Misconception

She and I were standing around just chit chatting -- she was waiting for her client and I was going to grab my lunch and we started talking...

She and I were standing around just chit chatting -- she was waiting for her client and I was going to grab my lunch and we started talking.  I like her -- she's pretty badass when it comes to being a trainer.  She's a late-in-life triathlete from Poland.  She doesn't go easy on her clients.   I told her about my BodyMedia Fit, she told me about her recent vacation and how she ran 7 miles and then ate three donuts, and how that was "bad."  I told her how I don't like to talk about food in moral terms (i.e. "good" or "bad" food). She then told me about coming back from the beach and stopping at a Dairy Queen.  She saw two people getting out of a car.  "They were so big that they had to push their seats all the way back. And I wanted to tell them that they shouldn't be eating here."

And then out of left field, she said one of those things you never want to hear from a fitness professional:   "I don't know, I've never been big and I don't have any obese clients.  Are obese people that way because they're just that weak?"

(I'm going to pause here to let you either think about that or hit your head into a wall.)


I've maintained over the past few years that you do not become obese (i.e., over a BMI of 30, but especially for those in the morbid obesity categories of a BMI of 40 and over) without having some sort of trauma in your life (mental, physical, sexual, etc.) that creates a disconnect with how you relate to food.  The magnitude of the trauma is different for every person as everyone has their own threshold.  In some cases (e.g., childhood obesity) it's not the person of the individual, but the trauma of someone close to them being acted out with food.  Sometimes the traumas are very serious -- the kind where people are intentionally slowly eating themselves to death and they don't give two craps about it. 

Now I want you all to think about yourself, or put yourself in someone else's shoes, and think about the strength required not to just live your life with that kind of burden, but think about the strength required to overcome it.  Think about the strength required to walk out of your house every day to face a world that thinks you're lazy, weak, and ultimately unworthy.

You know, I don't want to give her that much crap -- I know there wasn't malice in what she was saying, especially in the context that she said it -- but I did stop to explain this all to her.  I hope that if an obese client ever hires her, that she meets them with compassion instead of alienation.

I hope she walked away understanding that anything over being a few pounds overweight isn't just a physical issue, but it's a psychological issue.  The fear of dealing with what made them obese in the first place outweighs the fear of being overweight.

I think about being 16 and 240lbs, and how miserable I was, how alone I felt.  But even if someone had said "Lose all the weight and you will be popular!" it wouldn't have erased what made me fat in the first place -- the feelings of abandonment from losing my Nana at 8, and then losing my mother at 13.  It was only until I addressed those issues that I didn't feel the need to wear my protective fat suit.  Now that I've addressed those issues and are strong enough as is, I don't need the fat suit anymore and it can't come off quick enough. 

If you had asked me if I was strong when I first started going to the gym, I probably would have said that I'm not.  But now?  I'm still technically obese and I'm one of the strongest fucking people you'll ever meet (pardon the French). 

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11 comments

  1. Thank you for this... As an obese person, I know my strength is beyond measure. I have many, many things contributing to my obesity - my PCOS, my hormonal deficiencies, my previous habits of food as comfort for stress eating, my genetics, my laziness for the past 23 years of my life which I'm now defeating with 4x weekly workouts... One word like "Weak" cannot sum up a worldwide problem.

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  2. @Alyssa -- and I don't think you can sum it up calling it a disease. It's so reductive to call it a disease onto itself. Obesity is a perfect storm of many things going wrong in a person's life and the inability to stop that storm in its tracks.

    Though you do say "laziness for the past 23 years of my life" -- and I want you to be a little kinder to yourself about this. Maybe I'm projecting, but for me, I just didn't know where to start or know how much I needed to move.

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  3. It's a common misconception that sadly, a lot of people share.

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  4. You know...this is why I want to punch people. I 100% agree that it's about how you relate to food, and in part what you think you deserve (in terms of happiness, and feeling good, etc). Obviously when I was 255 I wasn't happy, and guess what at 152 STILL WASN'T HAPPY and it had nothing to do with my new-found ability to eat less and burn more. Gotta deal with the issues that make you turn to food for comfort in the first place.

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  5. This kind of thing is exactly why I get nervous about trying a new class or hiring a trainer. Glad you educated her a little bit!

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  6. Safire -- well if anyone wants to call me weak or lazy, I'd gladly invite them to the gym with me. See if they can keep up.

    Emily -- that is why I love your guest post. It so wonderfully highlighted that the weight loss experience is something that involves a whole person, not just their body.

    Samantha -- Just go for it. If anyone gives you crap, I've got your back.

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  7. Yep. That would infuriate me. I do think that in SOME cases there is a lack of education about what foods are nutritious and what foods aren't. In some parts of the country and the world, I get wanting to say "I wish I could tell that person not to eat X." BUT I don't think that was the context in this case!

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  8. Maris: I think that even if people don't know the difference between a calorie and a macronutrient, they know that certain foods are better for you than others, or at least the effect of eating what you are eating.

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<3 Robby