Friday, October 9, 2009

Amnesia Spell

I saw my parents last night, as well as today at lunch. The first words out of my Dad's mouth were "you look great, Hadley" and my mom, as expected, remained silent. I smiled, said thank you, and we moved to talking about other things. I missed them so much, and I really am incredibly glad to see them again.

Yesterday in the comments, S. (who by the way runs an awesome blog called Ethereal Endeavor that I'd highly encourage you to check out) said "I wish I could just have the results and then cast some sort of amnesia spell over everyone so they could just forget that I was ever fat." That sentiment, right there, captures exactly what I wanted to say.

For me (and I'd bet for her) it's not that were not willing and able to put the work in, we both are, and we both currently do. I'm okay with the occasional hunger, the workouts, and the slow and steady building of deficits over time. And I get that I spent quite a few years digging myself into this hole, and that it'll take me a reasonable while to get out. I'm okay with that: I accept that I can't get results now, no matter how much I want them. My issue is that even when I get there, the memory will remain.

Lynn (aka Actual Scale, whose eponymous and epicly good blog is here) and a few others rightfully commented that my "if she's on a diet she cares too much about her looks" sentiment evoked vanity, and I realize now that that wasn't the tone I meant to strike. Because if a fat person like me goes on a diet, they're more likely to think "about time" rather than "she must be vain."

Being on a diet doesn't say "I care excessively about my looks." It just doesn't, at least not for people who, like me, could indeed stand to lose a few pounds. But it does say something else, something intensely personal, and something that I'm not necessarily 100% comfortable shouting from the rooftops at any given moment.

What "I'm on a diet" says, essentially, is "I was wrong." It says somehow, along the way, I messed up. Maybe I thought I enjoyed food more than the idea of being thin, maybe I was stressed and let impulse get the better of me, maybe I was just plain lazy, but what I did, was wrong. Being fat was a wrong choice. I messed up. And right now, I'm fixing my error.

That's the knife. That's what I'm afraid to say, afraid for people to notice. But the thing is, it gets much worse.

Saying "I did something bad, but now I'm redeeming myself" isn't really that terrible. Sure, not something you'd necessarily want to inadvertently share with colleagues and casual acquaintances, but it's not the worst thing in the world. You're taking the right path now, you're on the road to redemption now. Sure, you fucked up, but people do, and that's okay, you're slowly picking yourself up.

But what happens if you fail? I don't think I will, but I'm also smart and honest enough to know that it's within the realm of possibility. One commonly heard statistic is that 95% of diets fail. Other times you hear 90%. Either way, those aren't good numbers. Want to be depressed for a bit? Scroll down to the bottom of my blog list and click "show all". What do you think happened to those people who haven't updated in a while? Chances are, they're not chugging along but not posting. And I've only been writing for a bit over three months! If you look at a blog that's been around a bit longer like Learning to Be Less (another great blog that I'd recommend for your reading list), practically the bottom half of her blog list hasn't checked in in over a week. And those are probably just the non-updated ones she couldn't bear to cut. Sometimes you'll stumble on a blog that hasn't been updated in a while, and find that neither have all the blogs in the blogroll. These things happen. Diets die. Blogs fade. Things fail.

So what you're saying, if you fail, to all those people who sort of know you, who you see from time to time and smile at and say hello is "There is something deeply wrong with me. I know it. I tried to change. But I failed. I failed, and I am failing every day." And that, that is what scares me.

Part of it also is, that I don't know if I'm really at the point where I'm ready to say something was deeply wrong, or even wrong at all, when I was choosing to get (and stay) fat. I don't want to say there's something wrong with someone who is fat and chooses to stay that way. If you want to make and eat delicious foods, and eat more of them then society says you should, I'm okay with that being your choice. Right now, I am choosing to not stay fat because there are currently things I find more compelling, with a big giant flashing CAREER being the one that tips the scales in favor of thinness. There are good, logical reasons why I'm changing my body, but I certainly do realize it's a trade-off. And if someone's preferences are slightly different than mine, and if for them the extra time from not working out and the extra cheesecake for deliciousness is worth a bit more, that's okay. I don't think there's something all that wrong with someone who chooses to stay fat.

But, the girl with the cubicle by the elevator, or the guy who works the front desk, they don't know that. And the sort of friends, the cousins, the social acquaintances, all the people who will pick up on my not-so-rapidly shrinking butt, they're not going to see that. All they're going to see is "guess she finally realized how fat she was, it's a good thing she's changing it." And if, just if, my butt ends up growing bigger again, they're going to see "well, I guess she lost control again."

And that's why I, too, really, really, really wish I had an amnesia spell.

What, for you, tipped the scale that made you want to lose weight now? Do you think you've implicitly judged your past actions (and past fatness) by losing weight? What do you think losing weight says about you? And if you were to fail, what do you think that would say?

