The Danger of Weight Prejudice: Lives are destroyed
While watching the inauguration of President Barack Obama, I experienced such intense emotion of joy for men and women who were able to overcome great odds. I couldn’t help taking a trip down memory lane. I come from a country with a history of deep seated prejudice. I wish I could say that all of that has changed, but I’m afraid there is still a long road ahead of us.
Even in America people still need to check their prejudice. With the winds of change so obviously blowing on this particularly Tuesday morning, their are still an undercurrent of prejudice and the one I intend to put the spotlight on is Weight Prejudice.
I found myself in a spot about 10 years ago where I opened my heart, maybe for the first time, to some serious investigation. I needed some real change, and I came face to face with the fact that prejudice and love can not co-exist in one heart. One will always push out the other.
In my case, it was time for love to get the upper hand. It wasn’t easy, more like humbling and painful. To have to look at yourself, your beliefs, the things you held dear for many years, the people you’ve trusted, and the part you’ve played in severe prejudice and oppression of a people group, can be earth shattering. I cried for a long time, seriously, it took years. I questioned my own way of thinking. I didn’t trust my own decisions any more, and I was suspicious of all authority for very long.
I was mortified at what I found: Ugliness and prejudice against people that I was either not consciously aware of, or that I simply chose not to see when I was younger probably because it was easier than going against the current. Some of the things I grew up with was obviously wrong, and it made it easier for me to turn from those and vow to raise my children differently. However, some types of prejudice hid in the small corners of my heart.
One of these, that influenced my life greatly, was weigth prejudice or discrimination against overweight people. I never thought this was true for me, in fact very few people are aware of this in themselves. Now, I can already see some eyebrows being raised: How dare I lay this kind of “insignificant prejudice” alongside deep ingrained racism and prejudice against women. I am not trying to compare one with the other, I am simply trying to make you aware of another type of prejudice that have caused people to suffer and others to fall into dangerous eating disorders, yes, even loose their lives.
By now you must have heard, or worse experienced, that certain employers, jobs and careers make no room for someone who is overweight. Research has shown that teachers and other adults are more caring and attentive to kids that are good looking and skinny than to their peers who are not so “lucky”. I definitely experienced this as a kid. The sad part: I wasn’t overweight as a child. I just had an average build with freckles and a clumsy demeanor. I studied hard and was polite, but I was basically ignored and brushed off.
Of course I do not endorse overeating or binging. I am very aware of the dangers of obesity, and more so in children. I am all for changing your lifestyle and that of your children, giving them a healthy and safe future. What I’m against is the way we treat overweight people.
See, as with any other prejudice, our children are watching and learning. So, people with weight problems have a weakness, an obvious weakness, but so does everybody else, just not as obvious to the naked eye. Check yourself next time you see someone who is overweight. What are you thinking? Do you think of them as lazy or without self control? There are other addictions and habits that one can judge even more severely, but unlike food addiction, we wouldn’t know about it just by looking at peopole.
So let’s leave the judging up to God and reach out to overweight people with the love and respect they need to overcome their weaknesses.
IMPORTANT: If we give our children the message that we dislike overweight people, even in a subtle way, we can sow a seed of fear in their hearts: Fear of ever becoming overweight, and fear of disappointing us. The strange thing is, it is usually people who have a fear of gaining weight and know that they secretly have a struggle with food that can have the most prejudice in this area.
I dealt with exactly this while abusing diet pills in my early twenties. I was very skinny and looked down on people who wasn’t, yet all the while I was just hiding a big secret: I was so afraid of gaining weight. I also talked to women in my support groups that were overweight, and some of them admit that they couldn’t stand other overweight people.
Most prejudice is rooted in fear. Maybe you too have to deal with your fear. Once you start to deal with this hidden part in your heart you can start a new life of freedom. There are deeper relationships with God, yourself and others waiting for you on the other side of this fear and prejudice. Don’t be afraid to look, it’s worth it! Have a look at my program for women struggling with eating disorders such as overeating. Prejudice is one of many things this course deals with. Today can be you first step out of the nightmare of food addiction and the prejudice that might accompany it.
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