Thank you 2018. What a whirlwind year! Goals achieved, dreams realized, and relationships cultivated; tempered with loss of loved ones, physical health issues, and personal challenges. From the joy of publishing my book and speaking on the famous red dot of TEDx to the tragedy of losing my aunt, this has been a year.
What I’ll take from every joy and pain of 2018, is that life ebbs and flows moment by moment. We tend to trick ourselves into the newness of a year on January 1st but a new opportunity is born every second. Not just on January 1st, not on Monday morning, but every moment you’re alive is a chance to do better or be better. Don’t get sucked into the hype of a new year. Be present in moments. If you stumble, all is not lost! With the simple blink of an eye, by the grace of God, you can try again.
Thank you 2018. If you’re reading this then my heartfelt thanks to you! What a gift and pleasure to share this space with you all. I can’t wait to show you what’s planned for 2019!
The first time I heard of the Ironman Triathlon was in 1982, watching the Wide World of Sports. I don’t remember why it was on or why my absolutely non-athletic self was watching it, but I will never forget what I saw. I had never heard of a triathlon let alone the Ironman in Kona, Hawaii, but there I was watching an unbelievable finish that I didn’t understand until years later.
Before I tell you about that particular day, let me explain the Ironman race. It begins with a 2.4 mile swim in open water immediately followed by a 112 mile bike race then finally transitions to a marathon adding another 26.2 miles to the already ambitious day. Now, there are Ironman distance races on every corner of the earth, but THE Ironman will forever be the Ironman in Kona, Hawaii. The heat and humidity added to the challenge and set the stage for the grueling 1982 Ironman.
Julie Moss was in first place, and she was at the end of her energy. As she headed toward the finish line in front of hundreds of spectators and on national television, her legs started to tremble, and then she collapsed. She got up and started again, and moments later she fell again. It was painful to watch. She continued on falling and getting back up over and over again. When she couldn’t get up any longer, she began to crawl – resisting efforts from people to help her – and made her way to the finish. As she crawled using the last of her strength and moments from the finish, the second place woman passed her for the win. Twenty-nine seconds later she crawled to the finish, threw her arm over the line, and collapsed. Those final 29 seconds remain the narrowest margin of victory in the history of the Ironman.
I remember watching that so clearly and thinking I want to do the Ironman! Despite my complete and utter lack of athleticism, I really did want to do it. I didn’t understand why for many years. As an adult, we can look back on things from our childhood or past events from a different perspective. This fresh perspective of how a woman who has pushed herself to the absolute end of her physical limit but not the end of her mental limits meant something completely different to my adult self. It wasn’t that I necessarily wanted to compete in an Ironman.
I wanted to want something that badly.
We all want things but how many of us will push ourselves out of our comfort zones? How many of us will sacrifice comfort, safety, or health? Julie Moss wanted it badly and it wasn’t the WIN it was the FINISH. When Kathleen McCartney passed her, she could’ve just stayed on the ground. She didn’t win. That wasn’t the goal. She wanted to finish what she started. She continued to crawl for 29 more seconds until she did it. A half of a minute may not seem like long, I challenge you to hold your breath for 30 seconds to feel how long that can be!
When I look over my health and my weight through the years I could say I always wanted to be healthy… but did I want it that badly? I did for a while but never sustaining success. I wanted it but not enough to commit to it for the long haul. This could be due to my living and eating patterns that were so deeply ingrained in me, and I needed more serious assistance. RNY Gastric Bypass was the tool to begin that work. Focusing on movement, exercising portion control, recognizing food triggers and being diligent in my food choices continues the practice. Some days can be difficult and as we begin the Unofficial Foodcentric Holiday Season that starts with Halloween and lasts through April (which begins Unofficial Summer Body Creation Season), it can be more than a challenge to continue to focus on what you know… to resist what you want right now for what you want most.
