It happened again. Not once, not twice but at least three times this past week. I am so sick of it, it makes me so crazy and yet, sometimes I feel like I am the only one going nuts. How could it be that we seem to allow anyone at all to be as rude as they want to be, and yet it just goes under the radar? No, I am not talking about Donald Trump (although I very well could include him in this rant, since he is a perfect example of what I am talking about). Yes, somehow we have become immune (it seems to me) to knowing what is right and wrong when it comes to what we should or should not say…..about people’s bodies.
Yes, I heard a few stories this week, and have one of my own. And I know these are not unusual circumstances, I know the things I have heard are regular occurrences in many peoples lives. I also know that people don’t always think they are being hurtful when they make teasing or sarcastic comments about someone’s weight or body. Sometimes they think they are funny? Anyway, I have said a lot on the topic of commenting on weight loss, and the possible detrimental affects of giving praise to someone who has lost weight (especially a teenager) since sometimes the weight loss is the consequence of unhealthy starvation or eating disorders. When a teenager is complimented on weight loss it is hard for them to think they should stop. Praise feels good.
No, that is not what I want to talk about again. It is more about how people feel they have the right to say something about someone else’s body. Here are some examples of what I am talking about:
“Geeeez, Suzy, why don’t you just eat a cheeseburger or something?”
“Great to see ya! Put on a few pounds, huh?”
“You look so much better now that you put on a few pounds!”
“What’s that bump on your foot? Why does your toe point out?”
“Gettin’ up there in age, huh? Beer belly and everything!”
“Did you lose weight? Your face looks so sunken”
Get the picture? Does it all sound harmless to you? Most of us know what having “good manners” means. You would never think to go up to someone and say “You have bad breath” or “your face is ugly” or “what a big nose you have”. But yet, it is alright to make comments about how someone’s size ? Or body part? As if it means anything??? Are we all really that brain washed into thinking the size of anyone really matters? Do we all need to have perfect body parts? And why does it matter if someone changes their size? Why do you care if they gained or lost weight? Why the focus on that?
I think I know why. I feel like it is a “global brainwashing”. We are all supposed to think we would be happier if we were a certain size. Our bodies are supposed to look a certain way, and we all should be striving to be that (whatever it is, I think the focus most of the time is on stomachs if you ask me….that is what most of my disordered eating patients always thought about. And that is what most “normal” people I know seem to focus on). Yes, even if you don’t have any extreme eating issues of your own, or maybe you have body image issues that are considered “normative discontent”. Check out this blog on the topic Normative Discontent as well as this video Dove Video. Both are really insightful as to how and why we think the way we do about our bodies, the influences out there that we aren’t even aware of, and why, I am guessing, most of us kind of go along like robots working toward what we are brainwashed to think is important. And why some people think it is A-OK to address people’s bodies in a way that is not only rude, but also NONE of their business.
Granted, some people just don’t give a hoot. You can tell them they look like crap, they look better now that they gained weight (they may agree), or maybe they know they put on a few pounds since high school but they are ok with it, heck, we all gain some weight as we age, it is pretty normal, who cares. But, I am guessing there are some people who are very sensitive to comments about their bodies. I have known people in my life who are genetically very thin. They get made fun of all the time. The comment “why don’t you just eat a cheeseburger” is very hurtful to someone who can’t change their body. Or maybe they are going through something, and they may not turn to food to make them feel better like some people. Some people eat more and it helps them get through stressful times, but some people can’t eat. Telling them to eat a cheeseburger makes me want to smack someone.
So, what would I wish everyone would do instead? To me, everyone is a book. When I was working 40 hours a week as an outpatient dietitian, I did not care if someone was referred to me for “obesity” or an “eating disorder” or “pre-diabetes”. To me, every patient was like a book to be opened. Every person has their own story. And YOU don’t know it. You don’t know why they may have lost or gained weight since the last time you saw them. You don’t know how healthy they are or not by the way they look or their body size. They may have gained 30 pounds but now are doing triathlons (and can kick your butt). They may have lost a loved one and fallen into depression, and lost some weight…….and so do you really think you telling them to eat a cheeseburger is going to help? Stop being stupid.
Instead,if you notice something different that concerns you, why not look at the person inside instead? Re-connect. Find out how they REALLY are. Make time to get together. Then, be supportive. If it is a casual acquaintance that you may not see again for a long time, then why bother commenting on something as meaningless as how much weight they lost or gained? Take the precious few minutes to find out about their kids, their lives, what they are doing, and all of the stuff that matters.
I feel better, now that I have vented. I really wish people would catch themselves before they make a body comment. YOU may think it is meaningless, but you truly do NOT know what the other person is going through. Instead, focus on what really is important in life. And if you think it is your body size, I feel sad for you.
Oh, so my story this week?…a comment about my feet. What was going on with my toe? For some reason, it kind of sometimes turns in to my other toe, and I do sometimes worry that it is some weird neurological thing…but, Really? That is what some people notice I guess… I still wear my flip flops…it literally took me years to get over my not so gorgeous feet….but I really don’t appreciate anyone noticing them, let alone commenting on them. Ugh. So there you have it…some really nice people sometimes just need to say something I guess.
But I hope you don’t.
PS. In the school (for special needs kids) where I work, two of the classes cook on Fridays, then enjoy the lunch they prepare. I overheard a half of a conversation of a few of the teenagers eating at a table I walked by. I am not sure what happened, but all I heard (out of the mouth of a very sweet guy who happens to have gained a bit of weight) was one comment. He said, very matter-of-fact….”people don’t like to be called fat”. Not sure if someone called him that, but I am going to try to find out.