Most of my Facebook posts lately have been about exercise. I’ve chronicled my run training – I did my first treadmill 5K and have started on a 10K training program while I wait for the weather to be more conducive to running outside so I can work on my 5K time. And I just started taking these rowing/interval classes at this place, so I’ve talked a bit about the post-class pain that comes with jumping on and off a rower 10 million times to do various other forms of punishment like dips and supermans. As if I needed more motivation, I accepted a friend’s invitation to join a game at DietBet. It’s a website where everyone in the game antes up a pre-set amount and the pot is split between those who lose 4% of their body weight. And of course all of this is a part of my social media conversations, so I’ve certainly opened the door to a variety of conversations about exercise, diet, and weight loss.
Yet there is something that happens in some of these conversations, nearly every time, that has started to eat at me. (Pun intended.) It happens even after telling someone that I’ve lost 40 lbs in the last year, on my own, by doing a ton of research, changing my diet, and carefully planning an exercise regimen. Despite giving ample proof of my capability to make changes and my obvious willingness to do the work to make it happen, there are some people who still assume I need to be better informed. Even after a 40 lb weight loss, I’m far from skinny and it seems that nothing I say outshines the fact that I’m still sporting some saddlebags and a tummy pooch. I’m aware of the whole “calories in vs. calories out” theory. (It’s a pretty popular one, after all.) I’ve also heard “everything in moderation” about a million times. And oh really? Cross-training will keep things interesting? *eye roll* Thanks for the advice.
Also, a girl can only take so many pats on the head with comments like “keep up the good work” and “I’m proud of you for working so hard at this.” I’ve been working hard at losing weight… since I was about THIRTEEN YEARS OLD. And still there is this tone in every back-and-forth that seems to imply that I just wasn’t trying hard enough, or just didn’t want to work hard, or just wasn’t informed. I think most people who know me would say I’m a very intelligent woman and yet when it comes to weight-loss and nutrition, I am treated like I am an idiot based on the fact that my hard work has not yet gotten me into model shape.
Find someone you know who has lost a significant amount of weight and ask them if they’ve noticed that strangers are nicer to them now than they were before the weight loss. I guarantee most of your formerly-fat friends will tell you that it at least feels as if more people look them in the eye, smile, or treat them with more respect. Even if it is sub-conscious, there seems to be one last socially acceptable prejudice in our society – the assumption that all fat people are lazy, stupid, uninformed, and unhealthy. Just like any stereotype, there are a good amount of people who do reflect those generalizations, but there are even more who don’t. If I’m not rolling through the McDonald’s drive-thru every day, I don’t need to be told what to eat. If I’m talking about running upwards of 12 miles per week, I don’t need to be told that exercise is an important part of weight-loss. And if you see my FB posts about lifting weights, I obviously know that strength training builds muscle and that muscle burns calories. DUH. But honestly, even if I was downing Big Macs and couch-potatoing my way through life, the lectures would still be inappropriate.
One of my work colleagues is a runner and has been my trusted confidante on all things weight-loss related. We’re even competing with each other in that DietBet thing. I talk to her about working out and nutrition almost daily because she treats me like a normal person: congratulating me on reaching personal bests, challenging me when I seem to be wimping out about the next hard workout, and commiserating with me about all the work that goes into this process. I don’t want to be coddled, that’s for sure, but she gives me a good dose of reality and respect without the condescension. I’ve never had the fantasy that I’ll someday look like a supermodel. All I’ve ever wanted to be was “normal” and that’s exactly how I want to be treated, as well.
Have you lost weight and seen a change in how people interact with you? Have you felt as if your decisions are being questioned based solely on your appearance? What do you think about society’s treatment of overweight people? Please share your stories and opinions!