Monday, June 4, 2012

Arrested Development (and not the show either)

Arrested Development
By Barb Beck
June 4, 2012

It is human to have a long childhood; it is civilized to have an even longer childhood. Long childhood makes
a technical and mental virtuoso out of man, but it also leaves a life-long residue of emotional immaturity in him.
— Erik Homburger Erikson (1902-1994)

            It has come to my attention throughout the last three years, between my personal journey with weight loss, and through helping others with their journeys that development and developmental processes are at the fore of what makes us click as humans. Reading comments in forums, other blog posts, and having random conversations in support groups have helped me to understand that this topic is not understood well by the layperson or by the professional alike. Perhaps it was all those years in school being bored with this topic that prevented me from seeing it sooner, but I have since established a personal theory (untested and without any real formative data or an extensive literature review, so not reliable or valid either) that folks who have struggled with obesity are more likely to struggle with developmental issues or what others might call issues of maturation.
            Erik Erikson (1950) stated that there were developmental milestones that were to be expected at certain ages, barring any out of the ordinary traumas, circumstances, or situations (emphasis added) which help adults to their full potential.  Unlike other developmentalists of his time (i.e., Piaget, Vygotsky, Harlow, etc.) he believed that our jobs as humans was to develop from birth to death.  His stages are: 1. Infancy: Birth to 18 Months - Ego Development Outcome: Trust vs. Mistrust - Basic strength: Drive and Hope; 2. Early Childhood: 18 Months to 3 Years -
Ego Development Outcome: Autonomy vs. Shame - Basic Strengths: Self-control, Courage, and Will; 3. Play Age: 3 to 5 Years -Ego Development Outcome: Initiative vs. Guilt -Basic Strength: Purpose; 4. School Age: 6 to 12 Years - Ego Development Outcome: Industry vs. Inferiority -Basic Strengths: Method and Competence; 5. Adolescence: 12 to 18 Years - Ego Development Outcome: Identity vs. Role Confusion
Basic Strengths: Devotion and Fidelity; 6. Young Adulthood: 18 to 35 - Ego Development Outcome: Intimacy and Solidarity vs. Isolation -Basic Strengths: Affiliation and Love; 7. Middle Adulthood: 35 to 55 or 65 - Ego Development Outcome: Generativity vs. Self-absorption or Stagnation -Basic Strengths: Production and Care; and, 8. Late Adulthood: 55 or 65 to Death - Ego Development Outcome: Integrity vs. Despair Basic Strengths: Wisdom. Thus, despite becoming an adult in the eyes of society, it might be very clear that one is not developmentally an adult in the eyes of the psychological world.  Each step or stage is one that a person must master in order to be a full adult. 
Another very interesting personal who discussed development and how it makes a person into their adult, final selves is Abraham Maslow (Maslow, 1937).  Yes, these theories are old but they have withstood the tests of time.  Maslow believed that one must go through stages, like Erikson, to achieve full human potential.  His stages are as follows:
            Whether a person believes in either of these two theories on development or any of the other theories, they have many things in common – people move through stages or periods of time, conquering certain skills, and depending on how one is nurtured and what type of natural environment, this person will either develop on schedule or not.  It is the category of NOTS that I am interested in today.
            I have viewed the developmental states of countless of people in my job, but have paid very little attention to my own developmental level.  I assumed (wrongly, of course, as the saying goes) that I was plugging along just fine.  But, if I read Erikson’s fourth, fifth and sixth stages, I do believe that I have somehow arrested my development within these stages.  I fluctuate between knowing who I am and trying to find who I want to be.  I have interiority complexes abound.  I feel very much like I can do it one moment, and then find the confusion so great that I am immobilized.  This is still true, despite my education, age, and experience in life.  Thus, I am still a child who is trying to figure out who they wish to be and am stuck at about the age where my weight issues first began.  I have had periods of time where I knew exactly who I was, did not feel inferior and didn’t get confused about my existence.  But, by and large, I have struggled with these stages.
            And then, whammo!  I had weight loss surgery.  There is no doubt in my mind that those who have worked with the weight loss surgery community from a psychological perspective know all too well about this volatile period.  Erikson’s period of Identity vs. Role confusion (ages 12 to 18) and Maslow’s period of belongingness and esteem needs come slamming at us, full speed, forcing us to finally rectify the lack of development in these areas.  Being a normal weight, our fat and fat persona is no longer one that we can hide behind and we are forced to develop.  But, to develop, we must flounder, learn from our mistakes, and do things differently than we ever have done before.   Is it any wonder that the people who know us best in this life are often surprised by the NEW person that stands before them.   Not to me – I have studied this junk (supposedly in detail -- please don’t tell Dr. Hicks) and I was still not prepared for the work that it entails.  In fact, I vehemently denied the fact that I was changing.  However, I am not so ignorant to admit that I was wrong.  Changing is the point.  We don’t go through weight loss surgery to just change the outer being – most of us work on changing the inner being as well.  The one that feels inferior because she was picked on in school by the cool kids, cheerleaders or jocks.   The boy who was laughed at for being a little “mama’s boy” and didn’t have a place in this world that felt safe except for with food.  The 16 year old who was forced to have sex earlier than she wished because the approval junkie within and her inability to decipher her inferiority issues as normal developmental issues couldn’t keep her from making this mistake; each of these people are trying to overcome the developmental milestones missed as a result of food, food related issues and the normal propensity of temperament and the environment in which they lived.
            So, while some harken what is going on to a specific stage or time in high school, I would like to extend the thinking to something more natural.  We develop as beings unless something gets in the way.  For many of us, food was in the way for a long time.  Now, we are doing the things that we would have done if the obstacle wouldn’t have been there.  If you have partners, perhaps they should read this primer and understand that while the behavior is unacceptable it serves a purpose – reaching the correct developmental stage or perhaps even self-actualization.   I am not writing this with the intent to give people a free pass on behaviors – because that’s not who I am or what I am about.  I just want people to understand themselves, and have one theory out there (I am sure someone much more intelligent than me has written this very same thing in much more cogent and intellectual manner) that might help others understand why adult people who seemingly had it all ‘together’ have all of a sudden made decisions that no one thought possible.
            So, it rests with you.  Understand the developmental issues of people and the goals that all humans are trying to overcome.  Keep striving to get past those issues and through these developmental stages.  But do so knowing that there’s a reason that isn’t related to being bad, guilty, no good, stupid, inferior or lacking in some way.  You are just trying to get to the same place everyone else is trying to get….[1][2][3]

