Vignettes From the Bariatric After Life™
I call today’s posting Vignettes from the Bariatric After Life™ but really, they are just scenes from life. Ready to watch?
SET-UP: You are a pre-op, a new post-op, or someone who is overweight. This could be the “before” you or the “now” you.
SCENE 1: Try-On Room at the Clothing Store.
You’re in your room, checking with the mirror to see how your butt looks in your jeans. Suddenly, a woman in the hall exclaims: “Darnit! These are too tight. I look so FAT in this!” Of course you want to see what she’s talking about, so you peek out from behind the curtain and notice she is evaluating herself in the 3-way mirror. You estimate that she is about a size 4 and respond:
“You? FAT? Are you kidding me? You could never look fat! I wish I was that fat…”
Alternate: You see a woman who is obviously too big for what she’s wearing, look appreciably in the mirror and say, “I love how this looks on me. Don’t I look thin?”
You shake your head and think, “Doesn’t she see how she looks? That is NOT flattering on her! It’s too small, shows all of her rolls and makes her look bigger than she is. If I were here, I’d never dress like that.”
SCENE 2: Weigh-in at a Weight Watchers Meeting
You’re next in line to be “judged” by the scale. The lady in front of you removes her shoes, puts her purse down, holds her breath and steps onto the scale, where she laments, “What? How could I have gained a pound this week? Why is it so hard to lose those 10 pounds?!”
You roll your eyes and say to yourself, “She’s complaining about losing 10 pounds and she gained 1 pound this week??? Are you KIDDING ME? I could lose 10 pounds by skipping breakfast and if I ONLY gained a pound, I’d be thrilled!”
Alternate: A woman who wears about a size 8-10 is standing in line with you. You think: “Why is she even HERE? If I weighed what she weighs, I’d never complain and would always be happy.”
SCENE 3: All-You-Can-Eat-Buffet
You watch as very large man piles fried chicken, french fries, potato salad, steak potatoes, buffalo wings, and baked beans onto his second plate and think: “If I weighed that much, I’d never do that. Doesn’t he see that’s he’s making himself fat? That’s just wrong.”
Alternate: You overhear someone at a nearby table loudly whisper, “Are you looking at this guy? Can you SEE how much food he has on his plate? No WONDER he’s fat! That’s his second plate, and I’m sure it’s not his last. Watch what he eats for dessert. Pig.” (You silently agree.)
Alternate: You see a thin person selecting small portions of fresh veggies, fruit, salad with lo-fat dressing and some grilled chicken and say, “Why did they even COME to this place if they’re going to eat so little of that rabbit food?”
Alternate: After about 10 bites and 10 minutes, you watch as the person pushes the plate away, pats their belly and sighs, “I am stuffed! I can’t eat another bite! I’m stopping there…no room for dessert.”
You mutter, “I wish I could get full on so little food. I’d never complain. What would it feel like NOT to want dessert…?”
SCENE 4: You are on Facebook and you see a picture of someone who has just finished a half-marathon. The caption reads: “Just ran 13 miles. Really slow for me, and it’s not a full-marathon, but it’s better than nothing….”
You think, “ONLY 13 miles? In the same day? And you’re unhappy because it wasn’t a Marathon? I can’t even walk around the block, so if I could do that, I’d be the happiest person in the world.”
What do all of these little scenes have to do with you (and me)? Each of them involves active ‘marginalizing, mitigating and minimizing.’ In each scenario, we have a person who as accomplished something. To you, it is big; to them, it is either unacceptable, or not worth mentioning. Before we get too much further, let’s define each of those terms (so we’re all on the same page. After all, I’d hate to think you were marginalizing, minimizing or mitigating the value of this posting because of different meanings.)
MARGINALIZE – Treat someone or something as insignificant or peripheral.
MINIMIZE – Reduce something to the smallest possible amount or degree. Represent or estimate as less than the true value or importance.
MITIGATE – Make less severe, serious or painful; lessen the gravity of.
