Sitting in one of the few remaining seats on a peak hour train the other day, I found myself next to a guy who was (like myself) fairly large. It’s not easy being too big for the tiny seats on those old style carriages, with the arms digging into you, so I felt for him. He was falling asleep and trying hard not to overflow into my seat, but of course you can’t help it.
I was sitting there trying to convince myself that this person pressing into me was doing it accidentally, and not to feel either embarrassed or upset about it. In the process, I remembered a time on a flight when I was heading back from the US. My ticket had me sit down next to a lady who kicked up a huge fuss, calling over the attendant to complain that I was crowding her and she couldn’t get the arm rest all the way down (never mind the bruises I had from her trying to force it repeatedly), and that she’d paid for a full seat, not a half one, so she wanted to move or have me moved. I can see her point of view, but I wasn’t particularly impressed that she chose to express it at full volume to the entire plane. The staff were lovely and found me someplace else to sit. Ironically I ended up with 3 seats to myself with MORE than enough room to even stretch out and lie down! I appreciated that, once I got over the upset of having to walk past everybody who’d heard her very loud complaints about my size and seen me forced to leave my seat because of it.
I know a lot of people feel strongly about this issue both ways, but from my perspective, I’ve been dieting since age 7, and it’s not as though I haven’t tried to address it. I’ve just not found the approach that works for me yet. Doesn’t help that most of the diets and programs out there are really not set up for vegetarians, (I’ve never been able to tolerate meat, my system really tells me if I have something accidentally) and I never learnt how to apply nutrition properly myself. Anyway, I was feeling for this poor guy who was obviously struggling not to impinge too much on me on the train, and it suddenly occurred to me that boundaries – both psychological and physical – were in play.
I don’t know if there are studies done on it, but anecdotally, I know that most of the bigger people I know (myself included) have a hard time saying no. Even when I do, it’s usually not that hard to get me to give in and change it to a yes. I don’t have a really clear, strong boundary around myself. It’s fuzzy. So, coincidentally, is my shape. Could there be a link, I wonder?
The more I thought about it, the more I found other correlations. I freely admit this is not hard science but look at how weight is often seen as ‘protection’ and symptomatic of abuse, especially in childhood. The time when boundaries are forming, and the circumstance in which they are violated. Maybe it’s not entirely a self-protection mechanism but a symptom of psychological damage?
Obesity is becoming epidemic, and concurrently we’ve got a society where a huge majority of people seem to live day to day, with no clear goals or definitions about themselves, let alone any clarity or sense of purpose. Vicarious living through soaps and reality TV blurs boundaries even further. Is it another coincidence that this tends to lead to inactive lifestyles and result in blurred physical outlines as well?
Then I looked at the people who do have really clear ideas of who they are and what they are here to do. I couldn’t think of any that were overweight. That could just be because my mind wouldn’t let me, while I was on this tangent, but can you think of any? The one possibility that occurred to me of someone with a strong purpose but weight issues was Oprah – she’s battled her size publicly for years. But on the other hand she’s well known for her empathy and connection to others, which again can be seen as a form of blurred boundary.
Everyone who’s lost large amounts of weight and kept it off talks of having a defining moment when something clicked and they made a strong commitment to getting their weight down – in other words, created a boundary and a sense of individual purpose.
An ad came on TV last night when I was thinking about this, for the Health Department. It started with the actor talking about how he put on a few pounds after he got married and had kids, but thought nothing of it at first. Again, a time when individual boundaries are being shifted and redefined.
Anyway, I think I’m going to test this out. If it’s true, then the more strongly I develop my sense of individuality and purpose then the more successfully I’ll lose weight. I’m not going to work on my weight, per se, (since I know from repeated efforts that it doesn’t work for me, and the only time I’ve successfully lost weight has been when I’ve NOT been focused on it) but instead work specifically on developing and enforcing clear boundaries and a commitment to my personal purpose. It’ll be interesting to see what happens – I’ll check back in a month or so.