As most of you know, I am an avid watcher of The Biggest Loser. I also watch My 600 Pound Life. Naturally, owning a CrossFit gym, I frequently work with my athletes one-on-one regarding their diets. In the watching of two these shows, and conversations I have with clients, there is a phrase that frequently comes up, that, after some thought, perplexed me:
“I was hiding behind the fat“.
Having never struggled with weight in my life, this statement seemed to me contradictory. How can one hide behind obesity? After all, it is evident that becoming overweight literally makes one more visible…
As I pondered this paradox, the only thing to which I could compare it, was something with which I’m more familiar (and therefore, more sympathetic). Having exposure to alcoholism throughout my entire life through family and friends, I began to wonder is “hiding behind the fat” similar to the reasons an alcoholic drinks? It it a numbing agent, a means of escape, a distraction from that which is real, a coping mechanism for insecurities, and a plain-old physical addiction?
I asked a dear friend and client who has struggled with weight her entire life, and recently, has taken the pledge to be fit. She’s joined CrossFit, gotten her diet under control, and therefore, gotten her life back.
She affirmed that my reasoning was sensible. Hiding behind the fat was much like being an alcoholic. She said that for years, she would resort to food as a celebratory reward, as therapy when she was mad, and consolation when she was sad. In retrospect, she realized that food was mostly a numbing agent for the pain she was suffering from in her life.
But here is the part about which I hadn’t thought; here’s where the “hiding” factor comes into play:
She stated, “To me, when I was fat, I felt no one really paid attention to me. What guy wants a fat girl?!? I always thought I was strong because I never ever did a drug in my life or was never a much of a drinker. Ha! What a lie I was telling myself! I hid behind the fat to cover up my unhappiness, to cover up the pain I was in. Always smiling on the outside, but in pain on the inside. Sitting on the couch and eating an entire bag of chips and then crying after it! How normal is that?!
In the first few weeks of Crossfit, I would cry for no reason. I would cry at night, I would cry after a workout. I would be sitting at my desk at work and just cry. I thought there was something wrong with me […] Eventually, I figured out why. All the pain I was holding in I was releasing finally“.
I never thought about this. Perhaps, in some cases of addiction, the drinker drinks and the druggie drugs to avoid close, real bonds, with others. This is similar to the above athlete expressing her eating was partially to get people to avoid her; to get men to not desire her.
The majority of you are not addicted to alcohol, drugs, or food; however, life is a challenge for most, and if we’re not careful there can be subtle ways in which we begin to “hide” behind things. The earlier we identify them, like the above athlete, we can release the pain and be on a healthier path both physically and mentally.