Monday, February 22, 2010

Is This a Laughing Matter?

Walking to the metro with a bunch of folks after last week's Weight Watchers meeting, a guy who has lost more than 40 pounds turned to me and said, "I think I have to go see a physical therapist."

All concerned, I asked, "Why?"

"To learn how to walk without my gut."

OK. That was kind of weird. After a few moments, I came up with, "Well, change can always be difficult."

He changed the topic, and we kept chatting. His statement kept gnawing at me though because I didn't quite get it. What a strange thing to say. A day or two later, I realized it was a joke.

Wow! How healthy. I didn't get it because I could not even imagine making a joke about weight loss. Even though I had been motivated by the weekly meeting, I was still in a funk over the fact that I had gained .4 of a pound. And, I knew I had been eating more and moving less the past few weeks, so it should not have been a surprise. I was not quite in the depths of self-loathing that I felt the 18 or 19 times I gained in 2009, but I was still down and completely overreacting to the "bad news" the scale gave me.

I swear I have a sense of humor, and I have been known to make jokes about the urge to overeat but never about this journey to becoming a person with a healthy BMI. Honestly, nothing feels more like an emotional roller coaster than my feelings about this process, and I can feel so full of ugly emotions at these meetings that I wonder why anyone would want to be near me or talk to me. It's raw Michelle with no emotional energy to keep her barriers or boundaries up, and there may be no filter. Oh, the drama, the pain, the suffering, the threat of tears. Some of that can be replaced with joy, hope, pride, optimism, and a positive attitude as the journey is becoming more successful overall but never humor.

Why not? It seems like such a healthy reaction to make a joke about this. I've tried to come up with one, but I've not even come close to thinking of one. Why can't I do that? Why does every part of this journey have to be so dramatic? Why can't I just let go and laugh about it a time or two?

It may be asking too much of myself right now. I hope to come up with a joke before the end of the year. I think it would be a really healthy sign.

Can you see the humor in weight loss? Can you think of any good jokes I could make? Do you think it's easier for men to joke about this than women? Is this a laughing matter?

Michelle Butler has made becoming a healthy writer a priority. She lives, works and writes in the Washington, DC, area. You can follow her on twitter at


Tawny on February 22, 2010 at 4:55 AM said...

Michelle, I really don't think men have the body issues we have. At least, not in the way we identify with ours. I can't think of any jokes about my weight/losing focus, but I have been known to make smart alek remarks once in awhile. Then again, I do that about everything *g*

But when my weight isn't cooperating, its a lot harder to see the lighter side (oho, pun there). I get so down on the journey and focus on the frustrations, instead of seeing the progress and positives. I'm working really hard on that, though. Maybe with it will come a few jokes? I'll let you know *g*

Michelle Butler on February 22, 2010 at 9:32 AM said...

Tawny, the only thing I've been able to come up with is a pun too - why does this have to be such a weighed matter? Yeah, I know, not terribly funny. And, I can't think of a time when I made a joke whenever it was going well either.

It gives me something to think about. It does seem like the guys in the WW room never feel as badly about it or themselves as the ladies do. You can literally see the cloud/aura of self-loathing around some of the ladies at times - and sadly, I know mine has shown too.

I have worked at finding ways to touch base with the positives on a regular basis. What usually helps the most then is to try on clothes (and glory that I fit into a size I never thought I'd get into again OR glory in how big a former size now is) and look at past photos. I've made an effort to make sure I have a photo of myself every five pounds down so that I can clearly see the difference that "just" five pounds make.

Elise Hayes on February 22, 2010 at 9:41 AM said...

I pretty much think that anytime you can laugh about something, it's healthy. That's resulted in some pretty dark humor over the years, but I still figure it's better than crying. It shows I'm still in the game, still trying :)

Michelle Butler on February 22, 2010 at 10:00 AM said...

I think it's healthy too, Elise. That's why it's kind of bothering me that I can't joke about this. I'm not going to obsess, but I look forward to the day that I do joke about it.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) on February 22, 2010 at 10:41 AM said...

This isn't something I'd thought about. And unfortunately I suspect any humor I've had about this has been self-deprecating. Of course, that's not healthy. I think the humor will come when it's the right time. I think it makes sense that instead of humor, we have focus and resolve right now. I think maybe it's easier to joke about anything trying in our lives once it's in the rear-view mirror, the ol' "We'll laugh about this someday."

Michelle Butler on February 22, 2010 at 10:54 AM said...

I hear what you are saying, Trish. I'm not entirely sure that all self-deprecating humor is unhealthy. I think it helps to keep the ego in check. I know it can be endearing when others use self-deprecating humor. And, it can be a great way, as all humor can, to get the "audience" on your side. (Read Liz Carpenter's book on public humor - start with a laugh.)

I do think that humor can help release the tension - I think that's partly why dark humor can be so prevelant amount high-stress occupations - e.g. nurse voice, cop humor, etc. That's why I think of joking about this as part of a way to let go and relax about it.

And, I'm not going to replace my obsession to lose weight with an obsession to learn to laugh about it. :) I do have focus and resolve and determination right now though, and I'm glad about that. :)

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