Sunday, February 10, 2008

Isolation By Fatness

There is a certain loneliness that happened to me when I gained all this weight. It changed me, somehow. The fat sort of covered up the outgoing me, and sucked up my enthusiasm for life like a giant sponge. It made it harder not only to make new friends, but also, sadly, made it difficult for me to stay connected with friends I already had.

Why am I blaming my fat for the isolation? Surely there are many big women who have active social lives and are outgoing with lots of friends... but that isn't me. When I got fat, my whole world changed.

When I was in college I had lots of friends. I was thin and active and pretty. My base personality IS rather shy, but I learned to be more outgoing and had a good social life. I dated. I had boyfriends. I got married, and for about 6 years we lived in a small town where I had lots of support and friendship as I began my family. My highest weight ever was 201 after I had 3 children, but it was just for a short period and then I lost weight again back down to 165.

Now, what do you think will happen when a 165 pound woman moves away to another state and gains 80 pounds in one year? Do you think she will be rejoicing to see those old friends again, or run into her old college buddies who last saw her 100 pounds ago? Can you imagine the embarrassment... the pain... the sheer agony of seeing the looks on their faces when they lay eyes on their friend, nearly doubled in size and blown up like a balloon, waddling down the street? I can; I lived it.

One day I was sitting in my home eating a bowl of chocolate pudding when the phone rang. "Lyn!" the familiar voice said, "this is Cara! Derek and I are in town and we wanted to come and see you and the kids! We are so excited to see you! Can you give us directions? We are only about 10 minutes away!" It was one of my closest friends from my old town that I had moved from 1 year ago.... 80 pounds ago. These people had NEVER seen me this fat. They had no idea. I wanted to see them, so I gave directions. Then I RACED around, trying to pick up, vacuum, change out of my pudding-stained t-shirt before the doorbell rang. I was not looking pretty when they arrived. I was out of breath, trying to look calm, but I am sure I was flushed in the face. They came in and hugged me and we had a nice visit. I thought it went well (even though I did notice the slight widening of their eyes and glance down and back up again in order to take me all in when I opened the door). Later one of my other friends from that town told me they came back and, when asked about their visit with me, Cara started to cry, and said, "how did this happen to her?"

You can imagine the next time they came through town, about 2 years later when I weighed 278 pounds, I gave every possible excuse as to why we couldn't have a visit. The kids were sick or I had appointments or something. These, my dear friends who I love. And I have not seen them again in almost ten years.

Then there was my sweet friend who I spent great times with when we were teenagers. Jess and I were like sisters. I even lived with her family for awhile. When I got remarried, I weighed 245 pounds. You may have seen the lovely (not) photo of me on this site, in my wedding dress, all plump and ready to roll down the aisle. Anyway, I was on my way to my wedding, when I got a phone call. It was Jess. "Lyn!! I wanted to surprise you! We got your wedding announcement in the mail, and we decided to drive up for your wedding! Mom and I will be there. Can you give us directions?" What should have been a wonderful reunion was really an emotional nightmare for me. The last time I had seen Jess and her mom, I was a full 100 pounds lighter. I had dated Jess' brother. And now here they were, popping in on my wedding. They had driven hundreds of miles to see me. I KNEW they would be absolutely SHOCKED when they saw me. I knew they would go back and tell her brother, "WOW! Lyn got REALLY fat! Here are some pictures we took." It just turned my stomach. I felt so very ashamed of myself for getting so fat. I have never seen them again since, in ten years.

And I cannot recount how many other reunions from my past I have avoided due to my weight. I have never gone to any high school reunions. I don't send family Christmas pictures anymore. One time I was in the grocery store, hair all a wreck, no makeup, in the frumpiest clothes imaginable with a cart full of Doritos and candy bars, when I looked up and saw a man walking towards me in the aisle. Oh my goodness, it was Drew! Drew that I had so much fun with in college; Drew who married my roommate. In a split second my mind went from "oh my goodness, it's Drew! I have to hug him, I wonder what he is doing, I wonder how Sara is, I wonder if they have any kids..." to "oh my GOD, I look like hell, I am 110 pounds heavier than I was in college, he CANNOT know this is me, I am not here. I do not exist." and I looked at the floor and kept right on walking. If he had any clue that it was me, he didn't say. He didn't stop. I never saw him again.

So many times a friend has called or emailed and told me they were going to be in town and would like to stop and see me, and I say no. I make excuses. Too busy, won't be around. Sorry! Catch you next time! But there never is a next time, and I am missing out on being with my friends because I am so embarrassed to have them see me 100 pounds heavier. I would rather endure the loneliness than have to see the look in their eye when they first see me. I just can't do it.