[1] Erikson, E.H. (1950).  Childhood & Society. New York: WW Norton and Company.
[3] Harder, A. (2012). Support for change.  Retrieved from: on June 4, 2012

Sunday, May 13, 2012

All you need is love...

I have heard this song over and over again in my life and often wondered what it truly meant.  The logical part of me is like "What!  That's ridiculous!  If you don't have food and water, you certainly can't live off love."  However, now that it seems like the world is out of love to share for one another (at least from my current perspective) I have to wonder if The Fab Four weren't prophetic.

Many things have me thinking about this.  My uncle passed.  This is the 8th significant death in my family in 5 years.  Our family is not known for showing love for one another, and my lack of talking to him more than once every 2 years on average is illustrative of this.  My dad's family has a lot of alcoholism and a lot of emotional stagnation, which I don't wish to go into at great length here other than to say I tend to be a little withdrawn like them.  I love my family and would do anything for them, but I am not the one to usually reach out first.  That's going to change.

My feelings have been so over the place since my hysterectomy (yes, I had this procedure, and many other things have happened since I last bored you with my inane banter) but I do believe that much of it is warranted.  People are just outright mean.  It isn't setting boundaries, are trying to communicate, or anything.  It's just outright mean. And this meanness is as the heart of why my dad's side of the family wasn't very close and why, many of us are obese (in my opinion).  Stunting your emotions will only make you have to deal with them later - they may hurt - but they can hurt now on your terms or they can hurt later with consequences you don't like.

So, this is my life....emotionally I am at wits, financially too.  I work 15+ hours a day but that isn't enough.  I will lose a job soon the only real one that makes money.  I don't even know if I have the passion I once did.  Again, all I need is love.

But it's a double edged sword, because love (or approval) has always been something I have striven for and it hasn't been the best for me.  It has challenged my integrity many times.  It has burnt me to the core.  It has made it hard for me to trust that people won't trample all over my heart but it has made me do just about anything to show them how important it is to be 'perfect' and accepted by them.

