Fat shaming is like throwing stones in a glass house...at least from my vantage point. In my profession, Most of us, in fact around 70% of the United States, is either overweight or obese. Our collective waistlines are growing. Ironically, a few of us in the remaining 30%, and even some who are overweight but not a heavy as others, take it upon themselves to shame fat people. I work with a lot of people who are overweight or obese. From time to time I hear what other people might say about them, and it's not nice. Shaming anyone because of how they look is not a good motivator to get someone to change - specifically as a weight control tactic. In fact, I'd argue it could make the situation worse.
As much as I'm a proponent of people eating healthy and ultimately attaining a healthy weight (which is not necessarily a size 2), I'm stand just as strongly behind people feeling good about themselves. As Pollyanna as it may sound, I don't think a person can be truly healthy, regardless of their size, until they're happy. I'm not talking rainbows-around-every-corner-over-the-top-bliss happiness. I'm talking about the type of happiness a person can find from just feeling good about themselves. I get so frustrated listening to other people make snide comments about those whose are overweight or obese. I've got news for the fat shamers out there - you could be next on the chopping block. While I'm sure there will always be people of normal weight, I have no doubt that more and more of us will grow to be overweight, and even more, obese.
Fat shaming takes all sorts of forms, and some of it is delivered in a way that's not meant to be hurtful. No, it's meant to be helpful. But regardless of the message, attempting to make a person feel that they're less than because they are bigger is ridiculous. I see nothing wrong with a friend nudging another friend to get to the gym or eat healthier to get into better shape, especially if the friend getting the nudge has complained about not looking or feeling as good as she could. But when the encouraging is done without basis, it's not needed. I believe people need to want to make the change before a change can come about. Many people who want to lose weight come to that decision based on their own, whether it's because they're clothes are too tight, they had a wake up call at the doctor's office or they just want something different for their body. On the flip side, there are some people who are heavy, or fat, who are actually content and happy just the way they are. This may not be something an average-sized person can relate to, but that's really not anyone else's problem.
Can You Be Obese & Healthy?
I've listened to a few advocates of people who are obese make a case that they, too, can be healthy. In some cases, obese people might be healthy by the numbers (blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose levels), but by and large obesity is not a healthy thing. I think we all know that much in the same way we know smoking, illicit drug use, speeding and excessive alcohol intake are not healthy. That said, I do not think obesity should be considered a disease...at all. For the most part, I think it's lifestyle-related. I work with people to get healthier - skinny, short, fat, tall. They come to me if they want guidance. I don't seek them out, and I definitely don't offer unsolicited advice.
As a society, I think we're afraid of becoming fat, so we project that fear onto others who are already heavy. Not many people want to be heavy, but I couldn't imagine walking up to someone in the grocery store to tell them that the food in their cart is unhealthy, or will make them fat. That's just rude, but some people do it. If, as a country, we're so damn concerned about obesity - enough to shame children and adults - why don't we start shaming the food industry? After all, an overwhelming portion of that industry is built upon getting consumers to eat more and more overly-processed addictively-flavored foodstuff.
Reasons for Obesity are Not All the Same
When I started personal training, my first client was an obese woman about my age. I trained her for quite a while and I quickly grew to like her. Shortly after we started working together, she told me a little bit about herself. She admitted she had a problem controlling the amount of food she ate. She knew it was bad, but it was a behavior she had yet to get her arms around. She knew a lot about food - in fact, she was a registered dietitian. Since receiving her RDs, she'd taken up different profession, and was quite successful in her own right. She was driven, passionate and had an absolutely amazing sense of humor. She moved away and we lost touch, but I'll always remember three things: 1) she was witty as hell, 2) she had really strong abs despite her weight, and 3) she had a problem controlling the amount of food she ate.
The reason my client was heavy was because she was a binge eater. Had we worked together longer, perhaps we could have worked through the reason for which she ate so much, but I'm not a psychologist and that wasn't my job. My job was to help guide her toward healthier weight, as she desired and hopefully get her stronger. People gain weight for a variety of reasons. Many are heavy because they eat too much and get no activity, some were heavy as a child and never got a leg up on losing the weight, and others may be dealing with hormonal issues. Regardless, none of us is immune to weight gain. If you want to be healthy, focus on your own body. If someone asks for your help, be generous and give it.
I write about health and fitness, I talk about it on TV, I work with people who contact me with a desire to lose weight and I speak to groups about getting healthier. I don't give advice where advice isn't wanted. If you're reading this blog, it's your choice. If you tune into a program about weight loss, it's your choice. If you want to work with me, it's your choice.
I like to remind myself that I, too, am susceptible to weight gain. Even though I feel confident that I'll always be of an optimal weight by my accounts, I can't see the future. A lot of things could potentially affect my weight - from hormones to disease. I think I'll keep my mouth shut and only open it when it's needed.
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