Are overweight people selfish?

November 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

So many people think that the ones who struggle with their weight are  selfish.  How many times have I heard this?   I can’t count.  It would be like trying to number the stars.

You’re obese because you’re lazy.  And lazy people are selfish

She’s fat“, they say ,” Because she’s selfish.  She only cares about herself.  She doesn’t care what others think

I’m lazy. I’m selfish.  I’m greedy.  I’ve heard it all before. That’s why I weighed over 400 pounds for so long.  Because I cared about no one but myself.  I weighed over 400 pounds because I was self-indulgent.  My life was totally self centered and revolved around only me.  I didn’t care how it affected my children.  That it made me unable to go to school events or throw the ball around in the backyard.  I didn’t care if it inconvenienced that person sitting next to me when my weight spilled into their chair.  I didn’t care because I was SELFish.

 SELF- Centered.  SELF-Involved

SELF SELF SELF….right??

That’s why….right???

I suggest you read between the lines.  I suggest you look deeper.  Like a picture you must stare at intently until what is beneath finally rises to the surface.  Like an image hidden behind another so that only those with patience and focus will find it. Look behind the obvious and what you will find may surprise you. Because people with weight issues DO care.  But often not about THEMSELVES.  It’s others they think about.  So much so  that they may put themselves last.  So far last that they aren’t even on the list. So far at the bottom that they often take whatever treatment people give them.   Do selfish people  allow themselves to be treated badly by others?!  Do they constantly obsess over what other people need?  Do they feel responsible for other people’s problems? Do they constantly scan their mind looking for a reason that someone that just walked past them had a frown on their face? Must be MY fault.  Must have been me!

People with weight issues or eating disorders often  put the value of others above their own.  So high that it overwhelms them. So far in front that their  basic needs often can’t be met.  It’s funny to me.  How people with weight issues are said to obsess over their weight. Because so often what we really obsess over is OTHERS. What THEY need.  What THEY want.  What THEY think.  Day in and day out,  we worry.  We worry over how what WE do might affect someone else.

Did I say that the wrong way?  Do they like me? Did they think I was being rude?

I was in a hurry. I  hope she didn’t think I don’t care.  

I hope she didn’t think I was being inconsiderate.

I hope she didn’t think that I’m not a nice person. 

The smallest details can roll around in your mind for days.  Worrying and obsessing if something you said or did upset someone else.  If it bothered them or hurt them or made them suddenly not like you.  People with eating disorders are hypersensitive. They worry excessively at times about others.  People don’t starve themselves because they’re arrogant.  They don’t force themselves to go hungry because they are selfish.  People don’t become 400 pounds and put themselves through physical misery because they are vain.  I didn’t live every day of my life under the suffocating and crushing weight of my own body because I was cocky.

If you stop and think about that for a minute, you’ll see how ridiculous that idea really is.  People don’t harm themselves because they’re selfish.  They do it because they’re last on the list.  And often deep down, they feel worthless.  They’re in a civil war with themselves.   A battle that goes on in their mind.  Self loathing and disgust constantly paired with the desire to be ‘healthy’ and ‘balanced’.  You can’t define it.  You can’t wrap it up in a neat package and explain it.  Because maybe it’s different for everyone.  But this much I know.  I didn’t eat myself to 417 pounds because I didn’t care what others thought of me.  But I often compulsively overate because I DID care.  SO much so that I couldn’t get the thoughts to stop. SO much so that the worry and anxiety overwhelmed me.  You see, people with weight issues and eating disorders care very little about themselves most of the time. But they often have to silence their thoughts and concerns about others with Big Macs and Apple Pies.  Because they worry excessively about everyone BUT themselves.  Sometimes the only self care they get IS food.  Sometimes the only comfort they feel IS chocolate.  Because everything else in their life is drained to the last drop with the energy they pour into those around them.

That’s why the solution may surprise you.  Because while the world likes to believe that people who compulsively overeat are selfish and vain.  The exact opposite is usually true.  In fact what society already believes to be TRUE about the obese—that they put themselves FIRST—may actually be the very solution that we’re looking for!  Because while society thinks you care only about yourself, the truth is that you actually may not care at all about yourself.  But to now make any progress you will have to start caring.  You may have to GET a little “selfish”.  And you may have to finally start caring about YOU.  To someone with a weight issue or a true eating disorder, this sounds selfish.  To put themselves first sounds WRONG.  But if a plane is going down, you must put on your oxygen mask FIRST before you can help anyone else.  If you don’t take care of yourself FIRST—you won’t be around for anyone else.

