I saw a Facebook status the other day that really miffed me. Because it was written by a 17 year old, I bit my tong and stewed on it for a few days. What grew in my mind is this type of op-ed piece that was a more fitting rebuttal then my flying off the handle comment would have been. Because I guess at seventeen, when you haven’t lived that much life experience, the world really is black and white. I remember how it is to be seventeen. Not really a kid, not really a grown up, and spilling over with a burgeoning knowledge that wants to escape. But this time it could perpetuate a hurtful stereotype.
She was basically saying how the woman in front of her at the store was overweight, and she was appalled this woman was buying chips, cookies and other junk food. That this woman was slowly killing herself and giving a whole generation a bad name. That this is what’s wrong with America and she must be on welfare. (I will state I don’t know this young lady, it was a status shared by one of my other friends.)
I was appalled for so many reasons. While obesity is an epidemic and an issue in this country, it is no way a black and white problem. There are many areas of gray. And to generalize a whole group of people as being lazy and on welfare just because they are overweight is wrong. Damn wrong. I have thirty eight years of life experience. As a diet technician in a long term care facility, as a mom, as someone who has struggle with weight issues. (I have been as small as a size 3 and as large as a size 16.) As someone who has struggled with the job market and had to rely on public assistance at times. And as someone who has struggled with depression and poor body image. All contributing factors to the obesity debate. I think I can speak on the gray areas.
Before we condemn this woman, why must we, we need to look at situational factors and psyco/emotional factors. All which are frankly none of our business. Do we realize that junk food costs less than healthy food in this economy? That the minimum wage currently under debate barley covers housing, never mind a healthy diet. That food stamps can be used by the working poor, but barely covers the cost of fruit and vegetables, and lean meat and dairy. All foods that contribute to a healthy diet. Do we know what her support system is? Do we know if anyone has educated her on food choices and exercise? Do we know if she suffers from debilitating depression or anxiety? All contributing factors to obesity. Would this young woman even take the time to get to know someone like that an offer a hand? She could have been a professional, a hard working woman. To generalize anyone by their food choices is just asinine.
As a country America is clearly lacking in tolerance on many levels. We put money and success over personal relationships and responsibility. We are afraid to come out of our comfort zone and reach out to our neighbors. It’s easy to sit in our comfortable homes and think we know people and what they are going through. When in reality, we all have stuff that we have to work on. Judgment of others being number one.
A good friend of mine wrote a book, Fat Chances. It covers a lot of these issues in the fictional account of a young, overweight woman, who finds love and acceptance, and ultimately a relationship, in the form of an average weight personal trainer. He sees beyond her body image and to the core of her soul. And a beautiful relationship unfolds.
In the midst of all the great reviews she has gotten, accolades, and top sales, there are those who criticize the reality of a good looking, in shape, man falling for an overweight woman. Why? Are we really that shallow as a society that the thought of that makes us uncomfortable? Can someone not look past the outside and see the potential and beauty inside? Why are we so quick to judge?
So to that long lady who posted the Facebook status, I’m glad your life is perfect and you have never had to make the choices that some people have to make. I’m glad at seventeen you have it all figured out. I just pray that someday you see the gray areas, the in between, and experience more of this world and people’s struggles.
To the woman she was putting down. I wish I knew who you were. I wish we could talk. It’s ok. There are ways out of the cycle. When you are ready.
To all of us. Tolerance and walking in someone else’s shoes goes a long way.*Fat Chances by J.S. Wilsoncroft is available on Amazon and Barnes and Nobel