Seeing an aquaintance, I smile. We have both been busy and have not had the opportunity to hug. I am glad to see her. She looks great.
“I like your haircut,” I say. “It looks cute on you.”
“You need to stop losing weight,” she replies and touches my cheek. “You don’t want to lose too much weight. Your face will get too thin.”
“Is that a compliment? Because I feel great.”
“Well, just stop losing weight because you don’t want to lose more.”
For most of my life, I was thin. In fact, when I was 16 years old, I went on a weight-gaining regime. With the research available at the time, I tried a 3,000 calorie/day diet. It was crazy – peanut butter sandwiches and strawberry sundaes prevailed. The result: a rash from too many strawberries and no significant weight gain.
After the failed experiment in trying to gain weight, I resigned myself to being angular, lanky, and thin. As I matured, my metabolism slowed down, and I filled out. Eventually, in my middle years, my weight was within a healthy range.
Muscular dystrophy changed everything, and the pendulum swung in the opposite direction. Even with a 1,300 calorie/day diet and regular exercise, I gained more than 20 pounds in two years. I knew that my disease was making mush out of my muscles. So, I resigned myself to the weight gain while I still adhered to counting calories.
Noticing the toll on my energy and mobility with each pound gained, I struggled to lift myself and walk short distances. A new cycle was formed: less mobility – weight gain – fewer calories burned – weight gain – less energy – weight gain.
Then, one day, I decided to seek the advice of my friend, Beth, who adheres to an anti-inflammatory, gluten-free diet. My motivation had nothing to do with weight. Even though I was already adhering to a healthier food approach, I was interested in the gluten-free aspects of her lifestyle. Armed with experience and knowledge, she filled me with delicious bites of information. Venturing into the world of glycemic indices, food additives, and alternatives to refined sugar, I discovered new food combinations that are beneficial and nutritional. I am glad that I decided to ask her for help. My friend has been instrumental in guiding me on my personal journey to a new lifestyle and has been my recipe guru.
Quite the opposite of my failed experiments with calorie counting, the switch in my approach to my food intake has had positive results. I feel better. Just recently, I painted for two hours. May not sound like much to you, but I was down to painting for 30 minutes at a time. Even though my energy is still low, I do not feel fatigued all day long.
Another gain from the change in my diet is that I have lost 23 pounds in seven months. Along with the nutritional benefits to my body, I am convinced that my weight loss is contributing to my increased energy levels.
I am happy. More energy, less weight to lift, and feeling productive have all given me a boost. The quality of my life has improved.
The encounter, I described at the beginning, with my acquaintance is not an isolated event. Startingly, people feel free to make negative comments on my weight loss. What gives? According to my doctor, I am within the ideal weight range for my age, height, and gender. Nevertheless, rather than complimenting me on losing weight, some people feel the compulsion to complain about it. Funny, they don’t tell me I have lost too much weight; they tell me I might lose too much. How do they know? Do they realize that what they say hurts me?
As a disAbled person, I am forced to live in a world of neurotypical patterns and ableist attitudes. Every day is a struggle. Speaking for everyone who is facing tribulations: We are wounded warriors. Please restrain from offering unsolicited advice on what we need to do or do not need to do. The old adage: if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all should be your mantra when engaging with a disAbled person. Positive words are welcome. Negative words are damaging. Be an encourager.
Kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.