Years ago I had a problem with body weight. Rooted in my own body consciousness, this 'weight problem' extended well beyond my individual self.
If you strictly follow BMI, I have been overweight several times in my life, including my current struggle to lose excess pregnancy weight. During each episode of extra poundage, some people said unkind and hurtful things. Others pointed out my weight gain in what I believe was a genuine concern for my wellbeing, but that also stung a little. As emotional as each of those experiences were, I did learn from them, and was eventually able to strengthen my body to a healthier state. However, each weight loss journey definitely took time, since I did it on my own terms.
But before you think I am writing this to pat myself on the back, let me emphasize that is not the case. In addition to being down on myself, I was also mentally very critical of others who were overweight. Although critical of both men and women, I was especially hard on women I didn't know and had never interacted with. I remember thinking things like, "My god, how could she let herself get so heavy?" or "What is wrong with him/her?" or the ever self-righteous, "I would never let myself get like that!"
My criticism may have been silent, but it was still unacceptable. Just as the unkind words directed at me hurt, I realized that although I was not putting my thoughts into action, those thoughts were harmful. They felt ugly, wrong, and yes, shameful, and I wanted them out of my head.
In one previous effort to lose weight, I encountered many personal stories about weight loss. To my surprise and dismay, I found that some people's struggles with weight were tied to direct experiences with physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse or trauma. Whereas some turn to alcohol or drugs, others turn to food for comfort and escape. Encountering this information, the clouds of ignorance began to clear. I became more aware as a person, and realized that weight loss is for some people not just about moving more and counting calories, but also overcoming some formidable emotional obstacles.
I decided it was necessary for me to change my behavior when I encounter someone who is very overweight. I started being very conscious of my reaction to the person, and reminding myself of the many similarities between myself and the person I behold in that we both have our own experiences, hopes, dreams, and most importantly, desire to be happy and to feel loved.
Yes, I know, it is truly sad that I even had to go through this process in order to change my attitude and subsequent thought processes. But another thing I also know is that my own struggle stems directly from my own insecurities. Not an excuse, but a reason- I take full responsibility for my previous thoughts- and I hope that the fallout from my prior experiences will no longer obscure what should be a clearer, less superficial view of other human beings.
In closing this post, I would like to emphasize that in no way do I mean to provide a crutch against making positive changes towards one's own health, including my own. Being very overweight or obese is extremely detrimental to personal wellbeing, and there are very few exceptions. However, this fact is already well known and it does not mean that we treat someone struggling with excess weight with scorn and aversion, but rather with openness and compassion.
May all beings be happy!
May all beings be happy!