Sometimes it doesn’t matter at all what you explain. The facts may add up, but they aren’t compelling. Sometimes folks just don’t want to do the work.
Boy can I relate. In my late twenties, I became obese. I happily piled on pounds during my travels in New Zealand and Australia in the early eighties. I got sidelined by cream in my tea. Delicious real chocolate cookies. Unbelievably rich ice cream with thick ribbons of dense chocolate running through its creamy texture. Cheeses made in heaven.
When I was hitching through New Zealand, the places I stayed didn’t have full length mirrors. Americans have a lot of them. If your body is expanding fast, there’s plenty of evidence that gets your attention. Not in Kiwi land. People ate six times a day and I exploded like a French souffle.
By the time I made it to Australia and had settled in Melbourne to become a speaker, my hips were 54″ around. I was a big girl.
Still ran up and down the neighborhood streets. I’m the one who put the cracks in the sidewalk. But I ran.
One epic morning I said to myself in the mirror, “Women over thirty just get fat.” The second I heard that heard my head explode.
After years of yo-yo dieting, and finally ballooning to 205 lbs, I was done. Just done.
I enlisted a friendly Aussie down the street, a triathlete who always invited me to run. I asked him to push me. He did. He taught me how to ride a 12-speed bike and that was all she wrote. Totally hooked. Transformed my eating habits. A year later 90 pounds were gone. Forever. I had done the work. Haven’t looked back since.
Last night I was talking to a woman in her sixties who is receiving certification training in wellness. A counselor, she pointed out quite rightly that many people who are in failing health, on toxic medications, and who are eating badly just don’t care.
“I have to walk away from those people as clients,” she explained. “They’ve already decided and nothing is going to change them. No amount of proof that exercise, better food and sleep will make them feel 100% better matters.”
A lack of exercise is one of the biggest predictors of early death. Heap onto that consistently bad food choices, then complications from those bad habits, you see the problem. It’s where we are today.
Sadly I nodded. I see it all the time.
However I also see plenty of examples of men and women just like me who reached the boiling point and said “that’s enough.” They haul themselves to the gym. They get on their bikes. They walk. They do steps out here at Red Rocks, up at 6300 feet where the sun can be brutal and people judgmental.
They are subjected to abuse, criticism, vicious online harassment. Photos of them show up online for public shaming.
Yet they display enormous courage and commitment. These are the people that my friend the wellness counselor wants to work with. They need support, a team, and the belief that it’s worth that long, slogging, hard road. Because the continuous shaming makes it ever so much easier to hide in the house and embrace an entire chocolate cake. As the appetizer.
But they don’t. They keep after it, even though once they lose the weight it will be a lifetime battle to keep it off. I know. I’ve lived that reality for thirty years.
The simple truth is that in many cases, it’s not about the weight so much as simply getting more fit. Being well doesn’t equal skinny. Well is defined by an efficiently working body at any size. The right size for our unique body.
As someone who once wore a size 18 muumuu, who had to get business clothing specially made to hide my hips, I have enormous respect for those who try. Who get after the hard drudge work to transform their habits and have a better chance at life.
There are plenty of sick thin people who can’t be bothered to eat well and work out. Thin guarantees nothing. Hard work does.
Folks who throw the gauntlet down are the people who inspire me. While I am impressed by many young athletes today, what really amazes me are those who say “I’m done.”
Then they go out and show us how to get healthy.
The next time you see a large person out running, cycling, climbing steps and sweating it out, consider giving them a thumb’s up instead of taking a photo to laugh at later. They are the ones climbing a much higher mountain. They deserve the gift of our respect.
Because unlike a great many of us, they do feel like it.
And good for them.