Society has it wrong.  We’re not selfish and vain.  But if we want to get well—we may need to start behaving like we are.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not advocating true vanity and selfishness.  But if you had an eating disorder—you’d know that most people who have one cannot tell the difference between taking care of themselves in a healthy way and being selfish. They don’t see the difference.  To them, putting their needs as a priority is selfish.  To them not allowing other people to walk all over them is rude.  Being assertive is wrong.   Doing what YOU need is vain.  And helping yourself before someone else is sinful.  THAT is how most people with eating disorders think.  And if you saw it that way you would know—-that what the world thinks of us is exactly the OPPOSITE of how it truly is.

“Love others as much as yourself”—Mark 12:31

That scripture comes with an assumption.  The assumption that you love yourself.  That you take care of yourself.  And probably pretty darn well.  Because the way you love yourself is how you are supposed to love others.  But what if you treat everyone else with such painstaking care but treat yourself as if you are worthless?  Because if that’s the case then you are NOT AT ALL loving others the way you love yourself.

Maybe for those of us with weight issues need to flip that around.

“Love yourself as much as you love others”

Maybe we need to think of it like that.  I know it’s hard.  Especially when the world at large tells you that you are already selfish and vain.  You already think so little of yourself now.  You already think often that you have no value.  So if someone tells you that you’re selfish—you are probably the very first person to believe them!  But today let me suggest that you take a moment and ask yourself—if the plane was going down would you follow the instructions?

In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you.

Secure your own mask first before you assist others.

Our world is decompressing.  And we may be the cause of it.  We may be the very cause of our own destruction.  But we can also be part of the solution.  But only if we start understanding that taking care of ourselves is NOT selfish.  Even if the world  tells us we already are.  Is it any wonder that people who have this problem don’t take well to weight loss diets and programs that tell them to take care of themselves.  You can’t tell a person who already thinks they are selfish to do that.  And then expect them not to feel guilty.  You know what people with eating disorders do when they feel guilty?

EAT

We must learn to put our oxygen mask on FIRST.  And then ask ourselves a question.

Is THAT really vain?

Is THAT really selfish?

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Mrs. Abella November 12, 2014 at 3:53 pm

Very well said! I’ve heard that before, how us who are hefty are lazy and self centered. If only that were the case.

For many years, I chose to put my family’s needs before my own, and let myself slide to the back of the line, in health needs, clothing needs, basically most any needs. The kids needed more protein, so this diabetic took the carbs. The family had an emergency, so the money for my meds was spent dealing with the emergency. Mom goes without new clothes most of the time (or the supplies to make them) so that the kids and hubby can have new ones. Mom does without a lot in order for the finances to be able to stretch to take care of others’ needs. And I’m so selfish that I give as I have it, even if it means I go without.

And lazy, I’m so lazy that I clean a 2 story house mostly by myself, with little help from the kids. I do laundry daily, and used to use a washboard and line dry year round (in Kansas) for 3 years–that is LOTS of work, for 5 people’s laundry plus linens, especially when it’s 20 below outside and your hands are frozen). I do the yard work, tend house, and other things as needed….so I’m lazy.

Folks just don’t understand.
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Michelle November 12, 2014 at 5:07 pm

Once again, you hit the nail on the head. I tell people all the time my “fat girl mentality” is about so much more than just food and eating. Every day I discover something else about myself which lead me down the path of unconscious self-destruction. All of the things which caused me stress, self-loathing, anxiety, and depression which lead me to try to eat myself happy. Thanks for sharing and, once again, helping me to feel that I’m not alone in this battle.

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Lynne November 12, 2014 at 6:20 pm

Thank you for this post – it really hit hom. How about the guilt that goes along with selfishness? and Guilt leads to stress/anxiety and I’m coming to realize that this weight thing is mostly about stress/anxiety. And what about the fact that most of my stress is related to being overweight? The constant thoughts about weight/weight loss cause stress and the the stress enables weight gain! UGH!!! Oh and I once heard someone say that guilt is a waste – it’s just an excuse for not doing the right thing…so now I feel guilty for feeling guilty!!
Sound familiar?

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16blessingsmom November 12, 2014 at 6:34 pm

Selfish, ha! I do admit that for years and years, I comforted myself with a nice stack of cookies or perhaps a bowl or two of ice cream in the afternoon if I couldn’t sneak in a nap. Or maybe after being awakened like fifty time during a nap by kids who wouldn’t co-operate and go to sleep so exhausted Mommy could get some rest. I don’t know. I probably shouldn’t have even opened the chips when the baby woke up during the night for the umpteenth time and I felt sorry for myself. Guilt and fatigue and self-disgust simply cannot rule over me any more. I declare war on them! Whatever the reasons I over ate, and still are tempted to over eat, I don’t want to be a slave to them anymore. Mom guilt is bad enough, ha. I also have tremendous guilt about the things I couldn’t do with my kids when they were little. I see these moms on bikes and running with their kids….I couldn’t do those things. But today is a new day, and we know we aren’t selfish, and have nothing to feel guilty about. It is such a huge mental battle. Oh, and when my kids were little? I thought “selfish” would be for me to sneak off to the pool for some exercise! If I could do it all again, I would have been much more selfish! Thanks for sharing, Holly.

