We live in an era that focuses a great deal on weight. We also live in a media era that has allowed us to watch obese people transform right before our eyes. With our focus on the physical, we often ignore the mental and emotional aspects of obesity and dramatic weight loss. This week, our weight and media era gave us a glimpse into the battle beyond the bulge.
David Smith appeared on The Today Show this week, and this wasn’t his first appearance on the show. Smith was a guest three years ago, showing off the transformation his once 650-pound body had gone ‘through after he lost 400 pounds. Smith’s weight loss was chronicled for a TLC documentary titled, “The 650-pound Virgin.”
This week’s appearance was just as surprising as Smith has regained more than 250 pounds in the past two years, putting him dangerously close to his starting weight.
Smith’s interview with Today reporter, Janet Shamlian, serves as cautionary insight for those who are trying to lose large amounts of weight or who have succeeded at a major weight loss. Smith explains how failing to deal with the underlying causes that led to his obesity caused his dramatic regain.
“I looked really good on the outside, but inside, I was a terrible mess,” Smith told Shamlian in the report that aired Wednesday.
While things appeared to be going well for Smith the first year after his weight loss – he became a personal trainer and met his first girlfriend – the mess inside his head began to win out.
Smith dealt with his depression and frustration first with alcohol and drugs. However, food was always his drug of choice and he returned to eating as his coping method. Smith even began sneaking food, eating in the car and trashing the evidence. Eventually Smith lost his job, strained his relationships, and at 535 pounds, dropped out of sight.
Inspired by the support of his still girlfriend, Smith has claimed to be climbing back up from rock bottom, and has returned to the gym. Smith feels that this time is different due to the fact that the change is occurring from the inside out.
“As much as you’ve worked on the outside, you still have to work on the inside,” he told Shamlian. “And if your foundation isn’t built up, you’re going to crumble down. And unfortunately I fell down. But I know I can climb back up.”
Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Brooke Randolph shared her expert analysis of Smith’s situation, emphasizing how weight gain is often a result of much more than poor diet. “I think he did a good job of describing how weight gain can mask emotional turmoil,” says Randolph. “For many, the weight exists as a result of negative thoughts or emotions. It is rarely as simple as overeating or not exercising enough.”
As Smith referred to the “mess” on the inside, Randolph explains how an internal reason typically exists for obesity. “The emotional issues involved may not be obvious to others or even the person who wants to lose weight. But it is generally necessary to discover what those are and work through them.”
Vast weight loss equals major life changes. Randolph feels it’s important to get help for those changes as well. “Because major weight change requires several habit changes and a lot of work, it is probably best to work through emotional issues with the help of a qualified counselor who can provide insight, support, and guidance as needed.”
It is inspiring to watch television shows and see people conquer their weight issues. However, to see them fall from their glory is difficult. Hopefully Smith’s story will inspire many once more, bringing light to an aspect of weight loss we often overlook. Clearly, the scale is not our only measurement of health.