There's a relatively new term making the rounds on social media: Fit shaming. I had never heard this term before, but instantly knew what it meant and that I had been the target of it before.From what I have seen, people support you in your journey, but usually only to a point. If you are visibly overweight and decide to make a change, you can expect lots of verbal support. You will get pats on the back and various comments from people claiming they can already see a change. You will get accolades about how hard you are working in the gym. Virtual high fives will come across Facebook applauding your efforts. You get into a smaller size of pants and can almost hear nationwide cheering.
Unfortunately, I think our perception of what's healthy and should be considered normal has shifted. It is as though you're allowed to eat healthy for a little bit, but if you stay the course, you're an extremist. You're a fanatic. You're no fun. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you I had a surgeon put his nose three inches from my plate in the break room and say, "Gag, how can you eat that?" Here was a physician who had already had a heart attack, mocking my food choices. I've maintained my weight loss for a decade by balancing my food choices and exercise plan. Yet, that isn't being respected here. Instead, it is being disrespected with mockery. I have countless stories of things like this happening to me at work, at family dinners, at social functions, etc. Can you imagine the wrath I would face if I put my face in his bag of burgers and fries from a fast food joint and asked him how he could put that into his body?
At the beginning of my journey, I would have caved. I would have hated that now everyone in the lounge was staring at my plate and scrutinizing me. My face would have been red. However, after years of hearing such comments, I've toughened up a bit. I simply said, "Well, I'm not overweight and don't have a heart problem, so it is hard to argue with my results." Perhaps that was catty and I could have phrased it better, but I was caught off guard and that was all I could come up with at the moment. Little did he know that with practice, I had actually found incredibly tasty recipes that my kids even request for their own dinners. Did he know or care that I have maintained a 65 pound weight loss? Did his comment even have anything to do with me at all? Likely not. Nonetheless, these types of conversations need to shift and will only start to shift if we stop changing our behavior based on what the bullies say to draw attention to us and away from themselves. Stick to your guns. Remember why you are eating what you're eating and stay the course.
His comment was likely aimed to make me stand out so that no one would watch him inhale his third donut of the day. So why take it personally? It's awfully hard not to. Eating healthy and maintaining your weight are not the norm. Three out of four Americans are overweight. Our nation's health statistics are abysmal. The truth of the matter is that the more you are okay with your lifestyle choices, the less you need others to be okay with them. America isn't likely to change their habits anytime soon. However, if you can help to implement a change by making healthy choices and standing by them, you may encourage someone else to stick to their plan. Perhaps they will find the strength to stand by you, or even join you in your journey when they see your conviction to your lifestyle. Your children will model your behavior. This is how we can positively influence the future of health. Believe it or not, the one who publicly mocks you may be the one who comes to you in private and asks you for help. While it may be tempting to walk away, it is much more rewarding to offer guidance and support.