I know I said before that this is the hardest thing I have ever done. I was being completely disingenuous. That statement fails to capture the true difficulty of struggling with weight loss. The more correct statement at the time should have been, “This is too hard for me to do.” That would have been more truthful. More specifically, I think I should have said, “This is too hard for me to do alone.”
As I have discussed before, if you would just like to lose a few pounds, this does not apply to you. You probably need a few minor changes to your daily habits to adjust your weight.
I am talking to the vast amounts of obese people out there that use food as a coping mechanism.
When Desire for Food Feels Like an Addiction
Addiction is defined by the repetition of behavior despite adverse consequences. In my opinion, that pretty much sums up my situation. I can’t say that I have ever experienced a drug addiction, an alcohol addiction or really any kind of addiction (or recovery) personally. Until now. I don’t know how else to explain my behavior.
I have joked about the stare downs with the Pringles cans, and I have talked about food speaking to me. Truthfully, 95% of dieting is not that hard for me. It requires some application of willpower, some rationalization about causes and effects, and some vision to see where I am going from where am right now.
That last 5%, though, is what makes this seem like an impossible task.
I adhere to my prescribed plan. I drink the right things. I eat only the OPTIFAST supplements. I go to the meetings weekly. But when everything goes wrong, when I am faced with situations that completely overwhelm my ability to cope, when I am alone with myself and the pain and anxiety – that last 5% is as deep and wide as an ocean.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I had a bad week.
Things at home were untenable. My family had a lot of issues this week, which meant no real support left for me. This caused me a great deal of stress and anxiety, and there was nothing I could do to fix the situation. I had some issues at work, which happens when you work with family. This caused me a great deal of stress and anxiety, and there was nothing I could do to fix the situation.
Then I got bad news last week about the car accident I was in about a year ago. I won’t go into all the details, but, in brief, a young driver going 60 mph plowed into me while I was stopped. Now I am losing the fine motor function in my hands and probably will continue to do so unless I have surgery on my spine. This caused me a great deal of stress and anxiety, and there was nothing I could do to fix the situation.
I was completely adrift in that ocean of 5% and unable to swim any longer. So, I stopped by the Chinese takeout place, hit the liquor store, got an icepack for my neck, and settled into a night of eating, drinking, and watching movies. I did this repeatedly every night last week.
I knew my behavior would cause adverse consequences; I just didn’t have the wherewithal to stop it. I sank deeper into a pit of depression, self loathing, and fear (in that order) and prayed for someone to intervene. I desperately wanted someone to stop me, or at least talk to me about it. I mean, I work with my hands (typing emails, reports, and sometimes blogs about my fatness); I cook for my family with my hands; and I participate in one of the only forms of recreation I have left, video games, with my hands. What was I supposed to do if I can no longer make them do what I want them to do?
Then the fear of the solution became worse than the problem. I don’t want to have broken hands, but cutting into my spine and taking out the squishy bits just doesn’t fill me with a sense of hope.
“So, What Are You Going to Do Next Time?”
At my Mercy Weight Mangement meeting this week, several people expressed their concern. I was asked the question repeatedly, “So, what are you going to do in the future when you get overwhelmed like this?”
I don’t know. I am at a loss. The only answer I have is, “Eat.” What will I do if this happens again? Eat, I suppose. I was sort of hoping someone would tell me what I should do. There are a host of techniques, activities, advice, and lessons on how to cope with the “uncopeable.” Unfortunately, when you are alone, in the darkest places of your life, no motivational phrase or helpful hint survives.
The more I thought on this, the more I tried to answer the question honestly. What will I do next time? When things blow up at home, I often don’t have the option of walking away. I have to stay and take care of everyone. Going to the movies is out. So is playing pool, drag racing and working on an Alaskan crab boat.
I need a support system.
What I Need Is a ‘Fatness Sponsor’
More importantly, I need a support system that isn’t in my family. I know with other forms of addiction, there is a system of having a buddy to watch your back. A sponsor. That’s what I need – a “fatness sponsor.” I need someone I can call when I am sitting in the parking lot of the Chinese takeout place and tell them I am thinking of ordering. I need to be able to complain about my family or friends or job.
While, to my knowledge, there is no such thing as a “fatness sponsor,” I realize (if I am honest with myself) that there are people I can talk to. I just have trouble doing so. I am used to the role of being the rock upon which other people lean. I don’t mind most of the time, and it is a role I am good at.
