A couple of weeks ago I did an interview with a local newspaper reporter and we discussed what it was like to have obesity. In all honesty I was worried about speaking out in my local paper. Obesity isn’t easily explained; it is greatly misunderstood and carries a great deal of stigma. What reaction would my community, my employer, my coworkers, friends and family have? Would I face ridicule? Would people be open to looking at obesity as a disease? It was an uneasy feeling to say the least. Logical concerns based on my history.
You see for decades I have been told I was trying hard enough and if your told something long enough, by enough people you believe it. Thus the reason I tried and tried and tried to lose weight by myself- 4 decades to be exact. I was keenly aware that my doctors, my family, friends and the media placed the blame squarely at my feet. So I blamed myself too- I made my bed so I must lie in it.
As a result of these behaviours, beliefs and attitudes people living with obesity are a marginalized group, keeping millions and me from actually expecting, seeking and receiving effective affordable medical treatment.
It wasn’t until I gained my health back by a caring medical team that I realized I should have been given more dignity, understanding and support years ago. I didn’t need to feel so incredibly horrible about myself and my abilities to manage my weight.
I also realize that if I don’t speak up about this we will not see improvements in this situation. So this is exactly what I’ve been doing- advocating for affordable effective medications (Canadians only have 2 unaffordable approved medications, US-6), improved access to treatments and care (look at the Obesity report card almost every province gets an F), acceptance of Obesity as a disease, redefining healthy body size language and supporting people suffering with obesity.
For several years now, across Canada I have spoken at medical conferences, written articles, spoke to groups, done interviews and basically spoke a great deal to whoever would listen. This has been a positive experience for me. I have felt heard and supported. Feedback has always been kind, respectful and inquisitive. I feel and see the beginning of a change in attitude. I’ve been told so many times how brave I am to share my story. This feedback always greatly touches me. However I don’t feel I’m being brave. I feel grateful to be given a voice and to be heard. In my mind I feel more at peace because obesity experts tell me it’s not about my willpower or lack thereof. I feel hope more than ever before to have the support of other Obesity advocates pushing for dignity and respect to those affected. I feel optimistic that my voice can bring about change. That is incredibly empowering.
Being part of a local story on this topic was new for me. People I knew, maybe for years, would definitely see this and as noted earlier I worried what feedback would occur. The day the story was printed I received a flood of emails, phone calls and texts. Some expressed thankfulness, some worried they maybe added to my childhood sadness, and my boss sent an amazing email to express his support and admiration for speaking out, friends and family all sent positive comments and support. I was overwhelmed with relief to receive this feedback. I learned that people could change their opinions and attitudes by listening and learning. It’s called humanity. If you are affected by obesity I encourage you to speak to your doctor for treatment or add your name to the growing list of supporters at the Canadian Obesity Network.
With each opportunity I am given to help others, I heal as well. We only live once so make it the healthiest one it can be. I hope my story inspires you to be accepting, respectful and champions of those affected by obesity.
You can read Jodi’s full article here.