Alright Ladies and Gentlemen, It’s taken me awhile to decide how I wanted to approach this topic…
Let me share a story with you…
It was my Sophomore year of High School and in general, I wasn’t a very happy teenager. I had a very hard time making friends, I rarely fit in, and any boys that showed any sign of liking me wanted to keep it a secret, because nobody wants all their friends to know that they are hooking up with the fat girl.
This year in particular I had a girl friend named Sharon who was pretty much the only person that hung around me on any regular basis. I wore dark colored clothes, a lot of eyeliner and I painted my nails black. I was “Gothic” before it was in style and before the sort of clothes that everyone buys at Hot Topic and Torrid became mainstream.
And being so visibly different, and being smart, and being fat, in the nonsensical world of high school earned me a lot of teasing, bullying and… rumors. Rumors were one of the things I most detested in high school because combating a rumor once it got started seemed like an impossibility. Rumors were one of those things that immature young women used as a tool to lash out when they we’re upset…
I was walking through the Quad, an area I avoided largely because it was populated by the types of kids that intimidated the hell out of me. But I had a crush on one of the most popular boys in school. He was kind to me, I must say, I don’t have that story of some boy who traumatized me, my unrealistic high school boy crush was gentle with my feelings. As I walked through the collection of popular kids that hardly knew my name one girls voice called out over the crowd.
“Oh look, it’s little miss slit your wrists.”
( Laughing and pointing )
“Wait she’s not l little. I mean here comes big fat miss suicide prevention line.”
“Well if you ate so much that you were that fat before 40 you’d want to kill yourself too.”
“Oh I think it’s more, “You took my fried chicken away I want to die sort of thing.”
( Laughing and point )
“Yeah when she walks into KFC she orders the size on the roof!”
( Roaring Laughter )
I always hated fried chicken but they assumed because I was fat that I ate it. I did want to kill myself, but it had nothing to do with my size or shape it had to do with my life and with my personal emotional struggles. It had to do with my dysfunctional family, and it had to do with the fact that I had absolutely no self-esteem because I was the boys dirty little secret and the girls punching bag. It had to do with the fact that everybody looked at me, judged me, made up stories about me, gossiped about me, started rumors about me and teased me. It had everything to do with how judged I felt, how excluded and unaccepted I felt, and how lonely I was, because I didn’t fit into any of the little cliques. I wanted friends so bad, I wanted girls to like me and accept me, and I was jealous of everyone else and all the friends they had.
And you know what… I’d make a friend, and then all their friends would suddenly pay attention to me and hang out with me and accept me, but then we’d have a falling out over something stupid and suddenly that whole clique hated me. None of them were my friends anymore, they were afraid to hang out with me or talk to me and suddenly I was that groups new target of ridicule. It was a vicious cycle. I hated high school, there isn’t one part of me that would ever want to go back and do that part of life over again unless the story was written entirely differently.
So let me tell you why I have brought this up. Because while we are one of the most vocal group of people when it comes to anti bullying, anti teasing… you see an awful lot of it in this cliquish WLS Community, and nobody is really talking about it out loud because they are scared of becoming the target of anyone’s ridicule.
I am a very big believer in personal accountability. It has been my saving grace through my weight loss journey, the fact that I hold myself accountable for actions that are essential to my weight loss, whether its tracking calories and water intake or writing a blog about a mistake I made in my journey hoping someone else might glean some insight from it for theirs, I believe that personal accountability has been a key factor in my success.
In the last few months I have had so many people write me and talk to me about how decisions they are making in their lives are effected by how they feel people within this community will judge them….
- There were the women that are afraid to post what they are eating for fear they will be judged and lectured and publicly humiliated over it.
- There were the women that were scared to their own experience or input on topics they felt passionate about because it might differ from that of someone else and they would get chastised for it.
- There were the women that were afraid of talking about the parts of their journeys that they are struggling with because they don’t want to give too many personal details and give the WLS world more ammunition against them.
- There were the women that didn’t know who to hang out with at an event and felt like if they were around one clique they weren’t accepted by others.
- There were even women I know, making business decisions, based on some of these very issues.
And because I am honest, I’ll say it, I experienced many of these fears myself first hand several times since I emerged in the WLS community back in October.
I believe, this is one of the few negative factors in the WLS community and it’s a behavior that I personally cannot participate in. To me, doing so makes me no better than the kids in high school doing it to me and it makes me a hypocrite. I can’t stand in front of the world and say “I will help you in the fight against Obesity, stop the bullying and put an end to the bias against weight loss surgery.” if my actions mimic the behavior of immature teenagers that were so emotionally scaring to me.
