Monday, October 18, 2010

Losing Weight and Dying

When I was a little girl, my mother had a very nice older friend named Betty. "Beppy," as we children affectionately called her, was a happy, sweet, 50-something woman with beautiful short, wavy, silvery-white hair. She had a lovely smile and piercing blue eyes and a beagle named Dolly. She and her husband had raised one beloved son who was tragically killed in a automobile accident, dying beside his fiance as they were returning home from a wedding shower. Beppy kept her son's room as it was when he died, and had all of his fascinating trinkets still on the shelves and desks as he left them. She turned her motherly love towards us children who shared her faith and religion and often was the go-to babysitter when our mothers had other tasks to attend. I have fond memories of going to Beppy's house and playing in the yard with Dolly or watching TV as she brought me a tray of cookies and snacks and chocolate milk. She always put ice cubes in my chocolate milk, something I'd never seen anywhere else. I still put ice cubes in my chocolate milk...

When I was a young teen... 13 or 14 I suppose... dear Beppy contracted cancer. I didn't know much about it except that back then, in the early 80's, the "cancer" word spread fear into everyone's bones. Cancer was death. Cure rates were not so good. And Beppy was no exception. Sadly, I watched her suffer. I watched her lose her shiny soft hair and begin to wither away right before my eyes. I'd go to see her, weak in her bed, and hold her hand as she tried to be brave. Her arms and fingers became boney, her face drawn and thin. Her previously healthy and slightly plump body decayed into something fearsome and skeletal. She was so frail before she died. I loved her so.

It touched me deeply, watching Beppy die. Within months, another more elderly friend also became sick. I watched him, too, turn from a fleshy sturdy man to a boney shadow of his former self. When I saw him last in the hospital, it frightened me to see him as just skin and bones. When he finally passed away, again I was heartbroken.

Somehow along the way, I began to associate thinness with death. It bothered me if I could see and feel my bones; I felt more mortal somehow. When I gained weight I felt sturdier... more solid and alive. I was bigger than life, in my own mind. I was quite a presence at 278 pounds. I could not see a bone anywhere... not a wrist bone, a jaw line, or a collarbone, and certainly not a hip or a rib. With all the negatives associated with being obese, the one positive for me was that I didn't feel like I was dying. I felt solid... unbreakable. I didn't feel frail, vulnerable, or fragile. HERE I AM, my body shouted. I AM LARGE. I AM HERE. I EXIST.

This has all come to the forefront of my mind lately as my hip bones, shoulder bones, and ribs began to emerge as the layers of fat have melted away. My subconscious started screaming about death and mortality and I have felt rather uncomfortable with that awareness bubbling up in my head. I *do* associate weight loss with death, but I have spent some time lately assuring myself with my rational mind that my body *needs* to be thinner to be healthy... that weight loss, in my case, is probably extending my life rather than shortening it. Seeing bones and feeling organs and looking in the mirror to see a thinner face does not mean that I am sick or dying. I am training my mind to see MY weight loss as health, not death. But had I not been aware of these issues in my mind, I may have found myself sitting in a pile of candy wrappers wondering what just happened and why I am sabotaging my weight loss. Being aware is key, at least for me.

I have some little trinkets Beppy gave me before she died: shells and stones her son collected, costume jewelry she used to wear. I remember her as she was before she got sick: bright and cheery and full of life. I honor her by remembering her this way... and by making the most of the life I have been given. I will lose the weight that hinders me and enjoy every day I've been given. Beppy would want it that way.

19 comments:

Olivia said...

I read your blog almost every day, and I know I seldom comment. But, I really wanted to thank you for sharing this.

You can and will do this. After reading this post I know it is a fact.

*hugs*

Olivia

NAN said...

Interesting. I am a senior citizen and I've never seen anyone die of cancer. The deaths in our family are obesity related ailments- hypertension and heart. So my perspective is different- I've been trying to lose weight since I started gaining around age 45 with perimenopause. Now i am really serious! You are doing GREAT!

K. said...

Healthy weight loss= LONGER HEALTHIER LIFE! Thanks for sharing your memories.
K.
www.it-is-time.com

Shawn said...

What a powerful post!! I never thought of things like that. I've seen people die of cancer and of other things. But I have never correlated losing weight and dying.
What you said is very true. Being aware is the first step. Now you know, and put one foot in front of the other to achieve those goals you put out for yourself. You are doing a great job. Keep up the good work.

Shawn

Ashley said...

