Fellow blogger and blog reader Jason at Run4Change— who has lost an astounding amount of weight through running and Weight Watchers and has a blog devoted to healthy living — asked me to write a guest post for his blog. Check out “Weight Isn’t the Problem; It’s a Symptom of Something Else.” It’s based on Oprah’s trainer Bob Greene’s interview with Larry King earlier this week.
I welcome your input here or on his blog!
Here’s my guest post:
You’d have to be living under a rock to not have heard about Oprah’s recent confessional: how much weight she’s gained the past few years and how unhappy she is about it.
This past Tuesday night on his show, Larry King interviewed Oprah’s team of advisors: her doctor (Dr. Oz), her spiritual advisor (Michael Bernard Beckwith) and her personal trainer (Bob Greene), to see what was going on with the mega-star.
During the segment, Bob Greene nailed the issue of weight on the head: (I’m paraphrasing here): “Weight isn’t the problem; it’s a symptom of something else.”
It hit me like a ton of bricks, just how spot-on he was. Even with all her success, even with her team of experts, Oprah still hasn’t found peace with her body.
And though I have never read Bob Green’s book, The Best Life Diet, his quote truly resonated with me. Weight isn’t always just about weight; it’s usually about something much more.
When we’re heavy (and there’s no logical reason for it — such as a new medication that causes weight gain), there is often something else behind the heaviness … it’s not just a simple matter of “Eat less, exercise more” for everyone.
True, one could argue Americans don’t have a collective stellar reputation of eating well and exercising enough. In the end, it’s a matter of prioritizing: when the scale creeps up five, ten, twenty pounds, some people take action and others are too busy to care. In cases like this, weight gain makes sense from even a biological standpoint.
But for many people, weight is a symptom of something else: of depression, fear of rejection, lack of confidence, anxiety, abuse, addiction to food, feelings of inadequacy, insecurities, relationship troubles, financial problems, the list goes on and on.
Weight becomes a mask, a way to hide behind the issue that is really at the heart of your size.
Now, I personally don’t know what it’s like to be obese, but I do know what it’s like to feel uncomfortable in your own skin.
I guess you could say I was lucky; despite being chubby my whole life until I joined Weight Watchers at age 24, I was very active and could still shop in all the cute stores and didn’t worry if someone else saw me eating a chocolate bar.
I was never teased for my weight (at least, not that I knew of) and didn’t really “stand out” (If anything separated me from my peers it was my long auburn hair, not my weight).
But in high school and college, I was the funny one in a group; not the pretty one. I was smart, but not particularly sexy. And I knew it.
Looking back, I think I just absorbed that role, hid behind the extra skin. I stayed involved in sports and working out at the gym or running to stay fit. And then a couple years after college, I made a vow to finally take control of my weight — sensing it was holding me back from my best potential.
When I started telling friends and loved ones I had joined Weight Watchers, they were surprised. I heard variations of “Well, but you wear it so well!” and “But you don’t need to lose weight!”
But here’s the thing: I was overweight for my build … and I did need to lose weight for my health and well-being.
In addition to that, having a slim younger sister with a body I coveted was further proof that I couldn’t stand behind the “genes” argument any longer. I didn’t have to be “the heavy one” forever. I just needed the confidence to be able to do something about it.
For Oprah, the symptoms of her weight seem to be depression and food addiction, both of which she is confronting now.
Looking back on my own life, I realize weight for me was a symptom of insecurity. I was happy … but though at the time I thought I was confident … I wasn’t truly secure in myself. I didn’t truly love myself. And I was always preoccupied with what others thought about me.
Taking control of my weight in 2004 did a multitude of good. I made better food choices and started to think of food as fuel. I could exercise longer and harder and had more energy. I was leaner, stronger and more toned. I felt like a new “me.”
(And, for anyone that was curious, for the past four years, my sister and I have been able to share clothes — something I’d only dreamed of before).
But I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that it’s also true that finding success on Weight Watchers and getting to a normal, healthy weight ended up creating disordered eating behaviors like the ones I chronicle on my blog.
That said, my therapist would agree with Bob Greene; she says my disordered eating isn’t the problem but rather a symptom: a coping mechanism for anxiety.
Four years later, I’m struggling with taking off the last ten (again). So I thought thought long and hard about what Bob Greene said, and I think I can say with absolute certainty that anxiety has played a big role in my weight gain.
Fortunately, I’m getting my anxiety (and disordered eating) under control through therapy and blogtherapy, and I hope the weight will follow suit in time. But if it doesn’t, it’s not the end of the world, so long as I am healthy in mind, body and spirit.
Hearing Greene talk so frankly about Oprah’s challenges — challenges so many of us can relate to — really touched me. Weight loss is not always as cut and dry as people would like to think.
But if we can “soar with our strengths,”, we’ll find ourselves not only lighter but also happier with whatever body we have.
I wish Oprah the best of luck on her endeavor. Because it’s only in overcoming the true challenges we face (not the size of our butts or our hips) that we are able to lose weight and actually keep it off.
How about you? Do you buy into Bob Greene’s view on weight and if so, of what is/was your weight a symptom?