I left work today with a pain in my chest – of sorrow, of despair, of love towards my dear client – my friend. It is so bloody painful to observe that you, in addition to your overweight and health issues, have to live with the stigma caused by your overweight. The hidden, and not so hidden, glances from others. The discreet, and not so discreet, comments about your weight. And perhaps worst of all, – the ”good pieces of advice” – it is just to….They weigh you down and make you feel worthless – alone and scared.
Despite the many troubles some of my clients experience, it is very rarely that I bring with me out through the office door such an emotional upheaval as I did today. On the contrary, usually I go home from work singing like a lark and thinking – how nice that he/she/they looked for help and advice. We will solve this together.
Today this was not the occasion. On the contrary, I felt the fear of losing you – that we will not be able to solve your problem. We both know that ”the right food” will not solve your problem, and a few arbitrary consultations from time to time feels inadequate. I feel the urge to tell you Let us run away together – make the time and peace to dive into your problems, and solve them once and for all – the way my grandfather and I used to do when our fishing lines had got caught up in each other and we sat patiently in the boat on the calm sea while we untangled the mess, together.
You know that I write these words and send them out into the world – and you agree to that. We stand together in an important fight. We both wish to contribute so that more people can win the same battle that you are fighting just now. A short while ago I spoke to one of my colleagues in the national health service, a doctor who felt despair just like we did. Those who struggle with overweight are not offered sufficient health care. They need so much more than a ”correct” nutrition plan and a few lessons with therapy. Most of these people have issues of such a kind that only time, patience and care can solve.
During my working day I meet many people who carry this double burden of overweight and the experience of society´s contempt. The shame of carrying such a visible proof of ones problem, makes the burden even heavier.
My lovely client, Julianne, who shared her story in ”Dagbladet” (a Norwegian newspaper) the other week, told the readers about how she as an involuntary childless and overweight got the message to lose weight. To her it was painful to be addressed in such a way and says that she would rather be invited into a dialogue – to be an active participant as a member of her own team.
Magnificent Trude – who participated with her story in a lecture called An easier life held in Korgen (a community in the county of Nordland in the north of Norway) talked about what many people experience – that food becomes a compensation for feelings and that one has to take into consideration the problem emotions represent if one is to succeed with changing food habits.
Far to many people suffer from the extra burden of shame caused by overweight. They experience that the body presents them in a bad way, and they meet others with a cautious glance. Ready to protect themselves against the world and its judgement. When the precious resources of the mind are spent to protect oneself, there are little resources left to lead one towards victory in a crucial life project.
Everybody with great overweight has their personal battle to fight. Wether you win or lose the battle is not revealed on the display of your bathroom scales and can therefore not be judged by others than those who live their lives 24 hours a day. Progress can just as well reveal itself in a more encouraging internal dialogue, increased awareness about ones choices, ones abilities and self esteem – to mention a few of many strategies that has to fall in place in order to reach a goal and to stay victorious. No matter what we are aiming for, it will always help to be encouraged by others.
So, what can we do to help?
My lovely client – my friend – tells me that there are few places where he feels safe and appreciated. He says it would help if more people met him with interest and acceptance. You can do that. You can meet those who struggle with friendly eyes and acceptance when you pass them in the store, on the street. If you happen to be close to someone who struggles with shame because of their overweight, you can show your friend, your neighbour, your family member that you are interested in his or her every day life, interests and abilities. Do not let weight become a barrier between you. Look beyond the weight – see the person!
My friend in question has a unique ability to make me laugh. I love when we meet and I always look forward to a warm hug, our verbal duels and also the serious conversations. If I had met him as an expert on the right method, I would have missed the lovely and unique person that he is. How could I then enable him to bring forth the resources he needs to reach the vital goal of his life. After all, the solution does not lie with me, but with him.
My advice to you who wants to help is:
Think it over how you talk about overweight and those who struggle with the problem. Let your words be seeds that grow into social attitudes, and thus be of help to those who need it.
Do not offer ”good” advice. If good advice had helped, the principle problems would have been extinct a long time ago. In stead, offer acceptance and friendly interest. Meet the person, not the weight. Let yourself be inspired, charmed and fascinated. Be a friend. Perhaps you even will experience the sensation of being rewarded, of recieving more than you give?
And dear you who struggles – I am cheering for you!
Trine Dahlmo – Healthinspirer– NLP Coach Team AS