We see obese people every day, and most of us stare and criticize. Reality TV has made obesity an amusement for us to watch as in My 600lb Life, The Biggest Loser, My Big Fat Fabulous Life, etc. But obesity is lots of things and amusing isn’t one of them.
Comments I have heard from people in the last month alone–
- “Why can’t they just eat less and move more?”
- “How can they eat that cheeseburger in public?”
- “There goes my tax dollars because you know there is no way that man works.”
- “Fat people are so disgusting.”
- “Vanessa, you don’t really work with fat people, do you?”
- And my favorite, “Hey Vanessa are you trolling for new clients?” as I helped a woman who was over 300lbs in a wheelchair get something from the top shelf at the grocery store. My response, “No I am helping a fellow human being that needs help.”
I have the joy of working in a career that I get to help people; people that are constantly criticized and ridiculed and I want to give my readers a little insight into the daily life of severely obese people.
- They Isolate
Even when they have a family and or support group, they live in isolation, especially where the outside world is concerned. Many have panic attacks going outside because they feel they are constantly ridiculed and in the way, due to their size. Walking can be difficult or impossible so it is easier to just stay home. Most don’t have hobbies or interests past a computer or television screen.
In the United States, most of our celebrations and gatherings; Thanksgiving, dating, meeting friends, is done around a food table. For obese people, this is difficult because the chair and table may be too small and they feel everyone will just analysis them about their food choices and their body size. Easier to stay home and not get judged.nbps;
Because of their size and or health condition, they are unable to take care of themselves or family members. They are constantly absorbed in guilt and the feeling of failure and that they aren’t worthy of love and understanding.
- Constant Pain
The constant pain of carrying around an extra 100lbs that the human frame was not made for is extreme and constant. Their bones ache, skin is stretched to pain, the sheer weight is painful. All their internal organs are working twice as hard to keep them alive and from the pressure of all that weight.
- Unable to sleep
When people get to then point they have to lose over 100lb, the weight on their chest becomes so much that when they lay down to sleep, the extra pounds crush their chest and they can’t breath. They begin to sleep sitting up in a chair with their legs dangling down. This creates extra problems with their legs retaining fluid from never being elevated. Many obese clients of mine have trouble sleeping more then 3-4 hours a night making them constantly exhausted, which of course causes sugar cravings.
- Unable to comfortably use the toilet and or shower without help
Now we get to reality of life, toilets break with people over 300lbs, they can’t get up and down on their own, they have trouble cleaning themselves. Heat rashes happen in skin folds and someone needs to assist them to minimize the sweating caused by the extra weight. This is constant daily and hourly humiliation.
- They Isolate
- Skin Issues/Stomach issues/Size issues
Fluid accumulates in their legs and their legs ooze and blister becoming infected causing more pain that someone else needs to take care of because most of these people are so immobile they can’t reach their own legs. Nerve endings are constantly on fire in their body creating constant pain from touch.
Most people gain weight around their midsection. This creates a host of issues; unable to bend over, can’t put on their own shoes, severe back and hip pain from the strain of this extra weight.
- Always scared of Falling
Falling down would mean severe injury plus they are unable to get up on their own. This is really the scariest thing—Do they have to call 911 to get up? Is a family member home and strong enough. The humiliation is so horrible they get scared to move. Many don’t move out of their homes or even away from their walkers much. This is the cycle, they don’t move, so their bones and muscles break down more.
I often get asked, “Vanessa, how do you work with a person who is over 300lbs?” I always stop before I answer, “depends on the person, you need to find a motivating factor to lose weight and get healthy, and work toward that. I listen to them so I can honestly find out their goals and how they got trapped in these bodies that cause so much pain. I try to help them get out of pain. Always my main focus.”
I can get someone moving in a wheelchair with bands and light weights and reaching exercises, exercises that relate to real life. The most important step for me is getting them out of their chairs on their own, working on standing and small steps. Showing them how to counter their weight to move safely by moving an opposite leg and arm to maintain balance. I help them get some independence and take away some of their fear. I don’t tackle food issues until later. All of them have heard for years they should eat less and better and tried different diets that didn’t work. I find getting them to move first is so much more important, then they want to eat better and lose the weight. Harping on someone about food just makes them upset. I don’t want to upset my clients. I want to help them.
It is important for them to know they didn’t get to be this heavy overnight and the weight isn’t going to drop overnight either. It will be difficult, it will take YEARS, lots of pain and work. To date, I have helped 3 people lose over 100lbs, keeping it off for over a year and have many that have lost over 50lbs and are still working hard at it.
So, next time you see an obese person I hope you have a slightly different perspective, we all need help and encouragement.