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The Butterfly Effect

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

I saw myself in someone - and it was not the new me.

Since starting my journey, I have noticed that I am much more aware of my surroundings, especially those related to health, fitness, and food. When you are losing a copious amount of weight, the concept of health takes over your mind. In a way, it has to. If it didn't, a person would fall victim to various pitfalls every day, making the weight loss journey more of an American Gladiator type challenge.

The problem is that I don't just pay attention to what I'm doing. I notice what other people are doing. When I'm at the grocery story, I notice what other people have in their carts. When I am at the park running, I notice how other people are running. When we go out somewhere, I notice people who are destructively thin, healthy, and larger. I watch their demeanor and how they interact with the people around them.

I believe the primary reason I notice these things is because I'm on an initial journey to lose 120 pounds... But, we'll leave that conversation for another blog. The second reason I notice, in my opinion, is because I am going to school for a degree in public health. I can see where my personal journey is affecting my professional interests and vice versa.

The third reason is because I genuinely care about people. I think it is somewhat a standard in people who go into any field associated to the mental health of others - the professional must be hyper-sensitive to people, body language, tone of voice, behaviors.... if you aren't sensitive to it, something so slight could be missed - and that, when dealing with the severely mentally ill, could be detrimental.

But I digress.

I sometimes find it hard to bite my tongue - but I have to constantly ask myself (as a reminder) "how would you have felt, one year ago, if someone had said something to you about how you were eating... or talked about how many excuses you had to not love yourself enough to take care of yourself"

The answer to that is obvious - I would have told them to stuff it where the sun don't shine. My life, my body - back off. And in the case of it being a family member or friend, I would have told them the same, just in a more colorful fashion - so colorful, it would make the next family gathering a little bit awkward.

It's the truth.

It's sad, but it is the truth.

As much as I wanted to scream at this person that they were hurting themselves and their health was being affected, I just couldn't do it.

I am stuck in this very strange place - I want to help people but I don't want to make anyone hate me. I don't want to be insensitive, but I want people to realize how their decisions affect their health. I want people to know that I can appreciate what is going on in their lives as far as health and weight because I am/was that person.

Sometimes, I wish I had blinders so that the only health related issues I notice are my own - but that's just not how it is. And honestly, would that really be for the best? Or is it just way for me to lock down and hide so I don't feel uncomfortable having difficult conversations? I know there is a tactful way to do it. I have found it easy to talk to someone who approaches me - I have learned how to gracefully accept the compliments and honestly answer any questions - conversations of that type are easy. Of course, it helps that I'm a rather chatty individual anyway.

I do know that this journey is one where the first step must be taken by the individual. If that individual doesn't want to take that first step, no one can help them along the path. So I know any conversation I have with someone must be taken slowly and only on queue. Maybe only talking to people who approach me is the best method considering if I approach someone about their health/weight, it may not be well received.

Finally - the last thing I must blog about is how the entire experience made me feel. Yes - me.

I was very understanding of the excuses I heard because they are some of the same excuses, or from the same excuse family, as the ones I used. I did have moments where I thought back to the old me and how I felt. How those excuses made me feel and why I had them. I did not go into a tailspin, which is good. I just had thoughts of what it used to be like and had an understanding for how this other person may be feeling too. And then I thought about my progress and how now is not the time to stop. I am a little over halfway to where I wanted to be - and I know that I do not want to go back to those feelings I had before. I do not want to go back to hiding and excuses. It was a sombering encounter, to say the least.

So, what is the value of this blog? It's just me writing down an encounter that caused self-reflection and analysis on what I need to be doing to help others. It is not much more than that - but each of us at Spark, especially those of us losing a lot of weight, need to know how we impact other people - how we make them feel when they see us and our successes, how we can impact someone else's life, and how others' decisions to embrace health or reject it can affect our lives and successes.

The world is a dynamic place and our interactions are imparative to our journey - understand it, learn from it, and embrace it. What you do today could save someone else's life tomorrow.

