There’s a lot to be said about words, in words, for words; but I think we can all agree on the fact that talk is cheap and actions speak louder than words…etc.
“Where did this ridiculous insight come from?” you wonder?
From overhearing various people talking, on the bus, at the Cafe, on the street, in the check-out line at the IGA or Woolworths, you know, just regular places people talk freely. Now, don’t get me wrong, everyone – and I really do mean everyone – is entitled to their opinion – provided they’re not trying to shove it down your throat: I’m looking at you would-be-converters! But nevermind that right now! Without our opinions we can’t really call ourselves human; and let’s be honest, most of us have opinions about pretty much everything; whether it’s the food we are served in a restaurant, the car our neighbours just bought, the state of politics in our country – I’m not even going to try and touch that one with a barge pole – and yes, we’ve all got an opinion about our weight and the weight of the person sitting next to us on the train or in the cubicle two seats down at work. We might be envious of Sally’s ability to roll out of bed and look like a movie star, or we might be a little judgmental of Marshall’s inability to regulate his eating even though he’s morbidly obese. Let’s face it, as humans we tend – largely – to be a judgmental and opinionated lot.
On the whole that’s okay, we’ll keep most of the negative opinions to ourselves or air them in the appropriate arenas – having a little giggle with your partner about how fat that woman was in the supermarket and would you just look at what she was buying! Well, we all do that. It’s not exactly the nicest thing to be doing, but let’s face it, the woman in the supermarket won’t have heard us and as a result she won’t be hurt by our commentary. Likely enough, she knows she’s got a weight problem and has enough on her plate dealing with it.
I know I’ve written a little bit about this before in Weigh your Words, but I think it’s an important issue so I’d like to touch on it again. The reason why this has come up again is because I just got abused by a woman in the street for ‘not understanding what it’s like to be fat’. Here’s what happened, so you have the full context: I was walking down the street back to the Cafe, minding my own business, when this woman, rather large but nothing particularly massive or anything – I mean, I’ve seen worse! – steps out of her car into the street in front of me and begins to make her way up the hill. She’s breathing fairly heavily, and she’s carrying what looks like a rather heavy bag full of who knows what. I felt for her; I mean, a few months ago that was me! But I needed to get back to the Cafe, so I murmured a polite ‘excuse me’ and slipped by her with a bright smile. I am not a confrontational person in the least, and I believe in respect for everyone without exception. As I slipped by her, I may have accidentally bumped in to her a little bit – no harm done, but the footpath is narrow enough as it is and she…well, you get the picture. I apologised, of course, and instead of the usual ‘that’s okay’ I was expecting I got this tirade about how slim people should really pay more attention to their surroundings and be more spacially aware. I won’t go into the details, but the gist of the argument went along the lines of: because a slim person is slim they have no understanding of the spacial requirements that a large person needs to get around. Or something. I stood there, more than a little dumbfounded, but before I could apologise again – as is my nature – she went off again with how I had no idea what it was like to be her size and the hardship she went through and, again, in essence, how ‘pretty people had no troubles in life’ and ‘doors just open for them’. Funny thing is, I don’t necessarily disagree with her – we do live in a world where slim ‘beautiful’ people seem to get ahead more easily than others. It’s kind of like a backhanded slap to the face: obviously she thought I was ‘pretty’, which is very flattering, but the weird thing is, I never really considered myself pretty, let alone ‘slim and pretty’. So backhanded self-esteem boost coupled with a full slap to the face of ‘you made someone feel bad’. Now, obviously – I picked up on this fairly fast – she was having an awful day and the last thing she needed was me to say something about the fact that I’d lost 20kg in the last 9 months so I knew exactly how she felt – when you’re feeling down you don’t really need to hear about the you who’s been successful at the weight loss game. So instead I waited until she’d stopped shouting and I apologised again, asked her I’d hurt her, and when she seemed slightly surprised at my calm rejoinder I told her I understood exactly what she meant and that I had had to fight to get to this shape and weight and I didn’t mean to make her feel bad. Then she apologised, realising that she’d been out of line…and, well, that was it.
What this raised in me was an interest in the psychology behind the perception of weight loss. I don’t see myself as slim. I should, clearly, since I have lost all that weight and I now have a waist that could be defined as ‘slim’. I’m happy with my body for the first time in decades; sure I have a few problem patches that I’m working on, but clearly I need to take a look at myself in the mirror and redefine how I see myself. This probably means thinking about how other people see me too, and that’s always tricky. End result? A stranger on the street isn’t going to know the uphill battles we’ve fought to get to our target weights, they’re just going to see the final result and hold their opinions and judgements about that. It’s silly, and yes, it can be petty and even hurtful, but it’s important to remember that you and I were both there at that point. Next time you see a ‘slim’ person walking down the street, don’t just assume they were born that way, because they might not have been and might be in the same boat you are.
Food for thought.