June 2, 2013 by mybattlebuddyfitness
I love living in this country. It is the land of the free and the home of the brave. Women, minorities, disadvantaged, disabled individuals here live better than in a majority of countries around the world. We have rights protected by the constitution and upheld by our sacred institutions. Every day people are opening their minds and hearts to lifestyles that even mere decades ago were deemed ‘unacceptable’. And I am proud to live in such a society.
And yet, in a country where we try to make just about everything ok, where we validate all sorts of lifestyles and choices, there is an odd feeling I get when I talk to people about getting and staying healthy. Now, by healthy, I’m not talking about extremes (though we will come back to this later). I mean working out, staying active, not eating processed foods or foods that are high in fats, sugars, and salts. Basically, I am looking out for number one, treating this body as the temple it is designed to be and the only one I am going to have while I walk the Earth. But when you tell people you workout for a couple of hours a day, you are labeled a fanatic. And when you won’t eat processed foods, you are a ‘health nut’. And I find this disconcerting.
If you haven’t ready Elisabeth’s post on her journey for the Emerald Cup, at least go back and read her last post, her lessons learned. The thing I found most fascinating about it was people telling her how unhealthy she was being. Now, I am not going to defend figure competitors as a lifestyle choice, I feel that is another debate for another blog. But think about this: for 12 weeks, 3 of which I would deem as extreme, she was extremely thoughtful about what she put into her system. She took in precise amounts of fats, carbs, and proteins, and doubled up on workouts to achieve a certain outcome. And it was for ONLY 12 weeks. That’s all. Did you see those pictures? She looked amazing, and she did it all in a very controlled, very deliberate fashion.
But a lot of people, some of my friends, some of her friends and family, thought it was ridiculous, it was unhealthy. She was in the best shape of her life and it was UNHEALTHY. And yet, when she was overweight, no one stopped her. No one said hey, maybe you shouldn’t eat that or hey, maybe you should exercise a bit. They just let it go and let her continue to do things that could have eventually led to heart disease and diabetes if left unchecked.
Extremes of any sort are bad. And you can be too thin and you can do things to achieve a certain weight that are unhealthy. I totally see that. But when I think about society as a whole, we don’t bat an eye when we hear about folks eating out at fast food joints on a daily basis, or when we read studies that say the majority of Americans don’t exercise as much as they should (or we do feel upset about it in the moment but then we move onto the next news cycle and largely forget about it). We don’t generally directly talk to someone when they are overweight. I have never confronted a friend directly and said to them that I am worried about their weight nor asked what I can do to help. When approached I am more than happy to help, but I would never call it out. It seems . . . rude or indecent on some level. Maybe they are trying or maybe they don’t care or any number of other reasons, it is the way it is. I just consider it something they have to deal with and will talk to me when they are ready.
But when I flip the coin, I notice that people are pretty quick to talk about the person they think is too healthy, or the person that is in the gym too much, or the person that does too many sporting events (like marathons, triathlons, etc). It isn’t always negative per se, it is just labeled in a way that I feel passes judgment. Even some of my closest friends probably think I am now ‘extreme’ because I like to exercise so much or because I won’t eat certain things. I actually try to hide the behavior so people don’t know about it, and I downplay weight loss or clothes fitting better. I feel badly when I say I won’t eat in certain places because they don’t serve food I will eat. Maybe it is because it forces us to turn the mirror upon ourselves and examine the choices we make in our lives. And I self-sensor talking about exercise . . . and maybe I shouldn’t care, but when I sometimes get those looks (and I cannot put my finger on what those looks are trying to tell me), I decide it is just best not to talk about it at all.
This has been a hard blog post to write, mostly because I don’t think I have gotten to any sort of conclusion. Maybe it isn’t a topic that can reach a conclusion. Maybe it is something we all need to think about and reflect upon. But I have been thinking about this ever since Elisabeth’s competition. Since practically everyone I know told me that she looked too thin, that what she was doing wasn’t healthy, and that they hoped I would never encourage her to do anything like that again. What is the right answer? Or is there a right answer?
Written by Elisabeth Meany
I find it so fascinating that people are more than willing to reach out and tell someone that they think they are “too skinny” or work out “too much,” but we are all totally closed mouthed when it comes to telling our friends or loved ones that we are worried they are too large or unhealthy. I am constantly surprised by how quick people are to judge me for my lifestyle. I’ve heard that I’m extreme, obsessed, too hardcore, and over-the-top. None of these are true. On the flip side, when I was fat, I never once heard the words that I NEEDED to hear and the words that were most certainly true…No one ever told me that I was overweight, making excuses, and totally unhealthy.
I’m sure you’ve all been there before. You’re out with your friends and everyone in the group wants to hit up a Mexican joint for dinner—chips and salsa, margaritas, the works. Then your “fit friend” boldly pipes up and says that she would really appreciate going somewhere she can get a big salad. Rather than everyone looking at one another and agreeing that a salad is really a better choice for EVERYONE, a few people exchange side-glances with one another and then try and convince the fit friend why she needs to stuff her face with processed junk and sodium. Let me tell you people, I’ve been that “fit friend” in various similar scenarios. The side-glances didn’t go unnoticed, and the comments about how I don’t need to worry about it because “I’m not fat,” were equally unhelpful. If you don’t hear me complaining to you about the way you eat, what gives you carte blanche to give me your opinion on the way I eat? I don’t think it’s fair.
Admittedly, I am just like Melissa in that I wait until someone reaches out to me for help before I go preaching about my lifestyle to them—and maybe this isn’t a good thing. Maybe I should be more proactive…I have often thought about approaching total strangers in the grocery store and simply handing them my business card and telling them, “I’m here when you’re ready.” But I’ve never done it. I always convince myself that it’s not my place. I never want to make someone feel bad or ashamed for being overweight, I only want to help them change, and ultimately, I have convinced myself (possibly erroneously) that this is not the best way to go about helping people. But maybe I’m wrong. If I don’t reach out to them, maybe no one ever will. And maybe they’re just waiting for someone to give them the nudge they need in the right direction.
My conclusion is this: I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THE RIGHT ANSWER IS ON THIS ONE. I do, however, know that I refuse to feel badly for treating my body with the respect it deserves. I know that every time I skip the chips or pass on dessert, I am doing myself a favor. Every time I go for an extra run or squeeze in an afternoon weights session, I am improving my life. Keep the side-glances coming…Just don’t be surprised if I speak up with my own opinions on what you’re doing.