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Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Thankful for my obesity???!!!!!!

Growing up obese was often humiliating and painful and really took away from having a full experience as a 'healthy' child and teenager,in many ways. I remember walking home from school in second grade, probably up to the 5th grade, and hearing the taunts of the boys, the giggling of the girls, and even the gasps from gawking adults. I remember nights of anguish and feeling ultimate sadness at the tender age of 17 because I just felt so freakish, ugly, and abnormal. Don't get me wrong, I had a wonderful, loving, and close family. But my 1st generation Italian-American parents and my Italian immigrant grandparents, in their quest to exude 'success' and to show love to us, just plain over-fed us. Now, some of the kids and grandkids probably inherited the mix of genes that protected them from getting overweight and ended up fine. Some of us, however, got the fat-predisposing genes. And then as we were chubby and teased, we were further protected by our loving parents and grandparents by being mollycoddled, perhaps keeping us more inactive, than the normal-looking siblings and cousins, and dare I say, maybe even fed even MORE 'treats' to make us 'feel better'. It was not the intention of our families to make us suffer.

But, you know, I also possess those very Italian genes that all my gorgeous siblings and cousins and relatives have that yield -- the smooth olive skin, the fine bone structure, the strong bones and teeth, the green-blue almond-shaped eyes, the sharp mind, and the penchant for all things beautiful -- clothes, art, music, opera, drama, and yes, even food! And after being led into the field of nutrition and dietetics BECAUSE of my obesity and then losing the weight, I transformed into a beauty -- full of health and vitality.

BUT I've never forgotten what it was like being 'invisible' to humanity because of being obese.

MY obesity has enabled me to empathize with others who similarly struggle and to TRULY understand HOW to best help them. Had I not had my weight problem, there's a great chance I would have been yet another 'perky', slim, pretty-faced person in the world who wouldn't be able, for the life of them, to understand how a person could be obese or even ALLOW themselves to get that way, or who could stand to be that way,etc. etc. Or, like many folks, maybe I would even ABHOR overweight and obese people. These are the feelings that I have experienced from others. This disdain I have carried around on my back at a time or two in my life, as I know many others who are obese do. It's heartbreaking. It is not helpful to the people who are the objects of these feelings -- in fact -- it can be downright harmful. It alienates and ostracizes folks even more and could trigger even more negative behaviors in these individuals and feelings of self-loathing. I'm not at all making excuses for obese people for their overeating or lack of exercise or self-pitying behaviors or low self-esteem. I'm just making an observation that people who don't have the problem often (not always, of course) don't understand and shouldn't judge or presume. No one knows better than an obese person himself/herself how they look or come across, for the most part. It does absolutely no good to rub it in. Ok, there are times when obese people could be moved to positive action because of the disgust they feel they invoke from others, but this response is not the usual one.

I used to cringe (and sometimes still do) at some of my colleagues who would treat overweight and obese people, while counselling them and trying to 'help' them, as if they were slow or incapable mentally. Or these professionals would make recommendations that were CLEARLY so different/foreign from the client's preferences, lifestyle, and usual habits. Is it any wonder that success was elusive for these clients and continues to be for a large portion of populations in many countries of the world where obesity continues to prevail and even increase despite all the knowledge and expertise we possess.

I am a dietitian who looks at obese people as PEOPLE. I see them as beautiful and clever and full of life. I also see how so much of their beauty and talents and life within them is often hidden from the world around them or unexpressed, because of extra weight and fat tissue that encumbers them. I also KNOW that they are putting themselves at great health risks and I explain plainly and honestly these facts to them. But eating and physical activity habits and lifestyles are such personal issues and I would never impose or intrude upon their personal choices and their dignity by whacking them with a total and complete overhaul of their lifestyles in one fell swoop. Now, some people need AND want this and can handle it very well. Most people need a kinder, more unobtrusive approach while still being correct, appropriate, and effective. Both approaches are results-oriented and possible to achieve desired health benefits as well as aesthetic goals. The key is to monitor and continue to CARE for the person and work through an effective treatment until a person MASTERS whatever they need to SUSTAIN their optimal fitness for their health and looks.

Had I not been obese, I would not have achieved the excellence I have in my personal and professional endeavors and accomplishments. I would not be the 'go-to' dietitian for people that I am for both clients themselves and for doctors who need to refer patients to me when they need TRUTH, ACCURACY, and SUCCESS in helping treat obesity when the myriad of other programs, diets, 'magic bullets', pills, potions,and fads, books, and self-professed gurus, fail.

I am thankful for my history of obesity. It has made me a strong, truly helpful nutritionist/dietitian to best serve others.

'To keep me from becoming conceited...., there was given me a thorn in my torment me....But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."...For when I am weak, then I am strong.' 2 Corinthians: 7, 9, 10.

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