I had a very scary near-death experience this week. It’s the second possibly-life-ending episode I’ve had since starting this blog (my near-death experience while running is chronicled here), and this one changed my outlook on life and made me re-evaluate everything.
Am I being overdramatic? Keep reading, and judge for yourself. SPOILER ALERT: Yes, I am.
On Wednesday morning, I grabbed a pluot (plum/apricot hybrid) to eat in the car on the way to work. Once in my car, I took a bite, and immediately realized the pluot was particularly juicy, and I had forgotten to grab a napkin in my haste to get out the door. I didn’t want to dribble pluot juice on my clothes, so I made a quick decision and stuffed the entire pluot in my mouth.
It was a good-sized pluot. There wasn’t much extra space in there. I had to gently gnaw on it while rolling it around, but I slowly worked my way through it. I tried to be methodical, and break it down in such a way that I could swallow the edible parts but not the pit, but guess what happened next, folks…
All of a sudden my mouth was completely empty. The pit was gone. I swallowed the pit. Crap.
If I was still 8 years old, I’d worry about growing a tree in my stomach, but that’s no longer a concern of mine (despite reports, a few years back, of a pine tree growing in some Russian dude’s lung). But I was concerned that the pit might cause some blockage in my digestive track, and that could be very dangerous and painful, so when I got to work, I immediately started scouring the interwebs.
The online consensus was that the pit would work its way through my system, and if I made it a couple days without having abdominal pain or cramps, than most likely I successfully pooped it out and all would be well in the world.
When I got home, I quickly cut open my other pluot, to see how big its pit was. Smaller than I would have thought for a piece of fruit that size, but still sizable – about the size of a nickel:
It’s now Sunday, and I’m happy to say that I experienced no discomfort whatsoever during the past few days. That’s right… I narrowly escaped death’s bony grip once again. I’m a survivor! Where’s Tina Knowles with my tattered camo sportswear? Cuz I’m already learning these dance moves…
I got a letter from a reader that I wanted to address. Here’s a portion the letter – it’s heavily edited to remove names and ensure anonymity (since it was emailed to me, and not posted as a comment):
“I have a family member who has gained weight and it makes mt family and me concerned for his health. He says he can lose weight and I don’t want to push him too much, because when I have tried talking to him about it he sometimes gets defensive and shuts me or anyone else out. So I was wondering is there any advice you could give me? I am going to show him your website/blog and I hope that could fuel his desire to take action.”
I used to be the king of shutting down when people expressed concern about my weight. I would feel mortified and embarrassed, and would internalize those feelings and tell myself that I wasn’t good enough. It didn’t matter that the concern came from loved ones, or was delivered in a loving way. I became quite good at not talking about my weight, thanks to several techniques, to the point where the people who historically broached the subject most frequently stopped doing it much at all.
So I’ve walked a mile in your family member’s shoes. Talking to someone about their weight is incredibly difficult, and should be done with sensitivity and tact. I don’t think the same approach will work with everyone, but here are some things to keep in mind.
1) Don’t just point out the problem – offer to help. Telling someone that they’re overweight and need to do something about it probably won’t cut it, no matter how lovingly that message is delivered. Offer to be a part of the solution, whether it’s exercising with them or eating healthier foods together. I can’t tell you how many times my parents talked to me about my weight, and most of them I barely remember anymore – but the encounters I do remember are the ones where they had a solution that we could try together. That’s how I ended up doing Weight Watchers for a while in high school with my mom, and, a few years later, a hospital-administered program with her as well.
2) Maybe don’t point out the problem at all… just encourage healthier behavior. When I was a freshman in college, my brother was a graduate student at the same university. He and a friend started meeting twice a week at the campus gym to work out, and they invited me to join them. They didn’t preface it with any acknowledgment of my weight, they just let me know what they were doing, and that I’d welcome to come along. So I went every Tuesday and Thursday and worked out, without the shame of ever having a conversation about my weight whatsoever.
When I was 165 pounds heavier, the thought of losing all that weight was terribly daunting and overwhelming, and I can imagine that most obese people feel that way at some point or another, which is why having ‘the talk’ about their weight can be so insufferable. So instead of having ‘the talk’, maybe try inviting them over for healthy meals. Maybe, when you’re grocery shopping, point out a few healthy swaps that are easy to adopt. Focus on a few small changes instead of the big picture.
3) He has to want to make the change, and he may not be ready. You can’t force someone to change. You may think you’re helping by throwing all the junk food out of the house, but if someone wants junk food, they’ll find a way to get it. The next time you bring up your family member’s weight, consider saying something like, ‘you may not be ready right now, but know that if there comes a time when you really want to try to lose weight, you can always come to me, and I’ll help you any way that I can.’ If they do circle back at some point seeking assistance, follow their lead and listen. They may be ready to start cutting back on junk food, but not ready to exercise every single day. Focus on some small changes (see previous paragraph).
I was heavy my whole life, but I didn’t start on this successful weight loss endeavor until I was 31, and even as I started, I wasn’t sure how ready I was. I had been given a fantastic opportunity by Richard Simmons (read about it here), and I debated taking him up on the opportunity for a few weeks before finally deciding that I was ready to see what could happen. And as I started the process, I did one final thing that ended up making a huge difference, and that brings me to my final tip:
4) It doesn’t have to be a big deal. Yes, your family member’s health and happiness is very important. But what they’re embarking on and how you’re helping them doesn’t need to be shouted from the rooftops. When you start telling everyone that you’re trying to lose weight, you’re adding pressure, and that makes everything more difficult. When I started working with Richard, I didn’t tell a soul. I didn’t want to have to explain or defend any of my meals or choices, and, plus, I wanted to see what worked for me, and I thought that might take a while to figure out.
My parents didn’t know I was losing weight until I had lost around 90 pounds, when they saw me in person for the first time in 6 months. They were justifiably floored, and still remember something my dad said to me shortly thereafter. I had been living in California for over 7 years at that point, and been seeing my parents two or three times a year. My dad confessed that before those visits, he would have moments of sadness, because he never knew how big I was going to be when I walked through the door. That’s a sadness I never want to be responsible for ever again.
Well, those are my tips – what are yours? Chime in with your thoughts in the comments section.
…Keep it up, David!