Fat By Choice

I was watching this show on Discovery Health a while back. It was a kind of documentary, and yes, I like documentaries. The feature of the story was a woman, I forget her name, who was willingly and rather adamantly trying to become the largest woman alive. Naturally, I was a bit shocked that someone would make gluttony a legitimate life goal. And what’s more, I was downright disgusted that she was gaining so much attention for it.

It makes sense, though. I mean, especially today, people will do literally anything to revel in that fifteen minutes of fame, even if it means compromising their own health and happiness. We crave renown. We crave recognition. We want nothing more than to be remembered. Sadly, this desire sometimes drives us to remarkable measures. Becoming the largest woman alive is just one of them.

What made this lady’s story even more upsetting was the fact that she had children. She was a mother, can you believe that? How selfish. How demeaning to her kids. This woman was putting her life in danger and her children’s’ futures at risk just to make the record books. Her main drive to gain all that weight was seriously just so she could accomplish something “noteworthy” in her life. I guess she figured she wasn’t going to rise to fame by working hard at a real job, so she made her lifelong goal something she didn’t have to work for at all. She explained that it was actually a pretty hard thing to do, getting fat was. It was so terribly difficult to scarf down thousands upon thousands of calories every day. Maybe that’s because the human body isn’t meant to sustain so much extra food. But seriously, that’s not a job, that’s not a life. That’s an excuse. It’s the easy way out.

But I can’t talk. Man, do I love to make excuses or what. I can’t even remember the last time I went an entire day without making an excuse of some sort. I don’t want to clean because I’m too tired. I can’t make it to the store because I don’t have enough gas. The list goes on and on. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. The sad reality is, we live in a generation where making excuses has become acceptable, and settling for less than our personal best is the norm. We no longer have to work hard for what we want, because there’s almost always an easier way to get it. And if not, there’s an excuse for why we refuse to work for it. We, as a society, are becoming “fat by choice.”

Maybe food isn’t your problem, but I can almost guarantee something else is. You’re taking the easy road in some part of your life, and even though you don’t want to admit it, you know I’m right. Don’t worry, I’m right there with you. The problem I’ve come upon, however, isn’t necessarily recognizing my “fat by choice” issue, but rather finding a way to beat it. Relying on others to help you can only get you so far. Medications might help for certain problems. Counseling, self-help books, and all kinds of other motivational tools will get you off on the right foot. But the real keys for success can only be found in you. You are your own worst enemy as well as your own biggest supporter.

Personally, I struggle with depression. I’ve been in this position for several years now, and believe me, I have tried everything to beat it. Only recently did I realize that my depression is a choice. Don’t get me wrong, many depressive disorders are genetic or circumstantial, but it’s my choice how I deal with those genetics and circumstances. Ever since 6th grade, I have struggled deeply (and secretly) with thoughts of suicide, and with self-harm. Very few people knew I had these problems, and very few people were there to help. My parents, of course, were aware of the situation and have always done their best to help me through. I’ve seen counselors, been on medication, talked to friends, but nothing has been able to break the viscous cycle. Nothing, except my own self.

After having cut myself for many years and several attempts at my own life (something I am very ashamed of and not happy to admit), I have finally realized the problem. It’s not my circumstances, like my friends would tell me. It’s not my biological make-up, like the doctors said. It isn’t my family or my past or my physical appearance or any other excuse people (and I) have made for me. It’s me. I am my own worst enemy. I’ve realized that after years of excuses, it’s time to come to grips with reality and stop choosing to be so “fat.” That person is not who I am. She’s who I’ve been choosing to be. And I’m done.

I forget the exact book I was reading, but I was reading this book a few years back for school. We were discussing it in class when my teacher said something that would stick in my head like glue. He said, “There is something about the human state that causes us to love misery. We enjoy being miserable. We like feeling bad for ourselves. And when things finally start to go right, we make them go wrong again because we don’t know how to be happy.” I’m paraphrasing, of course, but that was the gist of his utterly stark truth. At first, I wanted to disagree. I thought that was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard. But a few years later, it became more and more apparent that he was exactly correct.

It was in college, after several failed relationships, a broken engagement, more cutting, more counseling, more pills, and a lifestyle that didn’t at all reflect the woman I am, that I finally realized the truth. I liked being miserable. I loved it, actually. There was something comfortable about being uncomfortable. I felt more complete in the moments that my life was falling apart than I ever did when everything was going smoothly. Maybe I didn’t feel I deserved to be truly happy. Maybe I just didn’t know how to handle happiness. Maybe it was just such a foreign concept to me that I didn’t want anything to do with it. Or perhaps a combination of all three. Whatever the case, this moment was pivotal in changing me from a “fat by choice” girl into a “no more excuses” woman.

Once I realized that my depression was mainly simply a state of mind reflected by my choice to be miserable, I was able to start making the steps to recovery. On my own. No doctors. No pills. No counselors. No relying on other people to fix me. Sure, having people to confide in is wonderful, but I learned the hard way that using others as a crutch is no way to walk through life. It might be easier in the short term but certainly not down the road. It’s much better to take responsibility for your own actions and choices rather than pawn them off onto others or make stupid excuses.

Like the woman on TV, for years I also wanted attention. I wanted nothing more than to feel loved, appreciated, and accepted. I wanted people to care about me instead of mock me. I wanted them to listen to me instead of tease me. I wanted people to hug me instead of drop books on my head. I wanted love letters left in my locker instead of “COW” written across it. I wanted to feel human. And to me, feeling the deep sting of every pain possible was the only way I achieved that feeling. It was the only way people paid attention. After all, you’ll never get as much sympathy as when you try to kill yourself. What a screwed up mindset. And what a screwed up society. I know I’m not the only child, teen, or adult to have thought and felt that way. It’s sad that people legitimately feel the only and best way to get attention is by choosing to make themselves miserable so others will notice.

It happens all the time. Heck, even celebrities, who already have all the fame they could ask for, go out of their way to do stupid things just for attention. Drugs. Illegal activities. Suicide attempts. Shaved heads. Abandonment. Extreme gluttony. All cries for help. All cries for attention and love. All desperate people making all kinds of excuses.

It’s time to stop. YOUR life means YOUR choices. No one else controls how you feel. Like my mom used to tell me when I would blame my siblings for “making” me angry, “They don’t ‘make’ you anything. You choose to feel that way.” Yeah, your circumstances might suck, but that’s no reason to get drunk every night. Sure, you may have been abused as a child, but you don’t have an excuse to treat others poorly in exchange. Maybe your dog died, your mom doesn’t speak to you, you feel ugly, you want more money. I don’t know what your excuse is, and I don’t care. Because it’s an excuse. And the only person making those excuses a reality is you.

We stand in the way of our own success when we decide to be “fat by choice.” We hinder our own greatness, hurt those around us, and ruin whatever chance we had to be remarkable by making excuses. So stop. Does that mean things are going to be easy? No way. But I can promise you this; if it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth it. TC mark

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