I hate being overweight. While there are official numbers to designate overweight and obesity, they do not officially describe the degree of hate one can have for fat. One begins to hate everything about it: how one looks in the mirror, how one feels with the abdomen sticking out over the rest of the body, how hard it is to move, let alone faster than a plod.
It is easy to see why some people who tip the scales begin not only to loathe the adipose, but they begin to despise themselves as the carrier. Separating their psychic from their cells is tough.
There is no question the people of the world are getting heavier. Recently, reports state that now 25 percent of Chinese are overweight. This is particularly amazing considering in the lifetime of many American adults, our parents told us to finish off our plates because of all the starving children in China. There is talk about the Western diet of meat and the Western diet of stress, but the complete story will not be understood if we only consider the total consumption of energy in the form of calories and the total exhaustion of energy in the form of work. There should be some thought to the hatred people can have for themselves when they finish off too many of their plates.
Somewhere in this "eating less and doing more" calculation there are additional details why many are enlarging their bodies. Certainly there is the supersizing phenomenon and, on the other side, the sedentary lifestyle, but there are the emotions in between.
This is where the hatred of self comes in the equation. The feelings of dislike could potentially change the balance on either side of the scales, making the weight heavier. For example, on the intake end, if there is a lot of personal hatred, feeding the face is one way to feed the hate. Why eat right you when you feel all wrong? Food can be a friend, and for the overweight a double cheese and Coke is companionship.
Also, for the insecure, having their share of the treats and goodies is important to equal out any missing love and the perceived injustices. For the stressed the food is a calmer and can release hormones of pleasure. For the lonely there is reason why people gain weight in groups.
Our social networks make a big difference. Friends share dietary habits and volumes. Friends do things together or don't do a lot of things that require activity together. Friends mirror attitudes, thoughts and acceptance of each other and their body build. A circle of "thin challenged" friends could be the only place where an overweight person may find acceptance and refuge from their hatred.
On the other side of the equation, "self-disgust" could decrease energy no matter how much sweat there is little to show for it. Being critical of self could fuel belief that even if the "workout" trims the waist, a person will not be liked or good enough. Being afraid of change and destroying the hiding place of obesity can also slow down any exercise.
So there is a need for some more "self-loving" and less "self-loathing" for the overweight. Loving oneself may be a first for some people. Unpracticed souls need to love every day in multiple for self-acceptance to stick "Thou shalt love thy overweight self as thy overweight neighbor" may be a modern translation of timeless counsel.Learning to love fat in order to get rid of it may be counterintuitive, but hopefully learning to love oneself feels as natural as eating fruits and vegetables and walking in the park.
Joseph Cramer, M.D., is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, practicing pediatrician for more than 25 years and an adjunct professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah. He can be reached at [email protected].