Today's Fatslaying Workout Nothing
Today's Weight 192.5 lbs
I had a distressing conversation with one of my friends yesterday, and it made me realise just how screwed up your mind can get when you’ve been overweight your whole life in a society that values slenderness above everything else as a yardstick to measure attractiveness.
My friend’s first husband (a pilot) had numerous affairs and eventually left her for a much younger, slimmer woman, after telling my friend that her weight was the cause of his infidelity (yeah, right).
Fuelled by misery and the fury of the scorned woman, my friend lost about a hundred pounds, and within a couple of years of her divorce she had met and married a man 17 years her junior. He met her when she was at her lifetime’s skinniest, and when they married she was a UK size 10. That was a happy day for her.
In the twenty years since then, my friend has battled constantly with her weight. She’ll lose twenty pounds and gain twenty-five, lose thirty and gain forty – it seems to be a never-ending cycle. She is now about 100-120lbs overweight. Her husband is supportive and loving, never makes an issue of her weight, but is gently encouraging of her (erratic) dieting efforts. However, he is also extremely fit and active (he earns his living as a mountain bike guide, and he's also a marathon runner, cross-country skier and fell-walker), and she constantly feels as if she married him under false pretences, making him think he would have a slim, fit wife instead of an obese, physically unfit one.
Nothing he says or does can alter this belief, which has become almost a mono-maniacal obsession for her, and which colours every waking moment of every day.
She cried all day on her 40th birthday because she was fat and forty, and did the same on her 50th birthday. She is miserable beyond belief. She can’t seem to either come to terms with being large (and work on maximising her health and fitness), or to successfully get her weight down to where she feels happy. She’s simply stuck in a place she hates, and doesn’t know how to move forwards.
Her poor husband is thoroughly perplexed, and at a loss of how to convince her that he loves her regardless of her size. He tries to encourage her to quit worrying about her shape and just have fun – he wants her to dance and jiggle her little heart out and stop worrying constantly about what people will think. He worries about her health, and all the opportunities to have fun that she’s constantly letting slip through her fingers.
A couple of months ago they went on their first ever cruise, to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary - they’ve been saving up for it for the past 5 years. The cruise cost £17,000 each, and was for 11 nights. It was on a luxury liner, complete with 6 decks of casinos, ballrooms, fitness suites, restaurants, beauty salons, swimming pools, sun loungers, cocktail bars, cinemas – you name it, they had it.
At the 11th hour my friend almost backed out of going, because she was afraid that people she hadn’t met before would judge her purely on her weight. Eventually after much cajoling they embarked, and for the next 11 nights she only left their cabin once (for a midnight trip to see the Aurora Borealis). The rest of the time she had room service meals in the cabin, and read romance novels all day long, whilst her husband (urged by her – sincerely - to have fun) took the opportunity to do some glacier skiing and snowboarding when the ship anchored, and spent much of the rest of the time enjoying the first class gym facilities and swimming pools that the ship offered.
After the eleven days, he came home tanned, energised, rested, invigorated – my friend came home 10 pounds heavier than when they left because she comfort ate the entire time they were away, and with her self-esteem at rock-bottom.
Last night she was in tears. Since the holiday she’s gained a further 15 pounds. None of her clothes fit, and she has ulcerated skin beneath her boobs and at the top of her thighs where her skin rubs against itself. The temperature had soared to 90F/30C and she was hot and fractious and miserable and feeling like crap. She’s worried that her husband will get fed up with her refusing to do anything together, and will leave her the way her first husband did. It’s almost as if she’s pushing him out of the door – she can see she’s doing it, too, but can’t help herself.
I didn’t know what to say to help – nothing seemed to console her. She’s tried weight loss groups, starvation, counselling, fad diets, hypnosis, diet pills, acupuncture, bulimia and laxative abuse, personal trainers, Prozac, therapy, holistic medicine, weight loss surgery (she was turned down) – none of it has worked and her depression is intensifying.
She forgets that she wasn’t happy for much of the time when she finally got to be skinny, and she sees losing weight as some sort of magical panacea – and like most magical things, she thinks it’s beyond her reach. She can’t take the first step – it’s as if she’s paralysed. I know from my own bitter experience how hard it can be to take the first step – you have to wait for the ‘click’, and it’s not something that can be forced – but I don’t know the right words to help the click along for her!
She asked me about my own weight loss efforts, and though I tried to downplay them and not rub her nose in it, she was spiteful and bitchy (and tearful), because she feels as if I’m betraying her by leaving her stranded. She seemed to be willing me to fail, so that she and I could be miserable together – I felt horribly selfish and egotistical, and had to give myself a stern talking to so that I wouldn’t dive into the biscuit tin our of sheer guilty remorse.
I had to remind myself that even when you’re fat in company it doesn’t really make it any easier, and that I’d be doing my friend no real favours if I fell off the wagon into a tub of ice-cream. You can have all the fat companionship in the world, but when push comes to shove you have to face your inner uncertainties and anxieties on your own – no amount of solidarity can make you feel better about yourself when you’re face to face with your fat demons.
Having said that, does any one have any bright ideas of how I can help my friend? It’s heart breaking to see her so unhappy….