I am rambling.  The loss of my uncle comes on the wake of a very good moment in my life.  As boring as my journey may be to someone else, my hometown newspaper ran a HUGE article about me and about the Walk from Obesity that I planned for Spokane, Washington.  And we didn't do too badly.  The idea of the walk is to help AMSBS raise money for research on the efficacy and benefits of WLS and to advocate to legislature and insurance companies to make sure that this much needed option remains a part of the benefits.  It hit home to me that 30 years ago or more, when my uncle who just passed was diagnosed with diabetes (in an ethnic group whose rate is higher than any other - American Indian), this surgery being out there might have helped him to live a longer life, not lose a leg, and not lose some of the things that he enjoyed (hunting, fishing, gambling :) ).  Unfortunately, this surgery wasn't part of the normal process, he was on social security for as long as I could remember, and he had acromegaly in the years when treatment for this was rather sketchy.  He went home to his children, BJ and Jamie, his parents, and his sisters - as well as countless other family members 90% whom where obese, or at least overweight.  This doesn't strike me odd.  Being FAT kills.  Yet treatment of this disorder, including behavioral health (which in my opinion is just as important as the actual restriction/malabsorption medical procedures) is still being questioned.  The Centers of Excellence have not included behavioral health as a requirement to my knowledge, but there are many studies about regain and how mental health impacts this.  In order to have WLS, you have to have a psychological evaluation, but ongoing treatment is sketchy.  If we are going to treat this disease, let's treat it right.  Let's not show fantastical shows on the latest fad diets, etc (SHAME ON YOU ABC and 20/20) without showing a viable one, even if there are complications and problems connected to it. 

In a world that love is so important, why isn't there the understanding that behavioral health and even plastic surgery is part of the weight loss package.  And why, oh why do so many of us lack love for ourselves as well as have to watch loved ones die as a result of obesity related illnesses?  It's a question easily answered - the almighty dollar.  Sad that money is more important than Love.  I suspect that The Fab Four would be am I.

Sunday, March 4, 2012



This is the FIRST Walk From Obesity for Spokane. Please come out and show your support for advocacy for the treatment of obesity and obesity related illnesses!!

Friday, February 24, 2012



This is the first Walk From Obesity done in Spokane Washington.  Because of the success that I have achieved with the help of the surgeons and staff at Rockwood Clinic Bariatric Surgery Center, we have decided it is high time that we represent the type of health community that Spokane is and wishes to become.  I challenge my local friends and family to come out and walk the 1 mile or 3 mile course, in support of obesity and obesity related issues.  I challenge my other friends and family to consider donating, even if it is what you might consider a small amount, because no amount is too small when it comes to fighting for the rights of people who are marginalized and disenfranchised from this world strictly due to their size.  I hope you will join me and the many sponsors who will be present on April 28, 2012 in Spokane.  I am a one-woman show at this time, and I am organizing this quickly, but it is going to be a terrific event.  You won't want to miss it and the inspiration it brings.

Another special shout out to Wellesse Vitamins who have become my first sponsors of this event.  If you are a facebook or twitter person, go like their page.  Also, go to Rockwood Clinic's page and show them some love as well.  We are a community where it still matters that we love each other and work together.  I have no doubt that this will be another one of those events.  

