"I saw few die of hunger; of eating, a hundred thousand." -Ben Franklin

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Don't Judge a Book By Its Cover

There is no doubt that people can be extremely judgmental about, well, everything.  From the clothes we wear to the cars we drive to the music we listen to, it seems like someone always has a negative opinion about us.  You're a slob if you're not wearing the latest fashions; you're uncultured for listening to pop music; you're a rich snob if you drive a nice car.  We spend so much of our lives being judged for our choices... yet we spend even more time being judged for what we look like.  Pick up any magazine, and chances are you'll see at least one story criticizing some celebrity for being too fat or too thin.

We are all human beings here, and I'm sure the majority of us are insecure about our looks.  So who are we to judge others?

I've struggled with weight my entire life.  I was teased in elementary and middle school for being fat (among other things), and it really sucked-- I wouldn't wish that (or any type of teasing/bullying) upon anyone!  I was ashamed of my weight and appearance, and I was an emotional eater, so I ate more to deal with that-- and until I was 13 (when I found Atkins), it was a never-ending cycle of getting picked on for my weight, and then turning to food for comfort.  (And by high school, I was overweight, the new kid, and an academic-oriented theatre geek.  Yeah... I kept turning to food.)
People (and especially kids) can be incredibly cruel and judgmental-- if you're not thin and beautiful, you're somehow a lesser person, regardless of your personality or talents/abilities.  That's not okay with me.  And it's never okay to pick on people for their looks (or anything else, for that matter!).  You are more than a number on the scale or the size of your jeans-- and we should view others with that idea in mind.

Our society is whack.  What mostly prompted this post is this article: "America's hatred of fat hurts obesity fight", which kind of hit home for me, given my life-long struggle with weight and being teased for it.  According to the article, "Children as young as 3 tell scientists studying [the stigmatization of obesity] that overweight people are mean, stupid, ugly and have few friends," and adults say "obese people are self-indulgent, lazy and unable to control their appetites."  Why the hell do looks and personality go hand-in-hand in our society?  And how absolutely heart-breaking is it that preschoolers have already been taught to judge others like this?  What are we doing to our kids?

Prejudice is taught, and clearly 3-year-olds already judging overweight people will keep this problem going, considering they'll go to school and start picking on and isolating any kids that they deem overweight/fat... and "targets of stigma often fall into depression or withdraw socially, both making overeating, binge eating, and a sedentary existence more likely."  This is a vicious cycle.  Americans are so obsessed with being thin (because obviously, thin = good and fat = lazy/stupid/bad) that "in a 2007 study, 24% of women and 17% of men said they would trade three or more years of life to be svelte."  Right.  So being thin-- focus on thin, not healthy-- is more important than a few more years of life.  Of course.  Look, I know that being overweight/obese puts you more at risk for health problems, but there are so many thin people with health problems too!!  The prescribed "eat less, move more" might make someone thinner, but that doesn't mean that'll make them healthier... so health care costs would still be an issue if they're sick/malnourished.

I don't consider myself to be thin.  I'm not a twig, and you won't see me in a bikini any time soon.  But I'm healthy-- I'd rather be a healthy size 6/8 than an unhealthy size 2.  The aforementioned article ends with this quote: "I work out, I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, and I'm still not thin."  Story of my life!  In fact, just a few weeks ago, the amazing Ancestralize Me! came out with "Paleo Women are Phat", which A) is a must-read, and B) discusses why some women in the community aren't as "lean and mean" as the men.  But what I love most about this post is the emphasis on strength, health, and personality, rather than just being skinny.
The post also features a picture of the Venus of Willendorf (which I had the pleasure of seeing on my trip to Vienna last month)-- this fat little statuette, and other "Venus figurines," were worshiped by paleolithic people.  Worshiped.  Can you imagine the majority of Americans worshiping something that wasn't thin and beautiful today?  God forbid!
The definition of beauty has been so horribly warped.  In fact, artist Anna Autopia Giordano altered some famous pieces of art (including Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus") to meet today's beauty standards in her exhibition "Venus."  Check it out.

Really, though: the saddest thing about this whole obesity crisis is that people don't seem to want to be healthy-- they just want to be thin.  The two are not synonymous.  I understand it, of course-- you'll still be judged and teased if you're a healthy size 12, because health isn't something that can be seen.  Even if your numbers are all perfect and you've cured all of your ailments and haven't been sick in months, you'll still be seen as the fat lady/guy/kid.  And that's not fair to you!  People need to back the hell off!
People's judgmental and hurtful comments also foster an attitude of Well, this is how it is, so it's okay I'm being picked on.  No.  After fat jokes were made about him at the White House Correspondents' dinner, Chris Christie stated, "When you're overweight, fair or unfair, there's going to be those who make really awful comments about you and there are going to be people who make jokes about it.  That's the way it goes." Well, that shouldn't be the way it goes!  Things need to change!  This is bullying, and it needs to stop.

Overweight/obese people are not stupid or lazy, and they shouldn't be treated as such.  You don't know their stories, and they should not be judged.  No one should be judged, bullied, made fun of, or picked on because of how they look (or what they believe in, or who they love, etc.).  What we can do, however, is educate and help others.  We can point people-- regardless of their size-- in the right direction health-wise.  We can teach people to make smart food and lifestyle choices-- to cut out processed/refined foods, to sleep and move more, to end toxic relationships and spend more time around the people they love, and to stop judging books by their covers.

Quote of the Day:
"Who are you to judge me and the life that I live?  I know that I'm not perfect and that I don't claim to be.  So before you point your fingers, be sure your hands are clean."  -Bob Marley, "Judge Not"


  1. Loved this post Leigh!!! I agree that our community is totally messed up. You can pretty much never be right in the eyes of others...too big or too thin you will be judged. When did society start defining people by size instead of values?

  2. What an awesome post. I'll be following you now :) You're really inspiring.

  3. LIKE IT, being judge mental is not God's will