Now that I’ve tasted what true physical health feels like I want to keep it. Training for a marathon was a great way to maintain consistent movement with a hardcore focus on nutrition. Running also provides a sense of peace and clarity. I hate getting out of bed in horrible weather and going outside for a run. It never mattered if it was raining, cold, or awful outside, by mile two I was always happy I went out. Training keeps me accountable, and I miss it.
I decided to look for an event that could provide me with a sense of challenge and put me back into training mode. I was looking up marathons, then thinking of a century ride (100 mile bike race) or an obstacle course race. The more I looked my brain kept going back to Julie Moss and her epic finish in the 1982 Ironman better known as the confirmation of her desire and dedication. Then I thought to Sister Madonna Buder from the Nike Unlimited Youth campaign AKA The Iron Nun, and I knew what I would do. It was time.
I searched for Ironman distances online, and I found one on my birthday! I can’t think of a better way to turn 47 then taking on Ironman Wisconsin! The next 300 days will be an adventure. I’m ready!
I’ve blogged for over a decade on various platforms so sharing parts of my life or general observations of the world around me isn’t new. I first got my stride writing on MySpace. Everyone had anonymity through embarrassing screen names which made what you were sharing have a layer of privacy. As the platforms shifted we lost that anonymity. Facebook literally put a face to our feelings and comments. Despite shedding that last layer of privacy, we continue to share. One would think after all these years of sharing that writing a book would be what comes naturally. One would be wrong.
When I started writing I wanted to be open and honest which were two things I’ve spent a lifetime NOT being about my weight. From lying about how much I was eating to how much I weighed, openness and honestly were not a part of my program. Diving into those feelings and emotions were terrifying but the more open I became the better I felt AND the more I realized that I was never alone in those feelings.
Writing was emotionally challenging. The rewrites were unreal. I struggled with sharing too much or too little. I struggled with sharing parts of other people’s stories that overlapped my own since I felt they weren’t mine to tell. Then I struggled with my anxiety.
Should I write this?
Will anyone understand?
What if it’s universally hated?
These thoughts are the devil and sometimes incredibly paralyzing. I’d write, then rewrite, then try again, and again… and again. Then I noticed that these changes and rewrites were really more about delaying progress than seeking perfection. Procrastinators are truly perfectionists with anxiety! I was starting to lose my nerve but I had many books already sold from the preorder so I knew I had to turn off the internal chatter and just do it!
It was then I discovered the intricacies and potentially issues with self publishing. There were formatting problems, platform delays, and shipping issues. With every delay my anxiety was rising because this process was only to take about 40 days from book completion took way longer than that. I wanted my first signing and book pick up to be at Higher Grounds Community Coffeehouse and I had to reschedule it 3 times waiting for my books to arrive. I made the decision to order my pre-ordered books and first round of books to have on hand – sight unseen. An enormous leap of faith for a perfectionist. Even doing this resulted in people ordering from the Amazon bookstore receiving their books before I received mine!
Last Thursday after months of delays and oddball issues my books arrived. In looking them over I noticed some typos and some formatting issues. Things I definitely should’ve caught but I was so concerned with the forest that I failed to see the trees. Amazon’s self publishing arm is very new and apparently still had some kinks to work out from the author end of things. What’s beautiful with self publishing is that the books are print on demand and easily updated. I’m working on this formatting issues and typos now. If you’ve ordered one of these original books thank you and I hope the typos aren’t too distracting from the story itself.
What I’m most proud of is that I did it. Knowing things weren’t completely perfect I still did it. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, once said:
“Done is better than perfect.”
For a person who obsesses over minute details, this is a challenging concept. Historically, I’d rather do nothing than something substandard! I’m discovering that karate is helping me immensely in this area.
When you watch a trained person do a karate move it looks effortless – almost simple. Yet, when you try to mimic the movement you become keenly aware that it is not simple. It’s really a million tiny moves working in perfect harmony! A roundhouse kick is a prime example of that for me. Looks pretty simple, right? You’ve seen it on TV and movies forever, right? Try it. Everyone from Bruce Lee to Steven Stegall to Patrick Swayze made it look easy. It’s not.
