“I don’t want to feel bad about myself”. I’ve heard this argument a lot over the years, from some of the same people who have taken offense to our use of ‘Fattie” (That’s another post entirely & one I think we’ll all write together). Two months into our little blog I think it’s becoming clear that some ‘tough love’ is an essential part of the process in getting from Fattie to Former Fattie. Already I’ve been told I’m too ‘hardcore’ by a few readers and I’m too hardlined on some of my positions on fat loss. There’s a reason for my feelings on this subject and it comes from years of helping people lose the weight more than my own weight loss experience. Sometimes you just need someone to expect more from you than you do. Jennifer wrote an excellent post about it recently too, well worth a read!
I do understand the “I don’t want to feel bad about myself” argument in some respects. Bullying, Hazing and the levels of torment children are putting each other through are at levels I couldn’t even fathom in my childhood. One of the great projects to come out of the bullying problems is ‘It Gets Better’. When I was a kid, school was like ‘Bio-Dome’ where your whole life happened and you couldn’t imagine or fathom the world outside or even see how it was important compared to what you’re going through at that time. Like many adults you look back and see how small that world was and what you thought mattered then, really didn’t. It gets better because you eventually realize it wasn’t as important as you thought it was.
The flip side of awareness is hyper-sensitivity. Going back to hearing an ADULT say “I don’t want to feel bad about myself”. I take issue with that. I rarely if ever see fit people making fun of unhealthy people. I’ve given some thought to my own days of being fat. I did feel bad about myself pretty much every day. Yet I know now and knew then, the person making me feel bad about myself was me. Not fit people, not social norms, not fitness magazines or friends, co-workers or family. Just me.
The fat me lived with long hair, goatee and Metallica shirts. I was creating a wall between me and the world as best I could. Recently I was reminded about that feeling in the movie “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead” (available on Netflix). In the film is an overweight truck driver, dressed like I did back in the day. A small child comes up to him and asks “Why are you so angry?” The trucker driver’s response took me back 20 years in a heartbeat.
“I’m not angry, I’m just in pain.”
What I really remember wasn’t anyone making me feel bad about killing myself day-by-day, instead it was the silence. No one said a peep to me. Maybe they didn’t want to hurt my feelings or my short-temper scared them off. When I started getting fit, I did it for me and depended on me to get there. The outside world wasn’t given a say. Oddly enough, once I lost the weight I had a lot of people tell me how worried they were about me when I was fat & self-destructive and I did get a lot of well-meaning pats on the back for turning things around. But it cost me friendships along the way, invites to parties, initially I became an outcast even within my small circle of friends. Ever since, I’ve always been appreciative of the kind words anyone has given me, yet I don’t give them too much power. At the end of the day I have to look in the mirror and see if I’m living up to who I think I can be. It’s not democratic, but I sleep really well for being that hard on me. It’s especially important now that I’m fit, for one absurd reason: I get more negativity thrown at me about my lifestyle than I ever have at any time in my life.
I get constant comments about how I eat, what’s good and bad for me “what I should do’ and I get CONSTANT unasked for diet and fitness advice. (Seriously a day I don’t have to talk about health & fitness outside of writing or training clients is a good day!) Now none of these people make me feel bad about myself, even when I get some mean-spirited stuff thrown at me (their issue, not mine). The worst part is this advice comes from people who have NO business dishing it out. And if I told you they made me feel bad about myself, you’d laugh your ass off. A big part of that is the percentage of fit ’40-somethings’ is a LOT smaller than the percentage of fit ’30-somethings’ a decade ago, I seem to stick out even more now. The BEST reward of my transformation is that I don’t really care much of people’s opinion of me. My true friends aren’t ‘yes people’ they will be both in my corner and also pull me aside when I’m not living up to who I want to be. I never sought to be accepted by anyone while I was doing this, I did it for me. My own standards come first and I work like hell to keep them pretty high. I have to look at myself in the mirror and see if I like who stares back, not just how he looks. It ain’t about abs & pecs folks.
Stephen King illustrates both sides of this argument in his book “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”. His first published novel ‘Carrie’ the title character came from compiling two girls he went to high-school with. One was named Dodi, her classmates nicknamed her ‘DooDoo”. Dodi wore the clothes they wore every day her family was poor. As the clothes got tattered and thinner the other girls become unrelenting; teasing became taunting, the girls didn’t just laugh at Dodi, they hated her too. Dodi was everything they were afraid of. In her sophomore year Dodi came back from Christmas vacation, dressed in new clothes. A new, cranberry dress and knee socks, a wool sweater, she even had a permanent. She was a girl transformed and you could see by her face she knew it. It didn’t mater, mere clothes changed nothing.
The teasing that day was worse than ever. Her classmates had no intention of letting her out of the box they put her in. She was punished for even trying to break free. Her smile faded, the light in her eyes dimmed and then out. By the end of the day she was the girl she was the day before Christmas vacation. She wore the new sweater and skirt the next day and the next day and the next. The new permanent wasn’t repeated and the new clothes took on a matted, dispirited look. But the teasing has dropped back to its pre-Christmas levels. Someone made a break for the fence and had to be knocked down, that was all. Once the attempt was foiled, the entire company of prisoners were accounted for so life could go back to normal.
By the time Stephen King published ‘Carrie’ Dodi had taken her own life. It was said her suicide was postpartum depression, but Mr. King suspected ‘high-school hangover’ may have had something to do with it.
What I’ve noticed is this. When we’re kids we are taunted and terrorized if we don’t live up to the social norms of our school peers. Being below this norm in any way leaves kids to open to bullying. As adults, it’s not until we poke our heads above the social norms and choose not to settle for the effortless ‘average’ that so many settle for, do we become targets to be shot at. You need to know this. As an adult it’s not until you attempt to change for the better will people try to make you feel bad about yourself. You’re doing what they know they should be doing and many will attack you doing it in their faces.
The good news is this: If you change your life by embracing your own health, by treating yourself well and making yourself physically & mentally stronger every day, those people who attempt to make you feel bad about yourself, will lose the power to do so.