Before we begin today’s lesson, I feel compelled to point out that a recent study indicates that fat shaming is actually NOT effective in motivating people to lose weight. That, in fact, shaming has the opposite effect. However, some people are set in their ways and cannot resist the urge to prophesize their knowledge to others who are “worse off”. So before you embark on such divine matters of “health”, please consider the following tips:
1. Extinguish your cigarette – Nothing is more annoying than having someone fat shame you while blowing smoke in your face. So please do not approach me about my weight, and how you can help me “get healthier” while smoking. Yes, it’s happened to me. My boyfriend and I were at the beach, enjoying a cool evening watching the waves and the people roll by on bikes and skates, when I was approached by a woman smoking. At first I thought she was going to ask for money, so I clutched my purse closer to me. Instead she tells me how she has just finished her personal training courses and wanted to know if I would like to work out with her, she could “help” me lose weight. She “understood” how threatening the gym might be to large women, she’d make me comfortable with exercise.
Without missing a beat I reply “I’m not sure how much I’d trust health advice from someone who smokes.”
“Oh, I know, I’m trying to quit” she says as she quickly tries to extinguish her cigarette.
It’s not that her knowledge is invalid because she smokes, it’s the fact that she approached a stranger about their weight, assumed I did not already exercise, which I did and did so letting her own poor habits show.
2. Step away from the bar – Ok, in his defense he was stepping away from the bar, well stumbling away. A co-worker and I were having dinner at a steakhouse when this drunk man stumbled up to our table and muttered “You’re probably going to tell me to f*** off, but I just HAVE to tell you…PLEASE STOP EATING, you are killing yourselves. I work at a hospital and I see people like you die every day”.
He did in fact work at a hospital, or at least he was wearing a polo shirt with his name and the name of a local hospital.
My co-worker was stunned and horrified. I was ME, and replied “YES, I am going to tell you to F***OFF, you do not know us or the fact I’ve lost over 100lbs already.”
Fellow restaurant patrons were also horrified by his behavior and quickly approached him and escorted him outside. Then the manager came to the table and apologized for the man (who was a regular bar patron) and comp’d our meals. Ironic.
3. Do not interrupt my workout – Of course someone working out at the gym must be in need of unsolicited advice about how to lose weight. Right? But some people are just overly persistent or working for referral money. Either way it is annoying. As Susan Powers would say “Stop the INSANITY!” There I am, at the gym, ear buds in listening to Destiny Child’s “I’m a Survivor”, when I notice this woman waving at me. I did not recognize her as someone I know, but I take off my ear buds and say “hello”.
She steps closer, “Hi, are you considering weight loss surgery, or have you recently had it?”
SERIOUSLY? I reply, “I’ve already had weight loss surgery.”
“2003, I used to weigh more than 500lbs, I have Lymphedema”…trying to think what else can I say to get her to let me get back to Beyonce, Kelly and umm (oh hell anyone remember the 3rd chick from Destiny’s Child?) Michelle! Thanks Google.
She replies, “Oh I work for a doctor, have you considered revision as an option?”
I tell her that I am very involved in the WLS Community and I am well aware of the options available. I’m too nice, I should have told her how inappropriate her approach and conversation were, despite intentions do not approach strangers about their weight.
She of course was a WLS herself, something about having WLS or losing a massive amount of weight through whatever programs makes you a SAVIOR. I must not have said enough Hail Mary’s because I never got my wing and halo. Well I got my batwings, but not my angelic wings and official orders to go out and SAVE people.
I understand the urge, really I do, I have the same feeling when I see someone I believe is suffering with Lymphedema in their legs, and having gone undiagnosed for so many years I have good instinct to think they too might be undiagnosed.
However, I’m quite sure no one is unaware they are fat? If they are unaware, that is a conversation for a family member, close friend, or doctor to have with them regarding their health. It’s not for a stranger to initiate.
If you are concerned about the health of a friend or family member here is an article about how to approach that conversation.