Thursday, February 22, 2007

Lent: Day 2

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Debbie was out last night, so whilst channel flicking I stumbled across something on BBC1 called the 34 stone teenager . It documented the story of Bethany, who is now 19 years old and weighs 34 stone (476 pounds/216kg). She was so dangerously obese that she took the decision to seek surgery to help her to lose weight. Until she was an adult, this was not possible in the UK.

It was almost terrible to hear the story of her eating, which often increased when she felt bad about herself or her appearance. She was trapped in a vicious circle of gaining weight, feeling depressed about weight and then comfort eating.

The surgery reduced her stomach quite drastically, and it was an operation with significant risks (1 in100 fatalities). In her case, all went well, and in the following weeks of recovery, Bethany lost about 4 stone. She was obviously impatient to lose more, but even that began to make quite a difference to her appearance.

One conversation she had was with another man who had had similar surgery. They touched on whether losing the weight was really the solution, and it was interesting to observe that Bethany was worried about how she would be when she was thinner, whereas the guy (who had already lost his weight) was feeling great and in a serious relationship.

It all seemed quite topical for Lent. What sort of changes do we want to make to our lives, and what's the best way to effect them. Clearly Bethany would rather not have been in the situation which required this drastic intervention. The question remained open as to whether the issues that have made her so unhealthy would disappear when she was in better physical shape. On the other hand, some external changes can really start to turn people's confidence around, otherwise 'Trinny and Suzanna' and 'You Are What You Eat' TV shows wouldn't work.

I guess Lent can be a time to make an intervention of change in our lives which may be contrived - giving up alcohol, chocolate, etc. We know it's temporary and short-lived, but it might open up some further questions about priorities and lifestyle which otherwise we would bury and ignore.

But maybe we should really be working on getting to a place in our lives where interventions aren't necessary; getting to a healthier place in our relationships and self-understanding that means that unhealthy or dysfunctional behaviour is no longer desirable.

Easier said than done, and I suspect we all sometimes need the metaphorical equivalent of Bethany's surgeon's knife. I hope she gets to where she wants to be, and most of all that she resolves the underlying issues.

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