Deaf Ears

This weekend I learned the most astonishing thing! I had two opportunities to teach Happy Calories Don’t Count, and I discovered that many of the people I thought I could potentially help the most cannot – or will not – hear me.

Friday evening’s event was a great mix of speakers and participants. When it was finally my turn to present, I noticed that two of the women I had met earlier were suddenly nowhere to be seen. After my presentation, several people came up to speak with me. Their comments were very complimentary, and I could see that they had released, if only for the moment, much of the pain they had been carrying around food, exercise, weight, and their bodies. I went back to my table, looked up, and noticed that one of the missing women had immediately returned. She hadn’t left the event – she had left my presentation. About 15 minutes later I noticed that the other woman had also returned.

Saturday’s event was in a much smaller venue and people didn’t have the possibility of “escaping” me. However, when I began to speak, one woman’s eyes glazed over as she tuned me out. Later, near the end of my class, I could see her face change as she began to realize that I was making a case against the traditional model of diet and exercise. But by that time she had also missed what I was teaching and advocating.

It was quite an eye-opener for me because from my point of view, I bear the Holy Grail of weight-loss! Who wouldn’twant to know that they can release the pain of diet and exercise, lose weight, and maintain the body they’ve always wanted while eating anything they want and moving in a way that feels good?

I understand that since much of what I say completely defies conventional diet and exercise wisdom, many people will scoff at my ideas – especially if the traditional model works for them. However, I was completely unprepared for my message to fall on the deaf ears of those who are heavy. This is a group for which the conventional model obviously does not work. I say “obviously” because the traditional model creates an assumption in our culture which suggests that if someone is overweight, he or she is at best unmotivated or undisciplined or at worst, lazy or stupid because everyone knows how to lose weight – diet and exercise. So this traditional model creates an environment in which change is difficult because 1) the process through which change is achieved (diet and exercise) is painful and 2) there is a value judgment on the overweight person for whom change would be considered appropriate.

Pain is a human experience. And pain surrounding our bodies is a common American experience. But for the heavy, their pain is public and as such, they are vulnerable to the moral judgments the traditional diet and exercise model implies. Perhaps that is why these women couldn’t hear me. Perhaps they have lived with judgment – both from the public and from themselves – for so long that the idea of someone speaking about weight-loss sent them into “fight or flight” mode.

Perhaps someday there will be a tipping point in which Happy Calories Don’t Count actually becomes the dominant weight-loss paradigm and people will no longer be silently judged by their size. Until then, I hope that these words somehow find those who need them. I hope that they bring light and hope to those who bear the emotional and spiritual weight created by the traditional model.