I like to think of this as the ‘biggest looser’ religion. People obsessed with fitness and the aesthetic, telling those who are not the image of perfection that their reasons are illegitimate.
Is it damaging or helpful?
I’ve been on both side of the issue. At 21 I was slim and fit. I could lift 50kgs and only weighed 53. I didn’t ‘gym it’ because I worked in a very rigorous environment. I saw ‘fat people’ everywhere and thought that all of their reasons where excuses. By 23, my ideology hadn’t changed.
By 25 I was the hospital poster girl for ‘you can live with chronic renal failure and still have a life, no excuse.’ I was that girl, up in front of the crowd, telling them how you could live a full life, be a mum, a wife, a student, employed and a dialysis patient. NO EXCUSES. I had it together. The nurses would call me in to ‘motivate’ others. Tell them that they could do it do.
I’d run through my ‘tragic’ history. How I’d overcome, fought death and continued to live. I felt empowered and encouraged by the ‘wow, how do you do it?’ statements.
At the same time, I was carrying 2 litres of dineal fluid in my abdomen. To the uninitiated, I looked pregnant or simply fat. I refused to take photos, hated the way I looked. I was on the receiving end of ‘wow, your H will leave you if you don’t lose that weight’ comments. Weight? I grew tired of explaining that it wasn’t fat, I actually weighed less than they did.
Soon my treatment began to fail. My energy slipped, to the point where walking 500m became exhausting. The sheer exercise of eating was dreadful. Exercise ceased and so did food consumption. The vomiting and serious weight loss began, 10kg in 3 months.
Still, I kept up the appearance of keeping it together. Kept up my ‘inspirational talks’ at the hospital. Only my husband and dr knew of the thrice daily vomiting, the weight loss and the debilitating daily grind. As my creatinine rose to over 1200 (the healthy human has a blood C of 70-90), the operations began.
I still felt compelled to live without excuses. I had to live by that motto.
26 Jan 2010, I received ‘that call’ and a new battle begun. 4 operations in 8 months that left me unable to walk. My NO EXCUSES theology went out the window. What followed was another 3 years of poking, prodding and biopsies. Depression and what many would and did call ‘excuses.’ 24kgs piled on.
Again, I hit the gym. Lost the weight and my NO EXCUSES theology crept back in. I resumed my studies. Began to work. If I could do it, why the hell can’t you? Your reasons are invalid.
Due to my suppressed immune system I became sickly for the first time in my life. I was admitted for a stupid UTI. Stupid because it would normally only require antibiotics but my body had betrayed me and I ended up in emergency.
I was placed next to a woman in the renal ward. She congratulated me on my ‘story’ then she began to cry. Her story came out.
Hyperparathyroidism had destroyed her bones. It’s a side effect of CRF. Your bones become so weak that the sheer act of walking can cause a hip fracture. I listened to her, she home dialysed. Her partner left her because she was sick. Left a single mum, unable to work. Her fears poured out. She was afraid of receiving a transplant because of the lifestyle change. The questions of if she was eligible were there, along with her fears of changing her current regime. Her reasons, for not wanting to take the leap and accept a transplant (if her calcium treatment was successful) were a shock to me.
How could she not want a different life? Her reasons would have been an excuse to me, instead she changed my thought process. I spent the next few days listening to her, holding her hand when she cried. I answered her questions truthfully.
Her reasons were valid and legitimate. Not excuses. She fundamentally changed my outlook on life. To view someone else’s reason as an excuse undermines their own battles and shows us as flawed humans, incapable of empathising with issues that debilitate others.
We may appear whole on the outside, but as a CRF patient I can understand that looks are deceiving. There are little if any visible signs of CRF. To others you look perfectly normal, the illness ravages you inside and mentally. I guess it’s akin to what long term depression does to others.
I no longer agree with the ‘NO EXCUSES’ philosophy. It’s short sighted, judgemental, parochial and down right insensitive. I live my life how I want, if people ask me for advice on how to do something, diet, fitness or mental exercises to overcome depression, I’m more than happy to talk to them but, I no longer preach.
I’ve come to realise that in many circumstances there are no excuses, just valid reasons.
So, if you’re sitting there judging someone for their weight or choices, without actually offering assistance or understanding, what’s your excuse for being an insensitive human?