After attending several WLS events recently I started noticing a trend among our weight loss surgery sisters that may seem at first superficial but once examined reveals much about the emotional journey from obesity to healthy weight. Unlike other diseases, obesity can be observed and diagnosed by the lay person: men, women, and children alike. Who among us doesn't cringe at the memory of an innocent child drawing attention to the "Fat Lady"? While this lay-diagnosis is most often uncomfortable and probably unwanted, wearing our disease in our plus-size britches also provides opportunity for positive feedback when we are losing weight and becoming healthier. Feedback can be complimentary, "You look wonderful" or incredible, "You have lost a TON of weight" or nosey, "Did you get the surgery?" or underhanded "Too bad you lost all that weight only to lose your hair and find all those wrinkles!" It's no wonder we evolve coping personalities to emotionally manage this feedback. As obese people we had coping strategies as well. Think of the forever funny fat lady who is really crying on the inside while laughing on the outside. She makes herself the target of her own fat jokes just to beat others to the punch and avoid the hurt.
With the ladies I find that two typical personalities emerge, see if you recognize them.
cannot get enough of the compliments. In fact, she darn well deserves an Academy Award for her weight loss "After" performance. It matters not the sincerity or authenticity of the compliments tossed her way. After years of watching life from Wallflower Alley she is blooming and she is not going to miss a moment of it. Who can blame her? I recall feeling starved for compliments and attention after suffering the invisibility that comes with being overweight. I wanted to hear anything different from the feedback I'd heard all my life,"You have such a pretty face, if only you could lose the weight...."
Flattery-Floozie loves sharing her weight loss surgery success story and loves the attention. She nurtures a sense of entitlement: it is her due after suffering from years of living in the shadows hidden by her own body.
Flattery-Floozie is likely to suffer a loss of pre-surgery friends who may feel betrayed by her weight loss, or they may accuse her of changing. She simply may not fit in with the group any more. This does not make her a bad person, though her friends and peers may judge her harshly. It is simply the evolution of living, of change, and of growth. Almost every WLS pre-op patient I speak with says, "I won't let the surgery (and weight loss) change me."
But find that person a year or two down the road and they have changed significantly. So have their relationships. We are sometimes critical of this change. But I defend it saying perhaps this is the person we always were and now we have the confidence to bloom and thrive without the burden of disease. And speaking of disease, we are not critical of people who change as they travel the journey of other diseases. We empathize and accept them: after all, they are seriously sick and working very hard to recover. Perhaps we can extend that same empathy and kindness to ourselves and others suffering and recovering from obesity.
Next we have Yeah-But-Betty
. She is the opposite of Flattery-Floozie. Perhaps the years of feeling unworthy of attention or love or compliments have taken a toll. She feels undeserving and almost embarrassed to be noticed, as if she were granted weight loss by magic without investing her own blood, sweat, and tears. In response to a compliment you will almost always hear Yeah-But-Betty
reply, "Yeah, but look at how much weight I'm still carrying on my belly"
or "Yeah, but I don't think I can keep it off,"
or "Yeah, but I had the surgery to lose the weight."
You will often find Yeah-But-Betty
in an imaginary race with other weight loss surgery patients on the same time table. Like the stat-riddled sports commentator she is ready with numbers, "Yeah, but at 6 months out Better-than-Me-Bonnie was down 100 pounds and here I've only lost 60 pounds."
Yeah-But-Betty is never first to cross the finish line in this race.Newsletter Archive: Stop the Comparison!
Weight Loss is Not a Competition - Even with Surgical Help
We sense that Yeah-But-Betty feels she will never be good enough or deserving enough or accomplish enough to merit compliments and attention from others. She is loathe to treat herself to a few inwardly uttered positive words of self-praise. While Flattery-Floozie is likely to reinvent herself with a whole new look including wardrobe and hair style, Yeah-But-Betty continues to hide in camouflage clothes too big for her ever shrinking body. In fact, I've met a few Yeah-But-Betty's still wearing their over-sized sweatshirts even after losing the weight of a super model. Nobody will take her to task for letting the weight loss change her. And she will probably keep her pre-surgery circle of friends. Hopefully they are supportive and complimentary of her new-found health by way of bariatric surgery.
I have not observed that one or the other personality is happier than the other. But what I know from my own experience and my work with so many of you is that both Flattery-Floozie and Yeah-But-Betty are terribly insecure. And this insecurity is not resolved with a flashy new outfit or by hiding in that comfy old familiar Winne the Pooh XXXL sweatshirt. I don't necessarily believe that either personality needs to be corrected because this is part of the journey. But what I have learned is that the insecurity and self-doubt should be nurtured with self-kindness and compassion. One way to do this is invite Appreciation-Annie along for the journey.
"A little Consideration,
a little Thought for Others,
makes all the difference."
~ Winnie the PoohAppreciation-Annie
reminds us to stop for a moment, look where we are, and take in the moment: take in the experience. She understands that the journey, the experience is what life is all about and goal weight and all those surface milestones really are much adieu about nothing. She is your best friend who never speaks ill of others and always has a kind word to share.
Appreciation-Annie is gracious in accepting compliments. Unlike Flattery-Floozie who flaunts her entitlement or Yeah-But-Betty who minimizes her accomplishments, Appreciation Annie considers a compliment a gift. You can hear her say, "Thank you for saying such a nice thing to me, it means so much to me to hear it coming from you."
Like Annie, you would never dismiss a gift offered you by saying, "Yes, I deserve this!"
or "Yeah, but, it is not good enough."
We know that is bad form and insulting to the presenter of the gift. Accepting compliments is as much about respecting and appreciating the giver as it is about being a deserving and gracious receiver.
This single thing, the mindful act of appreciation
, is a powerful builder in mending the frays of insecurity. In appreciating compliments and good health and little moments we begin to realize we are deserving. This is the season of good will and giving. And the greatest kindness we can accomplish begins from within.
Please share your personality observations with us in the Neighborhood; we are in this together and we learn so much from one another. I've posted this article there and look forward to hearing from you.
Link: Flattery-Floozie or Yeah-But-Betty