Friday, February 3, 2012

My Nephew and My Dad - smarter than I will ever be

When I think about my weight and all that I have done to lose weight, maintain a particular weight, and 'be normal' I have to think that most of it until about 3 years ago wasn't very sane.  I mean, I was in Weight Watchers a lot, but I still had disordered thinking about food and about emotions.  I have been really reflecting in life lately and I realize that there were two people (one I know pretty well and one I didn't know as well as I wanted to) that were very wise people for two very different reasons.  The first is my dad.  He suffered a lot being raised by alcoholic parents and with significant poverty.  He learned the value of work.  He learned the value of just moving on, despite the pain and agony and hurt.  I don't think he learned to be in tune with his emotions, but he is 70+ years old, so I will give him a pass.  However, when I would stress about not being perfect or just right or thin enough, he would somehow say things that made sense despite not getting similar guidance when he was younger.  He would remind me that I was a good person, despite the vessel I was in, and that worrying, crying, being overly dramatic about it wouldn't really change my situation. He would talk to me about what I could do.  My mother also did this too, but for some reason I heard it better from my dad (probably daddy's little girl syndrome).  I always thought about the way that he was raised, and how he decided to do differently despite the odds.  He didn't drink.  He didn't say overly critical or mean things.  He didn't yell and he didn't berate a person for things they weren't able to do.  He was probably the first person who taught me that different wasn't deficient.  He would take me to work with him in the summer, and show me how to do things, and was pretty patient.  He would take me fishing, camping, hunting - same result.  The idea was to just live and try to enjoy.  I know that he wasn't very happy for many years of his life, and that he was not given support and encouragement as a child in that same way.  Perhaps he did, but from my experience with our family I think it would have come from his dad too.  I digress really - what I am trying to say is that he always told me that it was my behavior that was going to be my trouble - nothing else.  I have tried to live by that rule in all things but by eating, particularly in my adult years.  I have tried to work hard, and I have tried to keep my feelings in check, but I did that through food.  I just became the addict his parents were, but with food instead of alcohol.  Perhaps he did too, as he struggles with weight, but it wasn't until the last few years that he started to lose his life.

My second experience was with my nephew Seth.  He was my first husband's nephew, but they always allowed me into their life. In fact, I knew Seth's dad before I knew my first husband.  He passed away this summer, but he LIVED right up to the end.  He didn't stop living.  When people would come to him and be upset, he would say, I want to live and I am probably not going to because of this cancer, but you can LIVE for me and do the things I can't do.   Like my father, this resonated with me.  He didn't have it easy and he didn't have it great, but LIFE mattered more to him that feeling bad, being miserable, and not taking care of ourselves.  He died before he could live, but in ways, he lived more of a life than I have in nearly 40.  He tried new things, he wasn't embarrassed by his personal differences, he embraced the differences of others, and loved them for it.  He didn't spend his life in perpetual question of himself.  Like my father - he just LIVED.  I am sure there was internal strife, but he did things like write lyrics and draw to get that out.  He LIVED.   He told me just before he passed away to not cry but LIVE.  So, as I write this, I am CRYING and living.  

My other nephew was killed and I didn't know him.  I saw him two times in his life for reasons too hard to express here.  I feel like he wanted to LIVE but didn't know how.   My Uncle Bill passed a year ago yesterday, and I know he wanted to LIVE.  He was so full of life when I was kid and he was an integral part of my growing up - bringing his kids with us camping, and playing and enjoying.  My husband just lost his grandmother - who lived through the depression, cancer, the death of her daughter through 4 grueling years of cancer, and the loss of her loving husband.  Yet, she was very positive and loving and LIVED despite those things.  

I guess the meaning of life is to LIVE it.....

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I am looking for people who would be willing to send samples and information for improving health or participate/sponsor The Spokane Walk From Obesity. This walk is a national fundraising event that raises awareness and funds to improve the quality of life and health of those affected by obesity. The mission of the walk is to bring together all who are affected by obesity to draw national attention to the need for awareness, treatment and advocacy initiatives. This is the first one done in SPOKANE! I need your help! The walk is planned for April 15tH, 2012. If I could get an interview or a shout out I would really appreciate it.  My number is 5094311875  Spokane is my home town and I want to show what we can do!  If you are willing to help out in any way, please contact me and I will provide you with more information, proof of the donation for tax purposes, and with sponsorship will add you to our Tshirts and brochures.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Thursday, January 12, 2012

What next...

I am so weary - I have been thinking about what it would be like to be thin my whole life.  What happens if I get there?  What else will I have to obsess about?  What else will I be - my identity is wrapped up in being the fat chick or the person who is constantly on a diet.  Where will I go?  Where will I end?  I am a very confused person right now...

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Ok, so I lied

My previous post was supposed to be the next 5 things I lost in my obesity, but I only posted 3.  I guess I lied (or I can't count-which is highly likely having gone to Cheney High School).  How many of you have a list like this?  How many of you are willing to admit that you have lost your life as a result of your weight?  How many of you think that you are actually going to die sooner if you don't make healthier choices?  I know that, in the middle of my worst eating, I believed that it would happen to someone else. My dear friend Crystl said to me - 'You used to always say you are fat, but you are healthy.  That just isn't true.  You are sick all the time.'  Denial?  I think so!  I believe that there are times when I still am in denial about my weight and health.  I wonder when I will be able to completely conquer this monster?   I don't know, but I do know that I am no longer going to be in denial which will keep me ready to focus and fight off the obesity beast.