My kicks will only improve with the combination of time and training. Time alone will not do it. I could be enrolled in karate for 50 years but if I don’t practice I won’t improve. Training is also not enough. You can learn the basics of a kick in one session but you won’t master it that day. I really want to master it that day! REALLY!
I have to continually remind myself:
I will not master anything immediately.
Procrastination is the devils way of blocking your progress.
I have never been alone in my feelings of self-doubt, anxiety or fear and that sharing that – even imperfectly – is of great benefit to someone who needs it.
When I offered my new book for pre-sale to the readers of my blog I naively thought I was in the homestretch of the process. I couldn’t have been more wrong. From my own challenges and insecurities of telling such a personal story and wanting to tell it honestly and openly but without compromising the many other stories that intertwine with my own was an undertaking. When I thought I was finally able to communicate my vision without infringing on others I ran into platform issues with publishing that I did not anticipate or account for.
In the midst of this, I was selected to be a speaker at TEDxNewport which was a long-standing dream for me and one of the most incredible times of my life. The preparation for TEDxNewport was extensive and was coupled with the busiest season at work. Needless to say, more delays. I’ll be sharing my TEDxNewport experience when the video becomes available.
Finally, after delays, technical problems, insecurities, and more Food, Sweat, and Fears is shipping!! The pre-sale was successful so they are coming via freight. As soon as they get in my hands I’ll post the pick up locations and book signing dates. The book is now available on Amazon if you did not pre-order. If you’re local, books will be available for sale at signings and some store locations which I will share when finalized. If there’s a bookstore or library you think should have this book reach out!
If you’d like me to come to your school, business, or church please contact me through the contact form HERE. Weight is only a part of the story. The issues of anxiety, fear, faith, and self-value are universal and so very necessary right now. Let’s talk!
Click the book (and check out early praise) to go to my Amazon author page! I’m currently working on expanding my first eBook Healthy Fare into a full scale cookbook. Follow my author page to know first when new material is available.
Thank you for your continued support! I am blessed beyond measure!
Before I begin, I just want to explain why I haven’t posted so frequently as of late. I’m in the final push for my book Food, Sweat, and Fears and it’s taking my free time as well as all of my writing! Writing canbe exhausting and add in work, husband, family, karate, POUND training, karate camp, traveling, and puppies and it becomes a recipe for limited time. Back to our regularly schedule program…
At East Coast Karate we belt test quarterly and it was time to test for the Orange Belt! I’ve been practicing and attending classes regularly and it was all coming together. Attending the Rhode Island Karate & Kobudo Camp increased class count and my experience way more than the required number of classes to be eligible to test. Karate always stretches me emotionally as well as physically but this time it was different.
The first twang of discomfort came when we were to test on a Wednesday. We always test on Thursday but Sensei has a training camp in North Carolinta so the day was moved. I know it seems silly but it really did throw me off. Although I’d been training for three months I don’t know why this loss of a single day was a big deal. The last few classes I was feeling strong and confident. Then came Monday.
Monday’s class was my last opportunity practice before the belt and it felt like I was doing everything wrong. I know what I know and yet I couldn’t get it. I was hoping the welling nerves would pass. They didn’t. Practicing at home wasn’t going so well either.
The day of the belt test I headed to the nail salon. We have a large group of people in our belt rank and many of us commit to matching our nails to our new belts. As I’m sitting in the pedicure spa I’m getting crazy nervous! Why am I so anxious today?
Then I did the stupidest thing EVER! I went home to practice before the test and decided to record myself. NEVER again on testing day. I can only say with any certainty that the video looks like a tangle of limbs and afro. By the time I get to the dojo I’m 100% in my head. When it was time to test I still felt like I was failing a final exam after studying for weeks! I looked calm and relaxed but inside was a completely different story.
When the test was underway I felt like I was doing horribly. I knew I could do better because I’ve done better. I did make it through but I wanted so much more. Watching the upper belts made my desire to improve even greater. I need to get out of my own way!
