02 September 2009


That's a word which carries some fairly negative connotations, right? Well, perhaps not always! Here goes with another lo-o-o-ong post that's been a while in the writing.

Good old Wikipedia has several definitions of 're-education', including:

  • Brainwashing, efforts aimed at instilling certain beliefs in people against their will
  • Reeducation through labor, also called laojiao...
  • Rehabilitation, therapy to remove or restore a habit or condition, usually medical or penal
  • Adult education...

But wait! All of these pretty much tally with the process I feel I've gone through over the last couple of years with regard to my attitudes to food, eating and how I take care of me and my body. Negative? No siree! You can pick a big fat positive out of every one of these definitions.

To me 'Adult education' doesn't just mean the obvious, educating an adult (me, the fat lass, that is). It's also meant learning to behave as an adult, making grown-up choices and not giving in to the scared, unhappy child inside who ate for comfort and to show herself a little (misguided) 'kindness' in response to a big bad world. That's been an important step for me.

As to 'Rehabilitation', well that's pretty straightforward one to be honest. Removing the old bad habits and inserting good ones in their place is what this journey has been about. Not easy, perhaps, but absolutely fundamental. I suppose you could even view it as semi-medical... at a push. After all, the changes have surely had a huge impact on my health, both physical and mental.

Then there's laojiao, the 're-education through labour' view. The term 'labour' is another way of saying 'to put one's back into' something. And when it comes to exercise, an integral part of this weight loss journey (and, I feel, the cornerstone to success), that's just what has been required, labour. Or, to put it another way, effort! Not a token effort at that, but a steady, sustained commitment to making those long-forgotten muscles work a wee bit harder, even if it's only a little bit at a time to begin with.
  1. Remembering that every extra step I take, every stair I climb, every stroke on the rower, uses up a tiny bit more of the food I choose to ingest.
  2. Understanding that exercise isn't just about using up calories but also about building a stronger, fitter person for the future.
  3. Learning that exercise doesn't have to be a chore to dread, it can actually be fun, something to look forward to and a really positive feature in my life.

And finally, there's 'Brainwashing'. The part where new beliefs are instilled against my will. Beliefs which are hard to take on board - like 'I can do this' and 'I will succeed'. My track record on weight loss hadn't been great, so why should I believe in it now? And against my will? Well, it really was to begin with. Even though starting this journey was my choice, sometimes it seemed so unfair that I had to embark upon it at all. Jealously observing all the slim people around me and not, at that stage, truly understanding that they looked that way and I did not because of the choices we each made every day, I felt so much deep resentment. The only way past that hurdle was to brainwash myself by repeating over and over that this was my choice to make, only I could do it and the only way forward was to bite the bullet and just 'do' it. Seems to have worked too.

Another aspect of re-education that Wikipedia doesn't mention is re-education by example. While I have walked much of this journey alone in some senses (no formal community like WeightWatchers or Slimmer's World for this fat lass) I've learned such a lot from other people.

To begin with I was strictly an observer to other weight loss websites, eavesdropping quietly on the lives of the people I've now come to consider old friends. Picking up odd tips and trying them on for size. Some were great, some didn't work for me, but all formed part of my re-education, often by making me 'think' about what I was doing and how to approach it. I posted no comments in the early days though. No way, that might draw attention to myself and reveal the awful the shame of my obesity! The blog you are reading was meant purely as a personal record and outlet. I didn't think anyone would ever read it but me and maybe lovely hubby.

But, as time went on, I saw ongoing kindness and loving support freely given by people leaving comments for other bloggers and I began to leave the odd comment too. Only a little 'well done' here or there, but it made me start to feel part of a wider community. I drew support from that.

I've actually been blessed with a great deal of support. The support of my beloved husband, which means more to me than I think he will ever realise. The support of family members who noticed gradual changes in my appearance and began to break silence and talk to me about it. And the support I've felt in reading the daily stories other people have written about their own weight loss battles.

They gave me confirmation that I wasn't alone in the problems I faced, or in the way that I often felt. Sometimes the mental adjustments required to adapt to a changing 'me' were so scary. To feel the way I did worried me that it was somehow abnormal... until I found that other people felt exactly the same way too. That reassurance was sometimes a gift beyond words.

So, I gradually learned to understand that the problems I encountered were not just mine and mine alone. Others felt the same fears and enjoyed similar joy at our little successes. That was a type of re-education too.

And I slowly learned to accept that others could see me through the blog, to share in my ups and downs and sometimes even my shame. That went a long way to re-educating this fat lass too. I have not been judged and found wanting (a major fear in all sorts of ways through life). I have been helped and supported.

For both of these things I send heartfelt thanks to everyone who has ever bared their soul about their trials and tribulations of losing weight and to everyone stopped by to see where I am on my journey to more love per square inch.


Diane, fit to the finish said...

This is a wonderful post on the value of blogging in general, and of the real support we can give and received.

Re-education is a good thing!

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