Something has been bugging for a long time now and I think it's time I said it. Or I'll choke on it. My issue is about weight gain, and people, sometimes even strangers, who feel compelled to tell you:
a) You've gained weight
b) You should go on a diet/start an exercise regime.
Let me clarify: I'm not fat. I'm currently in good control of my weight and eating habits, and have been for 2 years now. I wear size 14-16 clothes and have done so for years. Ironically, that's the size I was when I was 17 years old 25 years ago. Physical labour in my garden and walking gives me ample exercise. And when I run/walk an occasional 5km or 10km race, or go hiking, my body copes well, thanks.
But, I WAS a chubby child who turned into a chubby teenager who turned into an overweight young woman. And you know what hurt me the most during all those years when I felt I was not in control of my body? Not the weight itself, which was not healthy for my overall well-being. The greatest hurt came from inconsiderate busybodies who felt compelled to tell me I was fat and should lose weight.
Here's my message:
You're not my friend ( or you would know that discussing my weight is the fastest way to offend me). So why do you think I care what you think about my body? And what business is it of yours whether I have gained a few kilos/need to go on a diet/need to start an exercise regime? And what would you say if I told you that:
a) your hair is ugly
b) you need to go to the hairdresser right now to fix it?
Is your ugly hair my business?
Fat people are not stupid. They know they are fat.
Fat people are not blind. They see themselves in the mirror everyday, and know they are fat. They don't need you to tell them that they are fat.
Fat people can read. They see the same health warnings you do. They read the same magazines and books and newspapers that explain how they can lose the weight and get healthy. They don't need you to tell them what to do.
You think telling a fat person is tough love and will get them to act? Not it's not. That person already has someone who loves them; who tells them uncomfortable truths. And judging by your words, I suspect they don't think that person is you. Your words are the reason they need comfort. They are the reason they spend sleepless nights asking God why he didn't give them different bodies. And sometimes, God help us, your words are the reason they hate their bodies more, and try to find solace in food. Viscious cycle, and your words sometimes contribute to it.
You know what makes me even angrier? When an adult person says the same things outlined above to a child. Children are helpless against us adults. They are smaller, more vulnerable and can't fight back. They need us to love them, care for them, validate them. So when an adult acquitance says to a child "You're so fat!" I have to ask myself, to what purpose are you saying this? Your words are not words of love or comfort. They are certainly not teaching this child how to live a healthy and fulfilling life. You're not giving this child tools to help them navigate the tough terrain of life. So what's your point?
Were you were just in the mood to punch something and this child was convenient? Do you feel better about yourself now, now that the fat child has slunk off to cry on his /her mother's shoulder?
So what got me to this place where I just had to rant? Yesterday Baby and I bumped into an acquitance. Baby is tall for an 11 year old (more than 1.5 metres) and she's chubby (she'll lose the baby fat. I did). And this acquitance, a friend of a friend of one of the mothers from Baby's school, felt compelled to remark on Baby's weight. Of course she was hurt and felt self-conscious afterwards. I just wanted to smash something. Preferably this woman's face.
Instead I blogged about it, because I know there are many more people like this acquitance out there. And I wanted to say STOP. YOUR WORDS DON'T HELP. Your words steal a child's confidence. And sometimes, the damage you do lasts until adulthood.
I'm doing my best to make sure Baby knows confidence comes from deep within yourself, not from other people telling you who/what/how you should be. I'm also confident that pre-teen weight gain is temporary, and she'll grow into her beautiful, healthy body.
But many overweight people never learn this fact, and negative words simply aggravate an already bad situation. So, the next time you meet a fat person, think before you speak. Their weight is none of your business.