“The root cause of all judgment is the fear of not being good enough, not being worthy of love, and not being safe.”
― Gabrielle Bernstein, Judgment Detox
My love for travel is one of the many reasons I decided, in 2016, that it was time to take my life back and get serious about my weight loss journey. The “Mexico Wetsuit Incident” (See blog post 1) was the first time that my size affected my ability to fully engage in my life and I knew it was time to make serious change. Cut to today, roughly two years later, and I am flying to New Orleans to celebrate my fiance’s birthday: 155 pounds lighter with less baggage, in more ways than one.
Before my weight loss surgery travel caused me MAJOR anxiety. Walking down the aisle of the plane was like the ultimate walk of shame. I would shimmy and slide to the best of my ability so that my ASS didn’t knock out every single person I passed on the way to my seat. Then let’s not forget the actual airplane seat. Would I get lucky and have an empty middle seat next to me? Who would sit next to me…were they big like me? How roomy would the seat be? If I put the armrest down would it dig into my thigh and cut off my circulation? Would the person sitting next to me be open to leaving the armrest up? And the SEAT BELT. How discreetly might I be able to request a seat belt extender? You heard me, a SEAT BELT EXTENDER. Didn’t know that existed, didja? At one point I was so fed up with the seat belt challenge altogether I actually took one with me after a flight so I wouldn’t have to draw attention to myself every time I flew. In this way flying was like a boxing match, one shame punch after the other, boom, boom, boom, DOWN.
Having been a larger women for most of my teen and adult life, I felt that average sized people took so much for granted and were so quick to judge. Walking through crowds, sitting in chairs, getting a booth at restaurants, sitting in a airplane seat, putting on a seat belt, swimming, getting in and out of cars, just a few average everyday things that I would agonize over. As a bigger person I also felt I wore my addiction on my sleeve. You could tell by looking at me that food was something I clearly over indulged in on the regular basis. People tend to think bigger people are lazy. That they should workout more, eat less, push away from the table, put the fork down. But my food addiction and overeating was and is a much more deeply rooted psychological issue and is my primary coping mechanism to deal with life. While I have lost most of my weight, I still have 20 lbs to go, my food addiction is something I still struggle with everyday.
A few weekends ago, I found myself on the OTHER side of the equation. On the way back from New Orleans I sat next to a women bigger than I was at my heaviest, maybe 400 lbs. I was shocked to be the “NORMAL SIZED” person and I was ashamed and appalled at myself for how quickly I was to judge her. How did she get so heavy? I thought. Did she have any health problems? Did she want to lose weight? Did she try to lose weight? Had she ever considered weight loss surgery? I wanted to tell her my story but how do you start that conversation with a complete stranger? Like I used to, she had chosen a window seat and used that little bit of extra room between the seat and the window to sandwich herself in, attempting to create as much extra space as possible, for the person sitting next to her. She sat with her arms crossed the whole time because that’s the only way you don’t completely spill over into the seat and onto to the person next to you. You feel the stares, you notice people looking, you notice their expressions, you feel the burn of judgement. Now I was staring. Now I was judging.
Needless to say I have now been on both sides of the spectrum. I know what it is like to be gawked at as well as be the gawker and I’m making it a personal goal to catch myself from JUDGING again. No matter what the circumstance, addiction or not, internal or external struggle, maybe both, everyone deserves compassion. We never know the whole story or the journey someone else is on. Being compassionate and empathetic is where we should start rather than where we should end up. Easier said than done, of course, but food for thought, no pun intended.
Lashes, Love and Lipstick