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Will Aguila, M.D. Headshot

My Biggest Fear: Becoming Obese... Again

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I had committed to doing this and I wasn't going to back down. But why was I dreading it so much? I had committed to taping a one hour radio show wearing a 120-pound weight vest. I wanted to describe firsthand what I was experiencing as far as the limitations that come with added weight. I had worn the vest before to film a segment doing some exercises with my trainer Kaj Gruening, so why was I dreading this so much now?

As I was preparing to interview the legendary Richard Simmons for my radio show, I looked at some interviews he did with Dr. Oz and in one of the interviews he said something that just totally "clicked"; it brought tears to my eyes as it did to him. He said that he learned to keep the weight off because he did not want to experience that feeling of inferiority that he felt when he was overweight. That's it! That was exactly why I was so apprehensive about wearing the weight vest! I too felt vulnerable and exposed when I was obese, and I didn't want to be there again, even if only for an hour. Even though this was all in my subconscious, I dreaded putting the vest on again because it brought me back there! It made me fear that I could fail again.

Those of us who have overcome our battle with weight always tuck away in the back of our minds the fear that it can happen again. It keeps us in check, but it is ever-present. Learning to live with the fear of failure and to control it is essential to maintaining success. However, fear is not what you have to thrive on, otherwise it will eventually wear you down. Scare people into driving better by showing them pictures of gory car wrecks and that will only work briefly. Change their whole state of thinking and it will last for good.

The lesson that I learned from this vest is that no one needs to feel inferior because of his or her weight. The lack of self-esteem that people experience when overweight is key to understanding how to treat them. This needs to be understood by weight loss providers, trainers and physicians that help these people to lose weight. Feelings of failure and guilt are closely tied to this lack of self-esteem and unless we change that negative into a positive, those feelings will sabotage and haunt us even after we've lost the weight.

Now, I don't mean that we need to settle for minimal effort for fear of harming someone's self esteem. On the contrary, encouraging and even expecting appropriate effort is necessary. But by "pushing" someone instead of encouraging them we set them up for failure. As we belittle them, we erode their self- confidence. The one characteristic that all permanent weight loss graduates have in common is that they regained their self-confidence and self-esteem. This should be protected at all costs.

Putting on that vest made me feel vulnerable, exposed, inferior, slow, a failure... none of the things I really am or was, even while I was obese, but it made me feel like that anyway. I know what carrying that weight can do to others, and now I know how important it is to recognize it in those that I am helping through this journey.

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