by Dr. Deah Schwartz
The brain is a mysterious, complex and marvelous thing.
No News there.
The ability to selectively remember some things and conveniently forget another is astounding!
No News there.
When one rules out any organic etiology/causes for forgetfulness, e.g. dementia, traumatic brain injury (TBI), etc., the puzzle of what people remember and what they don’t becomes even more intriguing.
No News there.
And yet, the mechanism in the human brain that causes it to act like the old toy Etch a Sketch™ continues to bewilder me! A shake of the head and a promise is forgotten, a boundary gets mushy, and an understanding unravels.
Case in point:
Many of us who embarked upon the personal journey of self/size acceptance and chose to embrace the Health At Every Size (HAES®) approach, at some point had to “come out” to our families, colleagues, and friends. There was a moment for many of us when we declared,
“I will not engage in negative fat talk, negative body talk, or the interminable conversations about how great so and so would be if only they would lose weight or gain weight or get their nose fixed.”
The assumption that appearance was the proof of someone’s health and or success was flawed and off the table for discussion. THAT WAS NEWS!
And yet, family gatherings, holiday celebrations, and reunions with friends inevitably begin with this predictable sequence:
Hug, kiss, you look… (Fill in the blank).
The conversation quickly morphs into some strange and mysterious version of the financial page of the local newspaper. It is a veritable “Dow Jones” check list of losses, gains, highs, lows, and initial public offerings of new diets, reinvestment in old diets, and insider secrets of which diet pill will be on the market next. The fervor of these exchanges rivals the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
But this is so old it can’t possibly be…News.
Etch a Sketch™ brains…everyone has forgotten that you are not investing in this “hedge fund.” The gab-about-flab-fest goes on with you watching from the sidelines…an outsider. But inside you may be feeling some remorse, some questioning of your decision, some longing to be back in the BMW (bitch moan and whine) club. These feelings are strong but the force within you is stronger, Luke. Eventually the need to re-establish the boundaries you have set and above all else, CHANGE the subject becomes so over-powering, something must be said. Something that can illustrate how tedious and unimportant the conversation is. Something that will bring the conversation back to WHAT people are doing and what is NEW in their lives NOT just their appearance. Over the years I have tried many tactics. I either avoided events completely (which meant missing out on some of the positive parts of celebrating) or engaged in direct confrontation. But I’m not a big fan of turning holiday gatherings into argumentative events and so I would like to share with you my #1-go-to-favorite-interjection that is guaranteed to derail the conversation.
“So I’ve got news!”
Friends/family turn to me expectantly…they have forgotten of course that I am not one of them…Time has passed; they shook their cerebral red screen with the two white knobs of their memory…They are certain I will add weight to their talk about weight.
I take off my glasses, peer into their eyes with excitement and blurt out as emphatically as possible,
“Did you hear The Beatles broke up?”
There is silence…then the light bulbs over their heads start flashing and we move on to other topics.
It works every time!!
Do you have strategies that work for you in these situations? We would love to hear about them!
Til next time,
(An earlier version of this post was published in 2011 on Dr. Deah’s Tasty Morsels.)