Dear Carolyn: I have gained an awful amount of weight in the past year. I am tall so I can carry some of it, but clearly not this much.
My family is so critical about weight that I have canceled my annual visit. I love them and know they love me, but they will judge me and I just cannot handle that on top of everything else – I found out my husband was cheating, work is stressful and my kids are teenagers.
I wish with all my heart I were thinner, but I have not been successful in losing this stupid post-menopausal weight. It makes me sad that I’m not going to see my family.
Now old college friends want to see me and I don’t want to see them either. I don’t mind the getting old, but the fat is hateful. The obese. How do I handle this? I really am otherwise happy, but this is getting bad. As a new single parent, I do not have the funds for weight specialists, and I am exhausted all the time (weight/work/kids). I could just cry writing this.
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I could just cry reading this.
I understand (too well) your frustration with yourself and your changing body, though the self-flagellation must stop, which I’ll get to in a moment.
I also understand and support your decision to skip a visit with people you know, based on their past behavior, will judge you. We’re all entitled to say no to being kicked while we’re down.
But to cut yourself off from friends for no other reason than body shame? That’s where I sob in despair.
If any of these college friends planned to skip the gathering for your reasons, you’d beg her not to. You’d be upset at the absurdity of the reason, upset about her self-shaming, upset that it was costing you time with a valuable friend.
I hope I’m not over-projecting here, but I think you’d also wonder why your friend was so intent on self-flagellation while managing menopause and massive stress, both of which are famous for ravaging waistlines, and when sheer numbers suggest there’s more to present-day obesity than a mass collapse in willpower.
So why won’t you grant yourself the kindness you’d so freely grant a friend? And why not trust these friends to care about you, as opposed to your size?
Avoiding cruelty tends to pay off, especially at our most vulnerable times. Avoiding life, though, tends to breed regret and deeper self-loathing — especially at our most vulnerable times. Please pack up your prettiest clothes and accept the embrace of old friends. You’ll “handle” the weight when you’re good and ready to deal.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com.