So me, I root for the underdog, I hang out with the unpopular kids, I flirt with guys that I think might need a little confidence booster, and I try to listen for what a person needs support on and give it to them. My behavior, the way I conduct myself among my friends and peers is one of the examples my 17-year-old step daughter has, and I try to make sure that the behaviors I model for her are healthy and conducive to the way I want her to treat people.
Sometimes I think if we all just remembered a few of the sayings that I’ve heard over the years we’d have a stronger more untied WLS Community…
- If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
- Do not combat positivity with negativity unless you want a negative reaction.
- Don’t assume… you make an ass out of “u” and me.
- Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.
- If everyone was the same, the world would be a boring place.
- Do unto others as you would have done unto you.
If we remembered these things on a regular basis and reminded ourselves that we all share a common goal that bonds us together, our passion for the fight against obesity our community might not feel so much like a High School.
You can say that I am crazy, that this isn’t going on, and that nobody in this community feels this way. But, instead I encourage you to apply the teachings of Merrill Littleberry, a wonderful speaker several of us got to hear speak at the 2012 Inaugural Your Weight Matters Convention put on by the Obesity Action Coalition. ( OAC ) and ask yourself if your actions towards others will help them, hinder them, heal them or hurt them and if you can’t say in honesty that your actions will help or heal others, press pause and reconsider. Because honestly my friends, none of the women in this community deserve to feel ridiculed, judged, teased or chastised for choices in their WLS journey, choices in who they hang out with, or because they say or post something you don’t necessarily agree with.
Personally, I’ve never participated things like internet flame wars, I try to avoid heated conversations on the internet because I think people forget to use their social filters sometimes when they are communicating online rather than face to face. I don’t get involved in fights between others and when people, I don’t take sides, and I don’t choose whether or not I am friends with someone based on anyone else’s opinion of them. I don’t label myself or include myself in any specific group, that’s just not what I am about.
I am about fitness, exercise, inspiration, motivation and helping others in their weight loss journey. HELPING … and I will always shy away from behaviors that I feel are counter productive to that. And if there is something I don’t agree with, if there is someone I don’t like, or if someone posts something that irritates me or annoys me, I hit that little button that makes it go away on my computer. The one that looks like an X — because my personal accountability tells me that if I allow something to let me react in a way that is negative or unhelpful to others that I have hindered my own goals.
I received an email the other day from a woman who noticed that I was in a group she didn’t approve of. Apparently she had some falling out with the owner of the group and she wanted to know if I was a friend of the group owner. This was my response to her email.
Thank you for taking the time to write me. It is always nice to hear from fellow WLS folks. In regards to the group that you mentioned my being a part of, I’m not sure what you consider an active member. I suppose I am an active member of every group I am in since I am an active member of the WLS Community. I believe in positivity and inclusion rather than exclusion. My participation with any person or group within the WLS Community is just that, participation in the WLS Community. I am a friend of the fight against obesity, any opportunity or venue I am offered as a means to aid that fight I will gladly accept.
I am a member of many support groups, many WLS forums, I follow many WLS Bloggers, I friend anyone that asks, I’ll try to help anyone that asks.
I am saddened to hear that your opinion of me might somehow be altered by the fact that my named is next to a group you don’t enjoy participating in. I would ask you to consider whether or not whatever behaviors lead to your dislike of this group have been exhibited by me personally.
I’d also ask you to remember, that my personal goals are likely different from yours. This part of my journey isn’t necessarily about making friends and having people like me, it’s about starting my career as a personal trainer, helping people who are struggling with the fitness aspect of the journey and my distancing myself from large groups of people based on the personal likes and dislikes and friendships of others only hinders my ability to reach those people and limits the venues that they have to reach out to me.
I apologize if any decisions I have made have changed your personal views of me or caused you to no longer wish to read my blog, and I appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me. I’m very glad to hear about how successful you have been with your weight loss. That’s really the most important thing. You have my best wishes for a happy and healthy life and if there is anything I can ever do to aid you in your journey or if you ever want to team up together in the fight against Obesity, please don’t hesitate to let me know!
In closing I’d ask you all to do two things the next time you are about to participate in the WLS Community, ask yourself if your contribution is helpful and constructive to the community and the people involved in or if your behavior exhibits that of the immature teenagers we were in high school. If you find that the truth lies in the latter, practice a little personal accountability. After all, this community and our fight against obesity is far more important than whether or not you think someone else is nice or you like what they put on their plate at lunch or whether you agree with their methods. We’re all going to approach this journey differently, if you cannot allow others the space and uniqueness to do it their way, maybe you should ask yourself why you are participating in the community being with?