Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Most Annoying People Ever

I have long held that some of the most annoying people are the recently converted. It really doesn't matter what form the conversion takes. Former smokers, born again Christians, formerly overweight people all fit this category. What is most annoying is their seemingly constant need to proselytize. If you ask anyone I know, I think they will report I have joined the ranks of those whom I so disdain.

I quit smoking in the middle of October 2005 cold turkey. I quit because it was becoming increasingly more difficult to breathe doing ordinary things. A four or five block walk left me panting before I got to my front door. Did I mention that I live on the fourth floor of a walk-up? In the dozen or so years before that time, I had never been winded climbing those stairs, even when carrying a sleeping 5 year old. I didn't find it particularly difficult to quit, as mine was a sub-pack a day habit (unless I was drinking). Besides the fear of emphysema, or any other chronic pulmonary disease is a powerful incentive.

I never went out of my way to talk about the fact that I quit. I didn't make any announcements or pronouncements at all. On occasion someone would notice that I hadn't lit up on a while, and would ask me about it and I'd tell them. The discussion begins with every new person who notices: "When did you quit?" followed closely by "How did you DO it?" They ask, I answer, and those who had a harder time kicking the habit become really sick of hearing it.

Beginning in around March of 2006, I noticed I was beginning to loose weight. I had just started a new job that took me from a 4 hour daily commute to a sub 2 hour daily commute. I had much less sitting around time. Also around then, I took over cooking duties from my husband who also started a new job. In the beginning, I shrugged it off, as incidental. That, and I was scared that it wouldn't last. I was also worried that I might have developed a medical condition that was making the weight come off (that idea has been soundly rejected).

That said, I was pleased that I finally didn't have to buy bigger clothes! I went to the track an average of 3 times a week, and made a much more conscious effort to monitor what I ate. More weight came off. In November of 2006, a good friend of mine was given access to a fitness room that she shared with me an another friend. So, now I went to the gym a couple of times a week, the track once a week, and took mile-long walks at lunchtime. More weight came off.

Fast forward to present. I have shed a total of 80 to 85 pounds. I worked hard to do it. Nothing magic about it. I did the research and the math to figure out how much I can eat, and how much I burn. I never allow myself to feel denied or hungry, nor do I turn away a cookie, pasta, ice cream or bottle of wine. I do, however, think about what and how much I eat in conjunction with the the amount exercise I get, constantly. I am justifiably afraid of becoming that overweight person again. My family tends to the arthritic and the round.

This isn't something I want to spend a whole lot of time talking about anymore. But here again, if someone hasn't seen me in 6 months or a year, the change they see is pretty dramatic, and they definitely comment on it. "Wow! You look great! How much did you loose?" "How did you do it?" "Wow, you must feel so much better!" Comments along that line, that are made, and to which I respond. In so doing, I try to be honest (assuming that if you ask how, you really want to know), gracious, modest, or deflect kudos, or say well, I'm still having a problem with...I can tell you everyone I know is sick and tired of hearing it.

I guess people think that since I am now a thinner person, that all other problems are non existent. I shouldn't still worry about that one area of my body that I cannot reshape no matter how hard I try. I had one woman tell me that talking about my weight was hurtful to every single person on a daily basis. That my weight loss was unhealthy. That I am looking gaunt and unattractive. I would never have expected such an attack from her. While everyone watched me gain weight and vocalize my despair, I was heard with much more patience and encouragement. No one told me to put the damned cookie down, move my ass and quit feeling sorry for myself. While that would have been hurtful too, it might have also been a little motivational.

I have changed my opinion of those who have made life altering conversions. I no longer think they are pompous, insensitive or evangelistic. I was a smoker. I can tell you a smoker doesn't want to hear from a former smoker. Sometimes it is a matter of being defensive about a habit that meets with perceived disapproval. Maybe they are trying to quit, or have tried unsuccessfully and feel judged. But I can tell you that a smoker has never been made to feel uncomfortable in my home or in my presence. Maybe the person who doesn't want to hear about weight loss or related topics is someone who is also struggling with the issue. They'd like to be happy for your success, but can't as it is perceived as an indictment against them. In the meantime, perhaps all that is needed is some time and space away. Maybe I have offended my friends irreparably, and that truly grieves me. But I have to believe the problem is shared at least fifty/fifty.



The Real Mother Hen said...

You are brave, unpretentious, and one of the people whom I sincerely want to meet and be friends with in real life.

Rebecca said...

Mother Hen, that has to be the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me here in the blogosphere. It would be wonderful to meet you as well. Should you ever plan a trip to NYC, be sure to let me know!!

Bridget said...

Wow, what a great post. I really pity the people who can not feel sincere joy for someone else's success, whether its weight loss, quitting smoking, job promotion. Those who only view others' lives as a reflection on their own, really miss out. Way to go Rebecca!

JYankee said...

I second Hen's comment... cuz I can't think of anything original to say.... ha! But that was a really good, straight and honest post... All the more to you for it!

Kate said...

I'm with Bridget on this one. I have noticed this phenomenon as well. Why do people think that accomplishing things in life is a form of competition? It makes mo sense that personal successes should reflect on anyone except oneself.

SOUL: said...

ya, i'm with kate..and all of them on this one.
good post.
and good for you on the smoking, and the weight loss. that's like the two hardest things in the world to do. and ya, there's no middleground on either one.
so i don't know.
maybe i should just shuddup.

Rebecca said...

Hi, Everyone.

Thank you so much for your support and affirmation. I am no saint, that is for sure. I am happy and proud of what I accomplished. I understand that expressing that can come across as insensitive or hurtful, even if that is not my intention. I am in competition only with myself, but do admit to wanting to see if I measure up to those whom I considered better than me.

Bridget, I think one of the most difficult things is to be truly happy for someone who has accomplished something you are struggling with. It can engender feelings of failure or inadequacy that one tries to mask graciously, but that come through, especially under the influence, in very hurtful ways.

I have struggled with adequacy issues my whole life. I know that one compensates for this by trying to be the BEST at everything. I also know that when I was surpassed, it could be a crushing experience. It had nothing to do with the other person's accomplishments, but how I felt about myself. No one outside can fix that, or is responsible for it.

Anonymous said...

After reading the first paragraph I laughed out loud because you are so right.

I've been the biggest "offender" in that category more than a few times as my friend Kate can attest to. :)


Epimenides said...

Great achievements both rebecca! I lost 20kilos in two months seven years ago and have managed to keep it off!
I am still unable (strictly speaking, unwilling) to quit smoking, though I did so for more than a year in the past! A project I have to revisit soon!

SOUL: said...

just sayin howdy from hell...oops..i mean texas.. it just feels like hell! damn it's HOT!

seagrape said...

oh so true....i absolutely love this post!

eastcoastdweller said...

My father was, from what I remember, quite annoying to smokers when he first quit. He's mellowed in the years since.

Congratulations on quitting -- I sincerely mean that. And on the weight loss. Health is personal and precious.

simonsays said...

Stopped by because of Soul, but I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and will be back!

Blur Ting said...

I admire your strength and achievement. You go girl!