many, we learned to cope with all the highs and lows of life with food. Something good happens in our lives? Let’s celebrate by going out to eat or grabbing desert! Something bad happens? Let’s commiserate together over food. Wanna have a social life? A dating life? Those often start with a meal out. Or at least at a bar or coffee shop. Do you go to church? How many opportunities to eat and be social do you have there? Lots, if you’re like the churches I’ve worked in! If someone gets sick or dies, people bring food to them or their loved ones.
And of course there’s the classic soothing with food. If you’re obese, you know how this goes. Someone stresses you out, hurts your feelings, or has you worried about what they think of you, so you eat. There’s a reason lots of junk foods are called “comfort foods.” In the short-term they bring comfort. But in the long run they can bring on the guilt, shame, excess weight, and lots of discomfort physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
After trying multiple ways to lose weight during my adult life, I had a gastric bypass at age 46. I’ll write a follow-up post soon to share my pre-op and post-op experiences with you.
So why am I sharing these painful experiences with you on the web? Because I know I’m not the only one who has gone through life in pain due to their weight. There are many people who live or have lived like this.
If you’re one of those people, I want to tell you that you’re not alone.
I understand what it’s like to struggle with obesity, and I want to support you.
I have a few ways we can connect, if you’re interested.
First, you can reply to this blog post in the comments below to share your experiences as an obese person.
Second, you can email me privately at writeChristine(at)YourGentleNudge(dot)com (Please use the symbols for at and dot, not the words. Writing it this way helps keep spam bots from using my email address to spam you, me, and others). I would love to hear your stories and experiences about your struggles with weight.
Third, you can join my free Facebook group for people who are considering weight loss surgery or who have already had weight loss surgery. You can find it at Life Before & After Bariatric Surgery-Emotional Support.
Fourth, if you feel you could benefit from one-on-one coaching with me, I am a Life Coach. You can find out more about my coaching services at http://www.YourListeningEar.com.
Fifth, you could join one of my upcoming group coaching 12-week sessions and classes. To be placed on the email list to be notified when classes start and for more information about them, please check out my Success and Support for Surgery page. Or you can email me and I’ll gladly pass along the info!
Your Gentle Nudge: If you are overweight or obese, I want to encourage you to find support. It can be through people you know in person, online, Facebook groups (including my group Life Before & After Bariatric Surgery-Emotional Support), your local bariatric surgeon’s support group, or my 12-week group coaching experience Success and Support for Surgery. You don’t need to feel isolated, lonely, or helpless on your journey.