I am sure you have seen this picture doing the rounds on a lot of facebook pages and websites all over the web recently, its taken from an article in the Daily Mail about a woman in the UK currently morbidly obese and blaming this fact on her benefits being too low, not enough income therefore she can only afford to live on junk food.
I’m vastly vastly disappointed by the things I’ve read, not only by commenters on the posts but by healthy living bloggers themselves. It leads me to struggle to see compassion exists and I’ve unfollowed a fair few because I cannot be part of something, or give my approval via “like” which is so poorly thought out and misunderstood but purports to be a “healthy” place for people. Snarky place, Shaming place, Superior place are rarely words used in descriptions of facebook groups. Healthy is more than the gym and the apple, its an attitude towards other human beings – in the public eye or not – and an attitude to the genuine struggle that some people face.
When I look at that woman, see her talk about how healthy is unattainable for her, I see myself a few years ago. Not full of excuses as the people of those pages have judged her as but full of fear and envy. Full of the belief that there are quick fixes to a weigh problem that goes far far deeper than understanding budgeting. I’m going to attack this 2 fold.
This was initially in a gossip mag but then it went viral after being picked up by the Daily Mail. The daily
fail mail for those who don’t know is one of the most read online newspapers, it’s also considerably right wing, backed by shady corps and generally likes to put stories in it to a) prompt a reaction from ignorant people – “Muslamics are stealing our thoughts” style, it will dig into peoples life and selectively pick as many details as they can to make the person seem stupid or give you reasons on a platter to judge them without a second thought. In short they like to cause outrage and discontent. They are supporters of UKIP and the Tory Party. They hate Europe almost as much as they hate women.
What I particularly *love* about this paper is how they love to shout about what deadbeats single parents are, how they are failing their children. How the women who raise their children alone are failing them. Let that sink in for a minute. They attack the women who stay and raise their kids rather than the men who leave them. Single dads however are some kind of messiahs to be worshiped and the mothers who left devil women with only sex and drugs on the brain. There are inequalities between women and men you could say.
They love to bash the overweight too, its easy fodder for creating discord and prompting people who love to gloat and express the kind of views which make me despair for humanity.
Benefit claimants are probably their favourite fish in barrels to shoot. They get too much, they don’t spend it “properly”, its not restrictive enough, they should be shot in the street. You get the picture. Again they miss out actual facts, figures and real things to let people make their own minds up.
So women – Check, single parent – check, benefit claimant – check, and overweight – check.
So is the Daily Mail is good source for real debate and conversation. Er. Nope.
There are reasons that peoples weight creeps up or shoots up, there are reasons why it becomes out of control, it isn’t just budgetary complaints and most reasonable people realise that. They realise that whatever the excuse the person is coming up with at the time is largely because they’ve been put on the spot to make one. I had loads. I’m busy, I just had a baby, I’m ill, I’ve got bad joints, I’m not bothered, etc etc etc. There are a number of reasons used but all of them added up to one thing. I was really really scared of failing and I didn’t really think I should treat my body well. I didn’t know what I deserved.
Thats what worries me about all the “lazy” comments and the judgemental comments about her intelligence. Hearing, even well meaning, criticism of my lifestyle, weight or anything in that ballpark just sent me further in to that mindset that I didn’t deserve anything. This woman is now well known across the western world and people are judging her.
What disappoints me is that I’ve seen fitness trainers calling out her “excuses” without any further thought to the barriers that might be there, barriers they must come across in their work, and possibly barriers that mean that they don’t keep clients for long. When will people learn that belittling and demanding change are the LEAST successful change mechanisms?! Its hardly complex thinking.
I know that when things click for you and weight starts coming off you can see your own excuses but it seems that a lot of people who’ve lost weight forget what a challenge it was to live at a high weight, what a challenge trying to walk in to a gym is when gym clothes are difficult to get in your size and your the biggest person in the room, forget what it is to run that first 60 seconds and feel like your lungs are going to explode, and they forget what it is to fight through everyday facing the problems that got you there without resorting to food. Its a challenge every day in that phase and if you’re battling cripplingly low self esteem and a massive fear of failing too. You’re almost set up to fail from the word go and if you’re already scared of that then double whammy.
Compassion will always win out in these situations. Understanding, patience, a boost in self esteem. All things I struggled to get but when I started to I started to fly.
I can’t imagine if my life had stayed the same whether I could have made it even as far as I have. I very much doubt that I could of, there were too many things weighing me down to allow me to move forward. I had to let go of a lot of grief, I still am letting go with the help of a lovely woman, but it had to go to allow me to live and be me again. I lost my whole self underneath all that weight. The weight represented fear, loathing (but not las vegas!).
So what I ask of the healthy living community, if you’ve lost a lot of weight, remember what it was to be that size and what a battle is was not to be, if you haven’t please learn to listen to those of us who have with some empathy and compassion. Everyone in life has challenges but not everyone wears them for the world to see and judge.