I wish you well in your journey,
- Cris
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    1137 days ago
  • MIRANDA2112
    Very interesting post.
    2160 days ago
    Very helpful blog, well-written and thought provoking.
    2553 days ago
    Well written, thought provoking blog. emoticon emoticon
    2691 days ago
    As I read your blog, I realized I too am noticing many things now that I had not before. It does give insight into your own journey and it does make a difference.

    Thank you for a well-written insightful blog.

    2802 days ago
    Your blog is very well-written and thought out. It takes courage to speak the truth with the intent on helping, but I too learned that it's better to let go. Thank you for providing me with valuable insights.

    Sandy :)

    2805 days ago
    Hey, good luck in school. It's great that you are going into something that can have a such an impact for good in the lives of people!
    2806 days ago
    Leading by example is awesome and effective.
    2809 days ago
    You are learning a great skill. Just setting a good example with a kind and accepting heart will be good for you and good for them. Feed them well, offer a walk, open your heart for all of their foibles and imperfections. Love is the way!
    2810 days ago
    I know exactly what you are saying. I don't say anything unless someone asks me how I did it and it like opening up a can of worms. As my husband says I sound like a reformed smoker, but on the other side of the coin I had a sister in law who died as a result of gastric bypass gone wrong. And if some of the family had spoken up and said something she may be with us today. It is such a fine line that we walk to say something or not. But my intent is always good even if they don't take it that way. I just want to see that person be around for several more years. So always remember the words you say may save a life.
    2810 days ago
    I happily tell all who WANT to hear about SparkPeople and I stay quiet around everyone else. You get a definite vibe off of a person, one way or another. My first instinct is to shout it to the rooftops, but preaching doesn't help.
    2810 days ago
    Very nice post. Being able to see yourself in another's place is truly advantageous in understanding, and even more when you can relate it to others. Thank you.
    2810 days ago
    Great blog, very heart-warming.....
    2810 days ago
    You've begun to understand a new life skill. Notice and compare; don't comment until asked; you have been evaluating what is important to you and comparing that knowledge to what others are/are not doing.

    This will be a great tool in your toolbelt.

    2811 days ago
    Thanks for your blog. I feel the same way. I just have to think that we are helping people by our actions and maybe seeing a change in us will help them.
    2811 days ago
    Awesome blog! I can totally relate.
    2811 days ago
    Your Blog is liken to the new and shiny Born-Agains. They are on a high with their new found salvation, and in turn, see the rest of us as all going to Hell, if we don't save our selves. My dad was one, and drove us and all our relatives crazy, to the point we were shunned. Biting your tongue is a good philosophy. Unless some one asks me "how did you lose all that weight..etc?" then I feel they deserve my straight forward answer. Maybe the best approach could be by example. emoticon
    2811 days ago
    emoticon I should have read your blog before, I am in the same place as you and I have to bite my tongue, b/cause people next to me are literally destroying their health. When and how to speak it's really so hard to decide. I'm afraid people will send me somewhere if I speak .... emoticon emoticon
    2811 days ago
    2811 days ago
    Thanks for your blog. It was very well written and gave me a lot of food for thought. Yes, I believe that if anyone said anything to me I would tell them to stuff it and then crawl off somewhere and have a good cry. I could never say anything to anyone else unless they bring it up first. We each have our own journey.
    2811 days ago
    I love your insights and the way you have written about your perseptions and your self-awarenesses! Great stuff to read. Can you tell me about what a degree in Public Health entails?? I need to do someting to get a better education and I feel that I have a passion for nutrition and all things healthy. It will help me to get my own "HOUSE", so to speak, in order too. Great blog!!! emoticon emoticon emoticon
    2811 days ago
    I loved your blog. I could relate to what your were writing about.. I also feel like saying something when i see someone make the wrong food choices, but i realize that they probably know it and don't want to change their habits.
    2812 days ago
  • KARENE10
    I believe that leading by example IS the way.While it is upsetting to see friends getting heavier and heavier and contemplating every diet fad that comes along,I know that seeing me getting thinner,happier,healthier will be the only way they would r-e-a-l-l-y want to hear anything I had to say about weight loss. Let's face it,if the person giving me advice IS heavy,I'm not about to take any diet advice from them~ emoticon
    2812 days ago
    Setting an example speaks louder than words - and can't be argued with!

