I’m an old ‘true crime’ junkie and I’m pretty sure it shows in a lot of ways. One of the things I’ve learned through years of books, documentaries and a variety of police procedural shows is that the study of the victim (victimology) usually has its merits. “What made this victim attractive to the perpetrator?”
But when it comes to weight loss, obesity is no more a ‘perpetrator’ than life itself. Unfortunately, too many of us who are obese feel like victims. That’s bad enough, especially when we are the real victims of verbal abuse and ridicule, but there are those who embrace the role of the victim. They love playing the part. When we are the victim of a crime, we are innocent victims– someone did something to us and we were helpless to stop them. In most of life’s circumstances, like a mugging or a car accident, this is totally true. We were on our way to Target and some guy runs the red light and now we have broken leg and a smashed up car: not our fault!
However, obesity is not something that ‘happens’ to you like a car accident or a bad case of the measles. It’s not something you ‘catch’ and it’s not an ‘event.’ Obesity and all its evil gang of cohorts doesn’t jump you in the parking lot and suddenly, now you are fat with type 2 diabetes, arthritis and hypertension. I’m sorry to tell you, but obesity is the result of a longtime eating pattern full of unhealthy choices and it’s usually accompanied by a long standing lifestyle of sitting down. Obesity didn’t ‘happen’ to us; we did it to ourselves. We are not its victims.
No one likes hearing that, including me. It seems to validate every rotten thing the media and insensitive idiots have told us: we’re fat because we’re pigs who eat too much. But that is so not true! It’s way more complicated than just ‘eating too much.’ It’s the result of a lot of bad science and bad advice along with the poor lifestyle choices and just plain bad habits we’ve developed over the years. The Obesity Epidemic has made it pretty clear that there were a lot of other people who also followed this bad advice, again, me included!
The good news is that since our choices led us to be obese, our choices can lead us to be healthier too. It’s not going to be a quick transformation, since it took years for us to become obese and unhealthy, but we will get there as long as we are consistent with our healthy choices. We consistently chose the processed foods that led us to be obese so we have to be just as consistent in picking the better options. Most of us understand this and even if we aren’t exactly thrilled about taking the long hard road to healthy, we aren’t giving up. We continue to fight for our health.
But there are those of us who love being the victim. Being a victim means we are the ‘innocent’ victim and that obesity ‘happened’ to us because of someone else and ‘it’s not our fault.’ I really really wish that were true! Yes, I listened to the bad science and the bad advice and that is part of the reason that I got to be ~440 lbs. The other part is all the mochas and Payday bars and the constant Jack-in-the-Box drive-thru nights. And then there were all the Panera bagels and the pasta and breadsticks along with everything else! I knew none of that was good for me, even if it was on the ‘good food’ list of whole grain carbs! One bagel was okay but a bagel every day? Probably not! And being sedentary certainly didn’t help matters either! So, yes, the FDA gave me some really crappy advice but eating everything I wanted as much as I wanted was definitely much worse than the 11 servings of ‘healthy whole grains’ the FDA advised. So, yes, the bad advice happened to me, but I made some really crappy decisions that were my choice. If I were a victim, it was of my own idiocy.
But it’s a whole lot easier to blame someone or something else for our obesity: it’s my mom’s fault for hiding the cookies when I was a kid; it’s my parents’ fault for not teaching me good eating habits when I was a kid; it’s the school’s fault for feeding me terrible lunches; it’s my babysitter’s fault for buying me fast food all the time. Blah blah blah! All of those things may have actually happened, but they are not to blame. It would be so much easier to lie around eating granola bars and whatever else I wanted and blaming life, fate or my family for why I’m so miserable. I could be blamelessly fat and since it’s not my fault, I wouldn’t have to do anything about it. It ‘happened’ to me, like the broken wrist I’ve got and the scar over my left eye. I have no responsibility at all for how I eat or how I was taught to eat. I have many fond memories of going out for burgers as kid and making instant oatmeal in the mornings before school and making boxed pasta dinners in the evenings. Yes, I grew up on frozen waffles and sandwiches with processed lunchmeat and instant hot cocoa. I can also blame my parents’ divorce(s) and my crappy home life as a child for why I hid bags of potato chips in my room, but even if I were to stretch the blame as far as it will go to include every bad thing that happened to me as the reason for why I was 47 years old and well on my way to 500 lbs, it doesn’t solve anything! Why I was obese isn’t the problem. The problem is that I was obese, and blaming everything and everyone else isn’t going to make me un-obese. Thinking of yourself as a victim takes away your power and your responsibility. It leaves you with your problem and offers you no solutions. Finding a solution means I have to let go of blame and being the victim. How I ended up being obese only matters if I’m looking for the mistakes I made so I don’t make them again. I prefer to see myself as a problem solver instead of the victim of a problem. Like everything else in our lives, we are the product of our choices and the product of circumstances. Whether something happens to us or we choose it, we have to deal with those consequences. We can let them define us as a victim or we can use them to make us stronger.