Addressing Obesity In Others…


I’ll state from the start that I’m less trying to initiate a discussion, than I am sharing the experiences of a career fitness trainer.

Discuss if you wish, but I reserve the right to delete, ignore, and to pass judgment based on my experiences.

As a career fitness trainer, I’ve been privy to discussions on obesity at many levels. My expertise has been sought to advise, to consult, and to help in framing such discussions.  I’ve seen the obesity of others addressed by family, friends, and coworkers from every possible angle.

Hint: these discussions almost never go well, and often have a negative, and even a contrary result on the individual’s behavior in matters of eating and drinking.

In cases where it’s a parent talking to an adult child, a spouse talking to his/her partner, friends talking to friends, or co-workers talking to their contemporaries about the need to lose weight, it can go south very quickly — even if the intentions behind those conversations are good.

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The primary example of such good intentions usually cited is “for reasons of health”. That is, an individual wants to guide another individual towards weight-loss for reasons of improved health. And though that may be the foundation for many of these discussions, it’s my opinion that at the root of them it often relates as much to what the person looks like, as it does to their level of health or wellness.

Even in matters of obesity, human beings have the ability to cleverly mask their prejudice with so-called good intentions.

I have a client who has been with me on-and-off for nearly a decade. He’s approximately 80-lbs overweight. His parents speak to him regularly about the health implications of his obesity.

Though I am certain the parents of this man, who is now 30-years old, do have concerns that relate to his health, he is also the face of the family business. And as the face of that enterprise, I am just as certain that the parents of the young man would prefer he be at an aesthetically more pleasing weight.

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Each time his parents address this with him, they speak in terms of improved health, but often segue into matters of appearance. This can send my client into a depression, and his eating and drinking tendencies often increase. He has confessed this to me.

Did I mention he was not far from a healthy weight when he began working with me…?  The whole reason he became a client was because his parents wanted him to trim down a little for photographs and videos that he would appear in on behalf of their business.

As he resisted and went in the other direction, his parents applied even more pressure, to which he resisted more, and the snowball effect was an 80-pound weight gain over an approximate 4-5 year period.

The pressure from outside, as gentle as it might be, was not always gentle.  For my part, I have tried to do my best to provide him with beneficial workouts, and I’ve encouraged him to eat in support of those workouts.

This is not an isolated case. I have known many like this, too many, and have known of many more.

I once had a client who was a contestant in the Miss Los Angeles pageant. She was in my studio one day with her mother there to photograph the session. Suffice it to say that if you’re a contestant in the Miss Los Angeles pageant, you’re drop-dead gorgeous to begin with, and probably quite fit, despite the very slight muffin top hips.  I was demonstrating an exercise for the young woman when her mother said in a voice loud enough for people in China to hear…

“Look at her, she’s fat!” pointing to the muffin top.

I wanted to hang myself. Instead, I just stood silently, broadcasting the most apologetic look I possibly could toward my client. I was grateful that she wasn’t obese, or she probably would’ve been disowned. And that feeds into my message more than a little bit…

If we have the ability to be judgmental and prejudice over people that we love being 5-lbs overweight, it probably gets much easier for us to be inexcusably judgmental over people we don’t know who might be 100-lbs overweight. Many people I know carry that level of prejudice and more. They put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the individual who is carrying the extra weight.

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No adult who is overweight, be it by 5-lbs or 200, is ever unaware of their situation or caught off-guard by it. Never.

From my perspective, whether a person desires lose 5-lbs or 50, they need cheerleaders, not false natured pundits of change hiding behind the facade of good health. There is no doubt that if I were the only voice in the ears of my weight-loss clients, they would be less likely to push back, even subconsciously, to their own detriment as many do when guided by the so-called voices of love.

By today’s sideways and prejudiced thinking, opioid abusers are now most often seen as full-on victims of doctors, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies, while obese people are seen almost exclusively as weak gluttons. This, in my opinion, is not the case.

Though we all do get to make choices about the foods that we put in our bodies, we all exist in ever expanding systems of complexity in which corporations and marketeers work harder than ever, and more intelligently, at leading us into lesser choices.

I can’t go an hour online without somebody putting information in front of me demonstrating how the corporations behind our technology and behind our pharmaceuticals work hard to lead me into being more dependent on their technology and their pharmaceuticals. With that in mind, I can assure you that the corporations behind our food products are working just as hard to get us to eat more, and more frequently.

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Take a good look around in any room, social setting, store, or playground.  Though the temptation may be to blame an individual’s weakness for their excess bodyweight, they are increasingly tempted, if not outright lead into lesser eating choices.  That’s why it’s happening to so many more people with each passing year, myself included. This, all done by companies that make a little more profit with every pound that we gain.

So if you have a concern that a friend, family member, or coworker might be overweight, and you truly are concerned about their health, maybe mention it to them one time, and then let it go. After that, channel your energies toward the ever-changing structures and institutions that have allowed obesity to be on the increase.

Hint: It begins with your vote each November.

Lastly, and I cannot be more clear about this, if you use the word ‘fat’ in any fashion when addressing or describing an individual who might be overweight, that is moral equivalent of using the N-word… Jhciacb

If You have not already, please scroll up and subscribe. And please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there is this incredible outtake from Alex Chilton. Enjoy…!

10 responses

  1. We all need ‘nudges’ in just about everything we do. Being kind and helping the person find a positive way to go towards a goal is, in the long run, a much bigger help. And when you have someone such as this in your life…whether it be a manageable health issue or a self defeating behavior…if you ‘slip’ and say a harsh word…give yourself a break just as you would give them a break. Because, in truth, we all fall off of our positive paths.
    Humor always helps in these situations. Kind words, gentle humor and, most of all, a positive example. Be honest when you don’t like to do something but do it anyway. Most of us go thru life thinking: well, they’re good at this or that because they LOVE to do it!
    Nothing can be further from the truth. Many times it is more of an expression of self awareness and love than enjoyment.

    • Love your wisdom and perspective, Miss Judy. It also means a great deal to me that you read these.

      I have a lifetime out of pushing back against forced behaviors, often to my own detriment. Having lived it makes it easy for me to recognize it in others. And hopefully, I guide with a gentle voice…

  2. All good thoughts, Roy! Although I have seen success in individuals, I don’t think society can overcome all the barriers against the issues with weight. From addictive freedoms to corporate greed, the people pay the toll.

  3. Trying to be more mindful in life as I get ready to transition to a new job. While diet (a better one specifically) is on my list, my first priorities are to recognize and appreciate people where they are at. I don’t want to live a mindless existence. I want people to know that I see them and care. This was an excellent piece, as usual. Thanks for sharing your talent!

  4. People need purpose, not shame. When I started out on my health journey, which has not been healthy all of the time, it was because I wanted to be able to do something that I couldn’t. Suddenly, it wasn’t about my weight but the opportunities in life that I was about to miss if I didn’t change something.

    In a world where we think svelte and gorgeous = happiness, things go wonky pretty fast.

    Most days I think I could stand to lose 15 pounds because then I could rock a skimpy bikini and hold my own on the beach … except I probably couldn’t because going into my ‘hotness goal’ with that mindset is a recipe for failure. And besides, how much more of my life do I want to spend worrying about what people think and comparing myself to the woman on the next beach towel over? I have better things to do with my time.

    Lfe is a confidence game. And confidence is not skin deep, it comes from the heart.

    Instead of making the weight loss the destination, make climbing a mountain, running a race, dead lifting 200 pounds, swimming some body of water, biking through the summer, or a myriad of 8,000 other things the destination. And suddenly a whole world opens up and while your body shrinks, your mind and world expands.

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