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Does Obesity Isolate Us?

Posted Oct 19 2009 10:04pm


The word isolation has a lot of negative associations. The first one that came to my mind was that of isolating the sick from the well. The unhealthy from the healthy.

As my weight ballooned up from 200 to 250 and from 250 to 300 pounds I often found myself living in social isolation. True, I had a loving husband, two small children, and a sprinkling of friends and family, but my social world was shrinking day by day.

In some ways I isolated myself. The bigger I got, the less willing I became to interact with new people. I vividly remember having a near panic attack when John asked me to come to his office for a work celebration. “I can’t,” I cried. “What will people think of me?” And so I didn’t go, but instead stayed home on the appointed day baking batch after batch of chocolate chip cookies. I ate all the cookies but six. When John came home from work he said, “Oh, you made cookies. Where are the rest of them?” I looked at him and said, “I accidentally burned a few batches so this is all that’s left.” He looked at me. He knew the truth. I knew the truth.

I stopped attending social activities at church or school. Instead of going I’d send John with the children, begging off with some lame excuse such as, “I’m just really tired today.” He always encouraged me to go but I dug my heels in and refused. So I’d stand in the doorway of our house waving to them as he backed the van out of the driveway to take the girls on an adventure I should have been participating in. I just couldn’t face the stares and humiliation that I often felt so I stayed home.

Days would go by with the phone standing silent like a sentry in front of a military installment. No one called to chat. I called no one. My world shrank.

And with that shrinking world came an expansion of my food world. Not in quality foods but in the quantity of foods. I shoveled food in without even realizing I was overeating to compensate for loneliness. I gained more weight. I lost self esteem. I got bigger around the middle and my world shrank a little more.

By the time I got pregnant with my third child, I literally had two or three friends. That was it. Sure I knew a lot of people in town, but no one whom I would call if I needed a ride to the airport. (You know – airport friends – those people who would willingly get up at the crack of dawn to give you a ride to the airport across town!) I didn’t have many of those.

When I think of those years of my life I still am sad. Sad for myself, and sad for my family. Because of the choices I made to feed my soul with food rather than relationships I missed out on developing some valuable contacts. My children weren’t able to see me function as a vibrant mom who was always around to volunteer to chaperon trips or teach classes. I isolated all of us.

I take 100% responsibility for my own actions. No one was forcing food down my throat. No one explicitly told me I wasn’t welcome to volunteer for the committee, but I felt those messages in my heart just the same. I wish I could tell you that I worked on overcoming my isolation before I lost my weight but that wouldn’t be truth. No, I stayed isolated from those around me, insulating myself from possible hurt by getting fatter and fatter. It wasn’t until I began to lose the weight that I was able to come to terms with the full implications of my choice to isolate myself. It was a painful day when I realized that I had missed out on things because of my choice. But I did manage to put the pain behind me and move forward. It was a process though.

Where are you today? Have you ever experienced social isolation because of feelings about yourself? How do you handle those feelings? Or are you just a naturally self confident person regardless of the number on the scale? I’d love for you to share.

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