What do Skinny People do?

As a writer, I always work with my students on three important skills: Observation, Reflection, and Authenticity. We’ll talk about Authenticity some other time, but Observation and Reflection are the bread and butter of the writer. Some tend toward one more than the other, but all good writing needs both.

Observation is the looking and reporting stuff — the Joan Didion stuff— what do you see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. Reflection is the thinking and feeling stuff — what do you think about the stuff you’ve just observed? How do you feel about the stuff you’ve just observed? This is where the critical thinking, analysis, feeling, and opinion comes in.

I’ve been reading a lot of memoir-type books recently that talk a lot about the internal narratives of our lives — the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and what we’re capable of. When it comes to weight loss, the stories we tell about ourselves are of primary importance. If we have inner stories that we’re “fat people” and “can’t” then that’s absolutely going to inform whether or not we can accomplish something. However, if we begin to rewrite our inner stories in a more positive way, and if we begin living the lives we want to live, right now, in this moment, there’s a good chance we’ll begin to be the person(s) we want to be.

This begins with observing people who are like how you want to be, and so my experiment has been to watch and observe skinny people. What do they do? How do they exist in the world? I’ve come up with a string of small obserations so far.

First, in a recent trip to the farmer’s market, I noted that all the skinny people were dressed in yoga and workout clothes. They were either on their way to a workout, had just come from a workout, etc. Skinny people had tennis shoes on and some skinny people were jogging along the sidewalk or holding their bottles of water or their green juices or their smoothies. Check.

Second, skinny people aren’t usually at the restaurants I go to. I don’t see many skinny people stopping in for a pie at my local pizza restaurant, or standing in line at Five Guys or In N Out. They’re not picking up burgers or french fries . . . it’s not that ONLY fat people are there, it’s just that I don’t see skinny people there, really, at all — and if I do, I watch them eat.

Third, skinny people don’t eat all of their food when they’re dining out. Skinny people regularly leave half or more of their dined-out food on the plate.

Fourth, there are A LOT of skinny people at the gym. They’ve covered the treadmills and stair climbers with a towel and they are sweating it out while listening to their ipods. Heavier people are at the gym too, but it’s all controlled — there’s a jaunt here and a small percentage of time spent there, and then they’re out of the gym. I don’t see them dripping in sweat . . .

Fifth, skinny people look good. What I mean by this is: skinny people take time on their appearance. They have NICE workout clothes, and when they’re running to the mailbox or running into the walgreens, they look nice. When they’re picking up a starbucks they’ve got make-up on or a nice outfit and they’re smiling a lot. They’re all business getting their drinks and moving on.

The reflections I can make about this are simple — to be a skinny person, a fat person must give up ALL of his or her old habits and ways of being. It’s an entirely new set of actions and activities.

Change is scary, so it’s no wonder that a lot of fat people are struggling — when you’re trying to become a skinny person, it almost feels like you’re giving up the entirety of who you are right now in this moment, and you’re becoming something/someone really really different.

I’ve never been one of those people who understood “everything in moderation.” That’s not how I’m built. I’d rather give it up completely. So, I guess that’s the lesson.

Stage 1: Be a skinny person. Ask yourself, “would a skinny person eat this? Do this?”

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