9.  Ride in a plane.  While 600+ lbs, you really can't ride in an airplane and keep any modicum of pride.  People will make fun of you.  People will complain that you are taking their space.  Let's face it - space is a precious commodity on an airplane and even normal weight people don't often have enough room.  I still have not been in a plane, but it's not because of my obesity.  It is because I can't afford an airplane ride ;)

10.  Clip my own toenails.  I had to ask my husband to do it.  I had to have him do pretty much anything that required that I bend or maneuver around my mass.  I could have went to the pedicurist, but...

11.   Fit in the pedicurist chair.  600+ lbs is a lot of weight.  You don't fit in many places.  Most pedicure chairs will fit you, but you have to sort of climb up into them.  That's not something I could do.  Thus, I had to have my husband do my toenails.  I now, lovingly, go and get my toes done as much as I need because I CAN DO IT!

12.  Walk into a room without everyone starting - I would like to think that if people are staring now they are doing so because I am glamorous and not frightening.  I remember when I tried to go to a gym one time.  Everyone around me was staring because I was so sweaty and my face was so red.  Someone even asked me if I was having a heart attack - no, I was just moving my 600+ lb. mass.

13.  Fit in the dentist's chair - I had to maneuver in and hope that one of the arms would move up.  It was always humiliating.  And then, the people in the office are embarrassed and upset because they can't accommodate me.  When people say that their obesity doesn't impact anyone but themselves, I argue differently.  My obesity impacted everyone around me - in one way or another.

14.  While we are talking professional chairs - I couldn't fit in many waiting room chairs.  I actually broke a chair/bench in my son's eye doctor's office.  I was mortified.  I sat down, and the chair fell apart.  I landed on the floor, and the entire office was shocked.  People snickered.  I was so embarrassed.  And then I had to have the conversation about whether I needed to pay for what I broke.  They told me no but I am sure that they weren't happy that I single-handedly broke their bench.

15.  Tie my own shoes - I could tie my shoes, but they would be to the side of the shoes.  And I always tied by shoes in double knots so that they wouldn't untie and I wouldn't be forced to re-tie them on the street or in public.  It would be impossible to just bend over and tie them back up.  (BTW, I can do tie my shoes and wear NORMAL people boots now - not the wide leg ones).

What types of things are holding you back?  You might not be struggling with obesity and food, but there are probably things that you are allowing hold you back.  Today is as good a day as any to get those things back in order in your life...

Friday, January 6, 2012

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The next 5...

6.  Go somewhere without being made fun of.  Within a week of surgery, I took my little one to McDonald's to the playland.  (I know, I know).  He was playing in the area and a pair of mom's were going at it, because one mom's child was mean to the other mom's child.  One mom was not anywhere near the play area, and when she was called out on that, she got upset.  She was getting aggressive, so I said, "You need to calm down and resolve this without being aggressive."  She said, "What do you know, if you could even get out of that chair to play with your kid, maybe you would have seen what was going on?"  I had WLS the week before, but I was so tempted to show her how fast a 500 lb woman could move and show her what could happen.  As it is, I can now play and enjoy the play area, and we don't go often, but we do go (after all, it's not about the food - it's about the behaviors and the other stuff.

7.   Enjoy a day out without sweating to death - I haven't been able to spend time doing things without sweating to death.  I mean, I couldn't do anything without sweating.  I would sweat, and sweat, and sweat.  It was very embarrassing.  I would walk 10 feet and would sweat.  That doesn't happen anymore.  I am very cold much of the time, primarily as a side effect of WLS, but it's nice not to sweat soo much :)

8.  I can't fit into an amusement park ride:  Over the summer, I was able to fit in an amusement park ride and it was a lot of fun. I couldn't believe how much fun it was to get to be in a ride with my child. In 2007, I went to Disneyland with the family and I couldn't barely walk around the park.  In fact, I rented one of those machines on one day.  So, in less than three years, I have returned to the land of the amusement park rather than being the amusement to others (yes, there really are those types of mean people out there).