    You're doing the right thing by taking care of yourself and at the same time being empathetic and loving about what others are going through. You're a great model of what we all should be doing.
    2812 days ago
    Good insights. It does other me when I see those i love get heavier and heavier, increasing their chances for serious health problems. It is hard to bite my tongue, but i hope that good example and kindness will work.
    2812 days ago
    Congratulations on a well written and insightful blog.
    I can relate to what you say. The only way is to travel the journey you're self and be a role model. Then when asked you can tell people of you're journey towards a healthier you. You will be very good at you're job as you have felt the pain. emoticon
    2812 days ago
    You can only be responsible for your own life and not take on the responsibilities of others. Understanding yourself today can help you to understand where others are coming from tomorrow.
    2812 days ago
  • BGOOCH56
    That was quite insightful
    2812 days ago
    Thanks, Cris. Very thought-provoking. I've thought some of the same things you do when I see people doing destructive things (that I used to engage in regularly!). I've decided I'll leave the screaming up to Jillian. She seems to be able to get away with it! Jane
    2813 days ago
    thanks cris , i always when one of my friend talk about fad diets and she dont exercise with dombbels cuz it will make her muscelles big. i want to told her about healthy balance eating and good work out but i cant, the first ward they said look at yourself if this really work, you will be thin not 88 kg .
    i start my way and cuz you and other sparkies i will reach my goal .
    2813 days ago
  • SPEEDY143
    Best of luck on your educational goals.... I know you will be successful and with your life experiences YOU can and will change lives emoticon
    2813 days ago
    In high school my daughter told me she had a phobia about getting fat. Since I've been obese all her life, that made me relax. After all, she was active in sports and liked fruits and vegetables, didn't like chocolate that much, she wasn't going to have my problem.
    When she gained the freshmen 15, I worried a little, but being obese myself I couldn't say much. I kept reminding her to eat plenty of fruits and vegetable. As the years went on, we both got fatter. I'm still not in a position to say anything to her, no matter how badly I want to speak.
    Now I'm hoping to lead by example. If I can lose 100 pounds, she can lose 20. Then while I lose another 50 pounds, she can lose another 10. It's one of those things that motivates me, hoping to set a good example instead of a bad one.
    2813 days ago

    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon Enjoyed your blog, thank you!
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    2813 days ago
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    2813 days ago
    Unfortuntely, you can't take that first step for them. But your writeing about how you feel now can help in the future when you are in a position to help in a professional capacity.
    2813 days ago
    Introspection can lead to inspiration, you have done a great job with both emoticon
    2813 days ago
    well said
    2813 days ago
    J2740LOU Perfectly said. emoticon
    2813 days ago
    When we start waking up to the damage we have been doing to our bodies we become aware, aware of pretty much everything around us, and it is a marvelous thing. With that awareness comes the desire to help others achieve this awareness.

    It's pretty much a given that you can't make someone aware, but you can lead them to awareness through your own example. That is the best gift you can give to your fellow human being. Your example will impact not only the obese, but all the others out there you run in to, and you have no way of knowing what of your example will rub off on them in a positive way. That is part of the magic of a positive lifestyle.
    2813 days ago
    Great insigts.
    2813 days ago
    You may be helping more than you know just by setting an example. Just as you are watching others, they are watching you too. Stay approachable and share the Spark when you have the opportunity. It's great that you are taking this adventure as an opportunity to help the community as a whole. The community just has to be ready to be helped. It will happen! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
    2813 days ago
    I'm reading a book by Loeb called The Soul of a Citizen and it's full of stories of regular, yet heroic, people who have made a difference in this world. Yours is a mighty quest. But, as others have pointed out, we who strive to do this must be aware that others' make the final call on their own behavior and feelings. It's hard not to say or do things we feel could be helpful. Very hard.