When I lose this weight, I am going to get ahold of every person I can think of and get back in touch. I am going to invite everyone over for a visit. I am going to send out family Christmas pictures again. I am going to be very proud of myself and never let my fat isolate me again.


Hanlie said...

Wow Lyn, that was heart-wrenching to read. I know exactly how you feel. I also avoid friends and relatives I haven't seen in years. We live with such shame!

And the only way we can get over that is by hard work. We have to work on our self-esteem. We have to learn to love and respect ourselves, otherwise we are doomed to fail in our weight loss efforts. If it means crying while doing mirror work, so be it! But do it, we must!

You are still worthy, you are still beautiful. You are not your weight. You are still you!

Betsey C. said...

I felt your pain while I read your post. And I have experienced it, too. Let's free ourselves from these prisons of fat. I am sending you best wishes.

Anonymous said...

Oh. My. Gosh. I SOOOO understand this pain as I am a full 100 lbs. heavier then I was in my 20's and cringe at the thought of this happening to me as well. I have given so many wonderful potential memories up because of my weight.

Let's all do this together and not let weight control our lives!

Thank you for your honesty.

Christopher Maples said...

Great post. Your insight and honesty is cool.

The isolation definitely sucks. For men, if your buddies are going out to do physical activities (biking, hiking, etc.), they don't even call you. And I hated running into people from high school or college when I started this journey. But what is so cool now is that I love seeing people I haven't seen in a year or more, when I used to be 100 lbs. heavier. I have to admit, I really like the compliments.

I just hate getting asked if I had surgery. No offense to those who choose the surgery route, but it pisses me off to be asked that. Hell no! I literally worked my fat ass off to lose 100 lbs., totally changing my eating habits and lifestyle.

And I still have about 60 lbs. to go, so I'll be real excited when I lose that to see more people I haven't seen in more than a year. To hell with the isolation anymore!

Ryry the Adventurous said...

Wow, another blog that hits the nail on the head entirely. I was a whopping 125lbs in high school... and now struggling around 180 (down from 220 thank god). I rarely see my high school friends, and shudder at the thought of what they might think of me being heavy.

As betsey says, lets free ourselves from these prisons. Best wishes from me too.

Dinah Soar said...

We are all in or have been in that boat with you...even if our excess weight is less than 100 pounds. It is hard and I share your pain.

When we choose to isolate ourselves from our friends, fearing their judgement and condemnation, we lose twice.

Better I think to be brave and suck it up... let them see the real you, and at least maintain the support and friendship. It isn't easy but it is probably best.

Perhaps instead of waiting until you are at a lower weight, you might write a letter to your rebuffed friends, or send them a copy of your blog post, explaining why you've shut them out.

I imagine they would understand and love you anyway. Life is too short to shut people out because we are less than perfect.

I have a friend whom I hadn't seen in years who warned me prior to our reunion that she'd gained a lot of know what...she had... and when I saw her I was prepared..not shocked in the least.....and she was still the same person with the extra pounds (she is around 100 pounds overweight). All the things I admired about her years ago are still there. I'm glad she took the risk with me...had enough faith in me to believe I'd still be her friend. She inspires me.

I too have shared your embarrassment and experienced returning to my home town a lot bigger than when I left, and often was tempted to hide and sometimes did hide from old friends...but when I put my fear aside I came out the richer for it.

It's a shame in our society that we put so much emphasis on appearance, to the extent that we feel "less" than.

You are a very talented person with a gift for writing. Anyone would be lucky to know you and be your friend.

Those who don't want your friendship because you are not the perfect size don't deserve it.

When you feel strong enough I hope you'll attempt to reconnect with old friends.

alice said...

this post made me cry. oh lyn, i can so relate to this. i have completely isolated myself from all my former friends for the past 4 years. i even moved to a different country hoping the new environment will trigger a change in my habits and self-perception. but because i ended up putting on more weight, i become even more ashamed and horrified that i sabatoged all opportunities to make new friends as well. i can't tell you how many times i too pretended to be too busy or out of town in order to avoid seeing friends who knew me when i was thinner. i just feel like i'm letting everyone down. i want them to think that i'm happy and i want myself to be happy when i present myself to them and i just feel like that's impossible at my current weight. i agree, when i lose it all, i'm going to call up every friend and catch up with everyone as well!!!!

Teale said...

This was an interesting read for me, because I've never been a thin person. While I can't exactly relate to this, I understand why you feel/felt as you do.

Honi said...

