I lost weight for a lot of reasons. I wanted to look good, I wanted to feel better, I wanted to be able to buy clothes in a regular store, I wanted to be able to see my feet. Simple things....but if you are overweight, getting to the place you want to be can certainly be a huge struggle.
One unintended consequence of losing weight, however, made me very concerned. I realized very early on after losing the weight that people actually treated the "thin" me better than they had treated the "fat" me. It wasn't that I was feeling more confident and people reacted to that. People just plain treated me better. They smiled at me, had conversations with me, treated me like I was.....one of them! I won't lie. It felt good but it was mostly very upsetting.
I began to look at the way I treat overweight people versus the way I treat thin people and I began to realize that I was somewhat guilty of the same treatment. Why? What makes us want to relate more with people who are thin than people who are overweight? Why were people treating thin Todd better than fat Todd?
I won't pretend that I know all of the reasons but it did give me some food for thought. We are all aware of racism. We understand that it is based on a false premise that people of certain races are fundamentally different from us. We understand that it is wrong but on some level we are all guilty from time to time of having a racist thought run through our minds. Part of the reason racism exists is because of fear. We tend to like to be around people who are like us so we feel comfortable and familiar. It's just easier and so it becomes our norm.
I think there is something similar going on with the way people sometimes treat overweight people. In this case, however, it is not so much about wanting to associate with people like us but rather associating with people who we want to be like. When I was overweight I felt like a failure. I felt like I was out of control and weak. Every time I saw a commercial for a new weight loss plan I got a knot in my stomach and quietly hated myself for not being thin. It's a horrible thing we do to ourselves. Other people can be cruel but sometimes we can be our own worst enemies. When I looked at other people who were overweight I identified with them but not in a good way. Seeing them reminded me of myself and it made me remember how much I disliked myself. It's not a rational or kind reaction but it was an honest one unfortunately.
It's not that I treated overweight people poorly. I certainly would never have done that. I guess, however, that I did judge them just as I judged myself. Being reminded of my own shortcomings was not something that I welcomed.
On the other hand I think I admired thin people so much that I probably treated them better. I wrongly assumed that if they could keep their weight "normal" they must be better than me.
Keep in mind that all of this was, of course, subconscious. I never actually had those thoughts but looking back it seems that this was the unspoken dialogue that affected how I treated other people.
Now being able to experience this from both sides I am shocked. I love that people treat me better but I am sad that being thin has become so important in our society that it affects how we treat people. I remember when a good friend of mine was talking to me about quitting drinking years ago. He kept asking me if I thought he was an alcoholic. I didn't know how to answer the question. How was I supposed to know? I told him that if he thought he was an alcoholic then he probably was. Only he could define what that meant to him. If he thought he had a problem then he had a problem. I was in no position to know what was going on in his head.
We have no way of knowing what is going on in peoples' lives unless they tell us (and even then we probably really don't know and probably shouldn't). If someone is sad and troubled about their weight and they ask us for help we should be there for them. Otherwise it's none of our concern. I am in no position to judge anyone for their weight any more than I should be judging them for the color of their skin or the kind of car they drive.
I was only able to begin the process of losing weight because I was able to accept and love myself the way I was. Starting from a place where you love yourself makes it so much easier to go about the business of loving and respecting your body enough to treat it the way it deserves to be treated. If we continue to judge people based on their weight we are not helping them to love themselves....we are perpetuating the stereotypes that made them hate themselves in the first place.
Once again, as with many things, this is about being conscious in your life and treating each moment, each interaction as a unique opportunity to learn and grow as human beings. If you are open to learning about the people you encounter during your day you will understand that everyone on this journey called life has their own story to tell....they have their reasons for doing things the way they do and they have their own faults and heartaches too. That's not just a fat person sitting across the table from you. That's someone who fears and loves and tries and is imperfect just like you. Give them the credit that you want for yourself. They deserve it and so do you.