Last night while preparing to fall asleep I was browsing random blogs categorized under obesity. It is an interest, and I am curious about what others are thinking and writing about. No secret that I prefer the more personal stories of life’s journey – the ups and down, the successes and setbacks. What I found are many people sharing their shame about the extra weight, the eating plans that others are trying, stories of gastric bypass and lap band surgeries. On the other end of the spectrum, there were a few who openly express their contempt for those who are heavy and impatience with the obese population members’ excuses or explanation for their extra weight. And somewhere a little to the side of both were those who were quite strident in their insistence upon fat acceptance.
The differing perspective is always enlightening even if it does make me vaguely uncomfortable for a lot of different reasons.
For those sharing their shame, I feel sympathy. I do not believe anyone wants to be or to stay morbidly obese or even overweight for an extended part of their life. The extra weight we carry can erect so many barriers and add challenges to our lives that seem insurmountable. Yet at the same time, I know how difficult it is to change the habits that led to weight gain to being overweight and into obesity.
As for those sharing their contempt of fat people, I mostly wince. In my mind their bias is about the same as those who have strong feelings about government assistance programs for individuals and families; the bias is understandable to a degree. With regard to fat bias, either they are quite naturally blessed with good genetics that makes maintaining their weight a non-issue or they have learned the discipline of healthy diet and exercise habits. Like many former smokers who are now extremely vocal in their anti-smoking stance, I know many who have lost and maintained significant weight loss. Sometimes compassion gets ground out with the passionate insistence upon the rightness of the message.
The fat acceptance movement, I think I almost wince more. Maybe because I’m horridly conventional? I understand that there are lot of pieces and parts to why people are the way they are – it is truly why I think of my efforts in this regard as an overall “better health” quest versus weight loss or diet or anything else. Focusing on being fat or overweight or obese tends to place the focus on physical appearance and cosmetic aspects of the weight range when, in my personal view, it should be about weight as a component of general health.
Most people will tell you they possess an obesity bias because of general health concerns, but I think if we are really honest our culture says that thin is more physically beautiful and appealing.
Professionally, I am a manager who hires and fires people; it comes with my particular job description within the firm that employs me. I am first stop on an incoming candidate’s interview experience, and yes, through the years I have spoken to many, many people who ranged from a few extra pounds on their frame to morbidly obese. As a human being, it is something I notice and am aware of my own bias in this regard. No, I do not act upon it, but I am aware of it. When I was transitioning from my former firm to expanding my side gigs into a full-time self-supporting business I was thinking about it every time I met with someone new. Did I look all right? Was my clothing choice professional enough despite my size (to be fair – at that time I was somewhere in the size 16 range, now in 12/14 depending on the article of clothing)? Do I look frumpy? Or worse – do I look too old? This is not a new consideration. Being middle aged (55) and not a small woman under best circumstances, I am well aware that it could be the smallest detail that decides whether or not I am successful with a prospective client.
So I am not completely oblivious to or in denial about the cosmetic and positive physical appearance outcomes of dropping weight. But if I focus on that as a goal, guaranteed I will be depressed and consoling myself with Very Bad Food – think cookies and milk or soda and chips, junk food several times per week. Essentially crap food that will only contribute to my return to medication to control diabetes, and frankly, I like my freedom from prescription pills and insulin and needles too much to want to return to that path.
Better health is my blanket description for my objectives. I forced myself to hire trainer J and go to our sessions, and then I forced myself to get myself into the gym when I really would have preferred to stay home and sleep a lot longer. Transforming my thinking seems to come before trying for anything further, and I feel very successful in turning my mindset from exercise hater to exercise enthusiast, so much so that I actually follow a couple of expert coaches and faithfully read what they post and try to stay current with their Facebook live posts and videos. Not that I understand all of it, but let me just say it’s uber cool when I recognize an exercise on one of MY Lists that is being demonstrated by some major buff person. Exercise geekery at it finest.
Food? I am trial and error in my eating habits. Sometimes I eat very well, very healthy, and sometimes I don’t. Life happens, and I am better than perfect in my imperfections. Thing is, I can fall off the healthy eating habits wagon and climb right back on again. Every day is a new opportunity to correct prior missteps. I am not quite as committed to it as I am to my fitness routine, but I am drifting back to my same meals day after day after day routines. The process is working for me right now. I can press the gas at any time to try and move things a little faster.
At the end of my latest exploration into blogs dealing with obesity and related issues, I find my humanity remains intact. I have genuine sympathy for those dealing with weight-related issues that keeps them trapped in painful cycle of overeating and hating themselves or hating themselves and overeating. While I can understand those who are tired of the complaints and wishing the obese of the world would simply eat a lot more rabbit food and quit whining (or worse), they make me uncomfortable. Because like poverty, violence, abuse, the obesity epidemic is a complicated problem that will not be resolved by preaching “eat less, move more.” The fat acceptance – I have to accept that I agree to disagree and hope those promoting that viewpoint recognize that legitimizing being overweight is not the same as working to alleviate it. In my view, we may as well just give up and accept it as a non-issue that should not ever be addressed as a life-threatening condition or illness.
I have no idea what it’s like to be slender or thin; it is not really my body type. Even within my proper weight range, I am going to be a curvy person with a sturdy bone structure. But while not thin or slender and carrying more weight on my frame than I should, I am the healthiest version of me I have been in years. Yet on a BMI scale, I qualify as obese.
Hence one of my many reasons for not paying much attention to the scale. How I feel, what my quarterly bloodwork shows – those are my indicators for my better health quest. Those are what tell me I am succeeding where I have faltered and failed so many other times.
But while I think and feel I must be Jane Average when it comes to health, fitness, weight loss, better health topics, I feel a bit like an outlier with my narrow sampling techniques. In this case, though, it is best for me to be this type of outlier. Otherwise I would feel like a the complete and utter failure that I most certainly am not.
While I routinely sample other perspectives to broaden my own understanding, I as often as not find validation for my own journey and the approach I have chosen. It’s not flashy. It’s far from glamorous. And it sure as Hell is not fast or easy. But it is what works for me; your mileage may vary.