As Sensei was getting ready to hand our belts he mentioned something that will forever change my approach to the test. This isn’t a final exam like I was feeling all day. He said, “This isn’t a test as much as it’s a performance. The test was the three months of hard work leading up to today.”
Performance? As a singer I get performance. As a karate student taking a belt test it feels like I need to pass something and if I don’t so well then I fail on some level. The reality is that Sensei wouldn’t have us test if he thought we weren’t sufficiently tested! Why didn’t I see this before? It’s crazy how a single word can change the way something feels completely. Kind of like the word exercise feels more like a chore but training does not.
The pressure has been removed from the equation now that I understand that I wouldn’t be on the floor if I didn’t know enough to be there. My next belt test will be in December for my blue belt and I plan to treat it like a recital! Orange Belt Test is officially the final final exam.
p.s. I didn’t delete the video so I’ll show you all in a few years after I get my Black Belt!
As I make the way for the release of my book Food, Sweat, & Fears I was thinking of the questions I get asked frequently about post Bariatric Surgery. There are a lot of references available especially immediately after surgery but long term success requires a different level of help. The challenge is how can you find a way of life that works for you nutritionally and socially? How can you get your family involved? How can you stay prepared so you don’t fall back into old habits?
I put together a short visual guide that contains some of my favorite recipes that everyone will love, printable meal planner sheets, and food journal pages along with meal prep success information. There’s a way to make long term success possible AND positive.
This eBook is available exclusively on Amazon and if you’re a registered follower of my blog and purchase this book you get the opportunity to get my full length book Food, Sweat, & Fears for FREE!
Everyone experiences anxiety in different ways. I find I often have the hardest time with clothing. If you see me at work just know that I’ve probably changed my clothes no less than 5 times before I left the house.
That doesn’t look good.
Not feeling that today.
My midsection looks crazy in this.
After all this turmoil I usually end up wearing my Life Uniform. This is the type of outfit I’ve worn forever. Black pants with a modest black shirt and flats. All that drama and I always end up in the same fashion place. And by always I mean my friends (and husband) want to contact the authorities when I leave the house not wearing black.
When I started losing weight I did start wearing some color. The ONLY reason for this was I was losing pretty rapidly and I was given a lot of transitional clothes. It does not make any sense to purchase clothes the first YEAR after weight loss surgery unless you’re into wasting money or you shop at thrift stores. Every moment I wore a colorful t-shirt I was in misery. Just not my thing. Anyone who would say any complimentary was always met with “Thanks, it’s not mine.”
When I started buying clothes I would gravitate toward so many Life Uniform pieces that my husband was willing to sacrifice almost anything to get me to buy a non-black shirt. I always look like I’m in mourning but it suits me. I do try to branch out, but it doesn’t seem to work out. Like this one shirt I have.
I purchased this shirt a few months ago and I liked it. Although it’s black it has beautiful flowers embroidered on it. I liked it so much that I thought I could ignore the cut out shoulders and neck. I came home and put it on and I liked it. I thought it looked nice and that I would get over feeling the breeze over my collarbones. I see people wearing cut out shirts all the time and they look great. Why not me?
I snapped a selfie and sent it to my husband. He loved it BUT he would also would love me in a burlap sack. Then I got the first realization that we may have a problem. He was getting his hair cut at the time and showed his hairdresser, our friend, the picture. He texts me back that she loved it too. I had a mini-freak out inside that someone else saw the picture. Oh stop, Regina!
Then I tried to wear it to work.
Then I tried to wear it socially.
There is no next time. There has never been a next time. I have never worn the shirt. Sad because I love it.
Last night as I try to get a jump on the horror that is getting dressed in the morning I see the shirt in my closet. Tags still on it. I decide to act. If the exposure is making me uncomfortable the alter the discomfort. I put it on backwards and tried to figure out if I had enough play in the garment to close the openings but not lose the shirt. It has a bit of a trapeze swing to the body of the tunic but the arms could be challenging. I decided to go for it! The shirt is doing nothing in my closet next to the many other things I don’t wear because the sleeves are too short, midsection to obvious, or color doesn’t fit the Life Uniform. A few creative stitches later I have a shirt that I love that I’m finally comfortable wearing AND is has a splash of color.
