the HAES® files: News Flash! Did You Hear The Beatles Broke Up??

by Health At Every Size® Blog

by Dr. Deah Schwartz

The brain is a mysterious, complex and marvelous thing.

No News there.

The ability to selectively remember some things and conveniently forget another is astounding!

No News there.

When one rules out any organic etiology/causes for forgetfulness, e.g. dementia, traumatic brain injury (TBI), etc., the puzzle of what people remember and what they don’t becomes even more intriguing.

No News there.

And yet, the mechanism in the human brain that causes it to act like the old toy Etch a Sketch™ continues to bewilder me! A shake of the head and a promise is forgotten, a boundary gets mushy, and an understanding unravels.

Case in point:

Many of us who embarked upon the personal journey of self/size acceptance and chose to embrace the Health At Every Size (HAES®) approach, at some point had to “come out” to our families, colleagues, and friends. There was a moment for many of us when we declared,

“I will not engage in negative fat talk, negative body talk, or the interminable conversations about how great so and so would be if only they would lose weight or gain weight or get their nose fixed.”

The assumption that appearance was the proof of someone’s health and or success was flawed and off the table for discussion. THAT WAS NEWS!

And yet, family gatherings, holiday celebrations, and reunions with friends inevitably begin with this predictable sequence:

Hug, kiss, you look… (Fill in the blank).

stockmarket-graph-mdThe conversation quickly morphs into some strange and mysterious version of the financial page of the local newspaper. It is a veritable “Dow Jones” check list of losses, gains, highs, lows, and initial public offerings of new diets, reinvestment in old diets, and insider secrets of which diet pill will be on the market next. The fervor of these exchanges rivals the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

But this is so old it can’t possibly be…News.

Etch a Sketch™ brains…everyone has forgotten that you are not investing in this “hedge fund.” The gab-about-flab-fest goes on with you watching from the sidelines…an outsider. But inside you may be feeling some remorse, some questioning of your decision, some longing to be back in the BMW (bitch moan and whine) club. These feelings are strong but the force within you is stronger, Luke. Eventually the need to re-establish the boundaries you have set and above all else, CHANGE the subject becomes so over-powering, something must be said. Something that can illustrate how tedious and unimportant the conversation is. Something that will bring the conversation back to WHAT people are doing and what is NEW in their lives NOT just their appearance. Over the years I have tried many tactics.  I  either avoided events completely (which meant missing out on some of the positive parts of celebrating) or engaged in direct confrontation. But I’m not a big fan of turning holiday gatherings into argumentative events and so I would like to share with you my #1-go-to-favorite-interjection that is guaranteed to derail the conversation.

“So I’ve got news!”

Friends/family turn to me expectantly…they have forgotten of course that I am not one of them…Time has passed; they shook their cerebral red screen with the two white knobs of their memory…They are certain I will add weight to their talk about weight.

I take off my glasses, peer into their eyes with excitement and blurt out as emphatically as possible,

“Did you hear The Beatles broke up?”

There is silence…then the light bulbs over their heads start flashing and we move on to other topics.

It works every time!!  the-beatles-509069_640

Do you have strategies that work for you in these situations? We would love to hear about them!

Til next time,

Dr. Deah

(An earlier version of this post was published in 2011 on Dr. Deah’s Tasty Morsels.)

9 Responses to “the HAES® files: News Flash! Did You Hear The Beatles Broke Up??”

  1. ahahah! A marvelous way to bring the conversation back to more civilized topics! Well done! I might have to borrow this technique! heheh

    Most people in my family are Catholic so I might use some topic centered around a saint an a miracle to get people back on track with non-diet talk.

    Thank you for the read – it’s a great reminder that we have multiple choices on how we chose to deal with family or friends gatherings that grow into chatter about weight loss.

  2. This is so funny, yet so tragic at the same time. Family members and/or friends can be trained, but when your most significant contact with them is at weddings, funerals, and annual holidays, their brains do indeed seem to function like Etch-a-Sketch (r).

    The part I hate the most is when a cake or other desert has to be cut to order–“How much for you, dear?” they will say to whatever large person is at the table–usually whichever wife or girlfriend of mine made the mistake of coming with me. Everyone holds their breath, waiting to see whether the person called “dear” will be honest and ask for the llarger slice they really want (depending of course on the cake–not all fat people like cake!), or will be contrite, in faux dieting mode, and will ask for a very small piece, or even none at all!

    My best method of deflecting the conversation, a la Deah mode, is to say something like “I’ve got great news–did you know that sealed lead-acid batteries are considered safe to carry as airfreight? It’s lithium batteries they worry about now.” or “They’ve discovered yet another exoplanet in the zone near its parent star that might support life?” By shifting into engineer/science mode (which they hate) I can usually get them distracted enough to temporarily stop looking at the sizes of the cake slices vs. the size of the person…

  3. Thanks Stacey, and Bill for your input! Always great to hear how other folks are navigating these situations! (I love the Deah a la mode reference too!)

  4. And some of us have avoided seeing our families for decades just because of these etch a sketch moments.

    When I talk with them on the phone and ask them not to talk (endlessly) about other people’s body sizes I get told that the speaker is just telling me what s/he has observed, and I can’t control what they observe, and they can’t remember all the “rules” I want them to follow whenever I talk with them, and “Oh HONEY, why can’t we just TALK? Why do you have to make so many rules about how I can talk to you? I’m really worried about you. I haven’t SEEN you for so long. Why don’t you ever send me any pictures? I really love having pictures of you. Honey, what’s WRONG with you? I’m WORRIED about you.” Etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.

    My family members totally don’t “get” that the reason I haven’t seen them in person for decades is that I don’t want their commentary on my body size, their dieting suggestions, their offers to take me to their diet doctors (or psychiatrists) or their faux concern about my “health” which is just a euphemism for “weight.”

    • Were we separated at birth? 😀 You are describing the scenario perfectly. I am frustrated for you and with you that they just don’t “get it” and as hard as it may be to be estranged from some of the family in the end, you are being kinder to yourself. It’s also why communities like ASDAH are so important. Thanks so much for writing!

      • In all fairness to our clueless family members, I do think that all their diet/body talk/judgment is SOOOOOO automatic (to them) that they (a) don’t even realize they’re doing it, and (b) use it for bonding with one another in ways that they can’t imagine bonding without all the body/diet talk. Since that framework is reinforced daily by the dominant culture, “to them” it probably really does seem like we are trying to make them memorize unintelligible, unnatural, and hard-to-follow “rules” about how they may or may not talk in front of us.

      • Also a good perspective!!!

    • rg, ironically, it strikes me that your clueless family members who are so bent on talking about your body, don’t truly SEE you at all — not the real you, who is honest and forthright about what’s most meaningful or hurtful or helpful to you. I find that most clueless (to the HAES® approach) folks are so focused on their own fears and insecurities that they’re not even capable of seeing alternative points of view, which may shift their whole way of perceiving the world and how they exist in it.

      I imagine that the people you consider to be true friends must be quite stellar and awesome. That’s how I feel after being amongst “HAES Homies” at an ASDAH Conference or event 🙂


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