In Inside Out Weight Loss episodes 126 - 128 (personallifemedia.com/iowl) discusses this confusing message from a listener named Ann. Ann generously agreed to let me share he exchange and her photo. She looks glowing to me!
I’ve hesitated to write for fear of seeming disrespectful, or like a nutcase, but I have been listening to your podcasts daily for over a month now, and I have learned so much from you and gained so many insights. Thanks to you, I have learned that I do indeed have strong (what you would call) “limiting beliefs,” and that they are way stronger than my motivations. I learned I am content to remain obese! What a relief not to have to think anymore about what I should be doing about my weight.
I just wanted you to know that not everyone struggles with their weight. I certainly never have. I am not miserable. I have a great family, a husband who still thinks I’m cute and sexy after 39 years of marriage, a very fulfilling and successful career — and being obese has never once stopped me from doing anything I wanted to do. I am very healthy, with perfect blood pressure, blood lipids and glucose. I love to exercise! My daily time on the treadmill or walking around my hilly neighborhood is one of my favorite parts of the day, and I have been lifting weights for 30 years now. My job sometimes calls for me to climb fire towers and light houses, and invariably I arrive at the top less out of breath than the park rangers who accompany me. Just this weekend, I played softball with my family, and enjoyed it immensely. I have great self esteem, a great body image (I think I look lovely in the mirror, but when I see myself in a photograph, I can’t even recognize myself, because my image of myself is so different from what I actually look like).
I come from a long line of strong “heavy” (as they are called in my family) women going back generations, and none of them has ever been the worse for it, as far as I know. (We have female obesity, but not male, for some reason.) One of the things I am most proud of is that I have raised three beautiful daughters, and not one of them has body issues. I think my example has been a part of that.
You might be wondering why I am writing. I just wanted to acknowledge how much I have learned, and how much I appreciate your approach, even though — for me — it didn’t turn out as I imagined. Nevertheless, it has helped me a great deal, and I feel a connection — and by the way, I think your voice is great! One of the most professional of all the podcasts I listen to.
And my response:
As you probably know, IOWL promotes unconditional self-acceptance as the first order of business, and the facilitator of any physical changes that come after. I’m guessing that you are feeling more accepting of yourself as you are than before, and if this is true, I am delighted. And if you truly prefer to stay at the weight you are, then you should. It seems like it might provide a connection to your family through generations, and perhaps represent strength to you.
On the other hand, if you perceive weight loss as difficult, or unsafe, and want to change that, know that that too is possible. I would encourage you to accept the woman you see in photos of yourself. She too needs unconditional self acceptance.
It’s really all up to you. That’s what I love about this approach - you decide what’s best for you.
Thanks again for writing.
And her response:
Oh, my gosh! You replied! I am so amazed and feel so very honored. I continue to be “gob-smacked” by your insights. How you could pick up on two important elements of my “psyche” from one rather silly email is just beyond me. One, yes, you nailed it — my weight bonds me to my relatives, especially my beloved sister — and is a great source of strength, as we take great pride in not measuring our self-worth by body shape or number on scale. We feel like iconoclasts — powerful women — as a result. We choose not to let the world dictate what we should look like. And I think this has been great role-modeling for my three daughters, too, who are not body-obsessed at all. To lose weight in the face of all that would seem like a great betrayal of who we are (unless of course there were health reasons to do so).
But two, thanks to listening to your podcasts, I was able to articulate a “limiting belief” that is very strong — and I feel like you somehow picked up on that by mentioning that I might feel weight loss to be unsafe. Yes — I have a very strong association between weight loss and death and dying. Both my in-laws, my mom, and a close friend died of wasting diseases, and in addition, I had the misfortune to be working in the arts in New York in the 1980s when the AIDS epidemic was in full swing, before this awful disease could be controlled as it can be now. Weight loss among my gay colleagues was usually the much-feared first indication of impending doom. This really had an impact on me — whenever I accidentally lose a couple of pounds, I automatically start eating everything in sight, so as to regain the lost weight, and gain a few extra pounds. Once I am assured that I’m not dying (!), I lose the extra pounds and go back to normal life. I realize I have been doing this for decades now.
However — thanks to your email (and I don’t know how you do it, but it is very cool), I just figured out something interesting. For most of my early life, I was a normal-sized person (I don’t know how much I weighed, but I was a size 12, which I think is pretty ordinary), but never lost weight after my pregnancies. All this time I was thinking I was overweight because of that — but I just realized that all the death and dying was taking place at that very time. So my “failure” to lose my pregnancy weight likely had nothing to do with pregnancy at all.
So: to answer your implied question (”If you don’t want to lose weight, why are you listening to IOWL?”): Insight! Truly, I have learned so much about myself from listening, and plan to keep on. You have so much good common sense and strategizing that is just invaluable for overall health and well-being. And I love your beautiful, soothing voice. As I’m sure you know, it is very calming.
By the way, I didn’t find you — you found me! I just got a Blackberry, and subscribed to Stitcher via the BB, which as you probably know is a podcast aggregator. I was listening my way through the science and health categories that are my favorites, and there you were! I think in the episode I first heard you said something like “you are overweight because your intake exceeds your energy requirements.” And that really got me to thinking — is it maybe wasteful? Should I rethink my stance? So I signed on, and although I continue to believe that I have very little motivation to lose weight, I love having a strong philosophical framework from which to contemplate the issue — which you have provided. And for which I thank you profoundly.
Thanks so much for your kind reply. I feel bad taking up time that you should be devoting to your paying clients, but just know that I very much appreciate your approach and your ability to help so many “strugglers.” You offer the world a great gift.
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