Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Skinny on Fat People

I was at a bar one night with a girlfriend of mine and her boyfriend. I'm not sure how the conversation came up, but I distinctly remember her boyfriend saying "I want to get really fat, and then return to my size now, just so I can show all the fat people how easy it is." At the time, I didn't think too much of the statement since I was in one of my "lower weight/in shape" phases. I think back now only because I wonder is this what all thin people are thinking? That weight loss is easy and fat people are just lazy/stubborn/lacking self-control?

In my very small slice of this world, the answer is ABSOLUTELY. For the sake of argument, lets put people into two groups based on their bodies; healthy weight and unhealthy weight. There is a great deal of misunderstandings and stereotyping that goes with each group. Much like the Israeli's and the Palestinians, the black and the white, the Chinese and the Japanese, each group holds some prejudices towards the other.

The way I have always tried to overcome my prejudices has been to put myself in the other person's shoes. It is too easy to play the victim, and focus on the bad stereotypes that plague the current group I happen to identify with. Finding myself in the unhealthy weight group as of now, do I get offended when I think that a healthy weight person views me as lazy, stubborn, and lacking self-control? Yes, of course I do. But focusing on my offense is not going to change anything.

Now for the hard part: putting myself into a healthy weight persons' shoes. What would cause a healthy weight person to think and believe that unhealthy weight people are lazy, stubborn, and lacking self-control? Why? Because a healthy weight person is always in motion, making workouts a priority, walking everywhere instead of driving, perhaps they don't have a desk job, and they make sure to balance their food intake with their activity level. Why? Because a healthy weight person doesn't make excuses for anything, doesn't refuse to do anything that is bettering their health, and holds themselves entirely responsible for their actions. Why? Because a healthy weight person makes conscious decisions about what to put in their mouth, and if a healthy weight person feels the balance shifting, they simply eat less.

Realizing that healthy weight people have to really work to be where they are was beyond educational for me. Of course I'm going to think someone is lazy if I'm working my ass off all the time. Of course I'm going to think someone has no self-control if they are telling me they don't want to be fat while eating McDonalds. Or course I'm going to think someone is stubborn if they refuse to do the things they need to do to be where they claim they want to be! Hmmm. So that's where those stereotypes come from.

I know this post is filled with broad generalizations that don't apply to every person. Isn't that the whole problem with stereotypes? But this is about my experiences with the people I have been exposed to throughout my life, my journey, and what works for me. By identifying where the stereotypes come from, my eyes opened to a lot of tough realities. I am guilty of not moving enough. I am guilty of being stubborn about what I need to do. I am guilty of not controlling my actions.

I feel so much better knowing that people of healthy weight (that I have come to know) really work hard to be where they are at. They do not take it for granted, and most of all, I have found these people to be the MOST supportive of me as soon as I begin to take the necessary steps (eating right, exercising). The steps they take everyday.

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