Sunday, October 16, 2011

Asking the Right Questions

I talk to morbidly obese patients everyday. I teach them, counsel them, eat with them, and spend endless hours reading their journals. These patients have a story to tell, but we aren't listening and we continue asking the wrong questions.
When I first read the last line of the above quote I almost stood up and gave a “Grey’s Anatomy” slow clap, but I was home alone and that would have been weird.  Nonetheless, there was a sense of “Yes, finally someone gets it!”  (Actually, there are a lot of people who get, and if you look to the right of your screen and click on the some of my favorite blogs, you will see for yourself.)  The reason this line resonated with me so much is because it is so spot on.  In our society being overweight is looked at as "you are lazy and a pig.  Just stop eating!"  But many (most) times weight loss is not simply about "eat less, move more." 
Originally, I came across the post that contained this quote from an article titled "20%-40% of Obese Women Were Sexually Abused"  .  This title did not suprise me. I know the statistics and correlation between women who were abused sexually, physically, or emotionally that end up being overweight.  Finally, people are starting to acknowledge this and that is what has me excited. 
As I continued reading I got all "You go girl!" when I read this quote:  
Yes just yes.  I and just about every other overweight person I know knows how to count calories and lose weight.  It's the keeping it off that is problematic.  For that we need to dig deeper.  To make any weight loss successful and long lasting we need to ask the right questions.  The right questions are not "How many calories does this piece of bread have in it?" or "How many minutes of cardio did you get in at the gym today?"  Real change comes when we acknowledge that one does not become obese or mobidly obese simply from enjoying one too many milkshakes or from being lazy.  It is so much deeper than that.  I know from my own personal experience it's not until you start asking the right questions that you eventually start getting the right answers.
While I can't relate to the experience of being sexually abused, I can relate to using food to self-soothe.  I was an anxious kid who has grown up to be an anxious adult.  Food was how I sought comfort.  Being the child of a single parent I often was scared of something happening to my mom--my one remaining parent.  Where would me and my brother live?  Who would take care of us?  What if my mom got sick?  If I heard my mom agonizing over bills it became: What if we become homeless? Am I old enough to get a job to help my mom out?  The worry was endless.  Overeating and being full to the point of discomfort has a way of shutting the worry off.  It numbs you so that the questions, worry, and fear go silent, even if just for a little while.  
I understand that on a physical level losing weight is about eating better and moving your body.  I get it and there is no (legitimate) doctor, pyschologist, or counselor in the world who will dispute that.  But in order to keep making the right choices, not to overeat and to exercise, you first have to work on the excess pounds in your head and (this is my strugglekeep working at it day after day.  In life worry, fear, and anxiety still come up often.  By having others around me asking the right questions I have slowly learned how to deal with these emotions without overeating.  My goal is to keep practicing this one day at a time. 

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