This week something happened which I found very upsetting. I was upset and a little angry because I was accused of judging people based on their physical appearance in relation to weight. At the end of the day the person who told me this and subsequently told me that they no longer wanted any contact with me was someone who I had never met. Someone who had connected with me online. At first I wasn't that bothered. I thought it was just a difference of opinion (it happens) but when I was told the reason was for judging people it was like the wind was knocked out of me. I do not want to bang on about it and to be honest I am a little bit sick of referencing it but I used to be massively overweight. I cannot understand how anyone would think that I could judge people based on their weight as I know exactly what they are going through. I Want to deal with this in some depth this week.
I have always tried to be honest when I write this blog. I do this only to share my thoughts on sport, health and fitness. I do this because I want to help people who want to lose weight. For those people to know that a completely average guy, who much like them, felt like he had tried everything, managed to lose weight. I have also written before about the how hard it can be to look in the mirror and not like the person who looks back at you. If I was the sort of person who 'judges' people because they are overweight would I do this? Would I spend literally hours every week replying to messages and emails from people asking about how to lose that last bit of weight or giving tips on how to get started. I have even written training programs (something I charge for) completely for free to help people who have asked for it. Many of these people I have and never will meet. When I was overweight I went overseas to meet my now wife's friends and family. Dez is from Norway and I was terrified. I was terrified because I thought that Dez's friends and family would not see why Dez would be dating a guy who was so overweight. I was worried that I would not meet the stereotype of a tall, tanned muscular Australian. When I started training for triathlon I barely swam and when I did I wore a rash vest because I did not want people to see me without my shirt off.
Now I am not putting this in my post because I want people to feel sorry for me or to get any sympathy. I am trying to paint a word picture where you may understand that I really really get what it is like to be overweight. I get it in a way that someone who has never been overweight cannot. I still get it. I still see a fat person in the mirror when I look back and while it is finally starting to get better for me, being accused of doing this to others, something that I have done to myself for so long literally breaks my heart. No one understands what another person is going through or why they are overweight, underweight or even their ideal weight. At the end of the day it is an incredibly complex and sensitive issue. However, I also believe that it isn't something that we should be afraid to talk about. Is it that political correctness has become so absurd that we are terrified of hurting anyone's feelings?
I know I am blunt and am often criticised for being too honest and not thinking before I speak. But I think this is something that can be one of my strengths. I can't tell you the number of times I have been asked a question by Dez or my Mum which I have given a completely honest answer to where one was not really wanted. I can't help it. It is just how I am. But this does not mean that if someone who is overweight walks past me I assume they are lazy, useless or not willing to help themselves. I can tell you that when I see people who are overweight I also do not assume that they are sad or unhappy with their weight. While I mentioned that I had issues with my body image, it wasn't something that I spent all of my time thinking about. Most of the time I was not even that focused on my own weight. I mean I knew I was big, I just didn't realise how big.
What I will not do though is sit back and give the people I care about a free pass either. I am not a preachy person who thinks that I know everything. But you better believe that when my Mum went through a tough time a few years ago and dropped to below 40kgs I said something. Does this mean that I was judging her? Fuck no it doesn't. I wanted to understand what I could do to help her. I think a person's physical appearance is one of the best methods to determine some key factors about a person. My Mum was wasting away because she was stressed and suffering a terrible time. Similarly when my Grandad put on 30kgs after one of his cancer treatments you better believe that I said something. Again, does this mean that I was judging him? NO FUCKING WAY! To me, judging someone based on their weight would be to look at a person who is overweight and assume that they sit in front of the television all night eating take away food doing nothing but feeling sorry for themselves. That they are not willing to help themselves. This is poison. I 100% agree that no person has the right to think that about another person, especially when they do not know that person. I am sure we have all seen it at the gym or at a race at some point. Some dick who laughs at an overweight person for having a go. It is probably one of the reasons why it is so hard for some people to get into the gym or sign up for their first race. I am self-conscious enough wearing skin tight lycra now and I remember how embarrassed I was wearing it at 120kgs+. I love seeing people having a crack and I make a point of hanging around after I have finished a race to cheer on as many of the later finishers as I possibly can.
The main thing I want to say though is that while this is a sensitive topic, it is something that we need to talk about. I really do believe that we cannot be so concerned with political correctness that we are afraid to ask people if they need help. If we allow ourselves to become too afraid to talk about other people's weight we are allowing the obesity epidemic to continue or preventing people with eating disorders with a viable channel to talk about what is going on. At the end of the day, I would rather ask someone if they are ok and maybe insult them a little bit but make sure that they are in fact ok. Not some stranger on the street or anything, that would be weird. But there is a really good saying 'no one can save everyone, but everyone can save someone". I will edit it a little bit for this "No one can help everyone, but we can all ask ask if someone needs help". By avoiding these incredibly serious issues out of fear of hurting someone who you care about you could be doing them a disservice. I mean just like you don't know whether they are having issues, you don't know whether they are actually looking for help but are too afraid to ask for it. It comes down to you as an individual. Whether you are the person who is over or under weight or are the person who is concerned for them. Realise that it is something we should be comfortable to talk about. Not because we are judging them or want to hurt them but because we care about them.
So now I have said my peace you can make your own opinion as to whether I am someone who judges others based on their physical appearance. If you think I am after hearing my point of view that is completely your decision. But I will not apologise for trying to help those people who I care about or who ask me for help. I will never judge a person based on their appearance but I will use their appearance as one of many tools to help me determine how that person is doing. For that I will not apologise.
Do no tbe afraid to ask if someone needs help and as always remember to TRI!
I lost 50kgs though triathlon and completed the 2016 70.3 World Championships. Aiming to hit 4:05 for a 70.3, the same time it took me to complete my first Olympic Distance Triathlon. I want to bring as many new people to the sport as possible. Whether you are fit and active or want to make positive changes to your life.