But I am extraordinarily uncomfortable being the person who needs help. I always feel as if I am unworthy of their time. Somehow, unburdening myself onto someone else with their own problems seems – I don’t know – impolite.
So, who should I talk to? God comes to mind. The ultimate sponsor. He is always there. He always listens. He will forgive me. He will love me. He WANTS me to unburden myself to Him. So, score one for the OPTIFAST staff. No matter what, if I am truthful with myself, there is at least one person that I can always turn to. However, even though He always listens, I am not always good at listening back.
My sister has been very supportive of my weight loss. Granted, she is in my family, but still, I’m sure if I called her at 1 am and asked for help, she wouldn’t hesitate to give it.
I could always pay someone to listen. Sometimes just having a captive audience that listens can be supportive, even if it costs $50 a visit.
Finally, I have my “online” friends. Not you, good readers, although I appreciate your interest in my struggle. I am talking about my gaming friends. I have a group of people that I play XBOX with regularly (except the last week of spiraling lonely movie watching.) They are fathers, mothers, scientists, surfers, travelers and human beings sharing this experience. This group literally runs the gambit of law enforcement to tattoo artist. They are all grown adults. In fact, I don’t know if there is anyone in the group younger than 30; the average is probably 42. I have known them for about eight years.
I talk to these people almost every day – either playing a late night game of Battlefield3 on Xbox or sharing a funny post in a chat room. I meet them in person at least once a year when we have a party. I know about their kids, their jobs, their struggles and their successes. They have been a truly great group of friends to me.
But I Am Always the Strong One
So, why you may ask, have I not called on these people? Partly because I am not usually comfortable asking for help. Partly because none of them live closer than a five-hour drive. So, I can’t go for coffee or call in the middle of the night or ask them to catch a movie. And partly because I know there isn’t anything they can do to fix it.
Whether it’s family or loved ones or work or the mortgage, there is almost nothing they can do to effect the situation. Most of the time I just want solutions. I see something broke and I fix it (or at least try to). Someone has a problem and I solve it. I am at a loss when it comes to problems that can neither be solved or prevented from happening again. So, I guess the logical side of me thinks that if there is nothing that can be done about it, why burden someone else?
Maybe though, just maybe, this is the time in my life when I should learn to really take the help that is offered. Emotional help. What a weird concept. I have had people help me financially. I have had people help me build a deck. But help overcoming an emotional obstacle is relatively new territory.
I am working myself up to trying something different the next time I am overwhelmed. Instead of turning to food and drink, I am going to immerse myself in all the people in my life that are available to me. I promise to try to exhaust all of these sources next time before turning directly to Chinese takeout.
Instead of pulling away and eating, I will pray, I will call my sister, and I will get online and complain and laugh and lean on my friends.
I owe it to them.
Calling on ‘Super’ People to Help Me
Think on this. We have all heard of Superman. We see Superman snatching a bus of people off a cliff, or bending steel rails to keep a train on the track, or zipping through the air at supersonic speeds to catch a child falling from a building. We see this and think, “Wow, those are some extraordinary abilities!”
But what if it was a day where nothing was happening? What if there were no careening trains, runaway buses or falling toddlers? What if we saw just a man in his early 30s wearing red and blue leotards, a red cape and giant red rubber boots? What if Superman was just sitting on a park bench, reading the paper?
Would you let your children near him? No! You would think this is a person with serious issues.
Superman needs disaster. Disaster is what allows us to define him as a “super” man. In order to see how extraordinary and incredible he is, we need to see him saving the day. Without disaster, Superman is just a freaky looking man in a cape.
Whether it is God, or a counselor, or my sister, or my incredible group of online friends, I am not giving them the opportunity to display their love for me – or their incredible extraordinary powers – when I keep things to myself.
So, was this week a disaster? You bet it was. Seven pounds gained, completely off my program and depressed.
Don’t worry, though. I am calling for help, and I think hear an army of capes fluttering in the wind.
This is guest blogger Eric Buwala’s ninth post about his weight-loss journey. Click to read his complete collection of archived posts. Are you ready to join a Stark County weight-loss program for improved health? Contact Mercy Weight Management for more information about a customized plan.