Monday, September 03, 2012
There are times on SparkPeople when I feel like the oddball out, swimming against the stream. I don't follow many of the expected practices of healthy living, rather I watch TV constantly, I end up at many positive solutions from a negative approaches, I consume sweets multiple times per day, I exercise inconsistently, and more. I guess I like to rock the boat and this blog is no different. While I wish this journey was always positive, there are bumps, crevasses, potholes, gaps, and caverns ahoy.
One of these downsides to the journey was recently brought to my attention by my friends. I trust them to speak with me about my behavior candidly, even when it reveals unpleasant truths.
I talk about health all the time now. It was absent as an interest from my life prior so I may be trying to make up for lost time. Going from one end of the weight spectrum to another has been a very interesting social experiment. I notice how now people seem friendlier, clerks smile readily, people volunteer an exchange of pleasantries, stockers frequently offer assistance, assumptions are made that I have always been this weight in discussions. The increase of this attention has made a substantial appearance to my daily life. I am noticed which is a part of the new privilege I am provided in society at large, called thin privilege. It is startling at times, upsetting, and yet after living my adult life without experiencing it, I must confess I am enjoying it.
The other consequence of this privilege by society is the practice of fat shaming. In contrast to the attention paid to thin people, there is a level of absence and negative assumption paid to overweight and obese people. I have experienced this myself as they are ignored, teased, directly blamed for their weight, and more.
But that isn't quite the worst part. As my friends have pointed out, the people who are the worst about fat shaming tend to be people who have lost weight.
I'm sure many would deny it, but stepping back, I have seen this happen directly through my own judgements, thoughts, and opinions. I have looked at overweight people and wondered why they can't lose the weight because I was able to. I have watched them eat and thought 'this is why you're fat.' I have sought to encourage them at the yoga studio by smiling but I never stepped up and welcomed them. I would compare my thin body to others to give myself a boost on days I felt fat. I felt frustrated when people spoke about the desire to lost weight but never followed through. I didn't understand how they could not remain consistent with healthy exercise and eating. I was exasperated at how they didn't realize it was as simple as calories in versus calories out. I always asked why they couldn't finally step up and save themselves.
I've been perpetuating the problem in shaming people based on their weight, in thought if not in action.
I was beyond grateful when my friends pointed this out me. After all I've been through this is NOT how it's supposed to be.
I see now that I was assigning blame to the person based on my own experiences. If I did it, why can't they? But that's not the question to ask. Rather, I should have asked what influence in their lives is preventing them?
I was able to change my lifestyle and my body and I found health and happiness in doing so. Everybody loves a transformation story. But the manner in which I achieved it the vast majority of people cannot replicate. I lost one of two jobs and hermited away at home where I worked on a minimal income. I was boringly consistent in my exercise every day, doing the same stuff day in and out. I typically ate the same foods each day. I immersed myself in learning about weight loss through SparkPeople. I worked to efficiently use the SP Nutrition Tracker through the span of my loss, glued to my computer. All told, I spend a very boring ten months in a self-enforced boot camp at my home doing the same things day after day after day with little variance. Not quite so simple as calories in versus calories out I think. Any volunteers?
The majority who want to lose weight cannot do this. They have vastly different lifestyles, jobs, and family situations that cannot allow it. They cannot be blamed for their lives that prevent them from doing what I did.
Besides, there are endless outside forces working against them: the disparaging monetary and time cost of unprepared food versus the affordability of convenience food, diet program traps designed to fail, portion distortion running rampant through the restaurant industry, the lack of comprehensive nutrition education, food labeling designed to deceive, constant articles and tv programs pointing fingers at the person and not the problem, advertising saturated with unrealistic expectations of humanity, thin clothes enlarged in shape instead of specifically designed to accentuate to a plus-size body, and so on.
Some people want to change but they aren't necessarily able or ready, and that's okay. I am here to encourage through example, not to directly change anyone. I may wish to because I know all that I have gained through the process, more so than someone who has not undergone such a transformation, but I also must recognize that my journey was a specific set of circumstances that cannot be transferred.
Most importantly, perhaps they are happy and healthy just the way they are. People come in all shapes and sizes. I and no one else should never attempt to deny them their right to happiness through my projections.
Whatever journey they are on they will navigate their own way through. What I can do is to provide help as necessary. The first step to helping others is to first to recognize what thoughts we may be having, positive, negative, and even negligent. That is what I'm working to change, thanks to the enlightenment and encouragements of my friends.
It's actually a lot easier than you might think. Following the advice of another woman facing the same situation the solution is love. Love every women. Love every man. Love them for being who they are, as they are. It is miraculous what a little love can do; it has completely transformed my view.
From there it's a matter of turning the outside influences in the food industry, the government, and society at large to a path of helping and not hurting. That might require a bit more than love.