Monday, October 25, 2010

The Morbid Elephant in the Room


I didn't want to write about this for fear of being perceived as the "skinny, insensitive jerk". But if this post pushes someone towards a healthier lifestyle, then it's all worth it.

Think back in your life. Have you ever seen someone who has lost a drastic amount of weight (in a good way), and said, "Wow you look great! You've really lost weight!" Probably. Even if someone seems to have dropped about 5 - 10 lbs that they could afford to lose, you usually comment on it. Now... let's flip it. Everyone's seen someone with the "Freshman Fifteen", or who just happened to gain a couple pounds over the holidays. Do you point it out and say, "Looks like you've picked up some weight there, chubbers!" Of course not.




But why don't we? Why are we as friends eager to tell someone that their belt doesn't match their shoes, or "I don't think the Cassie haircut is for you", but slow to tell them that their health is in danger with the extra pounds? Throwing all aesthetic concerns to the side, being overweight and/or obese is simply bad for your health. Forget the fact that it's difficult to find clothes, or squeeze into a tight spot on the train; what about the fact that simply being overweight increases the risk of death by 20 - 40%.?

We don't want to talk about it, because we're afraid of hurting people's feelings. But if you really love someone, if you are truly being a great friend, don't you look out for someone's best interest in something as important as their health? I'm not suggesting that you go out and tell casual associates and strangers on the street, to, "Put down the ice cream, pick up a bike!" But for the people who matter to you most, your close friends, your family, the people who value what you have to say... tell them the truth. Be kind, honest, and proactive in creating solutions. Suggest that you take a yoga class together or opt for the stairs instead of the elevator. Talk about their health, not about their appearance because that's what matters.


A few stats that should motivate you:
  • Only 65% of obese Americans said they were ever told by a doctor that they were overweight.
  • The Center of Disease Control reported that about 1 in 10 adults have diabetes, and that by 2050, if we continue on the track, 1 in 3 adults will. Excessive body weight is linked to about 77% of diabetes cases in women (64% in men.) - Washington Express, 10/25/10
  • 63.1% of Americans are overweight or obese.
  • On average, obesity reduces life expectancy by six to seven years.
  • The rate of obesity among children and adolescents in the United States has nearly tripled between the early 1980s and 2000. In 2008, the rate of overweight and obese children in the United States was 32%.
You may be thinking, "Don't they already know they're overweight? Doesn't the world constantly remind them with their ads and such?" Well, I know I should pay my tithes to the church, but a friendly reminder from my pastor every few weeks doesn't hurt either.

On the "I love me, just the way I am" movement.
If you're a size 22 or a size 2, God loves you just the same. However, isn't the best evidence of self-love, self-preservation? If you subscribe to the idea that your body is a temple, a sedentary lifestyle coupled with fried delicacies is incongruous with respect to your temple. Yes, you should love yourself and be proud of who you are. Love yourself enough to ensure that you're around for a while.

On parents who feed their children adult-sized meals and create unhealthy eating habits:
Stop.

Another quick anecdote that proves we have a problem:
I was in Philly, helping a friend move, along with his 15 year old cousin.
He gestured at the vegetable next to his wings, and said, "You want my asparagus?"
Me (floored): You mean celery?
Him: Oh... yeah.
Me: Maybe you should eat it; you haven't had any veggies today.
Him: Uh huh! I had orange juice. And water!
Me (DYING INSIDE): Orange juice is made from oranges... a fruit. Water is not... a... vegetable.
Him: You sure?
Me: (Exit stage left to cry into a corner, bemoaning our future)

What are your thoughts?
1. Have you ever told someone they should lose weight? If so, how did it go?
2. How would you feel if a good friend told you that you needed to lose weight?
3. Any tips on what to say?

I found a free BMI calculator. Check yours now!

15 comments:

  1. Weight is such a tricky subject to talk about...and I work in health. I usually get a side eye from patients about not being able to understand where they are coming from (b/c I appear young and fit). Of course, when I ask them if they would be more likely to take my help if I too were overweight/obese, they say no.

    For me, I don't get into straight up weight with friends/family because it usually turns into a battle ground and they get defensive. It's much easier to encourage people to be more active or eating right than straight up saying "Dang, chubbers". Those things lead to weight loss and you don't come off as the pound police.

    Most of times (

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  2. Pound police... Never heard that one!

    And yeah, you're right. presenting solutions instead of yapping about the problem is usually a better tactic.

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  3. I'm not the most healthy individual, so it's hard for me to tell others to watch their eating habits. Nevertheless, it is a very important discussion to have.

    I'm not sure how it's best to go about the conversation, but I know it can get annoying sometimes. I think folks resent fit individuals who always brag or emphasize how important health is. Often times, they can sound very condescending.

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  4. @Bengemin: I agree, it can definitely be annoying. I don't advocate for constantly berating people for their unhealthy habits. I have a friend, a super health nut, who gives me such shameful looks of derision when he watches me eat unhealthy food. It's tough.