Della

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Margaret November 12, 2014 at 8:02 pm

I’ve never thought of fat people as selfish. The reverse! Now, if you want to meet some selfish people – and I mean grade A narcissists – come with me to the gym (side eye at you, yoga class). They are everywhere and there is not a superfluous ounce on them. Super fit. Super waxed. Latest gear, etc. Fortunately, they are easy to spot because they only care about one person and that is the only one they ever talk about… themselves. So an ordinary person like me can steer clear. They may look good, but so does toxic waste if you plant flowers. Great post, H!
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Bling Betty November 15, 2014 at 12:32 am

So it’s okay for you to make assumptions about people I bet you’ve never spoken to and judge them on their appearance? YOU are the problem.

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Calleigh November 12, 2014 at 8:45 pm

Perfectly put. I still struggle with putting myself first sometimes. As a single parent I always end up dealing with guilt if I do something for myself, and then I end up battling inside because if I’m not ok, how will I take care of my children? I have daughters and need to set a healthy example for them, it’s a constant battle within.
@Margaret – I agree, the gym seems to breed narcissism!
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gary from weightpsychology.com November 12, 2014 at 10:07 pm

As a psychotherapist with 25 years of specialty experience with weight issues, I feel qualified to say how dead on and essentially important this perspective is. I also feel compelled to pick up on such a good foundation; I hope that’s ok … it’s a VERY personal issue for me b/c, like so many, I have my own journey dealing with self-loathing. It’s actually why I became a psychotherapist. In the process of moving through this set of “self-loathing” issues, it’s important to acknowledge that no on is born thinking this way – it’s learned. The good news is that, if it’s learned, it can be re-learned. I know that I needed to replace some “voices picked up during my formative years” with my own voice – a “voice” that I had to wrestle back from some destructive influences early on and develop one that was based on mature, wise, and centered values (kindness, respect, fairness, love, etc.). I should also add that there are some blocks to this process that are important to understand so they can be overcome. On some level the culture also teaches that self-love is arrogant or conceited. It is not. Here’s why. If I am good with me – my own best friend and biggest fan – why am I threatened by another’s abilities, appearance or success? Why do I need to “step on another” to feel good about me? Arrogance comes from low self-esteem, not high self-esteem.

Also, Holly … GREAT job getting your posts up and running over the last couple of months! It’s good to have you back.

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Joy November 12, 2014 at 10:33 pm

Holly, I just recently found your blog and started following you. You are absolutely correct in your perspectives. It as if you know me and is writing about me and my issues. You inspire me to stay true to me. I got a divorce when my children were really young, so I became a single mother. My ex was active duty military so he was miles away. I was so focused on making sure my children felt loved and complete that I lost sight of me. So, no I was never selfish and it was never about me. It was all about making sure my children grew up confident and happy. You did such a great job discussing this, I just had to comment. Thank you for your views and honesty.
Joy

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Courtenay November 14, 2014 at 7:33 pm

I just found your blog and I just want to say thank you. You are a true inspiration. I have been saying for years how sugar is just like a drug. And being addicted to it is a real thing. People feel sorry for you if your addicted to drugs but not to food. Most skinny people look at fat people and say if you could just stop eating. Just stop being so lazy. THEY JUST DONT understand the struggle. I had a brother who was addicted to drugs he overdosed on heroin at 25 years old. I miss him everyday that’s when I turned to food to make me feel better. I gained 200 pounds. Food is my drug. And I’m paying the price everyday.

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Anneli November 14, 2014 at 10:54 pm

I love it!! I love your wisdom and courage. You’ll have to look me up if you ever come to Utah. I don’t ski, but maybe we can discover that together!
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LHA November 15, 2014 at 2:45 am

Your post brought back so many memories of the years I put myself last all the time. I had almost no clothing, just a couple of old skirts and tops that I wore every day. I didn’t even have a closet to hang them in! I cooked and cleaned and took care of the kids (four of them) with no help at all from my husband. If any of the kids needed something I would do without even the most important things so that they could have them. My husband had a closet full of new business suits but I just couldn’t see how wrong all this was! I didn’t care a thing about myself and no one else cared about me either. A lot of my low self esteem and self loathing was about my weight, and the worse I felt about myself the more I ate. I can look back and see the beginning of my addiction to sugar and other carbs and how it got out of control as I sunk into deep despair. Thankfully I have corrected a lot of what was wrong. I was the only one who could help myself and I finally began to see how bad I had let my life had become.

Thank you for an inspiring post that made me revisit some old territory that deserves to be remembered so that it will never be repeated. May we all be kind to ourselves and remember that we are deserving of the best life has to offer.

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