TLC has a series that premiered last night, called “My 600-lb Life”. The show follows the lives of obese adults as they try to lose the weight. The premiere spotlighted “Melissa”, a woman who went from 647-lbs down to 150 (and then settled at around 200-lbs). She lost the weight via bariatric surgery and diet over the course of 7 years.
I stumbled upon the show while eating dinner (an egg white omelet with spinach and feta cheese- I LOVE eating breakfast for dinner!). At first watching the show felt like a bit of a spectacle; shows on people with health & psychological problems have become a huge fascination in American media lately (see Intervention, Hoarders, etc). So I will admit that I initially had little sympathy for this woman who had essentially eaten herself towards an early grave.
But then (as any show that is looking to do more than shock and entertain should do) TLC’s show humanized Melissa. Because the show ran over the course of the 7 years, you really get a better understanding of what got Melissa to this point- an enabling husband, a past of molestation, obesity/overweight family members, etc. The show peeled back the fatty layers (yeah, pun intended) to expose a real person, with hopes and dreams (namely to have a child and to save her marriage). It also showed that the physical is directly connected to the emotional- one powerful comment was that Melissa still turned her body sideways to get through doorways even after having lost over 400-lbs; in her mind, she would always perceived herself as over 600-lbs. Melissa also struggled with weight issues as she and her husband tried to get pregnant (a stillbirth, managing eating for two, etc).
To be sure, we have a serious problem in the United States when it comes to excess. Excess is often touted as the explanation for so many people being overweight. But is an obsession with “excess” really the problem? Or is it an obsession with escape? For Melissa, overeating and being overweight were her ways of avoiding the things she didn’t want to face (past abuse, a failing marriage, fear of motherhood, etc.). Her weight became her armor against having to deal with the emotional issues in her life, but it also became her cage.
This show reminds me why it’s SO important for your diet/health regimen to have DEPTH. When we are thoughtful about what we eat, we can be more aware of what emotional triggers might be goading us to eat things that aren’t good for us. And what we are drawn to eating can tell us a lot about how we’re feeling about ourselves.
I would encourage everyone to check out “My 600-lb Life” on TLC. There’s always more to learn about being healthy! -CFC