August 11, 2011

Maintenance, part three

There was another common concern mentioned in the comments of the first maintenance post: a fear of becoming judgemental of overweight/obese people once we reach our goal weights. I know I've personally worried about this, and it's something I think more people are afraid of than they wish to admit.

Before delving into small-judging-big biases, I think it's worth mentioning that there are also instances of big-judging-small - I know I was guilty of this myself as a bigger person. I've thought "skinny bitch" as many times as I've heard "fat bitch;" anyone smaller than me that I saw eating something I deemed unhealthy was "probably anorexic" - shadowsinteresting, considering I was dealing with disordered eating habits of my own.

At my biggest, I swore that I'd always be compassionate towards people, no matter what size. I knew what it felt like to be stared at, to be whispered about, to have people choose to stand on the crowded bus rather than take the open seat next to me. I've never understood mean or unkind people - I'm very much a believer in letting negativity end with me. I'm not going to be treated poorly and then treat someone poorly right back, nor will I pay it forward to a third party. It ends with me, because I know it hurts, and I wouldn't want other people to feel that way, certainly not because of something I said or did.

That said, I'd be lying if I said I haven't already made mental judgements based on size. I wouldn't say that I haven't been compassionate - my thoughts may have been judgemental, but I don't project them. I don't sneer, I don't snicker, I don't make rude statements. But in my mind, I've harbored comments and thoughts, and I feel guilty for that.

The one thing I can say for sure is that the judgemental thoughts are different from what I assumed they'd be. I'm not thinking specifics about a person's appearance and whether or not I find it visually pleasing, and I don't make personality or character judgements based on size. I know weight doesn't make a person good or bad. But rather, I see my old self in them and make comparisons - my arms used to be even bigger than that ... my stomach used to stick out further than hers ... I used to be like that, too ... shadowsit doesn't have to be this way for her.

I think sometimes my judgements are based on jealousy. Doesn't she know how many calories are in that?! is more of an envious statement than anything, because I *can* reasonably estimate the calories and can't ignore them. If I wanted a dozen Reese's cups before, I ate them, and I thought nothing of it. Now, I don't visualize that binge as a pile of chocolate and peanut butter, I see an entire day's worth of calories - because even when I allow myself a reasonable portion of an off-plan food, I am first and foremost aware of what its nutritional benefits are. Even binges aren't the same, because I am completely conscious and aware of what the effect of the increased caloric intake will be. One thing I miss sometimes is the blissful ignorance of numbers that came with being super obese.

Usually, though, my judgements are based on concern. These are usually thoughts about family and friends. Obesity is a preventable and treatable disease, and making a few healthier choices here and there would add up to big results. I don't need everyone to start running 5k's, renounce all of the things I consider off-plan foods, and lose 150 pounds in a year - my plan works for me, but might not work for them. But I think about them sometimes, and I feel sad. I love feeling healthy and treating my body well, and I just want my loved ones to feel this good, too.

I'm especially guilty of judging my youngest sister. People have always thought we are twins because we resemble each other so closely, and because our personalities are very similar. When I started getting healthy, I was about 80 pounds heavier than her. We weighed the same at Christmas 2010, and at this point, I'm about 70 pounds lighter than her. I worry that sending her all the workout clothes I've outgrown will make her think I'm judging or trying to push my lifestyle on her. I'm not actively judging her - I know she wants to get healthy and will figure things out when the time is right for her - shadowsbut at the same time, I'm very concerned. I know how hard it was to be a college kid and avoid experiences because of my size. I remember stepping on the scale every few weeks or so, seeing a gain, and always wondering where I'd be if I had stuck with making healthy choices after the last time I weighed myself.

As soon as I catch myself judging someone, I remember that every person's journey is his or her own, and I cannot possibly be aware of all the details. Being big doesn't necessarily mean being lazy or unmotivated. I think about myself at 250 pounds, walking down the street and feeling confident, and wondering if someone saw me and thought oh, if only she'd lose weight. Unless I had been carrying a sign announcing it, the person couldn't have known I'd already lost nearly 100 pounds at that point. And the same goes for big-judging-small - looking at the "after" pictures of maintenance bloggers, I would never guess these people could possibly understand how I felt when I had been so big if I met them on the street.