I guess its different if you have been dealing with weight your entire life then if you have gained the weight in adulthood.. most folks know me as fat and when i have been thinner it has not been for long strokes of time.. I guess this time that is one of the reasons I have decided to lose weight slowly.. I think I just do not want it noticed that I am losing.. I mean the compliments are great .. but if they do not notice.. then if I mess up .. then maybe they wont notice again.. I dunno.. in any respect i can relate to how you feel.. but if these folks are truly your friends they will love you no matter what.. and if they are concerned about your weight then they need to be brave and talk to you .. not scold you or make you feel bad but ask.. and not run and tell so and so how much weight you have gained.. it made me sad to read that post.. and you have to be honest with these friends.. you can tell them you are ashamed for them to see you.. if they are real friends they will concerned but they will not turn their back on you... Maybe I have the wrong perspective .. I am not sure.. I believe that losing weight has to be totally about self.. the primary advantage of weight loss is better health.. whatever comes beyond that is bonus... much luck to you.. and for the record.. I think you are beautiful person regardless of your size.. and the sooner you make your peace with food.. the easier you can let go of what holds you back and realize there is a huge and wonderful world out there for you to explore..

lbs said...

I've never doubled in size but then I've never been skinny either. I think you're brave for being able to face it all and writing about it. I don't have a lot of friends. I've also moved around a lot. Recently I've moved to a new town and left all my friends in my old town. I'm losing touch with them. Seriously, I think if I lost weight, it would only alienate me from my friends more. I'm learning to be strong and make new friends. And never let anyone see me as just a fat shy girl anymore.

good luck on your journey!

Heather said...

that sounds a lot like experiences I have had and I am sorry that you have had to "hide" because of how you looked. That friend that visited you and then made the comment about how could that happen to you is awful. true friends care about each other no matter what changes occur in their lives.

but I totally understand...I have avoided situations where I may see someone from my "thin" days and know that when I do see someone, they are sure to tell someone how fat I got. its horrible that we feel this way about ourselves.

Anonymous said...

Wow, brutally honest and boy can I relate. You really made me think. Thanks once again for your insight and honesty.

Anonymous said...

I have never been obese, or even extremely overweight, and your very insightful blog has taught me more in a few months about what an overweight or obese person goes through than anything I've ever read or seen before.

It's really made me think, made me take a look at my own unconscious attitudes & thought patterns ... these posts are so interesting and so thought-provoking. Kudos.

She said...

I know exactly what you mean; I could've written this post myself. :)

Thank you for sharing this...

Danielle said...

I just wanted to let you know that I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning last night reading your entire blog.
You're awesome, mama.
Your last post was indeed heart-wrenching. I felt such profound sadness in it.

And many of your recipes sound amazing!

Keep up the great work!

Katschi said...

Another person here who can completely relate to your post today. I ran into my first love a few years back and the look of disgust on his face was...well, I went home to eat my embarrassment, didn't I. I've isolated myself too and while I didn't have an overly active social life when I was much thinner, I certainly wasn't embarrassed to go anywhere like I am now.
I have seen people I know who walk right past me...I'm unrecognizable to them. I unrecognizable to myself.
I'm with you and everyone who has decided once and for all to get the thin version of myself back.
I wish you well!

Katschi said...

I posted my before pics today in which I weigh 280 lbs, so very close to your before pic. Thank you for posting your before picture. it helped me to be braver about posting mine. the difference in losing 30 lbs is amazing. Congratulations, this is hard to do!

Phil said...

And the isolation makes it all the worse because that damned food just keeps talking to you. Working on your willpower, wanting you to get up and go to the refrigerator, or the cupboard to take it out. And then the cycle starts over.

Keep strong, talk to yourself about the choices you are making, and you will get to the weight you want.



Lynne said...

It makes me wonder how different my life (and the lives of many others) would be if it were not for our obsession and embarrassment over our fat bodies and how we've let ourselves go. I am SO sick of it!!!

You are doing awesome! I will try and I hope you will too, to make 2008 the year we reclaim our SELVES and live without constantly thinking about whether our bodies will meet the expectations of our friends and families

Ready to Shrink said...

I have been catching up on your blog. And this post made me stop to comment. This happened to me in the past year or two. I actually posted a little about it today. I understand these feelings. I actually had removed myself from a lot of friend and family functions due to the fact that I ballooned even 80 more pounds than even my heaviest. I felt what you feel.

Though my heaviest was 420lbs, I have now lost 80lbs and made a new year's resolution to see more of my friends and family. They love me no matter who I am and no matter how ashamed I may feel. You can do it. We can all do it together!

Tham said...

I've only recently been reffered to your blog and i just wanted to post the one word that popped into my head.

Thank you.