My mom started a blog, which I suppose should signal the death throes of the medium. Regardless, I was really excited to read it because it is chronicling her struggle with weight loss, something I am very supportive of. The weight loss, I mean. Not the struggle. And it is a struggle, believe me. By medical standards, she is classified as morbidly obese, but that’s due primarily to her 5’1 stature. She needs to drop about 100 lbs to get to a healthy number, she has an extremely hectic and unreliable schedule, and she has a limited-mobility artificial hip, a handicap she has lived with her whole life. You could say she has a unique perspective on a national preoccupation.
Frequently, I have found myself unbelievably frustrated with my mother, a feeling I’m certain no college student has ever experienced. She doesn’t listen to my advice about her diet, she doesn’t go to the gym regularly, and she doesn’t see the results she wants. Big freaking surprise, right? You can’t expect extreme results like in the commercials. “Lost 100 lbs in 2 weeks thanks to this miracle pill/shake/packaged meal!” And you’ll gain it all right back just as soon as the camera turns off. Sometimes, I find myself wondering why she can’t just go to the gym. Why can’t she just follow a regular diet? Why can’t she just stay positive and stop expecting miracles? Why can’t she just…
It struck me the other day after I had read her first week’s entries that there is no “just” about it. It’s not just eating better. It’s changing a lifetime of habits and perceptions about food. It’s not just going to the gym. It’s overcoming the knowledge that it is going to hurt physically and everything about that place reminds her that she is old and fat. When she first started going to the gym, she felt like all the other patrons there were the kids who beat her up in school. This is a realm well beyond “just.”
We have built a culture of shaming and it isn’t only about weight, though that is one of the major issues. We prefer to blame people for their struggles rather than support them, especially if we haven’t experienced that struggle ourselves. Honestly, who hasn’t been a victim of “just” at some point in his or her life? Why can’t you just get a job? Why can’t you just get better grades? Why can’t you just get a significant other? Why can’t you just go to bed at a decent time? Why can’t you just quit smoking? And what’s worse is that we internalize it. Why can’t I just be prettier, smarter, thinner, stronger, faster, or cooler? Why can’t I just stop stuffing my maw with Thin Mints? Why can’t I just be happy? Why can’t I just be normal? Just may be the worst word in the English language, followed by “only” and “simply.”
It’s funny how “just do it” from an outsider can sound like “just climb Mt. Everest” on the inside. And yes, sometimes it is a matter of “just do it.” Take a chance, make a leap, face your fears. It doesn’t make it any less of a mountain except when you look back. Personally, I have never struggled with my weight, though that doesn’t mean it isn’t a nagging concern in the back of my mind. I don’t know what it’s like to step on a Stairmaster and realize that my leg muscles have atrophied from decades of limping on an artificial hip. I’m not qualified to belittle the labors of others. So I’m going to be avidly reading my mom’s blog, encouraging instead of criticizing her, and learning from her struggle. It may be just what I need when my own Everest looms.