I had always been thin, or at least healthy and athletic. My hair was always long and blonde. My eyes were blue. I got every job I applied for and everyone was always very kind and helpful. Then I got sick. My thyroid and immune system spun out of control. While still running five miles a day, I gained more than 50 pounds and developed food intolerances.
Gaining weight was not the most painful part of my experience. The surprising part of my ordeal was the way people treated me. Doctors assumed I was fudging on food diaries. Before, people opened doors and offered to carry groceries. Now, I was suddenly unseen or lazy when I needed help. I experienced weight bias.
J.K. Rowling, best-selling author of the Harry Potter series said, “Is fat really the worst thing a human being can be? Is fat worse than vindictive, jealous, shallow, vain, boring, evil or cruel? Not to me.” Yet, how do we treat overweight people? What assumptions do we make about them? How hard are we on ourselves when we do not match society’s idea of normal weight?
Worldometers statistics reported that more than 1.5 billion people were overweight in the world. On July 19, 2013, in a single day, people in the United States spent more than $165 million on weight-loss products, programs and food. Our spending habits say that weight loss is a priority and clearly on our mind. When the world talks, thinks and sells weight loss, health products and diets, how do we teach our family to be healthy while not judging overweight people?
Here is a list of principles that helped me keep my weight, and health, in perspective:
1. Remember true beauty comes from within
Elaine S. Dalton, leader of a worldwide religious organization for teenage girls said, “The world places so much emphasis on physical attractiveness and would have you believe that you are to look like the elusive model on the cover of a magazine. The Lord would tell you that you are each uniquely beautiful. When you are virtuous, chaste, and morally clean, your inner beauty glows in your eyes and in your face. My grandfather used to say, ‘If you live close to God and His infinite grace — you won’t have to tell, it will show in your face.” When you are worthy… your inner beauty shines brightly.”
Dalton is right. Your lifestyle is written on your face — good or bad. When we choose to do good things, the peace that comes from these decisions is reflected in your countenance.
2. Focus on health
Some numbers are more important than the numbers on our scales. They are the numbers that describe our blood pressure, blood sugar and other health markers. Our children are listening when we talk about weight, food and dieting. Teach them how to make healthy lifestyle choices. If you are going to spend money on looking better, spend it at the farmers market. Make nutrition fun. The best beauty product in the world is a plate of salad and green beans. A healthy athletic body running a race or playing a sport, no matter the size or shape, is amazing and beautiful. Take the attention off beauty and put it on the remarkable heavenly gift of health.
3. Beautiful acts make beautiful people
. Acts of love make the person doing them beautiful to others. When aging wrinkled hands bake cookies for children, they are beautiful. My children call arms that continue to wave after I stop, bingo arms. I think they are beautiful because they look like the arms that held me as a child. My grandmother had bingo arms.
You become beautiful when you act beautiful. J.K. Rowling was right, “… vindictive, jealous, shallow, vain, boring, evil or cruel” are worse than fat. Not only that, my mother was right when she said, “If you continue to make that mad face, it will stay that way,” whether it is a frown or a smile. Remind children that the people around them are special and beautiful when they do beautiful things.
Two years ago, after years of weight and health issues, I was blessed with improved health and lost the extra weight. People treated me differently. Men opened doors, everyone smiled and I was surprised that it made me just a little sad. Others were still judging me by my looks. But, I had changed. I had learned that to be truly beautiful I had to focus within and improve my soul and my health. My experience taught me to see others through new eyes. I gained an appreciation for the gift of health versus beauty.
When you are tempted to judge an overweight person harshly, remember we never know what is happening in the hearts and lives of others. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Celebrate beautiful acts. Look for the beauty within and point it out to your children. Remind yourself and your family that bodies change and grow old but hearts can grow more beautiful every day.