11November/2012

My Battle with Obesity By Anonymous

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Do you ever think about how hard it is to change? Bob Dylan released his album The times they are a changin’ in 1964 – 48 years ago. What would he write today in reflecting back over these years? How have things really changed in this time? Political parties change, politicians change, social and cultural norms change but how much really changes about us? You and me?

American songwriter Larry Norman penned these words, “Nothing ever changes, everything remains the same, we are what we are till the day that we die.” A somewhat bleak sentiment it seems to me, and yet…

Three years ago I ended up in a Coronary Care Unit in hospital with a health scare. Thankfully I was only there two days. At the time I can say I have never felt more motivated to change. Seeing the stress and fear I placed on my wife and family made me more motivated than ever to do something -to stop working too long, to stop eating badly and to start exercising regularly. Some months later I underwent gastric banding surgery (or ‘fat banding’ as I prefer to call it).

I thought this would be the cure for my unhealthy habits. In the years before my scare I had attended almost every weight loss course and plan there is. Never will I forget the joy of being asked to turn to the man next to me so we could measure each other’s stomachs. I had to explain to him that sucking it in wasn’t going to do him any good when we presumably checked one another’s girth again next week. Or standing in line for the weekly ‘weigh-in’ on another program and having the slight increase in my weight that week announced by the consultant in a voice loud enough to be heard by a similar group meeting in the next suburb.

I still watch the weight loss advertisements on television with a profound scepticism. I am amazed at the ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos and their power of persuasion. But when we see the ‘two years after that’ photos, they look suspiciously similar to the ‘before’ photos to me.

I had the surgery two years ago and dropped 22 kg from my peak weight. Well on the way to my target loss of 40 kg. However the surgery had no impact on my desire for chocolate and my lack of enthusiasm for exercise. I needed no excuses to enjoy one or two pieces. Over time that became one or two small bars. And further along almost a block. I started with a personal trainer but gave that away too, convincing myself that I would exercise on my own. I haven’t.

For all you fitness enthusiasts reading this please suspend any thoughts of contempt, no matter how much they may be merited. Please exercise judgment rather than being judgemental. I will not make any excuses – the lack of discipline in eating and exercise is mine. I get tired of hearing people blame their parents or stress or work or any myriad of potential sources of blame. I choose to eat. I am not force fed. I choose not to exercise. I am not stopped from exercising.

In the book Simple Church authors Rainer and Geiger quoting Alan Deutschman’s “Change or Die” article state that:

Roughly 600 000 people have bypasses a year in America. These people are told… that they must change their lifestyle. The heart bypass is a temporary fix. They must change their diet. They must quit smoking and drinking. They must exercise and reduce stress. In essence, the doctors say, “Change or die.” You would think that a near-death experience would forever grab the attention of the patients… You would think the argument for change is so compelling that the patients would make the appropriate lifestyle alterations… Ninety percent of the heart patients do not change… Change is that difficult.

A choice between life and death and yet 90% do not change. That is a sobering statistic. Almost unbelievable and yet I am one of those. I ask myself why and have no easy answers. No-one else does either, whatever current affairs programs may claim. Change for a season is uncomfortable. Real change is excruciating.

I think I have a mixture of reasons (and I am in no way saying they are valid) for avoiding real change:

It is easier to be disciplined in areas I find easier (work, relationships, study) rather than in those I don’t (food and exercise).

It can feel more satisfying to put off thinking about the future just to cope with today.

I am tired of failing in this area time and time again, and feeling selfish and guilty about it (and tired of being reminded about it).

I am fed up with weight being made the defining issue about health and acceptance by many.


But the simplest of them all is this – I find real change too hard. Or maybe I just don’t want to change.

Will I give up? No. Will I resolve to try again? Yes. Will I continue on this merry-go-round? Absolutely. Where would the weight loss industry be without me?

So, Hope springeth eternal as the poet wrote. I agree with Bob (contrary to any extant evidence) The times they are a changin’. I just hope they are for me. Well, enough of writing. I think I’ll go for a walk, and grab that Fredo Frog my daughter left by the door – she won’t miss it. Won’t forget the tape measure and I really liked that new diet on that current affairs program last night…




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