I realize by writing this post and publishing it I am embarking on the touchy subject of enablers in weight loss. I have watched shows on the former channel, Discovery Health, about the struggles of the super obese and on every show I’ve seen, there was someone else “feeding” this poor, struggling person. Both literally feeding foods as most of them were unable to walk, and emotionally feeding their inner struggles.
I’ve taught enough of my weight loss classes and spoken to enough people who struggle with their weight to realize that there is not always an enabler. However, in my personal experience – there often is.
Darlene Albury, LMSW defines enabler as: “A person who by their actions make it easier for an addict to continue their self-destructive behavior by criticizing or rescuing.”
John and I did some family therapy early in our marriage when we were trying to set boundaries with some family members, but I have never been in therapy with the purpose of learning about codependency, enabling behavior or an eating disorder.
I talked with John about this in terms of my decade long struggle with obesity, and we both agreed that he probably was enabling me by agreeing to go with me to fast food restaurants, bringing me home one pound bags of M&M’s when I asked him too, and never saying a negative thing about my weight. Technically, he was enabling.
But, I would not have reacted kindly to him telling me I could not eat certain foods or listening to his advice, no matter how sound, on weight loss and overeating. I think had he taken that tact, it would have harmed our relationship.
I’ve known people who rely on adult children to bring them fast food meals at all hours of the day. I’ve never spoken to the adult child, but I wonder what it feels like to be on the other side of the problem. I know what it feels like to be the obese, struggling person. It’s not a good place to be. I suspect there is a lot of conflict within someone who is enabling unhealthy behavior – whether it be through eating, smoking or another type of codependent relationship.
My husband is a genuinely nice person. He’s extremely easy-going and hard to “rile up.” He said he always “felt sorry for me,” and just wanted me to be happy. He knew I wasn’t happy being 300 pounds, but he also saw me feel happy temporarily after I ate too many M&M’s or cookies. I suppose living with me was a little bit like living on a merry-go-round. How could he get off without harming our relationship?
I’m thankful every day for him, and thankful that I no longer have to deal worrying how John feels about the amount of food I eat. If you struggle with being on either side of these relationships, take heart in the fact that these types of behaviors can change, and you can grow together. Is it always easy? No – but how many things in life are?
I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts on enablers in the weight loss arena. Complicated issue? Diane