Meir Panim delivers warmth, special care to families in need.
I have spent the last few articles discussing what, I have come to believe, are abusive comments made to overweight people in the guise of caring and acceptability. These comments, I believe, are one of the few socially acceptable ways we have of denigrating others without having to cope with the fact that what we are doing is wrong.
I am not talking here about the helpful words and kind offers like “I’m going for a walk, would you like to join me.” Or “I’m thinking of joining a gym and would love your company. ” Or, “Will you join Weight Watchers with me? I don’t want to go alone.” Those are positive motivational efforts made by a caring person who cares for another and is willing to put her/himself out to help.
What I am talking about are the inappropriate, unsolicited comments of the obvious: the “you-know-you-should-take-off-the-weight” comments that inform the overweight person of a problem that they are already acutely aware of, as if they’ve never noticed.
The last time I brought up the topic of being overweight with a well spouse support group, about a third of the members of the group were overweight. The members of the group, who were heavy, agreed that these unsolicited comments about their weight were never helpful, always hurtful and usually caused more harm than good.
Despite this, a gentleman in the group insisted he often made these comments, to strangers, friends and family members alike, because he cared. It did not matter that all the overweight people in the group insisted the comments were counterproductive. It did not matter that those types of comments caused them pain. He still said he would continue to make such comments because he cared and he believed they were helpful, despite the evidence to the contrary right in front of him.
My feeling about this became even stronger when I received this letter:
I have been following your articles on the issue of weight. I have never considered myself a hurtful person but I realized I have made these very comments to others. I really began to think seriously about it when I was waiting for my car at the local car wash. The person standing beside me had a weight problem.
As I was standing there, thinking that she really needed to lose some pounds, for her health, and perhaps I should say something; a man came out of the car wash and joined us to wait for his car. It was quite windy and the smoke from his cigarette was all over us. I asked him if he wouldn’t mind moving away as his smoke was bothering me.
When he did, I wondered why it hadn’t occurred to me to tell him that he needed to stop smoking for his health. I didn’t know either of these people. Why did I feel I could correct one and not the other? Amazingly, why would I comment to the person whose actions (the weight) has no effect on me and not to the one whose actions (second hand smoke) could kill me. What right do I have to correct anyone?
Though I disagreed with you initially, I am changing my mind. It is very scary for me to think of myself as a bully… but maybe that is exactly what I have been doing when I make these comments.
* * * * *
I also began to wonder about the bystanders, the people who hear these hurtful comments made and say nothing. Silence lets everyone believe we agree with what is being said. Many of us have been in such a situation and for a variety of reasons stand by quietly, our silence saying we agree with the hurtful comments.
Perhaps we choose to remain quiet because we do not want to become the focus and have the one making the comment switch his attention to us, or because we want the attack to stop and not be extended by our comments. Perhaps we remain quiet because we don’t want to be seen as aligned with the person under attack or because we are just feeling uncomfortable by the whole incident and want it to go away.
Perhaps we think that if we say something we will make the victim feel worse or we just don’t know what to say to make the situation better. Or could it be that we actually agree with what is being said and feel that though it may hurt their feelings the comments are really for their own good?
It is up to each of us to examine our motives for our silence. It is up to each of us to consider what we are being told by the recipients of these comments: that they are hurtful and counterproductive. And then it is up to each of us to decide what we will do the when we hear someone being told that they really are the size of a football player and need to take off weight and start eating less. Whom will you align yourself with next time?
You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author:
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
Are we allowed to lie for shalom bayis? It would seem so, but what might be a healthy guideline for when it’s okay and when it’s not?
The connection between what I experienced as a high school teenager and the adult I am today did not come easy to me.
Isn’t therapy about being yourself; aren’t there different ways for people to communicate with each other?
Participating in ManiCures during the school day may feel like a break from learning, but the intended message to the students was loud and clear. Learning and chesed come in all forms, and can be fun.
Building campaign chairman Jack Gluck has led the effort over many years.
When using an extension cord always make sure to use the correct rated extension cord.
There was no question that when Mrs. Cohen entered the room to meet the teacher she was hostile from the outset.
Szold was among the founders and leaders (she served on its executive committee) of Ichud (“Unity”), a political group that campaigned against the creation of an independent, sovereign Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael.
My friend is a strong and capable Jewish woman, but she acted with a passivity that seemed out of character.
“If you don’t stand straight, you’ll never get a husband.”
When one is blind one learns to use Braille to read. When one cannot walk, a wheelchair gives mobility. Sign language allows a mute person to speak and ocular implants assist in hearing when one is deaf. These are all compensatory strategies that help a person function despite his disability. But compensatory strategies are not just for physical problems. Understanding our psychological weaknesses and setting up our lives to ensure that we are not tempted to repeat our past mistakes, is as necessary as any aid to the disabled.
Well spouses have often discovered that their friends and relatives, despite their closeness to the situation, often don’t realize the tremendous emotional impact living with chronic illness has on the family. With the best intentions, suggestions, ideas and criticism are offered, based on the non-experience of those with healthy families. Even when the good intentioned get a taste of the difficulties, it is sometimes not enough for them to then identify and understand what the family of the chronically ill must face on a constant basis.
Over the past two weeks I have shared letters from a therapist and a well spouse. Both of the letters gave personal insights into the process of losing hope, how we react when that happens and some ways of coping when test scores, diagnosis and just simple repetitive behavior indicate that change for the better is impossible.
I’ve read your last few articles on psycho-neurological testing (Oct.8-22) with interest. As a therapist who has counseled couples dealing with chronic illness, I’d like to give you another perspective.
Your articles on the Neuro-Psychological Testing were right on (October 8-22). My husband underwent testing twice and your articles explained it things exactly the way they were. Besides the test, we also tried therapy.
Very often when we can’t face our big hurts or big loses we focus on the little ones. We can discuss those. We can cry over the small loses, be angry at the smaller hurts even though it may look trite and sound ridiculous to others.
Over the last two weeks we have been discussing one way in which well spouses can determine whether behavior displayed by their ill partners is caused by their illness or is a way they have chosen to act. We have focused on Psycho-Neurological testing, what it can tell us, as well as its pros and cons.
Last week I discussed a question that haunts many well spouses: not knowing if the difficult and often inappropriate behavior frequently displayed by their partners are caused by the disease and therefore not-controllable, or if the behavior is a choice the spouse makes and can therefore be changed. This doubt can be the source of much frustration and many marital disagreements. One way of alleviating this doubt is by having a psycho- neurological work up done. But that path is not so simple.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/further-and-final-comments-and-observations-on-the-topic-of-weight/2008/07/16/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: