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When Love and Hate Collide

November 15, 2013

Weight LossFat HealthMy Boring-Ass LifeDiet Talk

Trigger warnings: Mental illness, weight loss

One of the hallmark traits (and probably the most frustrating one) of borderline personality disorder (BPD) is the constant back-and-forth switching of one’s opinions and decisions based on what is going on at that particular minute in one’s life. This is commonly referred to as “black and white thinking” and it is probably the most difficult symptom of BPD to deal with, both for the person with BPD and that person’s friends and family.

I have BPD, and I am no stranger to black and white thinking, especially when it comes to my opinion of myself. I can be a huge Fat Acceptance advocate one day, and want to lose 100 pounds the next. The past couple weeks have been particularly difficult for me regarding my opinion of my body because I had to have a physical exam recently for a public health program offered through my county. Since this was the first time I was meeting this particular doctor, I wasn’t sure what to expect from her. Was she going to chide me for my weight? Was she going to insist I lose X number of pounds? Was she going to give me THE LECTURE about how being overweight was putting my health at risk? Was I going to have to hold back my anger as she made me feel ashamed of being overweight?

Well, she didn’t come out and mention my weight directly, but she did a really great job of passive-aggressively making me feel guilty about being overweight. She made a list for me of “Healthy Living Tips” that included a whole bunch of different things I could do to “normalize my weight and health,” not one of which I hadn’t heard about 10,000 times before.

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t been doing enough to keep myself “healthy.” I’ve been eating a lot of crap lately out of stress and depression due to my unemployment. And as a result, I have been feeling less than stellar physically. I know I have to make a few tweaks to my lifestyle in order to feel better. But here’s where the BPD comes in. I haven’t quite yet convinced myself that I’m WORTH putting in the effort to feel better. And any doctor giving me grief about being “unhealthy” is only going to make that job of convincing myself more difficult. It’s just another symptom of my illness, and it’s something I’ve been putting a lot of therapy hours into in order to get myself to actually care about myself.

Doctors throwing shame and guilt at me, however, is NOT going to help me. Why do people think this is an effective motivational tool? Have you ever thought about what goes through a person’s head when you try to shame them into losing weight? Let me tell you what goes through this person’s head (and even though I have a mental illness, I doubt my thoughts are very different from anyone else in my situation).

When you try to make me feel ashamed or guilty about being overweight, you make me feel like less of a person. You make me feel like a failure. You make me feel like there’s something wrong with me because I don’t happen to look like the societal ideal. You start in me an internal conversation filled with negative self-talk.

Negative self-talk does not do me any good whatsoever. It only serves to make me doubt myself and whatever efforts I have already been making towards my health. This spiral of doubt eventually turns into a sense of hopelessness, like nothing I do will ever make a difference.

You see what’s happening here? Your attempts to shame me into wanting to lose weight is only making me want to give up on it altogether. It’s only validating all those nasty BPD symptoms I’ve been working so hard to beat.

Here’s what might work better: Try a little positive reinforcement instead. Instead of pointing out what I’m doing wrong, praise me for what I’m doing right, and encourage me to keep going. And please, for goodness sake, do not use my weight as a motivator. Do not make it about changing my appearance at all. Make it about wanting to feel better, not look better.

Health comes in all shapes and sizes. There are plenty of fat people out there who are a hell of a lot healthier than many thin people. There are elite athletes who weigh over 300 pounds. I think my goal should not be to lose weight and be thin. I think it should be to be as healthy as I possibly can, weight be damned.

Cherry Blossom Kitty

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 15, 2013 1:12 pm

    I think this paragraph should be something EVERY doctor, nurse, PA, etc., reads on a daily basis:
    Here’s what might work better: Try a little positive reinforcement instead. Instead of pointing out what I’m doing wrong, praise me for what I’m doing right, and encourage me to keep going. And please, for goodness sake, do not use my weight as a motivator. Do not make it about changing my appearance at all. Make it about wanting to feel better, not look better.

  2. November 15, 2013 6:01 pm

    YES! The same words jumped out at me: “Try a little positive reinforcement instead. Instead of pointing out what I’m doing wrong, praise me for what I’m doing right, and encourage me to keep going.”

    It’s generally accepted that if you want to train animals, even very wild animals, use positive reinforcement. Why people think punishing and shaming will accomplish anything is totally beyond me.

    Thank you for the wise words, cherryblossomkitty!

  3. Happy Spider permalink
    November 17, 2013 9:13 pm

    I hear you about being a huge Fat Acceptance advocate one day and wanting to lose 100 pounds the next. I think that is very common.

    I would hate if I had an appointment scheduled with a new doctor. I would fret about it for days beforehand. In fact, I did several months ago have an appointment with a doctor and I was anxious fors days beforehand that I would be criticized for my weight and for poor diet and exercise. What a relief it was when it was all over and I didn’t have that anxiety over me anymore.

  4. November 20, 2013 3:45 pm

    Reblogged this on Sly Fawkes and commented:
    Until doctors stop using weight as the be all and end all criteria for their health, they will continue to short-change their patients of all sizes. Diagnoses will be missed in larger patients because all their maladies will be blamed on their weight. Diagnoses will be missed in thin patients, because they will be decreed healthy for the fact that they are at a certain weight. This is doing no-one any favors.

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