It is virtually impossible to have a public discussion about weight or weight loss without somebody making a statement like “No more excuses. Fat people are lazy and unmotivated, all they need to do is get off their fat lazy asses.”
Many of the people who say things like this were once heavy themselves and have been successful at weight loss.
Last week, I asked my Facebook followers who have lost weight or are working on losing weight to share what prompted them to make the change. Over 40 people replied and these were some of their answers:
- Wanting to set a better example for their children
- Being diagnosed with a lifestyle-related disease like diabetes
- Finding out their weight had crept higher than ever and enough was enough
- Not being able to participate in a physical activity with friends or family
- Having a loved one die of a heart attack
- Learning something disturbing about the diet they were eating
- Got tired of being medicated for issues that could potentially be solved by dietary changes
- Being asked to be a bridesmaid in a wedding
- Got tired of clothes not fitting and didn’t want to buy new clothes
- Made a pact with several friends to do it together
- Participated in a weight-loss challenge at work
- Being diagnosed with cancer and wanting to take better care of herself
- Finding an app on a smartphone that made calorie counting easy and fun
- Wanting to get healthy before a certain age (30, 40, 65…)
- Tired of eating emotions
- Was in a car accident that caused tremendous pain, but once healed, wanting to get moving
- Became disgusted by the chemical content of processed foods
- Wanting to be part of family activities
As you can see, people have many reasons they decide to make lifestyle changes. But not a single person said “Because somebody told me I was Fat, Lazy and Unmotivated.” or “Because somebody berated me into feeling really bad about myself.” or “Because society is so judgmental about weight.”
When people say things about overweight people, nasty, hurtful, unforgiving things, they do not help anyone. In fact, I can tell you from personal experience that every time somebody or something made me feel like my weight made me worthless, which happened more times than I would care to mention, it had the opposite effect. It made me want to eat more, retreat more, and give up.
So I find it extremely baffling that people who have once been overweight or obese and have lost weight, find it a good idea to make statements that are hurtful toward overweight people. I am attempting not to judge them, because my initial reaction is to assume that people who do this are just complete and utter assholes.
But maybe there’s something else going on here. When formerly overweight people make extremely judgmental blanket statements about those who haven’t made the change yet, I think it reflects the lack of forgiveness they have toward themselves.
When I see other overweight or obese people, I do not feel any hateful thoughts or judgments because I do not feel those things about my former self. I understand that people make mistakes and nobody is perfect. While it is certainly true that we must take personal responsibility for our actions in order to change, I know full well that it is not always possible to do that so easily. If it were so simple, I wouldn’t have spent so much of my life obese. If all people needed was to be told to “Get up off their fat asses” nobody would ever be overweight in the first place.
I think a lot of people have a very hard time forgiving themselves for past mistakes and this comes out in their attitude toward other people. I just want to tell these people: forgive yourself! So what if you used to be fat? It doesn’t mean you were or are an unworthy person. This just happens to be a mistake that is very visible on the outside. But it in no way makes anyone less than anyone else. Size is just size. There are wonderful obese people and there are horrible thin people. Size has nothing to do with worth.
To the people who have never been overweight, yet feel it is their place to judge those who are: Walk a mile in our shoes and then you can talk. Until you’ve been there and done that, do not presume you have any idea what it is all about. Even if you have once been in those shoes, please remember everyone is different. Your experience does not necessarily reflect anyone else’s. The best way to help a loved one change is to make him/her feel worthy exactly as she is. When she feels loved regardless of her size, she may just find the strength to change.
And to the overweight and obese people who are hurt by these statements, I want to personally apologize. Not because I am perpetuating any of this, but because it really bothers me that anyone would make anyone else feel bad about themselves. This does not reflect negatively upon you, it reflects negatively upon the people doing the judging. I know it hurts, but please do not let it stop you from doing what you want to do. No matter how painful it is when people say those things, there is one thing I am absolutely sure of:
They are wrong.
I’ve said this many times and I will say it many more times in the future: Nobody ever makes a positive change in her life because somebody else made her feel bad about herself. You do it our of self-respect, to honor your body and yourself. I hope more people will learn that and think twice before judging others so harshly.