I recently read an article suggested to me on ElephantJournal.com about ‘Fat Shaming’. I thought it would be great to go to my ‘Facebook community’ to see what there thoughts were regarding the story. I posted the following statement:
I recently read an article that talked about a woman who was 350 lbs on social assistance, and she said the reason she was obese was because she couldn’t afford to be healthy (i.e. buy nutritious food, gym membership, lacked the knowledge, etc). I’m really curious what my ‘Facebook circle’ has to say about this topic. What are YOUR thoughts?
This resulted in perhaps my post popular posting to date, full of feedback, commentary, suggestions and the like. Many posted they felt this person was ‘lazy’ or ‘it is free to go for a walk’ or perhaps suggestions on how to ‘feed a family healthy on a dime’ (which by the way I blogged about a few months ago for cost savings tips here).
Discussions ensued about socio-economic background and health correlations, home economics and nutritional education in schools. Suggestions for change such as providing free gym memberships to those on social assistance as that would not only help them be healthier, but also lower costs related to hospitalization while allowing them to experience positive and healthy social interaction and lower stress levels.
Suggestions of finding a ‘health buddy’ or mentor to help find your ‘healthy path’, teaching the entire family unit about a healthy lifestyle, overall cultural shifts, psychology and modeling all came into the conversation. It was a thought provoking conversation that has sparked interest and allowed for conversation and opinions to be shared. But I think we are missing a huge piece of the puzzle.
Each situation is as unique as the individual involved. Before we judge the person and her decisions, let’s take a walk in her shoes. She is a single mother of three, on social assistance. We do not know if she has any mental illness, perhaps depression or an eating disorder. When you look in her cupboards that is one thing – but look out her front door. Does she have a car to drive to Safeway to pick up fresh food three times a week? Does the social assistance budget for food, which is $20 per week per adult in the home, allow for fresh food each week? Could YOU live off $20 for food a week and eat healthy?
Is she in a violent neighborhood where ‘just going for a jog’ or walking to the store is even an option? Look at Winnipeg’s North End or Core area! If you live in these regions are you able to do this each day? Is that even your realistic priority as a mother of three on social assistance? God only knows the struggles she is faced with. What about the Northern communities of Manitoba? Where a litre of milk is $12 and a can of coke is $1. Are you telling me that if you were faced with the choice of $12 or $1 and you were on a limited income you would always opt for skim? It is simply not an option.
Moreover, not everyone simply ‘knows how to be healthy’. The average physician takes ONE course on nutrition in his/her entire education. Your doctor is not an expert. If I could tell you how many times I have educated, financially well-off people talk to me about nutrition and have NO clue about what is really good or bad for them, it shocks me every single week. Level of education, the neighborhood you grew up in, and financial status don’t mean squat about your knowledge of nutrition and/or exercise. Be it a parent, coach, yourself, a mentor – someone sparks that interest in you to learn, and you will.
In the words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has”.
So my challenge to you all is this. Be the change that you feel can make a difference. Be someone’s ‘health buddy’. Share knowledge. Help make communities safer and healthier in any way that you can. And let us know how that goes. Let us know how that feels. We are always here to support your healthy lifestyle and story!