I watched parts of Jamie Oliver’s “Jamie’s Eat to Save Your Life” program last Sunday night on the Food Network. At first I was a little bored by it, but it was actually pretty good. (If you missed it, you can watch it on Youtube.)
It got me thinking about some of the things that non-obese people do/say to obese people that really annoy me. OK, I know that kind of list could be reeeeeeeeally long so I’ll only pick the top three annoyances (you’re welcome):
- “You’ll lose weight if you just eat less and exercise more”
My sister and I are opposite sides of the food issues coin: while I binge eat, she’s an exercise addict and, at times in her life, has been a borderline anorexic. She came to visit me for a couple of weeks several years ago, at a time when her body image issues were quite obvious. After she admitted to exercising rigourously in my bathroom because she caught a glimpse of her “fat legs” in the mirror (she’s a runner so she has a runner’s muscular legs but she sees the muscle and thinks “fat”), she and I had a long discussion about eating and food issues during which she pulled out the old “You’ll lose weight if you just eat less and exercise more”. It’s an arrogant naivité. Whatever an obese person might say in public defense of themselves, we all know inside that eating less/better and exercising more will make us lose weight. We’re not stupid. But you don’t become obese without there being some underlying mental or emotional issues that need to be addressed. Just losing weight won’t make those issues go away, and in fact that’s just likely to make people switch to a different addiction. (My food addiction and my sister’s exercise addiction are both manifestations of some deep, underlying emotional issues — and neither is healthy in the long-term.)
- People who think they must critique your food
My mother worries about my weight constantly and has done so since I hit puberty. Every conversation with her invariably turned turned to advice about what I could be doing to lose weight. A couple of years ago, I told her and my father that they were no longer allowed to raise the issue of my weight — if I brought it up myself, it would be to share, not to start a dialogue. They’ve been good about accepting that.
They’re not the people I’m talking about in this peeve, though. They’re just being parents, and I understand that. I’m talking about people like this guy I used to work with who, whenever the team was out for lunch, felt he had to comment on how unhealthy whatever I’d ordered was, and offer me tips for losing weight. I eventually had to tell him to shut up.Most obese people know what they need to do — or not do — to lose weight. In fact, I suspect that many obese know a great deal more about nutrition and health-related topics than the average person. We don’t need you to preach to us, to attempt to educate us with unsolicited advice. Unless we’re eating food off your plate, it is none of your business. And unless you’re asked for your advice, keep it to yourself.*
- Doctors saying “I’d be happy if you just lose x pounds”
Liars. They wouldn’t be happy. They’d be happier than they would be if you lost nothing, but the instant you reach that goal, they’ll come up with a new “Well, if you only lost x more pounds, you’d [gain this benefit]”. They won’t truly be happy until you are within the acceptable range and/or meet their criteria for ideal size/weight. Don’t get me wrong. I understand why they do it. But it’s a little hypocritical, a little patronizing, and a lot annoying.
*Just to clarify — I’m talking about one-on-one communications here, not articles, blog posts, books, etc. Advise away in your own personal space. You may reach someone open to your advise. But when you’re talking to someone specific, be they friend or acquaintance, keep it to yourself unless you’re asked for it.