I used to blog regularly. It’s such a rewarding way to interact with readers. Some posts were lighthearted and others more “weighty”. I had a good handle when a topic was one that could push buttons and I’ve never shied away from button-pushing. I don’t post as often these days, though I am making an effort to improve on that.On Friday, in the interest of writing a quickie post, I recapped a couple of newspaper articles from the week. It felt good to write, as it always does. I didn’t think it was controversial, in the slightest. Snarky? Maybe. Written quickly, sloppily and rushed? Totally. But up it went and I didn’t give it a second thought. Well, perhaps I should’ve.
Late Saturday, I was off to one of my son’s soccer games (because why should weekends involve anything else), when Carolyn emailed me. One of her clients read the post and felt it was fat shaming. My first thought was, how brave to write the detailed email explaining her point of view. My second thought or feeling was sadness for putting out anything that could make anyone feel shamed. After all, my life’s work is boosting people up on this body, health journey. I am on a crusade against shame, guilt and all other negativity in this complicated sphere.
I went back and read the post. The first article, from the NYT talked about fewer overweight and obese people pursuing measures to lose weight and fewer people who were obese seeing themselves as such. This is upsetting to me, it’s upsetting from a health perspective and it’s upsetting as I feel many people, at all ends of the weight spectrum, don’t feel they have good, supportive channels to focus on their nutrition. However, I wrote a quick summary and I mentioned a recent trip to Disney, where I observed this in action. I didn’t see my words as fat shaming at all, or else I wouldn’t have written or thought them but I asked a few people to give it a read.
One friend, yes a friend but an attorney who is used to reading language for nuance, said, “I don’t read it that way. If someone JUST read the sentence about the fat acceptance movement being worrisome to you, I guess they could say it sounded a little like that. But I think people who know you or read your blog know you are blunt but always thoughtful.”
Another reader first said, “I don’t find it fat shaming.” However, as the dialogue (texts) continued she said, “I think it’s very easy to comment on weight when you are a naturally thin person. When you struggle with weight, the thin person’s comments feel judgmental.” WOW, this was a bombshell for me. I see our struggles with food, body image and health so universal. I don’t come to the plate as a “I have great genes and look fab” mindset, if anything confidence is something I have had to work on. I pride myself on teasing out those, “omg you think that way too? we’re all so doomed” food comminalites . However, to outsiders or even my honest friend, I’m a thin person possibly passing judgement. That was important for me to hear.
This is longwinded, I’m sorry (sorry for so much today). Carolyn and I spoke, we emailed back the client but didn’t know how she’d respond. Her eloquent (we have a great clientele) reply below:
Thank you both for your thoughtful responses—I sincerely appreciate it. You can see my own bias in the way that I interpreted your blog post, as a person who has experienced the sting of bias in their attempt at becoming a healthier and happier person. I do believe that health professionals should be open and honest in their dialogue about obesity and the impact on short and long term health, but I do wonder about the number of people who have “accepted” their weight because they felt a lack of acceptance as human beings when faced with professionals who only treat that part of their being. I also admit to feeling uncomfortable when I speak with my own friends who are overweight but not addressing their battle with obesity and who continue to knowingly make poor choices.
I truly believe that this message is not part of the Foodtrainers mission or brand and I have felt nothing but happier and healthier since I started working with Carolyn (and yes, will reach out to set up an appt). I always appreciate honesty and I am grateful that you allowed us to have this dialogue.
I cannot tell her how grateful we are to her. She expressed something that can be touchy territory. And it profoundly changed my views. Yes, we want to continue to write about and address potentially controversial subjects. But it has to be with more thoughtfulness, a touch less snark (or snark well explained). And, despite 44 years on this planet as a female, I haven’t been obese. And despite how well I feel I relate, I don’t know what that’s like.
*I expanded Friday’s post since originally posting in order to include what I thought could be inferred.