Sunday, November 20, 2011

When You Have no Idea

This post is a somewhat a departure from religion and other themes I cover. I was reading some fitness blogs, as I often do. I am also thinking of starting taekwondo again, the popular and greatly criticized sport (criticised by people who don't understand the point of it). So I have been thinking about fitness and body image a lot. I think I understand how it is for people who are overweight and are trying to get into shape. Hard, that is what it is. Slow progress is also what comes to mind, nothing like what shows like the biggest loser would have us beleave.

Still the truth is, I have no idea what this feels like. I have never been overweight. I have never been so out of shape I was endangering my own health. I do know what it is like to struggle to get back to my prepregnancy weight and not achieving it for years, but that is not the same thing, because I was normal weight through all this. I was "overweight" slightly during my pregnancy but the second I gave birth I was normal weight for my height, so not the same thing at all.

I don't undertand what it is like to carry another me in excess fat. I do know what unexpectedly gaining weight does to my running. I do know how it slows me down and makes my runs shorter and frustrates me, but that is not the same thing.

I am not writing this to show off the excellent convergeance of nature, nuture and will. I am saying that we do not understand the strugles of others especially when we have not lived through them. It would be arrogant and selfabsorbed of me to think these minor physical problems I have gone through tell me one thing about the struggles of truly overweight people.

People who are thin often think they know what is going on and compare it to their own struggles and come up with an offensive and wrong picture of overweight people. They are not any lazier than the general public, they can be extremely hard workers and that may contribute to their weight problem. They do not necesarily gorge themselves, just a few extra unused calories a meal over a few years can do more than a few weeks of total gluttony. An extremely large person can't just get on a treadmill and start sprinting away the pounds, no matter what the biggest loser would have you beleave.

Did I get it right? I did say I do not know what it is like to be overweight or the struggles but like with any people who are different from me I try to encounter them as people and look past the differences and try not to explain them away using my own experience. If we do try to explain things using our personal experiences to explain other people in areas we know nothing about we end up with statements as stupid as: "That person is black because they haven't bathed in a while." That statement is offensive and completely incorrect, unless the person we are talking about is a caucasian coal miner. Weather or not a person's circumstances match ours, or not, we should attempt to get to know them as real people and not lessen their humanity by turning them into objects and narrating their stories outselves.