Some business:

Per request, I've added a contact email up by about me. While comments will probably get my attention more quickly, I do check that email addy every day or two. If you ever have something private and need a relatively quick reply, an email and a "I sent you an email" comment will probably get you the rapidest response.

Lynn of Actual Scale, not too many days ago, gave me an Over the Top award. Thanks Lynn! I added it to my sidebar. I also finally got around to adding my Honest Scrap award. Quite a few of you bestowed that honor upon me (for which I'm quite thankful), and I apologize for the laziness in putting it up. I'll do my best to collect the names of all the people who gave it to me and add them to the sidebar.

And, last but not least, there were a higher than usual number of new folks who commented yesterday, so welcome! If I haven't already, I'll be stopping by your blog--if you have one--shortly.

Have a great weekend, all!


  1. I struggle with that too. Am I saying I was wrong to live that way? Am I saying I hated myself? Am I admitting to some deep set, and very personal, misery I was existing in? Is this somehow a betrayal of my still obese family and friends?

    I have come to the conclusion that it's about reinventing the wheel. About loving and learning. I think what is says about me is that I am strong and I am willing to try new things and explore new outlooks. I am willing to change the way I am and the way I think. I don't think it says I hated me. It says that "me" is a fluid term, changing, and no one has the right to judge "me" by my cover.

    I don't think I would consider myself a failure at all at this point. I am almost to the 50 lb mark and if it stays there then I have still succeeded in getting to a healthier place and my outlook has changed so much. My habits have changed. If I were to gain all the weight back, what would that say about me? Not sure if I can mentally go there.

    I love your deep posts, Hadley. Congrats on your continued successes. ♥

  2. Now I'm thinking! I've never really thought about my weight being me messing up. It's good insight. I guess I always said the people messed me up, the food just made me feel better. I have finally fessed up to it being MY fault for being this way, but I like the idea of thinking of it as "messing up" and trying to fix it. Thanks for this thought provoking post!

  3. for me, being fat was less about being naughty and eating badly, it was more of an unconscious solution to the issues of a seriously troubling childhood and adolesence. over the past 5 years or so i've been knocking out one issue at a time and it has finally freed me to the possibility that i can change if i want to. i don't need my fat to protect me anymore.

    i'm glad your visit with the rents went well!

  4. From someone who has gone this journey and is now on the other side, can I tell you one CRAZY thing? I will NEVER forget how I looked at my heaviest. I cannot allow myself to forget, or I will end right back there. But even those close to me do not remember me being like I was. I pull out the pics from time to time, to compare. IT is astounding. I find it very flattering that they do not realize how heavy I was, but maybe it was because they have been on this journey with me, and have seen the changes come about. I dont' know.

    But a "do over" is definately worth taking!

  5. I think you really pinpointed it for me. And important part of my self-identity is being smart/good at things. It's pretty much the core of who I am. And so for people to see me losing weight, it's like I'm admitting that I wasn't good at something, that I FAILED even, and well, that's just unacceptable. I was fat because I believed in self-acceptance, not dieting, so that made it okay. I wasn't failing, I was just accepting myself. But now that I'm dieting, that throws everything out the window. I don't appreciate that. :-)

  6. First of all, thanks!
    I think you're writing is plucky and cogent. Your spirit is indomitable regarding your weight loss journey & I have complete faith that you will meet AND surpass your own expectations. :)

    On to the post -
    Ahhh, failure was the true root of yesterday's post. It all becomes clear now.

    Here is my spin on that POV.
    Sure, it may be considered a failure to have gained the weight in the first place, but why let that negativity drag you down?

    Why not adjust your focus to pinpoint the positive?
    It is less that we are fat because it is so, so, so much more that we are taking charge of our lives by getting healthy & losing weight.

    Yes, there are a lot of stagnant blogs because of failure, embarassment and lack of interest.
    I feel a sense of loss when someone disappears off the blogosphere, but harsh as it sounds that is 100% on them.
    They chose the path, and by not blogging anymore they lost one of the more important things: peer support.

    To me, blogging is a form of exercise. I'm getting my thoughts, my wishes, my (yes) failures and my victories out there in the open in a way I'd never feel comfortable enough to do in real life.

    But...I'm getting off topic, as I do sometimes (okay, often).

    Sorry, I'm also hogging all the comment space. ;)

    To answer your question of 'what tipped the scale'...
    I've been unhappy with my physical state for roughly a decade (yikes) but one day last year I "woke up" when I realized I was shopping ebay for new shirts because the ones I had were uncomfortable (aka getting too tight for comfort). When I realized what size I was searching for something just clicked & I finally acknowledged that things had gotten out of control.

