Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Think, Before Acknowledging

By Michel Harris, RD, LDN, CDE

 One of my clients, who recently achieved her goal weight, arrived to our session looking defeated. She explained that her attempt to donate blood turned humiliating when the receptionist commented on her thin appearance and then announced to the entire room how much she weighed. A second client, who is close to her goal weight, endures hurtful comments from her co-workers on a daily basis. They cannot seem to stop reminding her of how lucky she is to “eat anything she wants and stay so thin.”

The way in which these people behaved towards my clients reminds me of a scene from the movie “Splash.” Darryl Hannah is in a department store purchasing underwear, and the saleslady, while trying to sell her something fancier, commented on her appearance, then said “My daughter-in-law, on the other hand is lucky, she’s anorexic.” For both of my clients, the remarks of others sting because having an eating disorder makes them feel anything but lucky. Just like the saleslady in “Splash,” these comments seem to equate underweight and thinness as a status everyone desires. While they wouldn't be expected to know the circumstances that my clients have faced, they have acted disrespectfully by assuming they enjoy being recognized for their appearance.

You may think that underweight and thin have the same meaning, but to clarify, underweight refers to someone who is not at his or her desired weight for health. A thin person is at a healthy weight but is often viewed as underweight by those who are dissatisfied by their own appearance.

As a dietitian, I have heard just as many stories involving humiliation of underweight and thin clients, as I have of those who are overweight or obese. However, since the media promotes underweight and thinness as the appearance everyone strives for, it is assumed that weight-related comments are welcomed by this population.

When you are about to ask your friend why she is eating yogurt or exercising because she is so thin, stop and remind yourself that she may be struggling with accepting her own body or maybe she is very confident with living a healthy lifestyle. Remember, you don’t know her life story or how she came to her current appearance.

I will close with a line from one of my favorite songs by the artist Monica: “Just one of them days a girl goes through.” While this song is about a relationship in which the girl apologizes to her boyfriend for wanting to be alone sometimes, I used to play this song in my college days when I was having a poor body image day. All of us, despite our body size, have days in which we are uncomfortable with our body. Let’s support each other and acknowledge our non-physical attributes.

Michel Harris is the staff nutritionist at The Awakening Center. She counsels clients individually and in group. Check back on the Calendar page for updates on new groups in 2015. Michel is accepting new clients, so call 773-929-6262 for more information.

1 comment:

  1. Amy Grabowski, Director The Awakening CenterDecember 18, 2014 at 8:17 AM

    In the olden days - and still in some other cultures - it was considered rude to make comments about others' appearance. I wonder when it became OK to make comments? We've lost a sense of respect and dignity and privacy... Oh how I wish we could get that back.