Thursday, February 18, 2010

How Do I Look?

I was in my belly dancing class a couple of days ago and just before the session started a conversation on weight loss quickly spread throughout the whole group. There is a surprisingly wide variety of woman in that small collection of fifteen to twenty individuals. There are representatives from those in their 20’s through their 60’s, several people from different cultural backgrounds, and just about every shape that you can imagine a lady having is also present. I love the diversity!

At any rate, there was lots of discussion on the different ways in which to lose weight – fast versus slow, exercising as opposed to or in cooperation with changing the diet, and so forth. At one point, the very cute and well-proportioned instructor contributed her opinion that you just need to truly commit to successfully lose weight and that determination to stay on your program will ultimately be the number one tool to help you drop the pounds.

There was approximately half a second of palpable tension before one of the other students – a woman who has managed to slowly lose about fifty pounds and who is still working at losing at least another forty – voiced her disagreement. She was obviously offended that such a comment would be put forward by someone who hadn’t experienced all she had been through.

Our instructor quickly followed that up with a bit of a shocker by saying, “I’m five-foot-one and I use to weigh nearly one-eighty. I lost fifty pounds.”

The point of me writing this isn’t to start a debate on the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ ways to lose weight. Personally, I am of the opinion that it is the individual journey that makes it a success or not. The person who is going through the process is the most important factor regardless of whether their particular journey includes calorie counting, low fat options, copious amounts of weight training, simply walking, quick and large losses, slow and steady progress, the occasional gain, or any of the other myriad of things that can possibly come into play when talking about how to drop those extra pounds.

No, what I am delving into right now is the fact that every person in that studio had a serious change of perspective when the instructor revealed her history. Many had constructed assumptions simply because of what she looks like now, and some people gave consideration to her opinion based solely on what they saw in front of them at that moment. As soon as it was disclosed that she could relate to weight loss struggles on a personal level it seemed like her opinion suddenly held more bearing – that her experience as an obese individual granted her the recognition of a wider scope of wisdom on the topic from those participating in her class.

I am not sure what to think of that. I know that the few times I have mentioned to people I just met that I have lost a hundred pounds that they look me up and down in disbelief and exclaim, “Really!?” I, too, am reaching a point where half a lifetime of weight issues are now being erased from the view of the public. No longer are the majority of my scars visible. I do not carry the burden of obesity as heavy proof stretched across every inch of my body any more.

I wonder who will doubt my wisdom in the future simply because I fail to show outward signs of the battle I have long fought? I wonder whom I will question when they appear differently to my eyes than they may have if I simply looked, instead, with my heart?


  1. THIS IS interesting...

    I often have people view what I have to say about weight loss as not being credible because I am 5ft3 and 260 lbs ... and when I tell them I have already taken off over 120 lbs they still look at me like..."what do you know your still fat aren't you?

  2. I just think it is AWESOME that you're even having to look at this issue...that you are no longer showing the outward signs of the battle you have long fought! (I, do, understand your point, however)

  3. Great post! As I am typing this, I hear music from the ice skating performances in the background which makes it all the more dramatic. I was just having the same conversation with someone yesterday about not having the evidence that lost the weight. How are people supposed to know that you have all of this wisdom and experience? They don't see the journey, they see the destination.

  4. Totally agree with you. Some people lose their weight eating one Lean Cusine after another, others count carbs, and so on. Those kinds of methods aren't for me, but more power to the people who suceed with them.

  5. I think this (the judging people by how they look and not on what's inside) is an issue in every aspect of life. If a person is fat, people assume they are lazy and glutinous, if a person is fit or thin people assume they haven't struggled with their weight, if a person emits money with their clothing/cars etc people will assume they have never known poverty and vice versa a person who is wearing rags and is homeless will be assumed to not know what it is to have the finer things in life. What it comes down to is assumptions and those aren't good. We all make them but they aren't good and they limit us significantly. BTW I love your blog and I am in awe of what you have accomplished. You seriously motivate me with your words and your pictures. Thank you. :)

  6. yup...
    I have a kind of kindred story...
    My husband now works as a security gaurd.
    He does it for a bit of extra money for our family.
    He is retired military...actually a former green beret.
    One of the most elite soldiers our country turns out.
    He goes to talk to a police officer hanging in the parking lot.
    The police officer made an allusion to the fact that my husband is a 'shabbily dressed security guard".
    My husband had done things a local cop has never dreamed of.
    But that guy will never know it...all he saw standing there is a forty year old man with a limp....
    He doesn't know it's from giving his brother his kidney...and from shrapnel wound earned in Iraq, from a grenade.
    whole point. You don't know who your talking to.
    So when you assume, it can make an ASS out of U and ME.
    I get the REALLY!!!! Thing too.
    lIke you are supposed to wear a tshirt or something.

  7. Great remarks, people!

    Midlife_Swimmer, thanks for a different take on this that I hadn't even considered!

    Chris, thank you so much for sharing your husband's story!

  8. thought-provoking, indeed. Great post girl.

  9. This is a great post, 266! It's a subject mentioned in the book Intuitive Eating that I hadn't thought of before.

    I think it's common in all aspects of life though...I'm going to better take advice from someone who has been through a similar struggle than someone who only has head knowledge, but doesn't really know what it feels like to struggle with a certain area personally.

  10. Very deep topic, and articulated very well.

    Being older and having experienced the biggest weight loss of my life at 29, before I had a child, before living where we live now, etc., etc., I find myself in a weird position around people that didn't know me "when".

    As I've recently put on some pounds and perceive that I'm being "judged", I want to say: "NO! You don't understand! I actually used to be larger than this! Most of these years, I fought valiantly to keep the weight off! You don't know what I've been through, or how this started for me!"

    It feels like I've lived two lives, and I want credit and allowances for Life 1, although most of the people I encounter on a day-to-day basis are from Life 2. Weird.

  11. It's a very multi-faceted topic and definitely one that applies both specifically to this journey and to many other aspects of life.