One of the things I hear a lot on weight loss shows is “I have no choice!” Whether it’s having to eat the junk food that their family likes, that’s available at the office, that they have no time to be more active, etc. It’s not their fault because they don’t have a choice. Another complaint I hear a lot of is that their weight is something that “happened” to them. Both of these are common complaints/ excuses on My 600 lb Life– new word ‘explaints’! The patients often act like they are victims, either of whatever event “happened” to them or of their family’s poor eating habits. The irony is that when you talk to the family members, you get a different story at least in regards to the eating habits: “if you come back without the food he/ she wants, he/ she gets really angry!”
I don’t deny that many of them have been the victims of some terrible events, whether abuse or rape or whatever, but we all have choices when it comes to dealing with trauma. Not all of us handle it well. I personally am the queen of avoidance- I can ‘not-see’ some really big events in my life! I also recognize that choosing to avoid the issue isn’t the best way to handle it. When I do look at it and feel the stress and other negative emotions that come along with dealing with the problem, yes, I made it worse by not dealing with it. Yes, it is my problem and if I continue to avoid it, it’s only going to get worse. It may have been something that started with an event that really did happen to me, but my avoiding it and not dealing with it has only made the problem worse, and that exacerbation was my choice! Let me say boil that down: the ultimate exacerbation is the result of my choice not to deal with the issue.
So, something traumatic happened, and for most of these patients, their choice was to eat to avoid the problem. Now they are 600/ 700/ 800 lbs and it’s not their fault. This is the result of their parents’ divorce, the abusive father, the sexual trauma, etc. They complain that this isn’t the life they wanted. They can’t do anything and they have no life at all. “If XYZ hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be trapped in this bed.”
Fifteen years ago, I was trapped in a bed. I weighed somewhere between 350-385 lbs and I broke my arm and leg. As a result, I needed surgery to fix the broken bones and was stuck in a bed for almost four months. I needed help to do just about everything: bathing, dressing, eating- everything! It was a truly horrible experience for me. I hated every minute of it and the thought of using my injuries as an excuse to stay in bed and be waited on and cared for like an invalid (even though I was an invalid!) never occurred to me. Getting out of that bed ASAP was my choice, even though it required a lot of hard work. I had to have surgery to have hardware installed (I’ve got a pin holding my lower leg together and a plate with five screws in my wrist) and then I had nearly six weeks of physical therapy. It was years before my wrist was ‘normal’ again although my leg healed a lot faster. I could have said: “this accident happened to me and now I’m trapped in bed with these injuries. It hurts too much to try to get up because I’ve been trapped here for so long.” It really was painful to move around after laying in bed for six weeks waiting for my wounds to heal. I couldn’t put any weight on the leg until the doctor was able to confirm that the bone had healed and my wrist was so stiff, I couldn’t bend it at all or even use my fingers much. I remember the first day I tried walking with a walker after the doctor gave me the okay- it was so exhausting just trying to walk, and it hurt my wrist too since I had to use a walker! I could have given up and gone back to the bed. It could have been me saying “I have no life. If this accident hadn’t happened to me, I wouldn’t be trapped in this bed!” Instead I chose to work harder to get better.
This isn’t about how “wow, I’m so tough and I did all the hard work! Aren’t I just awesome!” It’s about picking your battles. I chose to fight for my independence, because for me, the thought of being helpless and trapped in a bed was a truly horrifying thought- not exxagerrating! It was pretty much the worst thing that could happen to me, in my eyes. By contrast, I have seen some of Dr. Nowzaradan’s patients fight to stay in their beds! The irony is that they fight so hard to stay helpless and stay trapped in a situation they claim to hate, and if they used that strength and determination to work on simply standing up, they would be out of that bed in short order. They are choosing the wrong battle!
The same thing is true of eating choices. They fight for their helplessness when it comes to the “junk food.” They argue that they have to eat what the family feeds them and the family insists they want the junk food. If they argued with the family for the better choices that they insist they really want, they would get the better choices. If they fought harder to be more mobile and more independent, then “what the family chooses to feed them” would not even be an issue: they could go get what they wanted on their own!
We all have these same battles in our own lives: the work meeting where everyone is eating donuts or get-together where everyone is eating fast food; the days when our obligations fill up our schedules and our planned activities get shoved to the side. This is where we have our choices: either fight for what we want, take what everyone gives us or find a compromise. I’ve learned to compromise at get-togethers where food choices may not be the greatest; I’ve learned to reschedule workouts when the day goes sideways; and there are some days when I just plain lose the fight. The battle is sometimes lost, but the war goes on: I will keep fighting to make my own choices. It may not seem like it’s a big deal: “we’re having takeout because that’s what they want and I don’t want to make a fuss! They don’t like ‘eating healthy.'” It’s when this becomes your default mindset that it becomes a big deal! You can always choose to say no; you can always choose to stand up for what you want and deserve. When you choose to give up your autonomy (independence), it’s hard to complain about what they give you. You’ve already given up that option. I’m sure most of us have had the experience where you’ve asked someone what they wanted and they’ve said “surprise me!” How many times were they not happy with their surprise? They had a choice and they abdicated responsibility! They made it your decision! Don’t let someone else make your decision for you, whether it’s what to eat, how to live or what to do. Your independence is worth fighting for, because you really fighting for your life!