banner14

What a Shame

Shame is like everything else; live with it for long enough and it becomes part of the furniture.

— Salman Rushdie, Shame: A Novel

SHAMEOne of the hardest psychological stumbling blocks to overcome is a feeling of shame about your condition. Unlike alcoholism, cancer, depression, and other diseases & afflictions, anyone with eyes can see your weight problem. If you’re as grossly obese as I was, people can tell from pretty far away. “Oh look, there’s a fat person.” An overweight person’s body is a mark of shame that would make Hester Prynne blush.

Feelings of shame are manifested when trying to do common things in a world made for thin people. I had a difficult time fitting into most armchairs, theatre and airplane seats, putting a seat belt on in someone’s compact car, and so on. I’m also pretty tall, at 6’4″, which compounds the problem, but isn’t something I feel shame about, because I’m naturally tall – but I made myself fat.

Guilt vs. Shame

Guilt is the feeling of having done a wrong thing. Shame is the feeling of being a wrong thing. I see a lot of advertising for low(er)-calorie snack foods that come with the promise of being “guilt-free,” but I’ve never seen any foods as promising a release from shame.

What causes shame about our body-image?  While not being able to fit into small spaces itself can be embarrassing, most of my shame regarding my weight was related directly to food and eating.

I found that eating in public, especially if I was eating something less than healthy, made me particularly self-conscious. Most of the time I don’t really care about what other people think, but this in particular made me feel really uncomfortable. Maybe it fed into (excuse the pun) my already intensely negative feelings about my body. For me, eating something like an ice cream cone at a street faire or neighborhood festival is so unpleasant that I just stopped doing it. Granted, I shouldn’t be eating those things regularly anyway, but as someone who enjoys food the shame that I feel about my weight impacts my enjoyment.

While I have a pretty thick skin about most things, I am more sensitive about my body. To a certain extent I can take a fat joke – and they’re usually not very clever. Yeah, I’m fat. I get it. Har har. It can be especially hurtful when you hear friends or family members make a crack about your weight since these are the people you rely on for support, but I can’t be too hard on them. We live in a society that values super-thinness and derides the obese.

My friends have been very very supportive for the most part. They ask me how my progress is going. If they do see me eating something that doesn’t help me achieve my fitness goals, they may say something about it being “not exactly clean livin’, eh?”

One of my co-workers tells me that he hopes I lose weight, but not to the point where I get super-fit, because I’ll be insufferable about it. I tell him that being smug about having lost a lot of weight is one of my primary motivators. He’s put on some weight himself since he’s gotten married, and I joke with him that he’s my own personal Dorian Gray picture – he’s putting on the pounds that I’m losing. Every Monday morning I would tell him how much weight he gained last week based on how much I’d lost. So yes, even I am guilty of making light of other peoples’ weight, although if you knew this co-worker you’d encourage me to be crueler to him. He’s one of those people who talks smack about everything (but in a fun way – he’s actually a really good guy and a friend).

Finding Pride

This is the point where I’d usually offer a helpful tip or trick telling you how I overcame this problem, but the fact is, I haven’t. I still feel a little ashamed of my eating habits, especially if I eat something unhealthy in a public place. I don’t know if it’ll ever get better. The only thing I can tell you is that I try to use my shame as a tool to help keep myself on track. I may eat a cheeseburger and fries from time to time, but the people at the restaurant didn’t see me walk four and a half miles to get to there, or the 45 minutes of weight lifting I did that morning.

Shame isn’t always a bad thing as long as you can learn how to use it to help you meet your goals.

I’m pretty sure there’s a lot more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking. And I plan on finding out what that is.

— Ben Stiller, Zoolander

Tags: , , ,

This entry was posted 8 years ago and is filed under food, meta, nutrition, psychology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

3 Responses to “What a Shame”

  1. February 15th, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    Rose says:

    I for one would support you flexing a bicep in someone’s face. At least the first couple of times.

  2. February 15th, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    Chelsea says:

    I think it is pretty cool that you have taken such an open approach to the process as well as the emotions behind the experience. I’m sure many people can relate to feelings of shame even on the opposite end. People that struggle with being to thin and having other types of problems and disorders. I appreciate the share.

  3. March 25th, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Melaine Desher says:

    Wonerful! I love how this blog is always updated with fresh content.I made three of my friends subscribe btw,lol

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I'm just some guy who lost a lot of weight and studied up on nutrition, diet, and exercise in order to improve my personal fitness. The contents of this site in no way contains medical advice. You should visit your doctor before making any dramatic changes to your diet or activity. While I make every attempt to be as accurate as possible regarding current knowledge and scientific studies (please feel free to let me know when I'm wrong about something), and may from time to time post updates to correct inaccuracies in previous entries, the information on this site is provided "as-is" for entertainment purposes only. Don't do something stupid and then sue me. I'm just trying to help. Thanks.