Okay, I'm back. Back a bit, maybe... we'll see. Here's why: my very loving mother and sister have, for some time now,
It's the fate of the pessimist. Optimists, seeing the positive side of most everything, wind up with many psychological and sociological perks to their outlook: they live longer, are healthier, have stronger social ties, are (duh!) less depressed. Pessimists get none of that, but we do get one thing: We are right most of the time. Our outlooks on life are far more accurate than optimists, and we see things as they truly are.
I'm not saying that I want to be a pessimist. Honestly, I verbally try in most non-family areas of my life to project optimism. But being what you aren't really set up to be can be... tiring. So my family, I'm sad to say, gets the backlash. They see me at my worst. I wish I could be the perky person most of the time (I'm not so blind as to think I could manage it all the time); I do feel more cheerful, more vibrant when I am. BUT - just because you're trying to BE an optimist doesn't mean you stop being a pessimist. It just takes one snarky comment to send me into a spiral, because the realist is always there, beneath the surface, and she's a pretty snarky and paranoid creature, too - deeply resentful of always being shoved down. And it takes a lot of weight to hold her down, let me tell you.
And there, I made a leap into what I really wanted to talk about: Weight. The other day, I posted a personal experience with a weight loss tool on Facebook - and my dear, sweet, optimistic, and (it must be said) svelte, healthy, and gorgeous kid sister responded by gently prompting me to adopt a more positive attitude.
I re-read the post. Yeah, I was pretty much a downer. Here's what happened.
Like many of my online friends, I struggle with my weight. (In the real world, I am surrounded by people who are weight-normal, or committed to much healthier lifestyles than my own.) Visualization can be a powerful tool in the battle, so when I found this "Weight Loss Simulator," I thought HEY! Let's give it a go. My current goal is to drop 25 pounds before heading to Disney this August, and eventually get to the -50 mark. Let's see what it looks like!
So I plugged in the first stage goal, and came away rather nonplussed. 25 is a major amount of weight to lose - and it's not easy to do, as anyone who's ever tried it knows! To see that the physical differences (at least in 2D) are relatively minor just didn't have the motivational "punch" I'd hoped it would. So I plugged in -50, and yes, at THAT point, the results were much more readily visible.
Now, I know that I would FEEL the effect of even a relatively low milestone loss long before I saw the payoff. Even -10 will yield physical benefits that are tangible. But it's tough looking at the graphics and going, "I've got THAT far to go before I see results? Really?" When I plugged in the weight my BMI says I should be, I did nearly fling up my hands - yes, I would look absolutely AWESOME. I'd look like my two beautiful sisters. But having fought the fight for years, I couldn't help but get grouchy and gloomy.
It's one thing to climb Mount Everest because you truly want to, are driven to, and desperately want to. You see the peak as a challenge, as a noble goal. If you're trying to climb that same mountain because you know it's good for you, because it will eventually make you feel better, because society will look at you differently if you do - it's not going to be the same climb. People who struggle with weight loss or with quitting a powerfully positive-reinforcing addiction like cigarettes or alcohol have a very hard time adopting that "I desperately want it" attitude necessary to tackling the mountain... sometimes, it takes a truly horrible crisis - a hospital stay, an accident - to wake us up. I am REALLY trying to wake up before that... but it's hard.
Weight is insidious. Alcoholics can avoid drinking, if they are able to find friends and family sympathetic to their cause. They can avoid bars, ask for "dry" family gatherings. Nicotine addicts are finding that society frowns more and more on them, and fewer and fewer people are indulging in smoking - making it harder to be with like minded folks, or to get much sympathy from the people around you. All three issues are caused by the fact that eating, drinking alcohol, and smoking do something GOOD for the addict - they relieve stress, they provide some happiness in an otherwise grim world, they make you feel GOOD for the moment.
But eating can't be avoided. Eating is life. Eating is culture, society, family. And it takes an immense force of will to change your eating habits - especially if it's one of the few unabated pleasures in your life. Try sitting down at a family celebration and trying to make one tiny strip of teryaki steak outlast a huge salad (which you may not have much taste for) or veggies not basted in butter or sauce. Try to not have the whole slice of birthday cake someone passes you. And try not to be angry and resentful as everyone else at the table eats as much as they want... or try to "help" by reminding you not to eat so much, with varying levels of tact. And the thing is... you cannot avoid food.
What's more, healthy food is EXPENSIVE. And... it doesn't always taste so good. Not to someone used to processed, sugary, salty bliss. I have yet to really, truly enjoy sitting down to a salad, to a fruit or vegetable. I've found some I like - but do they equal out to the steak or pizza that I really, truly want? Not in a heartbeat.
I know I need to lose weight. I don't like how I look. I don't like how I feel. But I also don't like how I feel trying NOT to eat like I always do. I don't like remembering that I've done this before - tried to change my behavior, my eating habits - and have always failed, fallen off the wagon, wound up heavier and less healthy than before. I've gone to the bariatric surgery info sessions and been scared witless -I don't even like getting a SHOT, and the thought of having surgery that will make me feel ill and force me to eat a certain way forever or risk being very, very sick makes me quail.
And so, on Facebook, I grouse sometimes. Can you blame me? Maybe. But it's hard losing weight. And it's harder losing weight in silence - or trying desperately to find a real-world person who "gets it" and won't take offense to my mood swings. Weight creates a barrier around you - people look at you with pity or disgust, people think certain things about you, people judge you. Online, nobody can see the rest of me beyond my profile picture. And now... my more optimistic family wants me to try to carry over my cheerful mask into the virtual world, working to be more positive and grateful for what I have. I wish I could oblige them - I really, truly do. Like losing over a hundred pounds of weight, I know it would be in my best interests. I'd feel better if I did.
But I can only manage things one step at a time, folks. And I'm not as strong as you seem to think I am.