“Weight Isn’t the Problem; It’s A Symptom of Something Else”

Here is a great guest post written by a great woman, Melissa.  She is a fellow journeyer.  She has a wonderful blog at talesofadisorderedeater.  It is a very encouraging and informational blog.  Make sure you check it out.  It is there helping lots of people on their journey.

.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?

19 Responses to ““Weight Isn’t the Problem; It’s A Symptom of Something Else””

  1. January 8, 2009 at 7:02 am

    You stated something I’ve long been suspecting but never really put into words. When I’m at my “happy weight,” I’m active, busy, involved, and engaged with life in both mind & body. When I feel myself withdrawing from everyone, avoiding making plans w/ people, watching TV more than I read, etc., I start to either put on weight or lose too much weight. I tend to obsess about food and exercise when there aren’t enough happy things in my life. So rather than focus on the weight gain, I should really be focusing on how I spend my time and make more plans to go to concerts, go to the library, volunteer, and spend quality time with friends & family. Thanks so much for this post 🙂

    • 2 run4change
      January 8, 2009 at 7:26 am

      Yes adding both activities and people we love into our time improves our overall health and life. Good comment.

  2. 3 SavvyDiva
    January 8, 2009 at 7:48 am

    Good post. I have always been the “cute, sexy girl” and it never bothered me to be anything other than that. In fact, I relished it because I have always been told I have an OLD SCHOOL hour glass figure. My weight gain, (I have 75 pounds to lose) has nothing to do with feelings of self esteem, lonliness or sadness. It has everything to do with being Super Momma!! I have a wonderful husband of 15 years, two kids and I work full time outside of the home. I am very involved with my family and students and spiritual life because I enjoy it. But, then, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. Not outrageously high, but I am on one medication now. It runs in my family, thick and thin people get it, but it was a wake up call for me to realize that I have to make time for myself and become healthier. Skipping meals will destroy your metabolism along with turning 40. I had terrible eating habits with a cholesterol level of 165. I have never been a junk food junkie but you realize that eating not enough, erratically , not getting proper nutrition, vitamins, etc. it will catch up with you. Diet and exercise are the McCartney and Lennon of making beautiful music for health!!

    • 4 run4change
      January 8, 2009 at 7:53 am

      Good comment and thanks for stopping by. sometimes I guess we get so busy doing important things that we forget about ourselves. I have a hard time with this subject because I tend to think that it seems wrong to say no to everything and just focus on me. Great job on being a fantastic wife and mom. That is what the world needs. People like you building up their families. Good luck with your weigh loss journey.

  3. January 8, 2009 at 10:26 am

    What you said hit me more than what Bob said “Even with all her success, even with her team of experts, Oprah still hasn’t found peace with her body.” Could that be it? Not at peace with my body? Hmmmm I’ll have to give it some thought. Thing is how do you become at peace with a body that looks like it’s seen a war?

    I’m not sure how I ended up on your blog but I guess I was meant to stumble across it today. Food for thought, thanks.

    Way to go on a 41 mile run too WOW!!!

    • 6 run4change
      January 8, 2009 at 11:00 am

      Thanks for coming over and I hope you come back. We all have our body issues. I sure know I have mine. Thanks for the honest comment.

  4. January 8, 2009 at 11:28 am

    I think when I’m bored or stressed is when I overeat. When I’m on the go and busy then food is not that important to me.

    • 8 run4change
      January 8, 2009 at 11:43 am

      I am the same way. I can go forever without eating and not even feel hunger at all if I am busy on a project at home or work

  5. January 8, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    So true.

    That Larry King episode completely changed my husband’s attitude. He NEVER got weight issues. He thought it was just lack of willpower. I was never a big Larry King fan, but I’m grateful for that show. My husband even taped it. I hope he watches it again. Daily. 😉

    I see an eating disorders specialist. I had a funny session with her today. My childcare fell through so I had my 3yo with me. But I had some devastating news from the holidays I wanted to discuss. So we spelled out words, used some pig-latin, and did some informal made-up sign language and had a good chat without cluing in my little one to the issue while she played. I laughed at the end and told her, wow, this was probably one of your stranger sessions and she said, nope, the guy who wanted to do the session in his underwear was still number one! Yikes!

  6. 11 somedayistoday
    January 8, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Just wanted to chime in and say that I agree with Bob Greene’s statement. I really like what fitforfree had to say too! When I focus on what’s important in my life, making better choices happens much more natural. When I’m unhappy, sulking, depressed etc…I focus on what I eat and exercise which somehow seems impossible to do therefore fail and the cycle just starts all over again! I definitely have some issues that I need to deal with because my being overweight is a symptom. I know what most of the issues are that I need to face. Now I just need the courage to tackle them head on!

  7. 13 lissa10279
    January 8, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    Hi and thank you — I am glad the post was inspirational. I really liked that episode, clearly 🙂 But really because it dissects the truth about weight — it’s NOT always about willpower. And the fact that with all the money and fame and influence in the world Oprah has … it saddens me that her “worth” is still associated to her body … yet if she takes Greene’s advice, I bet she will lose the weight — once she tackles the food addiction, the depression.

  8. 15 lissa10279
    January 8, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    (I’m Melissa, the author of the guest entry) 🙂

  9. 17 seeleelive
    January 9, 2009 at 2:45 am

    way to go! amazing post! its so crucial for us to look beyond the “face issue” and dig deep. and not even just for eating, for all of our troubles this is excellent. your a wonderful writer.

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