Weighty Matters

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Looking at Overweight People

on July 7, 2014

I never used to think much about other overweight people. It’s almost like I didn’t really see them. That sounds strange because they were not rendered invisible when I was in their vicinity. Obviously I knew they were present, but my thought patterns might have been absent, or at least turned in another direction. I didn’t see them for them because I was too busy thinking about myself in relation to them.

I know for a fact that I never looked at another heavy woman and thought, “She’d be so pretty if she lost weight.”

Melissa McCarthy has a new movie out so she is all over the entertainment news right now in television and print interviews. She is a beautiful woman. No qualifiers. She’s simply beautiful. Smart and talented too. She’s built a great movie and television career over the years. I wonder if anyone ever looked at her with a sad shake of their head and told her she could be a big star if only she wasn’t heavy. If they did I hope they seasoned those words before they ate them.

I’ve noticed that lately when I see someone who is obese, I experience an almost physical flow of compassion. I get this feeling for them that’s akin to me thinking, “Oh, honey. I know how miserable you are because I was there.” Then, as if that wasn’t enough projection, I follow it up with, “Trust me, life will be so much better if you can find a way.”

It’s presumptuous of me to look at another overweight person and assume that their life isn’t terrific that, in fact, it could be improved. It’s annoying and a titch arrogant to think that they aren’t happy just because I was unhappy deep inside where nobody else could see the hurt and despair I carried around.

Instead of merely witnessing the other person, I internalize the encounter, viewing it through the lens of my experiences.

I’m working to change this. Just because I struggled, and continue to struggle, with self-acceptance, doesn’t mean everybody else does. I don’t want to hang mental labels on others just because that’s what it always felt like people were doing to me.

I just want to experience people as the people that they are where it counts — their personalities, their character, who they are as human beings. I don’t need to assess their health and fitness. If they truly are suffering emotional or spiritual woe, then compassion is appropriate but it shouldn’t be based on assumption. That, I’ve come to realize, is another type of judging. The last thing that I, or any overweight person, needs, is to be judged and suffer from comparison to someone else’s criteria.

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3 responses to “Looking at Overweight People

  1. Amazing article, thank You !!

  2. Skye says:

    I understand this. Coming from a grandmother who judged everything but especially overweight people, I struggle against that criticism but also with the concept that they may be unhealthy, unhappy, etc. Against that is my good friend who is 450 lbs and wants to be that heavy. He understands how it affects his health and life expectancy, but his weight is essential to his mental and emotional well-being.

    This movie Tammy that is coming out bothers me because the trailers I’ve seen make the character look like a slob and like she pigs out on food and like she’s unintelligent. I wonder if this will only validate negative perceptions of overweight people.

    Weight is such a huge issue in our society; it’s hard to let go of it as a factor in how we view others. It’s hard not to judge, in one way or another.

  3. Lynn Viehl says:

    It’s funny how weight can weigh on us no matter which side of the scale you’re seeing. My younger sister has struggled with anorexia her entire life, which definitely shaped my perception of thin people. In the past I always suspected they were starving themselves to look like that, the way she did, so their appearance was never attractive to me. Seeing them also triggered the same feelings of dread and despair you endure when you live with an anorexic in the family.

    My views didn’t change until I gave birth to a daughter who is naturally thin like her dad, and will always look a bit underweight, thanks to her metabolism. She has helped me get over a lot of the lingering emotional distress I felt over my sister’s suffering, although it took awhile.

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