    However, that's one end of the spectrum. No need to go to the annoying side. But on the other end, we completely ignore a major health issue. And that's no good for anyone. Certainly not the person.

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  5. People who are obese know they are obese. They have personal, private reasons for not acting on it, whether they are trying to lose weight and struggling or just not ready to try. Trust me, no onese person needs someone to point out how fat they are. We know. If we want someone's input on our weight, we'd ask for it.

    The first 'friend' who would come up to me and say "Hey, did you know you are very heavy and need to lose weight? You could die of heart disease. Have you thought about dieting?" or something in that vein, would no longer be a person I'd consider a friend.

    Interesting perspective, and I thank you for sharing it.

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  6. @Lyn: Does this mean that we shouldn't tell people that smoking is bad for you too? Because they already know? is the whole "truth.com" add a waste of time?

    Obviously, there's a time and place for it, but it shouldn't be "taboo" to help your friends get healthier. That's why I suggested proactive solutions like beginning a fun activity together, versus a preachy sermon.

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  7. Crystal, Yes. Unless they are your children. You have a responsibility to teach your children what is healthy and not. But I would wager that every adult in the USA who smokes already knows it is bad for them.

    Truth.com is an informational site, and is very helpful to teens whose parents do not teach them or whose parents smoke. I doubt you'll find waves of adult smoker quitting because someone told them it was unhealthy to smoke and a light bulb went on. Just as telling an obese person they are too heavy and unhealthy will not give them a light bulb moment, but, in most cases in people I know and myself included, will just trigger more self hatred and overeating, even bingeing.

    I think we come from different places in our experience. I do agree saying to a friend "hey want to go for a walk?" is helpful. But not TELLING them they are fat. They already know and know it is bad for them.

    And I do believe that an adult who is overweight has the right to remain overweight if they so choose. It is personal.

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  8. i have to say, i agree with lyn. would a slimmer person be just as quick to tell another slim person that they are horribly unhealthy despite their size? i don't think so.

    i say this because most people tend to equate being "average/healthy WEIGHT" with being "healthy" and this is such a myth it's almost ridiculous. being a healthy weight is not indicative of a healthy lifestyle most times.

    in that light, i have to ask...do you know how unhealthy your family members who are overweight are, and can you be sure that simply because you are slimmer than they are, you are automatically healthier than they are? i'm not asking this to be offensive, but to give another take on the situation.

    i am overweight myself and struggle to eat well and feed my children well. we buy locally and organically, i concentrate on having each meal be proportionately sized and from each food group, i watch salt intake more now than ever before, and about 5% of our monthly food bill goes towards snacks/treats, which usually consist of flavored yogurts, granolas, low fat candies, etc. a small portion of that 5% that we use for snacks consists of unhealthy/fatty/sugary snack foods/candy bars, etc etc. i probably know food pyramids and facts better than someone half my size.

    i have 3 children, one who is obese (90 lbs overweight), one who is a healthy weight, and one who is underweight (about 3 lbs under the lowest healthy weight category for her age, which is a big deal because she's so young). imagine my surprise when i took them all to the dentist, and the one with the worst teeth health wise (the unhealthiest dentally) was the one who i am still trying to get to catch up to her healthy weight. my oldest daughter sees many specialists for her weight among other things that may be affecting her, and my other 2 daughters are not overweight at all, which helps my doctors to understand that there is more than just "food and exercise" issues concerning the weight of my oldest daughter because i treat each of my daughters equally regarding all parts of their day, including meals and playtime. so they do more than just offer the typical, "do more exercise!" option.

    do i need anyone telling me my child is overweight and will struggle if she doesnt get help or suggesting to me ways i can help my daughter to slim down? no. i don't need a lay person to assume i am in need of help because of my weight and then "offering to help me" with myself or my daughter...we have a nutritionist/dietician who has over 20 years experience in the field and gets paid for that.

    lyn is correct imo, most of us who struggle with issues like weight, smoking, depression, etc in ourselves/family...know something is wrong and don't need others who assume they are in a better position to "help us" because of the way things look to them.

    i can understand the sentiment, but it's still better to be safe/wise than sorry. Christ said don't sit yourself at the head of the table when there may be someone present who deserves that position more than you, youll wind up embarassing yourself.

    we have to be careful not to elevate ourselves to positions we aren't qualified to be in, someone may just have to reseat us!

    i love this blog and the thought provoking posts within!

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  9. oh, and i don't think you're an insensive, skinny jerk at all! this is a touchy/thin line topic for some of us. and my last few words are what i remind myself every day...it's something we all should strive to pay attention not to do a bit more.

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  10. @Lyn, @A Proverbs wife: I never agree with telling people they are fat, or in any other way pointing the finger at them. But I definitely think it's ridiculous that our country has become scared to tell people things that could potentially be life-saving. I, too am guilty of keeping my mouth shut. The vast majority of adults that are overweight, know they are overweight and are at least passively familiar with the unsavory consequences. Similarly, the majority of other adults that engage in unhealthy behaviors are aware of those consequences as well. However... weight seems to be the only one that people don't want to address with individuals, and also one of the leading causes of cardiovascular disease.

