Sunday, November 11, 2012

Obesity and Personal Responsibility

Of course we are responsible for our own actions. It's one of the reasons we so easily feel guilt. and shame. There may be outside factors and influence of others in some situations that makes us feel we do not have control of our own actions, but I think for the most part we recognize that we have responsibility for ourselves. And when it appears we have failed - there rises the guilt and shame, we beat ourselves up about it and can end up in a terrible cycle of self-hatred - that we can't see until we've broken free of it.

When I was obese I felt a tremendous sense of failure and shame in relation to my weight. When you're over 300lbs you aren't fooling anyone into thinking you are thinner than you are, it's right there for people to see. It can feel like being on stage, being judged, ALL the time. I'd like to think that that was created in my own mind, but unfortunately now being on the other side of the fence I have witnessed too many times people who make comments about obese people, make assumptions, and judge them unfairly. How does anyone know that the person they see isn't working on losing weight and getting healthier - it's not like we walk around with before pictures pinned to us. And then the question goes back to - why does it matter what others think, it matters what WE think and feel about ourselves. And now we're back to the guilt and self-hatred. How do we break free?

Learning to let go of that guilt and shame, letting go of placing value of what others think of us - that is something that is SO hard for us to do. We learn at a young age to want to please our parents, to seek approval, to not disappoint. And it's something that I think everyone struggles with - it may not be about their weight, but everyone has something that comes up for them that makes them feel this way. Letting that go is something we need to work on every day. EVERY DAY. What freedom and peace there is when even a bit of it is found.

I was watching a really interesting video this morning that was shared on Facebook by one of my favorite healthy food small businesses - Good on Ya Bars. They shared a link to a video series produced by University of California called The Skinny on Obesity. The researchers commented that for years society has put it on overweight/obese people as a personal responsibility issue and that it's much greater than that - there are so many factors - obesity has existed for thousands of years, it's not new - but the quantity of the population with it has skyrocketed - not just due to personal responsibility but due to processed foods, the food supply and other factors. I whole-heartedly agree that obesity is so much more than personal responsibility. If more of us could let go of the guilt and shame created by feeling like we've failed with our 'personal responsibility', I really think that's when real change can happen for people. When you stop beating your head against the wall and giving up because you feel such guilt, have compassion for yourself, and look at what around you is also a factor in your being overweight or obese - that is when you empower yourself to succeed, that is when you gain confidence that will keep you going. Learn about the food around you and what will nourish your body, your habits and lifestyle, behaviors and relationships. Learn as a sense of discovery, not as a sense of guilt. Be excited about what you are learning, not beating yourself up for not knowing or doing in the past. Share it with others - it will empower you and you'll find support in that. Have compassion for yourself and you will find freedom in it!

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