Dealing With The Disconnect

ch_community_cape-breton_logoI’ve talked with hundreds of obese people over the last two years, and almost without exception in every conversation there’s a common theme: disconnect.That’s certainly true of my story.  When I was 460 pounds I was a very disconnected guy.  I slowly withdrew from aspects of my life that forced me to face my reality.  You aren’t reminded that you can’t run the bases on the ball field if you just stop playing.  You’re able to mentally block that you no longer fit in the chairs at your favorite bar, if you just stop going.  You’re not willing to tell your friends that the reason you stay home is because the last time you tried to squeeze in to one you snapped the arm right off.  You’re not willing to say that, so instead, you just start turning down their invitations.  You withdraw.  You disconnect.

It’s not just external though.  There’s an internal disconnect as well.  You start to rewrite your own history so you don’t feel like you’ve actually lost anything to your obesity.  When I was younger I was an incredibly social person, always looking for new friends and new places to be.  The older and larger I got the more I convinced myself that I was essentially an introvert, a thoughtful-writer type who would rather sit alone and read than go on an adventure with friends.  That’s certainly a part of my personality, but to justify the disconnect, I began to believe those were my dominant personality traits, when they were coping skills at best.

Overcoming that disconnect is incredibly hard, and remains the most difficult part of the journey.  I’m two years in to this and I still wrestle with a basic chicken-or-the-egg question.  Did I become disconnected because of my obesity, or did I become obese because I disconnected?  Is this a physical issue that grew from a mental or emotional issue, or am I now learning to cope with the emotional issues that came with physically being obese?

I don’t think the answer is the same for everyone.  Like any disease, obesity is complicated and discovering the root cause can often be as large a task as dealing with the actual condition.

Still, there is success is just recognizing the disconnect.  If you’re willing to admit that you’re living a life that’s smaller than you’d like just because your body is bigger than you’d like, you’re on the verge of giving yourself permission to change. That’s the first life-changing step, and it’s the hardest.

(This column originally appeared in The Chronicle Herald’s Cape Breton Star on May 14th, 2014)

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