    My concern is the double standard. People have absolutely NO problem telling someone "You're too skinny, you need to eat... girl you look like Olive Oil." No one finds that problematic. We're expected to take it is a back handed compliment. But if you make an innocuous, mild comment about someone's weight in relation to their health, it's out of line.
    I agree, Lyn, if someone chooses to be overweight, of course they have that right. I'm not advocating for jailing or fining overweight folks. Being significantly overweight is a fine in itself.

    @a Proverbs wife: Thanks for your compliments, and for reading. I sincerely appreciate it! In answer to your question, yes... the people I was speaking of who staged an intervention are indeed unhealthy eaters and do not exercise at all. I didn't want to delve into that, because they didn't ask to be blogged about, but you asked, so I shared.

    As far as I am concerned, I'm blessed with high metabolism, however I was also blessed with great parents. They both taught me the importance of eating vegetables, appropriate portions, and an active lifestyle. I don't always eat healthy, but I make purposeful decisions, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, choosing juice over soda, and limiting my red meat intake.

    I applaud your efforts with your family's health. No, it's not my role to tell your child she's overweight. I do believe, however, it is my responsibility to share my opinion with my close circle of peers, all adults. If I lost 30 lbs and became underweight, they'd tell me. Probably even if I lost 20. But if they gain 30 lbs, am I'm wrong for mentioning it? That makes NO sense! Being underweight and overweight are both unhealthy; being overweight is just more prevalent, and therefore, more accepted.

    You say it's better to be safe than sorry. I agree wholeheartedly! I'd rather someone's pride be a little punctured, because I suggested that we take a walk to work off that slice of pie, versus that same individual telling me that they have to take medicine for their high blood pressure.

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  11. i totally understand the sentiments there, and i feel the same way for someone struggling to maintain or even gain weight as i do for an overweight person...we have to watch what we say to people, we don't know what they are doing or why they are say..."sooooo skinny". i used to be a member of weight watchers, and was shocked to find people who joined the group because they couldn't GAIN weight, and it was seriously jeapordizing their health. one woman was 30 lbs underweight and having so much trouble, she never missed a meeting. i would have never thought that slim people struggle with weight too, and before that experience, would have probably scoffed at a small person who complained of their weight.

    i believe if it's truly done in good heart, then you're right--it's our DUTY to make sure we help our fellow man out whenever possible...that is a requirement, not an option, according to God. i would appreciate you coming to me with a suggestion from the goodness of your heart, vs. one from a "holier than thou" standpoint. i guess in my experience most people choose the latter, and it's such a bad rub off that many people in society today would rather avoid hearing (and then giving) advice either way, because we don't know how it will be given or received yanno?

    it's a shame either way that people make assumptions about others based on looks alone, but that's the world that we live in.

    the funny thing about my own weight issues are...is i don't eat enough! and i can't lose weight. i struggle with better portions (more) and eating healthier, but my schedule has always been poor for eating and i struggle with it years later...often eating only one meal per day. i used to be soooo mad at people that ate all day long and had healthy weight control, while here i was, eating 1 time a day and about 50 lbs overweight.

    funny how that works!

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  12. @A Proverbs Wife: Luck of the draw huh? I can't offer any advice, because as you said, you probably know more about it than I do. I wish you the best though!

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  13. Being in the health field (health/PE teacher), I have absolutely no problem telling someone that they need to lose weight. The problem is, i tell my family members and they just point out things that I do (i.e. Have an occasional drink lol) that aren't as healthy. I did Insanity for 60 days, and I tried to get my family involved. After they watched my complete the "Fit Test" they declined to participate. Now, I love my family, but they all pretty much live a sedentary lifestyle. I try to be somewhat of an example, but it's really not working. I don't even know what to do anymore...

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  14. Unfortunately, money is the main motivator (I’ll get into that later) -
    Now I have always been the smallest/skinniest in my family (I was 4’-11”, 95 lbs going into H.S.) I watched my whole family get obese and when I was young I used to lie & tell my parents I ate dinner when I did not. My motivation was that I didn’t want to end up like them with high blood pressure & diabetes. Sports changed all of that, and besides my father, I was the only one who did sports like football & track.

    I too have done P90-X & Insanity, but I could not get my family on board, even though I have had tremendous results. Maybe being 300 miles away has an affect also. For the record, I’m trying to gain weight, not lose. The only way I could get my family active is to institute “The Biggest Loser” game with money in the pot involved. Even though I’m not a participant, I put money in the pot & share my workouts with them. They each have shed some pounds now and it’s sad that years of talking could never get the results that this has.

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  15. @Drew: I applaud your efforts on your family's behalf! Talk about a creative solution. I don't know if I'm willing to put up money for other folks to get healthy, (mostly bc I ain't got it), but I do think it's a good idea. It's sad that you had it to do it that way, and I wonder how long it will last... hmmm....

    @jiburgess: I think Drew is offering a solution!!

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