Let’s Talk About…Your Ignorance When You Think I’m Ignorant

Elle: I could have just as easily titled this “Let’s Talk About…Misconceptions,” but I’m not going to lie: there’s a tiny bit of vindication in calling some people ignorant (<- Horrible person alert.)  “Ignorance” is defined as “lacking in knowledge or training; unlearned; uninformed; unaware.” If you think that I, the overweight person, am ignorant of the proper way to diet or exercise – and that’s the sole cause of my struggle – then you are “lacking in knowledge” and highly “unaware.”  (And probably not a little self-righteous.) (Warning: Slight ranting may follow.)

Naomi: I know, right? Why is it that people think I want their help on how to manage my diet or exercise? I have PLENTY of background in dieting and exercise. I used to work for Jenny Craig for 2 ½ years; I’ve researched or tried nearly every diet. So when someone tells me what I should or shouldn’t eat something, it drives me completely bonkers. Yes, I am overweight, but there are many factors into being overweight. Like ,I don’t know off the top my head… OVER INDULGENCE. Seriously, what is it with people saying, “You know you should try…walking 30 minutes a day.” COME ON!!

Elle:  And don’t assume that I don’t work out.  No, I’m not in the gym four hours every day…but there have been days when I have spent that much time working out.  But I have a full-time job, a commute, a social life, a blog to maintain; these things are important and necessary to me, too.  Nevertheless, I wake up at 5 or 5:30am nearly every day to run (yes, multiple miles) or work out at classes like “Boot Camp.”  Don’t you dare assume that I’m not trying.

Naomi: When I told people I went running and how far I ran, they were like “I can’t even do that.”  Hold up; are you the picture of health? There is such a thing called “skinny fat” where you’re just skinny but are completely soft because you never step foot in the gym. And although I am not a runner (nor would I pretend to be), I am athletic and I always have been. I played softball, cheered, played basketball, and I was the star of the girls rugby team. So never judge a book by its cover, right?

Elle:  Unless that book cover has me kicking ass on it.

Naomi: Haha. Yes!!

Elle: Back to food for a minute, though.  Honestly, that’s my biggest struggle; I have a pretty good exercise regimen (that is, I exercise – and often).  Let me give you a picture of me in the grocery store on a good day: I look at nutrition labels. I choose items that are multi-grain, organic, low-cal, high protein, low sugar and sodium, etc. when I can.  I fill my basket with fruits, with vegetables, with good dips like hummus, with ingredients for healthy dinners and salad lunches and fiber-full breakfasts.  I know to look at serving sizes because those can be tricky devils (seriously, nutrition facts are for three chips or something?!  Like anybody’s only going to eat that much.) Even if my selections don’t pertain to a specific diet, I understand how to make good choices on a basic level, so please don’t give me any speeches about healthy ingredients or what foods are bad for you.
(Side note, I heard on NPR the other day that egg yolks are bad for you again – as bad as smoking  a cigarette.  Ay carumba.)

Naomi: I heard the egg yolk news, too! Do ever feel like you are drowning in diet news?? Then those around you start to bring it up like you weren’t the first to hear about it. P.S. I am fat and I know everything that is supposed to make me fat. Yes, I know fried foods are bad for me. Yes, carbs are the devil. Next topic, please!


Elle: I know that most of the people who say these things to me don’t actually think I’m ignorant on the whole, which leaves three options:
1) They think I’m ignorant when it comes to weight loss and dieting.  Well, that just doesn’t make sense.  If I can an intellectual conversation on everything from the sexual politics of M. Butterfly to the political and theological debates regarding control of Jerusalem and Palestine to the cultural capital of JNCOs and mom jeans, then how does it make sense that healthy eating and America’s obesity issues have been off my radar?  That’s foolish thinking.
2) They don’t know what else to say.  Most people I associate with are generous and caring (or else I probably would not associate with them) and want to help, even if I have never vocalized my issues or desire to lose weight. Perhaps they assume that I just need to hear the “diet rules” from a different perspective in order to enact them, which possibly leads into the third option.
3) They don’t understand. I think that many people who don’t share these struggles give obvious (and, therefore, unintentionally insulting) advice because they either assume that putting nutritional rules into practice is easy. For them, it’s a direct connection between mind and body, between will and action.  They don’t understand how intensely emotional and psychological it is on the mental end or how many barriers of genetics, biological habits, or chemical malfunctions there are on the physical end.

Naomi: How do you respond to people without being condescending, too? People don’t seem to understand that I struggle not because I know nothing about being healthy but because I have commitment issues, or because I am chemically drawn to foods that are bad for me, or because I just have a psychological lack of self-control. After all, I can eat things that are great for me, but if I eat those foods in excess, I can still gain weight. I want people to know that I love their support and I welcome it, but the reality is this: encouragement and understanding is what I need, not a lesson on the steps to lose weight.

Elle: When it comes down to it, my negative feelings toward “prescriptive” comments or clichéd “stay strong” statements are mostly defensive, the projections of my negative feelings toward myself.  Hearing these comments, even though I know they’re intended as encouragement, reminds me of how simple they are, how manageable it seems to limit my food intake, to “just say no,” to exercise a little every day.  I turn the comments in on myself and yell, “Why can’t I just do it?  Why do I keep failing at these easy steps everyday?” Do I want people to stop with these comments?  I’m not sure; obviously I appreciate their intent but the execution and consequences are obviously complex.  Do I want people to understand how complex this “simple” exchange really is?  Absolutely; that’s why we’re having this conversation and keeping this blog.  Do I want people to stop trying to encourage me?  Hell no; I need all the help I can get.