I don’t know why getting dressed is pure craziness for me. I don’t know if I’ll ever embrace wearing multiple colors and prints. Until I get there I’ll continue try to branch out and if it’s just one thing that is making me freak out then just remove the one thing. Like this:
It was 4:30 in the morning and I was sitting in my car trying to talk myself into what I recklessly signed up for the night before. Did I really register for Spin®?
Spinning® is a class that always intrigued me. There are two distinctive schools of thought with Spinning® it’s either emphatically love or hate. I’ve personally never met anyone who thought Spin® was just okay.
In my local YMCAs Spinning® is so popular that you have to sign up for a bike 24 hours before the class and you are often put on a wait list. This could be the standard but I’ve only experienced my Ys so I’m not sure. What I do know is that the Spinning® faithful will call as soon as the opportunity opens. They don’t play.
It was 2013, I had recently gained back all of the 75lbs I lost on a medically supervised diet and a bit more. I decided to start swimming at the Y to try to lose my regain. When I was in the sauna after my swim two ladies were talking about Spinning®. They were definitely Team Spin®.
When I left that day I asked the desk attendant if they had a spin class the next day. They had one recent cancellation for the 5am class and surprisingly no one in the wait list. If I wanted it I had to act immediately because the bike will go pretty quickly. I take the spot. What was I thinking? I don’t even know what happens in that class!
That night I seriously contemplated calling and canceling. But it would be nearly impossible to get someone from the wait list for a 5am class. This is why I was in the parking lot before the sun came up completely unsure of what I was getting myself into while trying to muster the courage to go in.
When I walked in I was instantaneously reminded of who goes to the gym when they open: Gym People. Gloriously fit people with minimal body fat and a heap of enthusiasm. I’m 400lbs and the only time I leap in any excitement is when I think there may be a spider on me or it’s Free Ben & Jerry’s Day!
If my level of anxiety wasn’t high enough, I went into the Spin® room and every single person there was beyond fit. It looked like a Tour de France training session. People had special shoes, bike shorts, and still not an ounce of body fat in the room. The instructor was kind and helped me get my bike situated. She went over the terms and how to use the bike and we were off!
The class was brutal. I don’t think I had been on a bike since the 4th grade Bike-a-thon and it showed. I was sweating like a crazy person while seriously contemplating my life choices and the class started 18 seconds earlier! This was going to be a long hour.
From the first pedal I wanted to quit. Sweat was in my eyes, I was feeling like I was going to die but if I got off that bike I knew I’d be “that fat girl who quit.” I couldn’t stop. With each pedal I’m trying to think of what my obituary would read after I died in that class.
Regina Bartlett age 40.5 died trying not to look like a fat girl quitter in Spinning® class!
At the end of class I peeled myself off the bike. People told me I did a nice job. Kind, sweet, lying souls. The instructor spoke to me after and said she hoped I returned. She was really nice and a great instructor but I knew when I walked out on wobbly jello legs I would never return. I was on Team Hate Spin®.
Flash forward to 2017. I’ve lost and maintained 250lbs, I’ve run the NYC Marathon, I’m a yellow belt in Shorin Ryu Karate, and I even work for my local YMCA!
At my YMCA I’m facilitating a Fitness Challenge where I encourage the participants to try new things, vary their workouts, and really climb out of the comfort zone. The class meets on Tuesdays and in the entire week I didn’t try a single new workout. One of our Spinning® instructors, Kim, has asked me to try her class and I told her I’d be there Monday night. Then I forgot to call on Sunday and forgot to check when I was at work on Monday!
I didn’t want to go back to the Fitness Challenge and tell the participants that I didn’t try something new. I also took a nice walk that morning and I have karate that evening so adding Spin® could be a bit much. I called and thought if the class was full I’d be unable to go! Nope! There’s a bike available. Looks like I’m Spinning!