I have not ever read a blog post like this one. It really hit home for me, not because I associate thinness with death, but because I learned very very recently what made me gain weight and keep it on in the first place (or at least some of it). Last night, I had a major break through about it and that probably saved me at least 1,000 calories. Awareness truly is key.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this post. My grandma always associated being very thin with disease. Then she waited away to literally nothing with stomach cancer. So I'm sure deep down I have at least some of the same thoughts. Plus no one in my family is even overweight except my brother.....except not even him anymore.

My brother also was very sick till he was six. And at six he weighed a whopping 32 lbs. So yes I'm quite sure I have some of the same thoughts and hang ups. Trying to work through it though.

MargieAnne said...

Discovering the thinking and spiritual depth behind our eating disorder is half the battle. The next step is changing the way we think.

Since what we think comes from out heart/spirit I am a strong advocate of getting the truth deep inside our spirit by talking into our eyes in front of a mirror. Our eyes are the window to our soul so it makes sense to change the way we think by speaking into them.

You have grown very strong and I'm sure you will suddenly find your deep thoughts on this matter have changed. Freedom is on the way.

Steelers6 said...

Wow, very thought provoking. (as is usually the case.)

I thought Nan's comment was interesting. I suppose it can be all about perspective.

I have been about as close as I can get to deaths as you describe. Glad I can see being thinner and more fit as the picture of health, though. I'm getting there! Slowly!
Wishing you all the best, my thin, healthy friend.
Chrissy

Alanna Kellogg said...

My mum was the same way, Lyn. She had Stage IV breast cancer at 35, wasn't expected to live - but she DID. But for all those years after, carrying extra weight was her buffer between normal life and a relapse. These things inside us, they are difficult to wrestle to the ground. But YOU, girl, you're doing it.

Dani said...

I associate being thin with bad news because with bad news came people losing weight i came to that realization a few months back when I started sabatoging myself when I was losing , losing came feelings of what is going to happen next. It is good that you know this is why without eating to figure it out.

Vee said...

Good that you recognize that about your past and your way of thinking. Vee at http://veegettinghealthy.blogspot.com

Cindy...154 said...

I loved your story about Beppy. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. You touched a nerve though and I realize that I associate "skinny" with old age and perhaps illness and frailty as well. Very interesting and thought provoking. We learn so much about ourselves as we change. That's why I always say More will be revealed! Thanks again

Miss Maebe said...

Very insightful post. Thank you for sharing :)

Erin said...

Our challenges with our physical selves is never really about the food. It is about so much more. Bringing this all to the forefront allows you to address it as an adult as you comfort the still-grieving child within you. Amazing insight.

screwdestiny said...

I bet strength training would help you with this negative mental association with thinness. It's true that often when people die from diseases they are skeletal and frail. You can see all their bones and it's rather sad. But they also don't have muscle. If you get your body to where it's thin, but you have muscle showing, and you know that you're strong, I don't think that association will match up as well. No one ever died from disease looking lean and fit. You'll get there, Lyn. We all believe in you. :)

Mind Over Fatter said...

Very profound Lyn and thanks for sharing. This is a deep self realization and I hope helps you settle into your new skin more easily as I know this has been a struggle... Keep it going girl!

Anonymous said...

I think you can replace in your mind death by cancer with death by obesity related diseases and cancer IS obesity related too. That fat produces estrogen that gives you a higher odd of getting breast and other cancers. So not only to you lower your probability of getting heart disease and diabetes, you also lower your chances of getting cancer by losing weight and eating right.

gaelowyn said...

Lyn, your post is a great reminder to all of us that there are 'inner' reasons to what we do(overeat/binge/etc). Everyone has a different inner reason.. and not everyone knows what it is. You are blessed in the fact that you have identified your reason(or one of them) and are working to face it down and change your thinking. KUDOS!! I too "know" my reason(s).. however, I must not be facing them "right" or really willing to change my thinking, as not much as changed overall. Your post is a reminder that knowing is only half the battle.. the other half is DOING! I now know I need to DO something about what I KNOW. thanks again!

icannotweight said...

Not all cancer makes you thin. My mother has stage IV breast cancer and she doesn't get nauseated from the chemo and has actually GAINED weight to be 289lbs from 275lbs when she was first diagnosed. I always thought heart disease or diabetes would steal her from me, but unless they act really quickly, it will be the cancer.

I do know what you mean though, people who are all skin and bones do remind me of death, but thin people in general do not. I'm glad you were able to make this connection as to one of the reasons you have held on to your weight in the past. I need to do work in this area myself.