    Right now I'm concentrating on pulling the focus inward to my feelings and intentions ... and outward to my behaviors and actions. I hope this focus will change me fundamentally, in a lasting way, so this is my final attempt at losing weight and maintaining that weight loss in a truly fitness-geared way.

    Well written. I enjoyed this reflection. Thank you.

    Margie emoticon
    2813 days ago
    So true.....and you can only help when it is actually asked for.....unasked advice goes in one ear and out the other as well as sometimes causing an awkward situation.

    Great blog, and great insight. You will be a great asset to the public health commumity. Thanks for sharing.
    2813 days ago
    We rarely influence others by telling them what they should be doing, particularly since this either represents an actual judgmental attitude or is experienced as judgmental by the person to whom it is directed. I think you described well the feelings engendered by such comment, whether or not it is voiced.

    On the other hand, people do notice, just as you are currently doing, and success is a greater motivator than censure.

    The only person one can truly be responsible for is oneself and that is plenty of work!

    2813 days ago
  • TERRY631
    You're absolutely right in your observation that an individual needs to take the first step on their own. I've been struggling with my weight my whole life, and I remember that when my mom used to try to give helpful advice, I would feel resentful and would sometimes eat secretly, because I wanted to have the control (yes, idiotic, I know). As for excuses....I think we all share a similar experience..too busy, too tired, too much to do, too much weight to lose anyway...It's taken me a long time to come to this point in my life where I'm really ready to change my lifestyle...

    My biggest problem now, is watching my daughter who is starting to struggle with her weight. She's very petite, 4' 10" and has scoliosis. She really needs to keep her weight down because of the scoliosis. Unfortunately, she gained at least 15 lbs after her first yr at college. Coupled with the extra 10 lbs that she was already carrying...not so good. I see the choices that she makes...excuses for not exercising, grazing throughout the day ( she becomes less aware of how much she actually consumes) drives me crazy. I've gently tried to make suggestions...mostly towards trying to get some regular exercise, rather than addressing what she eats..and I know that she's in the place where I used to be. I don't want to push, because I don't want her to feel worse... or for it to have the complete opposite effect and make her eat more. :(
    2816 days ago
    You are so right when you say, "the first step must be taken by the individual. If that individual doesn't want to take that first step, no one can help them along the path." Sometimes it takes something catastrophic like a stroke or heart attack and other times a person just gets to their final sick of being sick and tired point. But whatever the impetus is for them, they have to get to that point themselves. And I agree that you should wait for them to approach you about your own weight loss -- maybe that will be the impetus they need to get moving. Great blog -- we all need a little self-analysis sometimes.
    2817 days ago
    I agree- I definitely spend more time noticing where other people are in terms of weight and such. To some degree this is self-reinforcing and a warning- noticing what people are or are not eating, etc. In terms of approaching others I agree that you really just .. can't. Unless they are family and you are very concerned about their health and then prepare for it to not go well. :)

    I'm also on board with the excuses getting to you. I just spent some time with a friend and on the one hand I was getting all the compliments but on the other hand I kept hearing "but the average person CAN'T because (no money, no time, no knowledge, etc.) I don't know.. unless you are illiterate and have no access to a library or any free source of internet I just don't buy this. If you have an hour of free time a day YOU CAN. Hrm maybe I need to make an excuses blog sometime this week as an exercise and to make sure I don't fall into those traps again.
    2817 days ago
  • J2740LOU
    Just set the example. People watch what others are doing, even strangers. They learn and listen more to what we do than to what we say. You are a good example for others. I can remember wanting to rush up to others and tell them, "If I can do it, so can you.....but We can plant the seeds, others do the watering, and a harvest is reaped! emoticon
    2817 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/6/2010 11:03:45 AM
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