Judge Not

weight-lossI recently saw a link to an article someone posted on Facebook about a study that was done to see if people ate less when calories were posted next to the menu items. There were menus with just the food item, the food item with the calories listed, and menus with the food item, the calories, and the number of minutes of brisk walking it would take to burn off those calories.

Not surprisingly, when confronted with how many minutes of exercise it would take to burn off a menu item, people opted for smaller, lower-calorie meals more so than when just confronted with the number of calories. (If you’re interested in the full article, you can read it here.) The theory is interesting and makes sense. That’s not where I have the problem. My problem was with the comment this person posted along with the article. This is what he said:

“I understand that most people simply do not get this concept. If you are fat it is simply because you eat more calories then you burn. Knowing how much walking it would take to burn off desert might make a difference once or twice for a meal but the fat person will still eat more then they burn over the long run.”

Now, as someone who has struggled for a lifetime with my weight, I was naturally annoyed and frustrated by his comment. This is not someone with whom I had previously interacted, and although other posts he’s made have been things I agreed with, I could not let this go without giving some thoughts from the other side. Clearly, he is not someone who has struggled with this issue or been close to someone who has. And, as this issue hits very close to home for me, I responded. Here is what I said:

“That is an extremely simplistic view of weight loss. Most overweight people are not that way due to laziness or love of fatty foods. If you see an overweight person chowing down on junk food, it likely is because they have tried every diet out there and have exercised until they can’t breathe, but it makes no difference, so they have simply given up. There are thousands of factors that contribute to obesity, including metabolism, genetics, food sensitivities, medications, and on and on that make it much more difficult for people some people to lose weight than others. To suggest that all fat people are fat because they eat more than they burn is the statement of an ignorant person who has never had to live daily with math that doesn’t work, has tried everything and has to live with the constant feelings of frustration that their bodies don’t react the way other people’s do and their effort doesn’t produce the same results, the feeling of constant judgment from skinny people, the eventual realization that the effort is not worth the results and if they’re going to be fat anyway, they might as well enjoy it.”

His response?

“Avily, it is a simple fact that it is impossible to gain weight unless you eat more then you burn. If you have figured out how this does not work then there are millions of starving people in the world that would like to know how others do it.”

Now, at this point I pretty well decided he was an ignorant jerk who along with never having had to struggle with this himself, has fallen for the common misconception that it’s all about the math, but even knowing this, his comment made me want to cry. It seriously ruined my entire afternoon, and I spent hours on the verge of tears, frustrated and angry and hurt and feeling like a worthless loser, because this one uneducated, ignorant, narrow-minded jerk personifies the attitude on the part of the skinnies of the world that makes us fatties think it’s a lost cause and makes us feel horrible for being fat, because clearly it means we’re doing something wrong and if we just had more self-control we wouldn’t be fat.

I did not respond after that. It was not worth the emotional turmoil. I vented to a couple of my best supportive friends to heal emotionally, but the incident stayed with me for a long time. And it got me thinking.

All of us have misconceptions and prejudices, even if we don’t realize it. For some, like for this guy, he has the idea that weight loss is about math and refuses to consider that there might be more at work. But what other misconceptions are there?

Have you ever driven past a homeless person on a street corner and thought, even at the back of your mind, that if they would just get a job or stopped drinking and doing drugs, they wouldn’t be living on the streets begging for money? But if you’ve never experienced it, you can’t really know what it’s like to lose your job, and then lose your home because you couldn’t get a new job, and then had to fend for yourself, never getting enough to eat, never getting enough sleep, never getting to take a shower and having to use grocery store bathrooms just to clean up, so you were always just far enough behind on all the simple things that other people take for granted that you could barely think one day at a time, let alone plan ahead for a job interview?

Have you ever looked at someone who was divorced or had an affair and thought, if they’d only tried a little harder to work on their marriage, they wouldn’t be in the position they’re in? But perhaps you haven’t lived with daily abuse or neglect or any of the things that can cause a person to seek an out in a relationship.

