“Fat is a way of saying ‘no’ to powerlessness and self-denial.” – Susie Orbach, psychotherapist
“I challenged her about taking care of herself…”
Tim was an thirty five year old athletic guy who told me he worked out at home, and three times a week in the gym. He looked fit for his five foot ten frame, and he displayed lots of enthusiasm and energy. He was also a sharp dresser, fluid and flexible, as he moved about. But, there was an underlying hesitancy to his apparent confidence… like he was trying hard to be a permanent optimist…but, it came off more like an affliction, when he wanted it to be an asset.
Tim had a very successful, small business. He boasted about his six figure income, and about being on the cutting edge of his industry. It had something to do with software development. Tim said he has been married for ten years to Tara who worked for the federal government as a senior account manager. They had no children and Tim seemed fine with that. However, he noted, some days Tara wanted a child.
Tim told me he had booked the consultation because he and Tara had been arguing a lot lately, and she told him to get some help for his anger issues. When I asked him what he was angry about, he replied, “I really don’t know…but, I do get angry!”
So, I said, “Tim, tell me about the last time you were angry at Tara.”
He thought for a moment, then said, “It was last Saturday morning after breakfast. We were cleaning up the dishes and she was complaining that I wasn’t affectionate towards her anymore. Then, I challenged her about taking care of herself, and her appearance.”
“How can I learn to be OK with obesity…it’s unhealthy, unnatural and ugly!”
I asked, wondering where this was going, “Do you think she doesn’t take care of herself, and her appearance is somehow neglected?”
“Yes, I do, Ken! Tara is five foot six inches tall and weighs over 250 pounds. She’s obese and it’s revolting to me. I love her…but, her appearance turns me off…and I don’t know how to change that!” he said, with both regret and guilt alternating, back and forth, over his face, simultaneously.
“Well, I can help you with that if you are prepared to learn, Tim.” I replied.
“How can I learn to be OK with obesity…it’s unhealthy, unnatural and ugly!” he said.
I replied, “Actually, there’s recent research showing obesity reduces fertility, in both men and women, thus reducing our global population problem. And, since we know beauty is in the eye of the beholder…so too is ugly…check in any art gallery!”
Then, I added, “Tim, everyone has every behaviour trait according to someone at some time, including obesity…it is a humbling to behold…but, it is true! And, that includes you and me!”
“I can’t be obese, Ken! I work so hard to avoid it…my family always struggled with it, even to this day, especially, my sister and my Dad.”
“Are you saying creating extra body fat is only one way to be obese?”
“Tim, nature has ensured we notice in others, only the behaviours we need to, so we are better prepared for our future. This means everyone has every traits but we, unconsciously notice in others, only those which will help us to survive in important ways.”
“Are you saying I notice Tara’s obesity so I can learn something for my future, and that I am obese too?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying, Tim! Let’s start with your obesity, and then we will uncover the learning. There are really a variety of obesity styles but they come in seven basic forms: spiritual obesity, mental obesity, vocational obesity… financial, social, familial, and physical…the one most of us notice.”
“So, you saying creating extra body fat is only one way to be obese?”
“Indeed, I am Tim! Some people pray too much, and become spiritually obese by neglecting to continue learning, perhaps neglecting other responsibilities or pushing their ideas on others and often getting called, fanatics.
“That kind of makes sense.” he said cautiously.
“Others study too much, and create mental obesity by avoiding employment, neglecting others or perhaps creating debt, and are sometimes called, academic mercenaries. Others work too much, neglect their family or health and create vocational obesity, sometimes called, workaholics.” I added.
“I have a close friend that fits the academic mercenary group, and my neighbour is a classic workaholic.” Tim contributed.
“Still others spend, or save, too much, and create financial obesity, and get labelled shopaholics or gamblers or perhaps, skinflints. Others spend too much time with friends, or in their community, while neglecting their health, family or work, and create social obesity, sometimes called, party animals or volunteer junkies.”
“That volunteering junky sounds like my Mom sometimes, especially since she retired.” Tim said smiling.
“Others spend too much time with specific family members, perhaps young children or ailing parents, neglecting health, other family members, or work and create familial obesity or dysfunctional-ism. And finally, others eat too much or too little, or exercise too much or too little, to the extent they are unhealthy, and create, obesity or anorexia.”
“I am not a member of Fat Liberation, nor do I think that obesity is healthy. But I do believe that in many ways my life has been a more charmed and happy one because I was always large.” – Maeve Binchy, author
“…your obesity serves you, just like Tara’s serves her.”
“That’s quite a list…so, you’re saying I’m obese like Tara, but in a different way…is that correct?” he asked.
“Yes! And, your obesity serves you, just like Tara’s serves her. The obesity each of you displays reflects one, or more, of your highest values. But first, let’s uncover your obesity Tim. Where do you see it now you understand its various forms?” I asked.