The class blew me away! It was physically challenging but not impossible. I was impressed with how much my physicality has changed since that 5am class four years ago. I was stronger and more able to do the work. Kim’s instruction is so good and very motivating. At the end of class I felt amazing. Not once did I plan my obituary! My legs certainly felt like I worked out but I went to karate and did a bunch of kicking drills and survived that too.
When I opened my eyes this morning I was hesitant to move. What fresh pain would greet me? I knew it wouldn’t be debilitating pain but it’s usually the warning pain. The pain that’s like this: Oh, hello Regina. I’m just here to let you know that tomorrow is going to be utterly horrendous for you! I moved my legs and felt NOTHING! Zero pain! Not a twinge, not a spike, not a thing. Sometimes, I think I concentrate on where I want to go that I forget to recognize just where I’ve been!
After my first Spin® class I vowed never to return. I wholeheartedly retract that statement and I look forward to Spinning again! I’m excited to share with the Fitness Challengers that I also spread my wings and tried something new this week! Looks like I’m back in the saddle!
Spinning® is a registered trademark of Mad Dogg Athletics.
As humans I think we all love a good Comfort Zone. That wonderful place that fits us perfectly. A lovely corner of the world where there is no fear or anxiety. There is also no growth.
In order to get where you want to be in anything you have to stretch your arms wide and bust out of the comfort zone. In that process there will be fear, there will be anxiety, and there will be growth. Gross, uncomfortable growth.
I first tried my hand at running in 2007, when I quit smoking. Just getting outside was a stretch out of my comfort zone but during one particular race I learned the joy of discomfort.
As a city dwelling non-driver for several years I look public transportation everywhere. On my 35th birthday I was doing the North Kingstown 5K. NK is a good distance from the city but I could take a bus there. I’m comfortable riding the bus so I was confident I could get there.
As an overweight, unathletic person who smoked for 18 years and was smoke free for only 5 months we could say that running (also known as slow, miserable walking with a smattering of jogging) was a challenge for me. Every time I hit about 2 miles I experienced the most painful shin splints. Every time that happened I would immediately stop.
September 8, 2007. It was a clear and crisp morning. I jumped my freshly turned 35 year old body out of bed, eagerly put in my race clothes, and headed to the bus. The ride was over an hour and in my confidence of riding the bus I didn’t double check my stop. I knew where I was going. Correction. I thought I knew where I was going. I ended up missing my stop. The driver told me which way to go to get to the high school and time was running out. I was going to have to high tail it to make it to the start in time.
My adrenaline was high! I took off from that bus and raced to the school. I knew when I must’ve hit about 2 miles because I felt the fire in my shins. I wanted this race. I needed it. I needed to be healthier. I needed to get there. I had something to prove to myself! I pressed on.
Then something happened that changed me. As I approached the long driveway to the school I noticed my shins stopped hurting but I couldn’t dwell on it. I had to keep going to pick up my bib. I arrived in time to pin my race bib to my shirt and I heard the start pistol.
For the first time this race was entirely pleasurable. I was relaxed and my body felt ready to go. I finished NOT last for the first time and did the 3.2 Mile course in under an hour. Most runners can complete the course in about 28 minutes and elite runners in 15 minutes but breaking the hour mark was huge for me! (2007 NK5K race results- Regina Foster)
When I got home I looked at where I got off the bus to get to the race. Turns out I went farther than a 5K to GET to the 5K! The beauty of that was discovering that if I pushed through the discomfort of my shin splints I could go farther and faster than I ever thought.
As I venture deeper in my karate studies I’m reminded of that memory. Karate is like a Master Class of Comfort in Discomfort but I’m getting better with it. I’m learning to just stretch my arms wide and edge out of my Comfort Zone.
To advance in a belt rank there are certain requirements we have to know. As we learn them we also have the opportunity to learn techniques above our rank. The first time Sensei called a kata that I had never done I felt an intense panic envelope me.