I wouldn't want someone to treat me poorly for being a lady, for being on the short side, for being American - and I wouldn't treat someone poorly for anything they couldn't control, either. Weight judgements are no different. We're all working towards living our healthiest lives possible, no matter what stage of the journey we're at - and there's no way of knowing at which point the people we observe are. So I guess that the best we can do is promise ourselves to always project compassion - to family, to friends, to strangers - no matter what.


Weight Wars said...

Brilliant Post. I people watch a lot and I've noticed people just like me, massively overweight and I wonder if they are miserable like I was, have they ever tried, but I'm pleased to say I always feel compassion towards them as well as wondering these things.

That said I've been drastically underweight and am now drastically overweight so I've been at both ends of the spectrum and judged at both ends too.

financecupcake said...

Compassion is what sets you apart from many others. :)

Karla said...

Love love love

Amanda Cravens said...

I've been thinking about this a lot now that swimming season is here and I am at the pool a lot. I too would never say anything mean to anyone but in my head I wonder if they know how great it feels to go for a run and how good carrots with hummus is compared to chips. I look at every flaw and am thankful that my arm fat looks a little better and that my cellulite isn't as bad as theirs. I know it is horrible and I am working towards changing it. Thanks for the reminder!

Ann said...

Mary, this post is beautiful, and so are you!!!!!

timothy said...

gret post, i love your candor!
i blogged about my size bias a while back. i have utmost compassion and support for fat women but fat men make me uncomfortable. i see myself in them and am terrified that i'll wind up being huge again. it's an issue i'm constantly working to resolve and i will. i want to inspire people and learn to love all unconditionally so i've been practicing the gentle art of blessing which is simply when i start to have a negative/angry reaction i change it. if someone makes uncomfortable i'll send the message i bless your health and well being as i bless my undertsnding and compassion. i repeat it in my head until i feel it. you'd be amazed how this is changing my life. xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

Jessica said...

I actually got an apology about a month ago from one of the trainers at my gym. (And it kind of embarrassed me...though I know that was not her intention.)

She said when she first started working at the gym, she noticed me and thought I must be "starting" to exercise because she saw me there everyday. I remember her asking me how long I had been a member...and I told her three years...she asked if I had lost weight...and I told her about 10lbs, but that I had just been diagnosed with a thyroid issue and was hoping that medication might help the situation.)
She said after that conversation, she just assumed that I didn't workout hard because she had had several clients say they had thyroid issues, and yet they also didn't try hard during PT session.
She said she had watched me diligently come in day after day, month after month, and yet she couldn't really see any weight change. She said some days she saw me work harder than anyone else.
She said that I should be proud of my dedication...and that she was sorry about her first impressions of me.

While I think her apology was really bothered me...that she had the first impressions at all (though I know everyone has first impressions).

After she said these things to me I think I subconsciously tried to avoid the gym (dropped to going about twice a week)...I blamed it on the heat, and my busy summer schedule...but I also think her words had something to do with it.

I am back on my regular gym schedule now...going 5 days a week. I think it is so important to be careful how we judge never know someone's real story.

alisonds said...

I always wonder about people and find myself thinking "how did she get so fit?" "has she always been like that or was she like me once?" "I hate those people who have been fit all their lives!" Ha! I'm not perfect. I'd never say it aloud though. I'm not perfect and I have a long way to go with my own body, so I'm definitely one to judge others (at least not out loud.)

AMT said...

nicely done.

60 lbs down, and a year into maintenance, i find myself doing the same thing all the time: 'my arms used to be bigger than hers. i used to be fatter than her.'

i try to remember these are my hangups, not theirs, and that staring and judging is rude no matter what you used to look like.

as you say: compassion seems to me the best way to fight these internal impulses to judge and distance myself from where i was. especially since i look at myself in the mirror and know my previous self would have judged me a little for being thin.

Tim said...

Nice post, Mary. Really love how honest you are.