So, this is a personal posting because I generally do not like to talk about my son. But, I felt that this was important because of the nature of the topic here. And once again, it deals with obesity.
Obesity is an epidemic. There is just no question about it. I have found that my life has significantly changed to the “food is fuel” mentality. But, we have become accustomed to the food must be great and taste good mentality. We want variety. We want beer. We want chips. We want this and that. It has to be delicious. It has to be great. I see it on the cooking shows. I see these recipes online and they load food with cheese, with bread, with noodles, with all these things and it looks delish.
So, as I look around, I am seeing something disturbing. FAT kids. And listen, please….please……please understand. I am not fat shaming. I get that some will be offended by this posting, but the fact remains, that none of us were born overweight. With few exceptions, most children are born weighing 6 to 10 pounds. So, no fat kids are born. Obesity is a choice that is made consciously. It can be an obsessive type thing. It can be done to mask personal pain. It can be done for psychological comfort. Or it can simply be complete and utter carelessness with your physical self. I am not here to understand why a person is obese. I am here to deal with the reality of that.
Back to my son. He is relating a story from the perspective of an obese person getting on a plane. My compassionate side feels empathy for this person. I cannot imagine what the gauntlet of walking down a plane aisle is like knowing that everyone is staring and quietly thinking “please do not let that person sit next to me”. That must be emotionally brutal. And I can appreciate being tough and having a thick skin, but that still sucks. Worse yet, on airlines like Southwest, if you are obese and get stuck in the wrong boarding group, you will get a middle seat. Great….perfect. And then, adding insult to injury, people can be downright rude. It is emotionally devastating. This person wrote how they did not travel for a year because of that. And, that the person that complained stated that they would not do that to a person in a wheelchair or someone that was pregnant (by that I mean complain about the obese person and demand a seat switch).
This person stated they sit quietly. Keep their arms folded. Try to make themselves as small as possible. Ask for nothing. Have to deal with the indignity of flight attendants offering free meals (on longer haul flights) to the others in the row for having to deal with the situation. Worse yet, said person said they are required to purchase two seats. But here is the kicker, they pay for two seats, but the airline does not leave the seat empty. They fill it. WTF! If I want to pay for three seats in a row, they damn well better be empty as I fly. But no, airlines will fill them.
It was heartbreaking to hear because I picked up on a certain tone in his voice that I did not like. But here is the rub, I cannot completely dismiss his concerns either. He said he did not like fat people. However, there are plenty of people we know that are obese and he loves them. So, this must mean other obese people. Fine, he is entitled to his opinion. He added that he would never say anything mean or disrespectful to them, but he has a certain disdain for them. Why should he have to suffer in close quarters for what other people do? I cannot argue that point. I can say that the “suffering” is just limited to a plane flight or a movie theater. As a paying customer he is entitled to get what he pays for without it being encroached on by others regardless of how society feels about his opinion.
So, there is a real challenge here. Empathy and compassion versus the need to not have shifting societal norms be forced on you. You see, fitness is a real challenge for people. We recently were at Sea World (yes, hold the disdain) and noticed while walking around that a great many people were, to put it nicely, not in the best shape. You do not have to have a six-pack and be rocking a muscular body. I am not saying you need to make people’s eyes pop out when you wear a bikini. But as we have moved forward, I have noticed that obesity is becoming more widely accepted. While fat shaming is a terrible thing and I would never condone mocking people for their size, I think it is reasonable to wonder how it happens and why more proactive steps are not being taken to stay healthy. As a new instagrammer, I can tell you that some very obese people put pictures of themselves up where they weighed maybe 400 pounds and dropped to 250 pounds. They get nothing but love from people on there for making the effort to change. It takes courage to say I have a problem that I need to deal with. It takes courage to face it. What is easy to do is say this is just how I am and I am not going to bother changing. It is not wrong, but it is easy enough to do. It takes no work. It is a convenient truth we sell ourselves. And we continue doing what we do.
Listen, I am the first to admit that my diet is boring. Brown rice. Some fruit. Chicken or fish. Protein shakes. My idea of a candy bar is a Gatorade Protein Bar. Literally. Rinse and repeat. Day after day. After day. Yes, you see the rock have a 10,000 calorie cheat meal…but this guy works out like 25 hours a week. It is his job. He has to be the Rock. Who here saw the original Thor movie a few years back? Chris Hemsworth looked jacked….I mean really jacked. When he was done, he was quoted somewhere as saying he would be happy if he never ate chicken again. It was high protein, low fat, and repetition. Rinse and repeat. He ate for fuel.
So, for the average person, you have to find a balance of eating for fuel and eating what you like. But people have to start somewhere. Cutting out junk is first. Counting calories is second. Counting macros is third. Even without the gym, doing this and the weight drops off. So, then why are more people not doing it? Well, you carry weight around long enough, you lose skin elasticity. You drop a ton of weight. Awesome. But, your nipples are sitting one foot down your chest because of loose skin. The thought is daunting. Truly scary. Instagram is full of people who had surgery to remove excess skin. It looks painful. It looks hard. And it is expensive. So, obese people face real challenges. Boo hoo to the skinny people and their first world problems. But, most developed countries seem to have a problem with obese people. Certainly not all, but a great many do. Fit people, while popular, take a back seat. We are marginalized. At Planet Fitness, we are called Lunkheads. WTF. I am a lunkhead because I work out hard and leave it all on the gym floor? No, I do not accept that. How would you all feel if we put up signs in Gold’s Gym that said no fatasses? Not cool.
But getting back to Josh. I told him to be mindful of the slippery slope he was on. We do not know every story of every person with weight. We have to be compassionate and kind. We have to be supportive and help folks who want the help achieve their goals. We must face our personal biases. And we must be sure that our beliefs are not so transparent as to hurt others. I am not making excuses for obese people. They have to decide to change themselves. It is a deeply personal thing. But, we must also be encouraging and supportive. And however annoying it may be to be stuck in a plane or movie seat next to someone, we must be grateful that we are not having to face that issue. As uncomfortable as it is for us for those few hours, whether those people will publicly admit it or not, it is probably uncomfortable for them a great deal more.