I don’t know this!
I will look like an idiot!
Can I somehow get out of here?
Learning by making a series of large and embarrassing mistakes has never been my strong suit. My anxiety hits a high point and I just want to stop. Very similar to a shin splint at 2 miles in 2007!
On Monday night I had my first true moment of comfort in discomfort with karate. We started with the basic kata and slowly started advancing. When we reached the first one that I only knew a part of I was surprisingly calm. I’ll confidently do the part I know and then I will watch and just do what I can. I did just that and I was fine. I figured that Sensei would probably involve the entire class for another one before breaking us into groups by rank.
We continued into the unknown and I did what I could follow and I didn’t panic. I didn’t feel stupid. I knew nothing at all and had no anxiety about it which was nothing short of miraculous. I was lobstering out of my comfort zone.
The shells of lobsters don’t grow. When they become too tight the lobster must molt. It sheds the shell and must wait – completely vulnerable – for the new shell to grow. The lobster hides knowing the dangers all around it but also knowing that without this time of vulnerability it cannot grow.
I want to grow and to do that I will have to continue being uncomfortable, continue stretching myself into the unknown, and continue to risk being completely vulnerable while molting out of my comfort zone in order to get there.
I remember reading a BuzzFeed article a young woman wrote about how perceptions of her changed when she lost 100lbs. It was something I could identify with wholeheartedly as a woman of a larger size who then lost weight. The part of the article that really resonated with me was when she referred to her body as a “public commodity.”
I felt like the wind was knocked out of me. That is exactly right! My body – and your body too – is like a public commodity. It is openly discussed, frequently commented on by strangers, and completely out of your control.
When I was heavy people would say things behind my back yet certainly loud enough for me to hear:
Does she really think she needs to eat that ice cream right now?
Oh my goodness I would rather die than look like that.
I can’t believe she did this to herself.
Or they would take the experience to the fullest level and say it directly to my face. Weight is always the lowest hanging fruit, easiest to grasp and hurl at someone if you want a quick retaliation. My weight has always been the first apple off the insult tree.
Look, you fat (insert degrading insult here)….
On the outside I would always smile and try to pretend it didn’t bother me. In reality, each time I would retreat further and further into myself feeling more insecure than before. Then I would turn to the very thing that was causing all of this: food.
As I lost weight the comments continued. This time they were more kind… for a while. After I reached a certain point people become uncomfortable. It was like their brain couldn’t conceive of me outside of my regular appearance. After 30 years of weight battles I think my friends were just as comfortable with me being big as I was at being big.
Things started to shift when I got to about 250lbs. After years of being over 400lbs, people thought I should stop. I looked better than I had in years and felt incredible but going from being so big to much smaller people thought I was pushing it too far. In reality, there are people who have surgery at 250lbs! I still had a ways to go but since my appearance was so far from my normal I got new comments:
You’re getting too small!
Ok, that’s enough! It’s time to stop!
You’re looking like you’re sick!
It becomes a lot to handle, even from the most well intentioned people.
Then there’s the flip side. My weight was like a roller coaster ride for decades. If you lose weight and then gain it back the public conversation begins again.
I knew it wouldn’t last.
You’re picking up some weight again!
Trust me when I tell you that every single overweight person KNOWS they are overweight so you don’t have to tell them.
Whenever I speak to people who have never had an issue with weight they are always surprised at the things I’ve heard from strangers. Many people don’t want to believe the absolute cruelty they can inflict on a person because of their size.
Please note: I am not innocent in this either! I can’t imagine how many times I’ve told people that they could benefit from a sandwich! I was most certainly jealous of their size and considered it a compliment yet I was probably hitting them with the same fruit picked from the lowest branches of the insult tree.
If you see someone who’s lost weight just tell them they look great. If you’re truly concerned for their health and you know them well enough to have a private and caring conversation then do it with empathy and love.
What I’ve learned through all of this is that our bodies may be “public commodities” but our comments don’t have to be.