The Weight of Judgment

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.

12 thoughts on “The Weight of Judgment

  1. Just as your ‘random 40 person sample’ shows, every life has a story. Every life is full of reasons why someone is who they are. You really can’t tell a whole lot by the outward package, and getting to know the inward package requires an investment. We have to be willing to give time to listen, time to encourage, and time to love one another.

    Thanks for this post… really insightful. It took time for me to begin to believe I was worthy again in my life. But as you said, I was never motivated by the ‘attacks’ of others, but by the helping, loving and gentle caring hands that reached out to me. I didn’t walk this journey alone. And for that I am grateful. Now in my life when I encounter a person, I lean in to listen a little harder to get a better sense of who they are, and where they are ‘at’ in life… before I ever think anything I might have to say could possibly be of any value.

    Much Love.

  2. I LOVE this post, so true. I hate diet shows who make fun of the people they’re trying to help. You can only be temporarily motivated by self hate before it starts to make you give up on weight loss goals altogether.
    Emma 🙂
    p.s. I particularly like the tag ‘judgemental douchebags’.

  3. As some one who has been constantly knocked for being overweight and trying to do something people think I should not I love your post. I work a search and rescue dog. He is awesome but are we judged onwhat we as a team can do about finding a lost person NO we are judged cause I am “FAT” and then must be a failure. On our last test one of the evaluators after we did a mile and a half trail up and down steep banks thru woods etc had the nerve to say I thought you were going to fall out and we would have to evacaute you. Not Good job sorry you did not pass etc but comments on why are you doing this ? I did not even bother to answer. This is my passion and I am wokring hard. I have been overweight since 8 I am 53 I have lost 30 pounds in the past year. I believe in no excuses. Thanks for allowig me to vent. And for your post and blog. Joanne and Logan IPWDA Certifed Trailing dog.

  4. I like this a lot. People are not motivated by hostility. They’re angered by it. People are motivated by appeals to their good sense, their self-interest, their health, their family, to what they love.

  5. I agree that people should not give negative reinforcement but rather POSITIVE & ENCOURAGING words to get others motivated & inspired. Although, if someone was talking about me being fat or gross looking, I WOULD want to start making changes. (Just for your statistics)… I wouldn’t do it simply because of one comment but just because I know that if people are talking about me then I must have let myself go. That’s me though, not everyone is the same. & I have been overweight before, not obese but for myself uncomfortably overweight.

  6. I have another take on this. When people (especially previously overweight people) come out and say “Fat people need to stop making excuses and get off their lazy asses”, to me, I picture that this is actually what it took for that particular person to lose the weight or maintain a healthy weight.
    Maybe it sounds weird if that is not your experience, but I genuinely believe that for some people, they literally did just wake up one day and say “Right, enough is enough, I’m going to stop being lazy and start doing something about this!”

    So its not so much to say that no one ever made a change by having someone else tell them “Your fat and lazy, and why don’t you just get up and move more.” But maybe someone did make a lifestyle change by telling THEMSELVES “I’ve had enough of eating junk and being lazy, from now on I’m going to take control and start exercising!”

    Just wanted to say, that could be another side to the story, but no, I do not condone anyone degrading an overweight person and saying something like that to them.

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