Have you ever had a friend who was in financial trouble, buried in credit card debt and considering bankruptcy and thought that if they weren’t so materialistic and didn’t need the latest gadgets or just had the discipline to stick to a budget, they wouldn’t be in that mess? But maybe you’ve never experienced living paycheck to paycheck, barely making ends meet, only to have unexpected car repairs or have something break down in your house that needs immediate fixing, and have to put it on the credit card, and then that compounds until the next inevitable crisis or repair, and it continues until you’re so far behind you feel you’ll never get out.

I’m not saying this is always the case. Stereotypes develop for a reason. Some people are overweight simply because they’re lazy and they like to eat junk food. Some people are homeless  because they’re too lazy to get a job or because they’re alcoholics and drug addicts. Some people are divorced because it wasn’t worth the effort to work on their marriages. Some people are bankrupt because they have to have the latest toy and don’t have the discipline to stick to a budget. But these are only a few of the many, many things about which we judge each other every day.

Perhaps instead of judging, we would do well to try to understand the causes of people’s problems, and perhaps we should give them grace in the areas they struggle with, because we all have struggles, and who knows what it is in our lives that someone else is judging us for.


About Avily Jerome

Avily Jerome is a writer and the editor of Havok Magazine. Her short stories have been published in various magazines, both print and digital. She has judged several writing contests and is a writing conference teacher and presenter. She writes speculative fiction, her ideas ranging from almost-real-world action/adventures to epic fantasies to supernatural thrillers.

15 comments on “Judge Not

  1. I hear you. Well written, Avily.

  2. Insightful post, Avily. Although we don’t want to admit, I’m sure we all have those preconceived notions about different people. It’s like that guy said who helped rescue those women. “You know there’s something wrong when a scared white lady runs into a black man’s arms.” It’s sad, but true. The curse of a fallen world.

  3. Amen, Avily! 🙂 Thank you for posting this.

  4. I recently read “Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It” by Dr. Gary Taubes. He brought up a point that I found so simple I couldn’t believe others haven’t discussed it (or that, you know, I hadn’t thought of it myself).

    Basically, he said, “okay, suppose gaining weight REALLY is because you take in more than you burn. Great… but WHY do people do that? What makes people do that biologically?” He used the analogy of saying something like, “the room got crowded because more people entered than left,” and pointed out that doesn’t explain WHY it happened.

    He pointed out that the difference in gaining weight and loosing weight can be a small mouthful of food per meal – not the amount any of us who aren’t actually starving would notice or impact our appetite.

    Sure, there are probably people (suffering depression or with other medical issues) who simply overeat regularly – there’s a few billion folks, so it’s likely true for SOMEBODY. But…can the hypothesis that overweight people have less willpower, or are lazier than thin people be entirely true? And, if it is, why did the spike in our national waistline increase in the late 1980’s and not, say, in the 50’s or earlier?

    If we look at the data, more people are going to the gym, more women are athletic than 50 years ago, there are more diets out there… clearly as a nation, we are TRYING (and it’s not working).

    There were some fascinating examples in that book – including diseases where one half a person gets emaciated looking and the other puffs up with fat like a bad caricature drawing (which half is eating poorly & not exercising??).

    I say all this because the national assumption IS that overweight people are either too thick to understand to eat less, or too lazy (or similar), but nobody seems to consider WHY they aren’t able to do what they are told they should. We just stick with our assumption, and that’s a shame really, because (at least according to Dr. Taubes) it is wrong.

    By the way, have struggled with baby-weight & soaring cholesterol on a nearly vegetarian diet, I followed Dr. Taubes’ advice & lost a bunch of weight w/o being hungry & my cholesterol dropped like a rock. The long and short is wheat=bad & carbs=not much better. I was eating burgers (no bun) and steak & my doctor said, “whatever you’re doing, don’t stop!”

    Best of luck, and perhaps give his book a go. It was the most heartening thing I’ve read about weight loss in ages!

    • Sounds like a really good book! I have found the same thing to be true. After trying everything from Weight Watchers to Atkins, counting calories and exercising religiously all to minimal results and finding that the “math” simply does not work for me, I cut out all wheat, dairy, and sugar for awhile, and that was when I really started to see results. Now, I have not maintained that. It is incredibly difficult to continue on with (and yes, I will admit to some weakness for junk food–okay, a LOT of weakness, but I usually manage to keep it in moderation), but I have cut considerably back on my intake of those foods.
      Thanks so much for stopping by to comment! I hope you’ll come back!

