A heart-felt message from a dietitian to all weight-conscious people and a society that judges them.

There is a weight that many among us carry, and I’m not talking about the numerical value on the bathroom scale. For the past 12 years, my career as a Registered Dietitian has provided me a window into exploring this weight carried by many. Most people that carry it have been told they are overweight or obese. Some are of normal weight, but feel overweight from the saturation of daily living in our weight-focused culture. This weight is difficult to name, but I believe it is a deep-rooted sense of judgement for their outward appearance (rather than inner qualities). It’s extremely heavy to carry because of troublesome things like guilt, shame, embarrassment, loneliness, or even anger. In all honesty there are few things in my professional life that burden me the way this issue does. I’d like to say a few words to those on each side of this issue; to both the ones carrying the weight, and those around them who have the power to either add to or lighten their load.

To the Weight Conscious
Whether you end up sitting across the table from me for a consultation or not, please know I am whole-heartedly on your team. I understand that many of you feel as though you’ve tried and failed too many times, and it’s painful to confront. I’ve seen the frustration and agony as you recount your story to me. You’ve lost hope with each failed attempt, which may leave you wondering what’s the use in trying again. Additionally, many among you say, “I know what I’m supposed to be doing, but I’m just not doing it.” This may, in part, be true! Behavior change is incredibly challenging, especially when it involves food! To you all, I say, that’s why I’m here. Sometimes my job is to remind you of what you already know, AND THEN help you translate that knowledge into successful behavior change. That’s why I chose this profession. I’m a nutrition expert and a behavior change expert. I’m not the food police. I’m not going to take away foods you love and tell you not to ever eat them again. I’m not going to suggest you need to weigh what the textbook chart says a person of your height and gender “should” weigh. I will, however, come alongside you with passion. I’m passionate about sharing my nutrition and health knowledge, and I’m passionate about helping you discover for yourself what YOUR HEALTHY looks like. Maybe it’s just one small step, but everyone can find that one step forward. I’d be honored to help.

To the Society that Judges
According to Dictionary.com the verb “to judge” means to decide upon critically. It saddens me to know that so many people have felt judged according to their weight.   I assume this criticalness comes from a pervasive (yet erroneous) belief that obesity is caused by overeating, lack of self-control, and being sedentary. False. Obesity is so much more complex than that. In reality, the World Health Organization, along with National and International medical and scientific societies, now recognize obesity as a chronic progressive disease resulting from multiple environmental and genetic factors. The complexities of the disease of obesity include biological changes that promote weight gain, genetic predispositions, and multiple other factors that are too vast to flesh out in this space. Suffice it to say, we can’t possibly know all the factors contributing to someone’s weight struggles just by looking at them. Rather than being a society that judges, could we all encourage each other along on our individual journeys to better health?

Article By: Register Dietitian, Katie Sonnek