NOW…back to the scenarios. Let’s review:
- Thin woman says she’s fat. You mitigate her feelings about her weight because you weigh more. Basically, you write her and her feelings off and decide she is making something out of nothing. You conclude that she probably has an eating disorder, because that is the only way anyone could look and think like that.
- Alternately, you see a big woman doing what you, yourself might actually do (or did), except that she “actually, really looks bad.”
- People you don’t think belong at a Weight Watchers meeting complain about their failures. You minimize their struggles because they do not look like you. You determine that it is ridiculous to obsess over 1 pound…or 10 pounds when your problems are so much bigger.
- You observe big and small people at a buffet and have completely different interpretations of their actions. You decide that the “big man” is bad, and the “small person” is bad – but with a good excuse. You are quite certain you would never act like either one of them.
- Your Facebook friend is dissatisfied with an achievement you say you’d be overjoyed to accomplish. You marginalize their beliefs as being extreme and surmise that they are probably just fishing for compliments.
Time for some unexpected juxtaposition! Let’s reset our vignettes.
SET UP: You have lost 130 pounds.
SCENE 1: You are trying on a pair of size 4 jeans and they are tight.
You exclaim, “I look so fat in these jeans!”
- You mitigate the fact that you used to wear a size 24 and ignore the fact that a woman who had on the same pants thought she looked fat, too.
SCENE 2:You get on the scale and see that you have gained a pound. You sputter, “I am such a failure! I gained an entire pound!”
- You minimize the fact that you have not regained 129 pounds.
Alternate: You have lost 120 pounds, but your “GOAL” is 130 pounds. You say, “I will never reach goal. There is no way I can ever lose 10 more pounds. It might as well be 100.”
- You marginalize your ability to lose weight and inflate the magnitude of the small number of pounds you say you still want to lose.
SCENE 3: You put small portions of healthy foods on your plate and include several desserts. You do not finish all of the healthy foods on your plate, but force yourself to consume almost all of the desserts.
You say, “Just about everything I ate was healthy for me. I don’t always eat desserts. Only on special occasions…or when I come to buffets.”
- You minimize the behavior of making unhealthy choices, but criticize another person for doing the same thing.
SCENE 4: You complete your first 10K and post a picture on Facebook that says, “I didn’t run the whole way, but at least I finished.”
- You marginalize the significance of completing ANY race because you did not do it the same way (or speed) as someone else. You reduce the accomplishment to something just short of total failure, but condemn someone else for doing the same thing.
In each of these instances, you are doing the same thing as someone you criticize, but have convinced yourself that you’re not doing it! Which is it? Or…is it only true when it’s about Y-O-U?
Since the common denominator is YOU,the conclusions are not surprising, but they are revealing. What we think and say about others says a lot about what we think and say about ourselves. And we are pros at defending our positions, even if we argue from both sides! So, which is it?
- Is the person — any person — who wears a size 4 fat or thin?
- has the person who loses 130 pounds accomplished an incredible achievement, or not?
- Is the person who makes wise food choices most of the time healthier, or not?
- Is the person who runs a half-marathon better than the person who completes the 10K? How about a 5K? How about 10 minutes on the treadmill?
- Does it matter?
In my book, you can be healthy, successful and accomplished no matter what size you wear, how many pounds you shed, how many healthy things you put on your plate at a buffet, or how fast you run a race – as long as you choose to see it that way.
As usual, there is a *subtle* duality to my message today:
- Don’t judge others’ accomplishments against your own (unless you are in the Olympics), but judge your own accomplishments as you would judge others.
- Don’t project your feelings onto someone else, but be willing to examine those feelings for yourself.
- Don’t diminish the feelings of others or magnify your own.
- Don’t presume to know what someone is thinking or feeling by interpreting their actions, and don’t let their actions interpret your thoughts and feelings about yourself.
- Don’t do to others what you are unwilling to do yourself, but be willing to do for yourself what you claim others are unwilling to do at all.
Can you see yourself in any of these vignettes? I am interested to hear how you have minimized, marginalized and mitigated situations, achievements, and realities in your OWN LIFE.