Monday, January 2, 2012

What the hell do with all of this clutter?

When I started on my weight loss journey I did this journaling experience where I wrote down all the things that I lost and was gonna get back in my new, reduced weight and healthy life.  I think it is time to admit some of these things to someone other than myself.

This is me.  This is some of my clutter!  this is the first time I would share with the world what my weight has done to my body.   At one point, in my life, I was thin and wasn't wrinkly, skin-wrinkled, and full of yuck.  It was a long time ago.  I did this current version of me to myself.

This is the last time I had a all the things in my list that I wanted to recover.  Mind you, I thought I was fat.

Here's my progression, but here's not what I lost and had to regain.  The list was 1733 when I quit.  I am going to attempt to share some of them.  Many of them are shameful.  It's important I share those. Many of them are disgusting to others - share even if you have to be mean - I am stronger than I used to be.

1.   Be able to wipe my own ass and not leave streaks - this was obtained after losing about 100 lbs.
2.   Be able to fit into a car - nearly any car - and wear seat belts.  This was obtained in about 150 lbs.
3.   Be able to help out my children, family, husband, and friends because I couldn't walk - this happened in about 3 weeks from surgery.
4.   Be able to look myself in the mirror to put on makeup and do my hair - other than a pony tail.  This happened about 6 weeks post surgery.
5.   Be able to respect myself - this still hasn't happened totally but I am trying

I am going to reclaim each of those 1733 things in my life.  I am not going to allow myself to self-destruct and sit idly by allowing my behaviors (not the food) destroy me.  In second grade I was tortured for being 212 lbs.  In 6th grade the whole class told me they didn't want to be my friend.  I have struggled with trying to make people like me = even if that meant lying, giving, stealing, or manipulating to make it happen.

I am not blaming the mean people who hurt me in life.  I blame myself for not being a surviver or a thriver. I blame myself for not accepting help sooner.  I blame depression and anxiety that was ingrained and scared me to do things and prevented my motivation to do anything to take care of me.  I have looked back at successful moments in my life and I am incorporating them.  I am going to list 5 things every few days I have lost and hopefully have regained here for me - and maybe for you.  I hope to be helpful to someone other than myself.

Parting shot:  internalized hatred is at the core of this.  Discrimination and oppression, despite your difference, force you into disordered thinking (not always, there are those that are resilient).  I am not resilient.  I am scared and afraid and often alone with this these thoughts.  That's where you come in.

Now, where's that magic wand?  I guess it's me...

I have been trying to wrap my brain around this for at least a week, and it has taken me this long to try to get to the point where I can write something coherent about the situation.

It was the 23rd of December and we were going to my parents' house for the holiday.  I knew that there would be a lot of cookies and candies - this is part of what my family does for the holidays and I don't think that other people should suffer because I have a problem with food.

However, I didn't realize what a HUGE problem with food I had (well, maybe I did, but I tried to ignore it) until the full spread was there in the living room.  The previous year I had only been about 8 months away from surgery, so my RNY tool was working at it's full max and I wasn't hungry.  I was able to withstand the food onslaught - and we went to my older sister's house who has also had RNY and she is very much on the program.  Anyway, I saw the spread and it was an instant panic attack.

Within an hour of the second day of being there and being awake, I made myself sick on a popcorn ball.  I ate the whole thing.  The issue is - it didn't stop there.  I got sick, had to take a nap and sleep off the carb coma and nausea, and then I still went and ate carmel, and molasses cookies, and more and more.

On Christmas eve, after we unwrapped the presents and had the hoopla, my mother asked me what was wrong.  I totally and completely broke down and started crying.  I told her that the food was too much.  It was like dropping a heroin addict into a room full of the good stuff.  She said that the only way that she could show love or celebrate was with the food because they didn't have much money.  I know that they had to spend a ton on the food - it's expensive to make handmade goodies.  I don't want any gifts!  I don't want this!  And I sure as hell don't want more food when I know that I can't stay away.

I don't know if there will be a time when I will be strong enough to completely stay away from food.  I don't know if there will be a time where my family, who all has a problem with food, will realize that it's the behaviors and the situation that is the problem.  If you make a ton of food, the people in our family will eat a ton of food.

It's almost a predetermined self-sabotage waiting to happen.