“Ken, the easiest place to see it is in the last form you mentioned, and interestingly enough, it’s Tara’s form too…physically. I’m a health nut, working out a lot, taking vitamins, running to my doctor with every little symptom, and so on. That’s one form of my obesity, for sure! And, it does come from one of my highest values. When I was a child, I was sickly…missed school, had lots of different treatments and medications. So, that fits perfectly with what you have been saying. But, how can ignoring her health come from Tara’s highest values?”
“That’s a good question Tim! Tara is the only one who can answer that accurately. But, I can offer you some guesses based on my work over the past 35 years.”
“I’d really like to understand Tara better, so tell me what you would speculate are the values she is respecting with her physical obesity?”
“Tim, tell me about Tara. What are your thoughts on the values she displays in her life with you?”
“It sounds like Tara places high value on feeling free because she feels restricted.”
“Well, I would describe her as a very hard working person who takes great pride in doing a good job. She manages several large budgets for her department and must adhere to strict funding protocols. She reports to senior managers and often works in very tight time lines. She really has a very stressful job.” Tim replied.
“That sounds like a very demanding and restrictive environment. What does she do with the rest of her life?”
“Tara loves to travel…and to cook. We usually go on a cruise fairly regularly, and she has a collection of cook books, and she a ‘foodie’ who loves those culinary shows on television, too!”
“So, Tim, our voids create our values. This simply means, what we perceive as missing in our past, we endeavour to create in our future, in keeping with the natural law of balance. It sounds like Tara places high value on feeling free because she feels restricted in important parts of her life. Does that make sense?”
He paused for a second, and then said, “You know…she has often remarked how she felt restricted as a child in her family because of her age, and being the only girl. And, every day when she gets home from work, the first thing she does is get out of her work clothes, and into her lounging clothes…which she calls her “comfort gear.” And, on a cruise, she will spend most of her time just reading and relaxing by the pool. She seems to have no need to go on a tour or even socialize with the other passengers.”
“Sounds like she places high value on freedom and independence…does that fit, Tim?”
“It sure does! And, she is in her element when she has a new recipe to try out. She can spend hours in the kitchen on it…it’s a big deal to her!” he added.
“The benefits of obesity are we raise our self worth, but, it always has equilibrating costs.” – King Ayles, author
“I’m already realizing Tara’s obesity gives me the time to work out and be health focused…”
“Can you see how your health focus reflects your highest values in the same way Tara’s freedom and independence, as demonstrated in her lifestyle, reflects her highest values?” I asked.
“Yes, this is starting to make sense. But, how does this help me deal with how I perceive her obesity?” Tim asked.
“Well, now that you understand values and the law of balance, we need to uncover how it applies to you specifically. Then, you can appreciate, how it applies to Tara. Once you have that level of understanding, your view of Tara’s behaviour evolves, into an appreciation for how you are alike…how her obesity serves you, and your obesity serves her.”
“ I think I know where this is going, Ken. I’m already realizing Tara’s obesity gives me the time to work out and be health focused…and, it also give me more time for my business which is another of my highest values.”
“Tim, excellent insight…now you have the idea. Now, to get to appreciating Tara, just as she is, we need to go back to every memory you have of her obesity annoying you and uncover how, at that very moment, it equally enabled you to follow your highest values. As you uncover the truth of each memory, you open your heart to appreciating Tara as she is, a real person with her own set of values, and not your fantasy of her having your values. Are you ready to do that?”
“I am indeed, Ken! Let’s get to it!” he said.
“… I’m OK, just the way I am…and, so is Tara!”
And, so that’s what we did. Tim soon realized there weren’t as many memories as he expected. In fact, it ended up being about seven or eight significant incidents which he needed to clean up. As he did each one, I could see his awareness growing and his appreciation for Tara being rekindled. One day, a few consults later, he remarked to me,
“It is interesting how, as I discover how my own obesity serves me in so many parts of my life, I also realize, everyone is obese in some way, and it is just another natural tool we use to learn.”
And, when I asked him, why it was so important for him to notice this point, now, he replied,
“Ken, it reminds me it’s OK for me to be obese about my health and my business…and more importantly…I’m OK, just the way I am…and, so is Tara!”
I replied, “Congratulations, Tim! Welcome to the real world of human psychology!”
“Obesity affects every aspect of a people’s lives, from health to relationships.” – Jane Velez-Mitchell, journalist
Until Next time…
Now you know you have the obesity trait, just like everyone else. Go find your form of obesity, and start appreciating how it serves you, in your life. Also, notice how it costs you, equally! With this level of awareness, notice how it also raises your self esteem and self confidence. Maybe there is a perfection to you, as you are!
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Namaste, (I salute the grandly organized design of the universe, manifested in you!)
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