Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Let's give 'em something to talk about...

Yesterday on his wildly popular weight loss blog, “Jack Sh*t Gettin’ Fit” posted an open letter to a morbidly obese couple that he ran into a few times while on vacation last week. The author has a big following, and I find his posts are often good for a laugh, or a sigh, or a kick in the pants. This particular post was an interesting read. Angry, passionate and well written, it was filled with blunt observations about the eating habits of the couple and as well as some uncharitable assumptions about other aspects of their lives and the effect of those things on their children. It certainly sparked some lively conversation.

Among the responses, it would seem that most people were a member of one of two distinct factions:

1. That was awesome and you’re my hero!


2. That was hateful and you should be ashamed of yourself.

And me? I guess I fall somewhere in the middle. The truth is that I know exactly where angry diatribes like that one come from, and I also know how much validity there was in the content. It can be really, really hard to watch other people making the same mistakes that you’re ashamed to have on your own resume—especially when you’ve finally found something that’s helping you rise above those old habits, when you’re pretty sure that you’ve finally made progress toward beating your own demons and you wish that everyone else would wake the hell up and get with the program already. Hubris is a natural consequence of success, and the feeling of power that comes with control is a force to be reckoned with.

When I read Jack’s letter, I admit that I understood where he was coming from, that I nodded my head as he called out the trappings of obesity and how it affects those closest to us and that what is touted as a personal lifestyle choice is often anything but. But I also admit that I found some of what he said cruel and spiteful, and that while the subject matter didn’t give me pause, the spirit in which it was conveyed did. Maybe I felt so conflicted because I saw myself all over that letter.

I saw myself in the anger it conveyed, in the calling out of truth without remorse. I saw myself in the disgust over the choices the couple made, in the confidence in the choices I was now making and how much better off my life was as a result. But I also saw myself in the faces of the couple he wrote about, in each movement from plate to mouth, in the way it feels to have others scrutinizing your choices, in the assumptions that others make about you behind your back, or right to your chubby face. I’ve seen those scenes play out from every seat in the house, and I’ll be damned if I can pick which one had the clearest view.

One of the very best (and most frustrating) gifts that this ongoing weight loss journey has had in its hands for me is a heaping helping of humility. I’ve felt the almost cosmic power of unshakeable self-control, and I’ve felt the despair that comes with losing my grasp on it. I know that very often the behavior that I find the most objectionable in others is usually what I can barely stand to look at in the mirror. Jack’s open letter to that couple brings home to me just how powerful both feelings are, but it also cautions me not to forget that “they” aren’t the only ones out there judging us by our actions, but that “we” are ever watchful as well.

I’m glad that he posted that letter, and I’m glad that I read it. I believe that breaking the silence that surrounds obesity is key in the fight against it, and that when it’s easier to talk about the fat it’s easier to fight it. And people sure are talking…


  1. I posted a "prayer" for myself several weeks ago ...
    "While on my journey to success, please don't let my head get bigger than my ass"
    after reading a very successful blogger's post (not J's) about people who shove Big Mac's in their mouths have "no right" to be quoting Anthony Robbins. This particular person weighed over 400 lbs at one time. It infuriated me that he seemed to have lost his empathy towards his fellow travellers.
    Unlike you though, I didn't have the balls to call him on it.
    And I wanted to keep myself in line as well. It can be easy to slip in to the holier than thou shoes.
    I do agree with J's frustration at people teaching their kids the same bad habits and am pretty judgmental about that I have to admit.
    Great post, Sara.
    I really enjoy reading your blog.

  2. I was on the same page as you, Sara about that post.

    I have tipped the scales at over 300+ in the past and I am sure thin or thinner people watched me and DH order appies, full entrees and dessert and looked on in disgust while we ate out.

    And I have even had my own moments of looking at a very large person and watching in sympathetic curiosity as they manouver on the bus or in a crowded space. I don't think bad things about them per say, I just know from personal experience how tough it is and feel oddly compelled to see how they navigate their lives.

    Which seems kind of cruel, but it's not my intention to be.

    I have promised myself that I will never judge anyone larger than I am for their weight or behaviors with food.

  3. I was conflicted by the post. I agreed with his take, and yet was struck by the harshness of it. It's hard for me to throw stones from the inside of my own glass house. At the same time I feel the anger at seeing anyone navigate into the fat waters where I have lived.

    I liked his post for his honesty at his own emotions. Our blogs don't have to be "nice" or "right" or "comfortable"...just honest.

  4. A very good read... really enjoy reading your blog, and i think a lot of what jack writes is honest, and it makes you think...

  5. I remember reading Jack's post about that couple. I remember thinking I've seen that same couple, but I have different thought when I see people like that.

    I remember being that person that was stuffing my face with food, and I remember losing the weight and swearing to everyone that would listen that I would never be fat again. Then I got fat again.

    I know how hard it is to lose weight, and even harder to keep it off. I know Jack meant well, he's a good guy, but I kind of didn't like his slightly holier than thou take on things.

    I've done this so many times that I will never forget what it's like to be that person. That person that other people stare at and thank God they're not that fat.

    Or they think they have the answer to being healthy and if only I could do what they've done (you have no idea how many people still tell me how to lose the last 20 pounds...cracks me up...I could write a freaking book on how to lose weight).

    I've done this so many times that I guess I have a lot of empathy for the obese. I get where they are, what they're feeling. I am still one of them...I always will be.