I live in a beautiful beach community, and I try to take advantage of the beach as often as I can. Yesterday, having just recovered from the flu, I decided to go down and just breathe in the fresh air, taking as long of a walk as I felt I could enjoy. As I walked along, just breathing and smiling at people, I noticed a group of women jogging towards me on the strand path. Now, these women were very noticeable because, in this community, you
rarely see obese people. I think this is a combination of simply "the LA mentality" in which women in particular are shamed into thinking that they have to be thin in order to be beautiful, but I choose to embrace the positive part of that mentality, which is that we live where it is sunny and 70 most of the year, and outside exercise is possible almost every day. Additional impetus being, at any given time you could be asked to attend a pool or jacuzzi party and if you are not wearing a bikini, you may as well be sporting a burka for all the strange looks you will receive. Your choices are to remain antisocial, or live somewhere else. So, this group of significantly overweight women struggled towards me, some at a slow jog, some at a brisker walk, but all with the same expression: misery. The woman who was clearly their "leader" was 100 pounds soaking wet, and as they passed me, I heard her spouting a bunch of nutritional facts, using words like "bad" and "crap" to describe choices someone might make. With her every peppy word, it seemed that the energy of the group spiraled down further. As I continued down the path, I saw more of these women, who were the "stragglers", and finally, one, sitting on the side of the path, almost in tears, clearly not "having fun." I almost stopped to ask her if she was ok, but I did not want to add to her palpable humiliation. I was overcome with sadness at the shame we inflict on others for simply using food as a coping tool in order to deal with the difficult issue of self hatred. Their addiction is no worse than the drug user, the alcoholic, the sex addict, or the shopping addict, to name a few.
I have been reading Collette Baron-Reid's book, "Weight Loss for those who Feel too Much," and this has opened my eyes, not only to some of my issues, but to many others on the same path. How are we helping food addicts by making them feel even worse about themselves? The Biggest Loser is so painful for me to watch that I have yet to watch one entire episode. Is our value really all in the number on the scale? And, if we gain 5 pounds, we are "bad" and "in trouble." This is only compounding the problem. I am reasonably sure that if, instead of boot camps and fat free foods, we gave each other positive compliments, aka positive reinforcement, the tides would turn much more quickly. We can encourage others to be healthy and love themselves, and this, in turn, will help them to make different choices to care for their bodies. I know many trainers who think
posting photoshopped images of "perfect" bodies is inspirational, but this is the opposite for most people. This really makes me angry! The message is: if you can't be perfect, you may as well stay home and eat chips. I saw an ad for "Plus size yoga" the other day....YES! Great idea! As a society, we have placed the emphasis on the wrong things for too long. Unhappiness makes you want to soothe yourself, and for many, food is that balm. As a recovered anorexic, I can tell you that NOT eating comes from the same place. It is all about self punishment and misery in that space. Until we teach people to really love themselves, they way they are, we can not really help them to care for their bodies in a healthy way.
I am deeply saddened by the trainers and coaches who think they are helping people by reinforcing the guilt and shame pattern. The fact is, this is so prevalent in today's society because fat is the last accepted prejudice. It can be used as a cop out for many things, and it makes thinner people feel superior. "At least I am not THAT fat!" is something I have heard from others. I encourage you to have compassion for those who are struggling, and offer loving support, instead of using it to make yourself feel better. Perhaps you can learn something about yourself in the journey. Fat is simply wearing your emotions on the outside. Cancer is wearing them on the inside. How about if we actually DEAL with our emotions? That's a novel concept.
Blessings to your and yours today!