    Just two year prior I had gotten down to a weight slightly higher than where I am at the very moment. We were trying to have baby #2 & I knew losing weight would help balance the ol' hormones so I joined WW, started walking & took a water aerobics class. I did my first 5k that year (I walked it in 48 minutes & was pretty dang proud of it) and two years later I was so out of shape I knew I couldn't finish a 5k in less than an hour.
    That appalled me.
    What was I doing?
    What was I teaching my impressionable kids?
    That was it. I said goodbye to sugar & slowly started changing the way we ate.
    I hit a few bumps in the road, but have ramped it up since blogging. The support is amazing & helps me stay on the path.

    Amnesia spell? No. I want people to notice that I am getting in better shape for two reasons.
    1) vanity (because having our efforts recognized may be vain but it feels so nice!)
    2) maybe, just maybe someone else will think "hey, if she can do it then I can do it, too"

    Glad the visit went well.
    All my best,

  7. Another great, honest post, Hadley. It's easier to accept our shortcomings when we don't even try to fix things. But, working hard and still failing? That is where the devastation lies. You won't lose at this, girl. I am sure you will succeed!

  8. I guess for me going on a diet that last time wasn't about my past failures to control my weight, but rather getting to to the point of disgust, fear, and an acknowledgment that I had to change.

    I had tried 500 times before to lose weight. That last time was the time that I changed not only my eating and exercise habits, but also worked on changing my relationship with food.

    I had a huge fear of failure because I had failed for 10 years. I didn't want to be embarrassed because "Diane had once again fallen off the wagon."

    We all have reasons that we have failed at controlling our weight in the past, and every person's reason and incentive for getting healthy is different.

    You have succeeded where many have failed. You may not be at your goal weight yet, but you are well on your way Hadley. Congratulations on all you have accomplished.

  9. I love your meaningful posts. They really get you thinking!

    I would love (love!) for my friends and family to have an amnesia spell so that they would forget what I used to look like. I hate the guessing game that goes on when people see me after a few months (Weight Watchers? Atkins? Just moved her butt off the couch?). But then again, I don't want that. At heart I am still the girl who is over 200 lbs, just wanting to be judged by personality instead of appearance. I want them to know that I worked so so hard to get to where I am now, and that I am still working. And to not judge that 300 lb person walking down the street. One of the hardest things in life is to be fat. Sad, but true.

    You are doing so well, Hadley. Enjoy your weekend!

  10. Glad things went well with your parents.

    I wonder what people think about me because I'm like an inflatable balloon. lose gain...lose... gain, yes part of that was from having kids, but the last bit that I gained wasn't from that at all.

    I'd like to think that people understand that we're all human and can't be perfect all the time. That there are going to be some failures in life and there are going to be some successes in life...but hopefully at the end of it all, there are more successes than failures.

    I already know what will happen if I fail...I will get up and try again. That's all we can do. That's what you're doing.

    My theory is, that if you keep trying hard enough, the successes will outweigh (pun intended) the failures.

    Have a good weekend.

  11. Wow girl! You put things in a way I would never think of sometimes (yet I feel we are so much alike).

    I don't want to ever forget that I was fat. I do not want to forget that I was strong enough to change it simply because I had had enough. I do not want to forget how hard it was in the beginning. I do not want others to forget it either. Other people find inspiration in it and it is liking paying it forward.

    That is what you are doing with your blog. We find inspiration in you even if that is not your purpose. You may have a career someday in motivational speaking. Just keep that thought in the back of your mind while you are on this journey, especially the tough days.

    Got nothing but love for you sister!

  12. Also, the blubber blog lady has been pissing me off for a long time now so I deleted her from my blog roll. Have you read that blog lately? That lady is just wrong. Had people donate to her lap band and then is posting about her eating being out of control. Just plain rude. Ruining her chance at a healthy life with her same crappy old habits. Those followers who donated would have been better off burning their money. Sorry, I had to rant to someone. Lucky you.

  13. I'm glad the visit seems to be going well. Enjoy your time with them!!

  14. Hey sweet cheeks - I bestowed on you the Gorgeous Blogger Award. Feel free to stop by my place anytime to pick it up.

  15. Hi, Hadley, hope you having a good weekend. I awarded you the "Over The Top" award.

  16. Here's my take on this:
    We (because I have the same thoughts as you do) need to stop caring so much about what other people think!
    So what if we screwed up and got fat? God only knows what others have done! Just because they don't wear their mistakes on their bodies like we do, doesn't mean they don't have failures in their lives.
    For too long in my life I cared way too much about what other people thought about me. And now, I honestly believe that no matter what, there will always be someone out there that has negative thoughts about me. Even if I was a perfect weight, they would find something else - my lack of fashion sense, the way I handle my children, whatever.
    It's much easier said then done, of course, but I think the sooner we just care about what we think of ourselves, the sooner we can feel comfortable in our own skin (no matter what size it may be).