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9 responses to “Let’s Talk About…Your Ignorance When You Think I’m Ignorant

  1. No, no. LOVE this post (and your blog). I often find myself going into auto mode when I talk to people about food and fitness and I think it becomes more of a “I want to offer you something more than, I hear ya or that sucks.” But I forget that you have to give people some credit too. Thanks for reminding me that my comments don’t need to be ‘prescribed’ to be supportive!

  2. Please stay out of my head. Or at least tidy up, since I know its a mess.

    Well said ladies.

    I don’t want to sound condescending and mean ,but when someone tells me stuff I already know (or in the one case that flies to mind when someone this me how they lost weight) my immediate reaction is just that. I have the same problem with the “great burn” comments on mfp. But that’s me, I think.

  3. Weight loss is a battle fought on countless fronts. And there are so many factors.

    Also, I heard the egg thing too, and I think since then the study was dismissed. As always, it just sort of depends on how much cholesterol you get in general. But then, I’m a vegetarian and I eat eggs almost every day.

  4. Started reading your blog a while back, finding it very interesting. Weight loss -5kg, 10kg or 20kg- is always difficult.
    To lose weight, your body has to be in fat burning mode, not sugar (carbs! There, I said the dirty word) burning mode.
    Have you heard of food that is called “HI” ?. Stands for human interference. Foods that we eat that are in any way processed are HI foods. In any supermarket you will find it filled with these, near 90%, box after HI box, tin after HI tin.
    Eggs are most definitely NOT the devil. Nor are bacon/eggs every morning for breakfast- provided you don’t eat all the fatty bits on the bacon, and don’t fry in fat. Protein is a must, in EQUAL amount to carbs. At every meal. Vegetables and salads are carbohydrate. Some contain more sugars than others, obviously. To LOSE weight, one has to avoid these like the plague, otherwise the body is in sugar burning mode and rolling along as usual, maybe staying the same weight, or gaining. It’s a mathematical equation even if we hate it! A friend of mine is vegetarian (actually many are, and are normal weights) and has ‘always’ severly struggled with her weight. But she was a normal weight until around 18. Alcohol? No exercise? Still vego.
    She eats well, BUT does not eat enough protein to balance her carb intake. Compared to me she hardly eats much, yet she remains significantly overweight.
    Heard it all before? Well maybe.
    Every meal, every day must be protein/carb balanced- even proportions. AVOID (that means do not eat at all while trying to LOSE weight- maintenance is a whole other conversation) BREAD, WHEAT, POTATOES and RICE. Anything white and sugary basically. Certain fruits are high in sugar too. The best are melons (cant elope, honey dew, water melon) and strawberries. Bananas, while highly nutritional, are the same carbo load as a piece of chocolate cake!!!!!!! Better for you of course than the cake, but still high in carbs- too high IF you are trying to lose weight. Simple things make a difference……..
    Our human daily basic caloric intake is not very high (sadly for someone that loves food!) and can easily be consumed in one bad meal. We feed ourselves for energy, it’s fuel. Over eat, or eat incorrectly, and we become overweight because we store that energy (FAT). We are malnourished too because we are not taking in all the necessary vitamins and minerals we need.
    And yes, like it or not, do it or not, we need to exercise every day too. It’s a balance, back to that mathematical equation again.
    And drink 2 litres of water per day. Bodies need hydrating. Not with any sugary, salt laden soda pops. Just water.

    So here I am, yet another person telling you what to do.
    It’s seriously HARD. It’s seriously every meal, every day, every choice as to what you put in your mouth, every portion size. Never ending. Because it takes about 3 days to get into fat burning mode, and a single dose of sugar screws it up, taking another 3 days to get back into the zone needed for weight loss. What a killer…..

    My point here is this- it doesn’t matter if the information comes from a fat person, or a skinny fat person, or a finely tuned athlete, the facts are the same. And it is damn tough to stick to that kind of daily regime no matter who you are, or what your weight is.

  5. i hope you don’t mean my comment where i streamed off things i have learned. i am still 20 lbs overweight and i dont give a shit. Okay, thats partly a lie : ) it would be nice to lose it and i plan on it. The water should do something…..i definitely feel better not all dehydrated and guzzling coffee. anyway, I love myself and i will keep losing weight even if i eat french fries (going to go make some now with potato’s from my garden) since I move around all day, I can eat some carbs, I need me some energy and I don’t feel one bit guilty about that chocolate bar i just ate. be happy. dont worry. that helps restore balance/lose weight. who we are as people is far more important.

  6. I’ve started to try really avoiding topics of diet (as in “the food you usually eat”) and exercise because they always spiral into these conversations. I make exception for the boyfriend, since he has to eat the food I make, but for everyone else I try to avoid it. The things we eat and the ways we take care of our bodies are intensely personal, and we’re bound to feel defensive about them, so as such I’ve never managed to have a completely casual conversation about weight loss; it always turns into everyone involved prescribing that “one simple thing” that’s a magic cure to lose all the weight you need. Blegh.

  7. Pingback: Sometimes I Wonder | Thirty-six 24 Thirty-Six·

  8. My husband and I are constantly watching our weight. At 60 and 65 it’s not easy to lose, but it IS possible. We just weigh in every morning and go from there. We definitely KNOW what to do, but a few tips remind us that we need to DO those things that we know. I hadn’t heard the egg thing, but experts bounce back and forth between yoke and no yoke. Guess that’s the weigh the egg bounces. Thanks for such a great post.

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