      • You’re welcome. It turns out that part of the problem is that modern wheat (which is different from even from the wheat eaten in the US in 1975!) has a few… issues. First, note that wheat is in EVERYTHING – not just stuff you’d expect like crackers or bread. Now, consider that it has a higher glycemic index than table sugar… and one of the proteins is basically an opiate (binds to the same receptors in the brain.

        The reason we’re all hungry so much and have so little will power is that we are having “crashes” just like kids on Halloween night a few hours after we eat wheat (insulin gets the sugar out, and then we get the tired & hungry signals because we have circulating insulin & not much sugar). Oh yeah, and we’re addicted to the opiate part.

        It’s hard to maintain, but if you concentrate on wheat elimination (not gluten, wheat) I bet it’ll be better. If you’ve got a major craving, try using emmer, kamut, or einkorn flour instead – they are older and have fewer… issues.

        The math is true – if we eat more than we burn, it has to go somewhere, but we have to address WHY we’re eating more… and if it’s because our blood sugar spikes & crashes making us hungry – no WONDER we have problems!

        I have no connection to that book whatsoever, but if you’ll pardon the shameless plug, if you are interested, you can get it at Amazon & I’d be thrilled if you got it through any Amazon link at my website (www.FindStuff2Read.com) 🙂

        Good luck (says the one who broke down & had 4 oreos)!

        • LOL! Been there, done that. 🙂
          And I’ve gone weeks and weeks in succession without “cheating,” burning, in theory, far more than I was consuming and still not lost weight. There are other factors than just the math.

          • Absolutely! For example, obody accounts for intestinal flora… which have a major impact on just how caloric your food IS (if you can’t digest it, but they break it down so you can, congrats, it’s more caloric than when you put it in your mouth!). 🙂

  5. Yeah, I bump my head up against that math…All. The. Time. I mean, you can only spend so many hours at the gym and so many weeks eating 1200 calories a day without the needle on the scale moving AT ALL before you crack.

    I’ve found two things. Cutting down on carbs — not only wheat products, but potatoes, rice, anything with refined sugar — usually moves the needle. It’s also @#$% hard, because those are all my favorite foods. I would never survive as a vegetarian. I’m more like a breadetarian.

    Second, when I hit a plateau, I give myself a break. I think there’s something to the “starvation response” theory, which says that when you go low-calorie for a long time, the body rebels by storing fat.

    • Agreed. It never is as simple as people want it to be. If it were JUST about the math, far fewer people would struggle with it.
      As with all sorts of other issues that people judge each other on, there’s rarely a simple reason or cause, and rarely a simple solution.

  6. Thank you Avily! I wish my sister could understand this. But…… that would mean she would have to give up on her concept of control and actually practice some empathy.

    • Love and hugs to you, Nat. I think all of us have something we judge someone about. Hopefully we can start to open our eyes and hearts to others’ struggles and gain some empathy.

  7. And I read this longingly, because I’m underweight and always have been. I cannot figure out how people gain weight! Well, I can, but junk food makes me so sick, it’s not worth it. My sister in law gave me Nourishing Traditions, the cookbook, and it’s been eye-opening. I’ve been trying to feed us better, and that includes lots of bacon and good fats. I’ve also found that our modern food isn’t as horrifically bad as she makes out, but that’s neither here nor there.

    My mom’s tried to lose weight for years, but she ran up against the terrible tradeoff–she can either have energy, or she could be thin, but she couldn’t have both. She opted to have energy.

    • Nice to have a perspective from the other side!

      It’s not all about the math, from either point of view. Our bodies and the way we process and metabolize food are extremely complex. It’s not as simple as we would like to think it is or ought to be.

  8. […] know I have done this plenty of times. You may remember my post awhile back, “Judge Not,” where I lambasted the ignorant imbecile who I felt insulted me and didn’t understand […]

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