Obesity is officially an epidemic, ranging from the overweight to the morbidly obese. According to recent studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “The prevalence of overweight children and adolescents and obesity in adults in the United States has increased over several decades.” This is not just an American problem as more than a billion people worldwide are experiencing health problems due to extra weight.
A deeper and holistic awareness of the overweight individual is necessary for any solutions to have long lasting results. Instead of seeing the obese person as a statistic, a BMI or scale number, we can view the whole person as someone suffering emotionally, physically and mentally. This is the first step to helping. Do not confuse compassion with pity. This is a call for better understanding those people who have been misunderstood most of their lives. If you are overweight, or know someone who is, here are a few facts to consider that prove there are instances where the obese individual is perceived as a victim and not just an intentional consumer of calories.
Four Facts about Fatness
1.The human brain has craved high fat and sugary foods since prehistoric times in order to prepare for a long lean winter in the cave. Our primitive brain still has those cravings, but is now easier to appease due to the evolution of our culture of convenience. Our ancestors were also more physically active than we are now. It seems logical under these circumstances that the population would grow heavier over time. The scientific community has coined the term “sitting disease” to describe the growing prevalence of our modern tech-obsessed sedentary lifestyle and its negative effects on our health.
2. Our subconscious mind is always awake and ready to be influenced by those knowing how to reach it in order to affect our behavior. Brian Wansink, PH.D. the director of the Cornell University, Food and Brand Lab, researches the “hidden persuaders” used by supermarkets, restaurants, and food marketers. External stimuli such as music, color of the room and label design can subliminally encourage us to “mindlessly” eat more calories than necessary.
3. The average American home now has more television sets than people. Research shows a strong correlation between TV viewing and weight no matter what age or what they actually watch. Television watching takes away time that could be spent for physical activity. It distracts us from listening to the body and encourages unconscious eating. We are bombarded with advertising for high calorie, cheesy gooey pizza and other so-called comfort foods to soothe our emotions rather than face them.
4. Research studies link sexual abuse, early childhood trauma, incest, rape and molestation with obesity. It has been scientifically proven that more than half of all obese females have had to endure a painful and harrowing event in their past. Psychologically, the weight may help them feel safer and protected from future assaults. Overweight people have not only extra physical weight, but also deal with more emotional and mental weight than others.
Our society likes to single out heroes and villains and feed into the drama of winners and losers. The celebrity magazines sell us stories that make anyone that gains weight, the ‘bad’ guy. Bullying on all media, social or otherwise, is so prevalent that a new meaning for the word troll and trolling has had to be added to the dictionary. We are constantly encouraged to compare ourselves with others rather than see similarities. Feeling shamed and singled out by bullies is a common dilemma for the overweight.
Start With Self-Compassion
Maybe its because we judge ourselves so harshly that we are less compassionate with others. If we wish to see others in a compassionate light, the best place to begin may be to befriend our own worst enemy-ourselves.
“Find the sweetness in your own heart, then you may find the sweetness in every heart”.
This advice from the wise poet Rumi may not be as easy as it sounds. Loving ourselves unconditionally can be a life long process. An essential first step is to improve our self-talk and quiet the inner critic that judges and condemns our actions and feelings. Making friends with ourselves begins when we mentally speak with kindness and a gentle, light-hearted tone. Next time we step on the scales or overindulge, speak to yourself with kindness and no judgment. Use a term of endearment as you would to a dear friend.
We must try to love ourselves, and others without conditions. Loving what we consider faulty will help us to see the overweight as lovable too. Take advice from writer Elizabeth Gilbert who says, “Accept the glorious mess you are”. Let us also accept obesity as a call for love and treat all beings with compassion.
We can shift our focus from seeing only laziness or gluttony in an individual with a weight problem, to an expanded awareness that includes their heart, soul, and their suffering. This will go a long way toward building a truly compassionate society. We need to stop shaming, blaming and separating ourselves from others, and accept and value all human beings no matter their shape and size.
BIO: Kathryn Remati created the popular Tranquil Me meditation app to spread peace, one peaceful person at a time. She is a certified San Francisco based meditation teacher, Health Instructor for Kaiser Permanente, and writer. You can also listen to her guided meditations on the Insight Timer App or live on the Periscope App. Kathryn is proud to have been a presenter at the consciousness-raising, Sedona Yoga Festival 2017
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