The scale is your friend. Except when you’re busting your butt to lose some weight and it’s not moving. Then, it becomes the most discouraging, de-motivating, obnoxious thing in your home. Then you’d like to throw it out on I-95 during rush hour… or take it back to the store because clearly, it must be broken. Then, drive directly to your favorite diner and have some pie. Or a whole pie! Because nothing you do differently, seems to matter.
Ok, I admit it - I may sound a little angry right now. I am.
I have worked hard to lose weight and I did lose about 60 pounds about 2 years ago. I kept most of it off but then, over the fall, my old default mode kicked in and I started using food for comfort. Again. I got on the scale and realized that 12-15 pounds had snuck back on and my battle wasn’t over. I never really thought it was.
This weight thing I’ve struggled with for years is like my thorn in the flesh and I have always feared it coming back on me like an old addiction. I will be 49 years old this year, and this thing I’ve battled for decades is still a struggle. You feel me? Or maybe you don’t?
Unless you’ve been there, it’s hard to identify with this struggle. And so, with that in mind, I write this to you. For all of you who by the grace of God, have been either genetically blessed, consistently made wise choices with food and exercise, or who maybe even struggled long, long ago, but figured it out. Consider this an open letter from your friend Tracey. In no way, does this letter represent everyone’s process and story, but I do believe there is enough commonality here, that many can relate to it. So here it goes…
Let me start by saying, I am not jealous of skinny people. If anything, I admire the inner strength that many of them have to fight their own demons a different way. I have always fought my demons with food. I can remember when I was about 14 years old, my mother and step-father were getting divorced and I suddenly became insatiably hungry. I never connected why. I was athletic and didn’t have a weight issue at all and so I probably burned up all those calories up so no one knew, except me and God… that I was eating like crazy during that time. Anything I could get my hands on. Which at 14 years old, was usually breakfast cereal. Did my mother ever wonder why a box of Apple Jacks or Raisin Bran would disappear just days after bringing it home?
It was the first time in my life I can remember using food to help soothe some inner anxiety I was feeling. It didn’t work. It only took the edge off for a short while and left me all alone. A few years later, my mom re-married and my mom, sister and me, moved into his house. Their first year of marriage was a difficult one and while I tried to press through their late-night yelling matches, I was getting hungrier and hungrier. I started to gain weight and between the age of 18- 20, I had probably gained 60 pounds. Still not connecting why I was so hungry, I eventually married and gained more weight. To be lonely as a single person is one kind of pain. To be lonely as a married person, is a slow death.
And so I took a lover. Food. And once again, food let me down. It promised me a quick relief to my deep pain and quick relief it was, as the pleasure centers of my brain would go wild with happiness with a sugary treat or late night Taco Bell run. But as soon as that wonderful feeling faded, I was alone again wondering what I could do to make the pain stop. Food was never a good boyfriend. So I’m not quite sure why I rang him up again this year, while I was dealing with some private pain, but it turns out, I still had his number- and he still had mine.
Here are some things to know about those of us who fight this battle that may help you in your relationships:
- Be supportive- not superior. If you are blessed enough to have never dealt with this struggle, be thankful and humble while you support your friends’ umpteenth attempt at losing some weight. We haven’t given up- so don’t give up on us. Just because this isn’t your issue, doesn’t mean that you are a better person and have no issues. We are all fighting battles. The weight issue is one we fight publicly for everyone to see. What’s yours?
- You are not the food police. There is nothing I hate more than people seeing me out somewhere and critiquing what I am eating. You have no idea how I’ve eaten all week, or all day.. When people say to me, “Tracey, I don’t think that is on A Better Weigh..” I want to say.. It’s not. But I burned 900 calories at the gym today so shut it.
- Shame is a big thing. Many of us that battle our weight deal with this. So please.. don’t “should “ on us. You should this and you. should that… Choose your words, your timing and your tone carefully. We want your love and support- but as soon as it turns to judgment, I feel shame and won’t hear another word you say.
- Lead by example. You want to be a great encouragement? Model good choices and healthy living. Show me what it looks like consistently. If you know I’m struggling, maybe you could skip dessert one time when we’re out to dinner and not tell me how great you’re doing with food and how your clothes are all loose and maybe we could even talk about something else. Beating this thing is possible and it’s a process. I am so much better than I was. I actually caught my issue before I needed to grab another size out of my closet and I am back on track. That is a victory for me.
- Be thankful. If you’ve lost weight and you’re doing great- I want to cheer you on and I want to hear about it. But… be careful. Be reverent and thankful to God for your success. You have no idea what hard life stuff could trigger those old demons to come back. And if they do, I don’t want shame to keep you from trying again and staying in the process.
- Pray & Think. If you know someone you love is going through a hard time emotionally and food has been their go–to source of comfort, pray for them, and offer some fun, healthy alternatives to get them through this season. Have some social gatherings that don’t center around food.
I hope this is helpful as you relate to people you care about who struggle with weight. I am currently trying to lose some pounds and I am working out almost every day, even using an amazing personal trainer. I am eating very healthy and sticking to my diet plan with a few exceptions- like Ravens football games… And that blasted scale is barely budging. I actually cried this morning when I got on it because I’ve been working so hard and I don’t understand.
As my trainer Chris Welsh says to me, “Come on Tracey. You can do this You’ve got this. Keep going”, slowly the old negative tapes in my head that say, “I can’t do it”, will be replaced. And while the scale may not show it just yet, I know that like a seed in the ground, there is something happening underneath the surface that is producing in me a beauty and strength that will be evident one day. I can feel it. God is in this with me. Unlike food, He is a great source of comfort and peace and I am still learning how to be satisfied in Him.