I have written before about the way people think of and treat heavier folks who ride in motorized carts at the grocery store, and how wrong their assumptions can be. I have shared my response to my innocent preschooler's question about her classmate: "Why is Max so fat?" And I have repeatedly discussed how important I think compassion is towards others. Yet it is on my mind frequently, because weight loss and obesity has been such a huge part of my focus for so long now, and I often ponder the way people, and myself, think and feel about the obese... and their children.
I asked Friday, and you answered. I know we have a sort of 'closed group' here responding, and honestly I think we get both more compassion (because we have been there) and more judgement (because we have been there), or in other words, maybe our feelings are more extreme than the general population who has never been fat. I have been appalled at the way the general public treats morbidly obese people... assuming laziness and gluttony and all manner of negative things about *all* very large people. But I think the general public also has a much stronger response to the sight of a morbidly obese adult with a similarly obese child. "They should not let them get that way." "That is child abuse!" We saw it in the comments here on my blog, too. And those are honest opinions and feelings, with, in some cases, perhaps some validity. But I personally believe that in the majority of cases, it is not child abuse. There is something deeper going on that we can't even begin to guess about.
To me, it is kind of like many of us who gained a lot of weight. It sort of creeps up on you. I gained 80 pounds in less than a year, and people wondered how on earth I could "let myself" get like that. Well honestly I didn't notice until I was pretty far gone. I knew I was gaining weight but it seemed like I exploded overnight, really. And you know how your kids grow and change and since you see them every day, you don't really "see" it? I am sure most parents do love and want the best for their children.
This question was prompted by two experiences in the past week.
1) I was sitting in my car in a parking lot, turned to look out my window, and saw a very large woman who I might guess to be 350+ pounds walking with a girl about 10 years old who looked very much like her, in every way, including her body type. The child was very obese.
Of course, at this point, there are those who are enraged that I noticed the body size of these two strangers. "It's not your business!" Well, you're right. That's why I didn't stare, or get out of my car and try to talk to them about weight loss. I don't know them, I don't know if that mother has already lost 100 pounds or if she has no idea what to eat to get healthy or if she is perfectly happy as she is. Not my business. Correct. But I will never pretend to be blind. I see. I don't understand people who say they "don't notice" a person's weight or the color of their skin or their disability. When I see a person, my EYES cannot NOT see that they are black, white, short, fat, bald, male, female, young old, missing a leg, whatever. Seeing is NOT judging. It is observation. It is a function of our eyeballs.
Sitting and assuming and dwelling on what we see *is* a choice, and I don't think *thinking* about what we see is wrong. I have long ago stopped making judgements about random people on the street. I saw those people and I thought about how hard it is to be that obese, to find clothes that fit, to go to middle school and be teased. But the biggest thought I had was sorrow at how this pair of people are probably treated when they go out and about. Not everyone has a filter. I am sure people make comments about their weight and the mother's parenting in their hearing and directly to them. And that makes me sad.
2) My daughter has a friend she met in a class she was in. Her friend, Caylee, is five years old and very obese. She is not just large, but is a weight that might be medically concerning to me if I were her mother. The rest of her family is stick thin. One day, my daughter and I went at a little restaurant. My daughter is on the underweight side for medical reasons, so we try to maximize her calories without including sugary treats. At the buffet, she chose a slice of pizza, some macaroni and cheese, a little fettuccine, and fried chicken. Everyone smiled as they walked past our table at my little girl so excited to have foods she doesn't usually get at home, savoring the fried food and grinning. (Yes I have also had people... not in person, but on this blog... attack my food choices for my daughter without knowing or seeing her, so I get how that feels). Well, just across the room I noticed Caylee was there as well with her family. And on her plate were the same foods my little girl had chosen. But several people walked by slowly and stared and even paused with a scowl. I saw someone shake their head after they passed her table. I could not believe anyone would act that way to a child, but I guess people make assumptions when they see a child so heavy with "unhealthy" things on her plate. But you know what really got me? That these same people smiled and approved and thought it was okay when these same "unhealthy" foods were on the plate of my very thin child!
I waved at the mother, we walked past and my girl said "hey that is the same thing I had to eat!" and the mother, sadly apologetic, looked at me and said, "Yeah, that's what she likes, I can't change it." I can only imagine that she felt the need to say that because in the past, people have attacked her because of her child's food choices.
Well, maybe it's true that parents with obese kids *should* control what they eat. Heck, shouldn't *all* parents? Is it fair to get on Caylee's mom for letting her have M&M's at Halloween but not get on me for the same? I dunno, it's hard when kids are involved because we are responsible for their well-being. If Caylee grows up into a 300 pound teen with diabetes, whose fault is it? I know how most would answer. And I do wish that all of us would be more careful about what we let our kids put in their mouths. It's tough living in a society where the kid goes to school and gets fed 2 cupcakes at a birthday party. It's tough when you take your kid to dance and they come out with a jelly donut and a coupon for McDonald's. It isn't any easier when every party you go to has brownies and cakes and cookies. I don't have cookies or baked stuff in my home at all, so when we go grocery shopping and my child is with me, I do let her get a free cookie at the bakery. Yesterday the baker came out and handed her a BIG chocolate chip cookie. It was a lot more sugar than she is accustomed to at one sitting. As I was pondering splitting it in half and saving the other half for another day, the baker came back out and tried to hand her another cookie! "It's okay, no thanks," I said. "Take another!" he said to her, holding out the cookie. "Really, it's enough., no thanks," I said, yet he continued to offer it to her, smiling and saying "have another!" as we walked away saying "thanks, bye!"
Anyway, I guess the summary of what I, personally think is that everyone has their struggles. We don't know what they are, so we are best to not assume or judge. Caylee's mom has, in the past, mentioned her child's weight to me. My response was to invite her to dance class, to offer recipes for low sugar whole grain snack bars, to let her know where she could get fresh fruit at a reasonable price. That is all I can do. I can send my child to school with a healthy lunch rather than letting her bring Twinkies or eat the processed meals they sell in the cafeteria. I can make sure *my* child is healthy and active to the best of my ability.
Friday Update and Reality Check
1 day ago