THIS YEAR’S FAMILY VACATION WAS GREAT. IT WAS A FUN TRIP FULL OF SUN, SAND, AND . . . THIS AMAZING FAT LADY ON THE BEACH.
Before you light your torches and rally your friends to skewer me, allow me to finish. I promise I’m not an insensitive, everyone-should-be-fit nutrition snob.
One day on the beach, we saw a really nice family. Everyone looked “normal” and healthy . . . except the mom.
Now, mind you, we were at Panama City Beach – The Redneck Riviera. It’s definitely not South Beach… full of perfectly shaped models and Channing Tatum impersonators. There’s plenty of extra human padding everywhere you look at PCB.
But this particular mom topped them all. She was extremely obese…probably inching toward 500 pounds.
Right now, what thoughts are going through your head?
What are you thinking when you read that this lady allowed herself to balloon to almost 500lbs?
Let’s be honest… we all like to feel good about ourselves. Sadly, the easiest way to do this is by finding someone who’s in worse shape – physically, financially, emotionally – and playing the comparison game.
Geez. At least I’m not THAT in debt.
At least I’m not THAT selfish.
At least I’m not THAT lazy.
At least I’m not THAT overweight.
We’ve all heard that comparison is the thief of joy . . . when you compare yourself to someone who appears to be better. But what about the other side of comparison? What happens when we compare ourselves to someone who appears to be worse off than us?
This type of comparison is the thief of compassion and a vicious trigger for judgment. Instead of empathizing with someone (that we know nothing about), we instantly judge them, exhale, and feel this false sense of happiness because … “at least I’m not as bad as they are”.
In just a few quick moments, we’ve totally dehumanized the other person. We’ve chosen short-lived relief from our own problems by seeing this person…this incredible human being, this mom, this dad, this son, this daughter…as an object. An unfortunate target used for the temporary elevation of our own self-image.
Zero compassion. Truckloads of judgment.
You might be saying to yourself, “But I’m right. That person is not doing well and does need help.”
It doesn’t matter if you’re right. Your judgements aren’t helpful. And frankly, you have no desire to help. You just want to compare and judge for your own sake. (Brief side note… I’m not wagging my finger at you here… I have to guard myself against this same temptations.)
After working with people for nearly twenty years as a food and fitness coach, I believe the best way to help someone is to eliminate preconceived notions and start with a blank canvas … to listen with unbiased ears, hear their story, feel their pain, and meet them where they are as a unique human being.
In other words, I believe love and compassion go a lot further than shame and guilt. Explaining to someone how fat and out of shape they are never helps. Deep down we all know the truth about ourselves don’t we?
Professor, author, and renowned speaker Brene Brown says it like this –
“Shame corrodes the part of us that believes we can change and do better.”
What happens when you feel ashamed?
Does it make you feel ready to tackle the world?
Yeah, didn’t think so. Shame leads to low self-esteem and feelings of unworthiness. It’s not a great launching pad for creating positive change. Good things rarely come from bad places. When people make positive changes, they’re typically initiated by love, not hate or disgust.
If you want to make the world a better place, begin modeling love and compassion for others. Because the cold hard truth is that we all have something we’re struggling with; something we’re not very proud of and would like to change.
You may not wear it “scarlet letter style” like obesity, but it’s there. It’s there for you. It’s there for me. I’d sure love a good dose of compassion rather than shame-filled judgement, wouldn’t you?
“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. We are worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is.” – Brene Brown
I believe this with all of my heart. Not because Brene said it, but because of my faith. I believe every single human being is incredibly important to God.
He loves us intensely, and not in a general way, but He loves us intimately and individually – fat, skinny, rich, poor, smart, slow, and everything in between. Like a perfect Father, He loves us as we are. If the God I believe in, trust in, and worship loves you like that – how can I not?
There is absolutely NO way you are not worthy of my love, compassion, and a sense of belonging IF God loves and accepts you.
So, back to that fat lady on the beach.
After processing my thoughts, I walked away amazed. Not amazed at how heavy she was or how she let herself get that way. I was amazed at the incredible courage it took for her to put on a swimsuit and walk out on a beach full of people that, deep down, she knew beforehand would judge her.
Maybe it’s time we find a big ol’ trashcan and Lebron James power slam all the ideas of what we should look like and what we should be like. Then, let’s start practicing some love and compassion with ourselves, because – as I tell my clients . . .
If you don’t love yourself now (when you’re out of shape), you won’t love yourself then (when you’re in shape).
And if you don’t love yourself, it’s dang hard to love someone else.
Love the person you are and treat yourself accordingly, because . . .
A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day.
A string of such moments can change the course of your life.
– Christoper K. Germer
If you enjoyed this post my and happen to be tired of all the confusion and dishonesty in the weight-loss industry, I encourage you to consider pre-registering for our next Rise Challenge. Click here for more info. It’s the starting point for anyone looking to make permanent, positive changes to their body.