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Article:   Don't Be Too Quick to Judge Obese Man

By Janet Pfeiffer
Daily Record
Aug. 1, 2008

I would like to offer my response to Mr. Lombardo's experience about sitting next to an overweight gentleman at the movies. While I do agree that obesity is a serious problem, I do not agree with the manner in which this situation was handled.

It was very obvious that Mr. Lombardo has an issue with those who are overweight (curious, since he himself had a weight problem as a child). There was an air of judgment and criticism that clearly influenced the manner in which he approached the other party. While one can say all of the right words, the attitude beneath them carries far more weight (no pun intended). Attitude, more than what is being said, determines the outcome of a situation.

To assume that overweight people are lazy and irresponsible ('they think it's not their fault') is unfair and harsh. Some have legitimate health issues that make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight. For many, overeating is more of an emotional issue. I know because for fifteen years I suffered from bulimia. It had nothing to do with food. It was about serious emotional trauma that had never been resolved. It took years to understand why I medicated with food and even longer to address and resolve the issues that fed the behavior (again, no pun intended).

People need to be less judgmental of one another. The Indians have a wonderful philosophy that would benefit all of us to adopt: 'Do not judge me until you have walked a mile in my moccasins.' I am surprised that having been in this man's shoes, Mr. Lombardo chose to be judgmental instead of understanding. He missed a great opportunity to reach out with compassion, support, and generosity of spirit.

Making snide remarks such as 'well you're fat!' or telling him to go eat a salad is childish and hurtful regardless of how the other man handled himself. One needs to rise about another's poor behavior and maintain a certain level of personal integrity.

And did he not stop and think for a moment that this gentleman has probably endured cruel statements such as that for much of his life? What do you think happens to someone who is treated with such disdain? The pain doesn't dissipate simply because someone later offers an apology. Cruel remarks leave lasting scars upon the heart and people often become overly defensive. This behavior is always mean-spirited and inhumane.

I don't dispute that Mr. Lombardo did in fact make a concerted effort to make the best of an uncomfortable situation. And certainly the other gentleman did not handle himself well. However, had he spoken and acted from his heart instead of ego (which is self-righteous) the experience could have been a positive one for all parties.

Certainly we are all entitled to our opinions but more often than not those opinions are harsh and negative. Where is the compassion? All individuals want and deserve to be respected. It is not up to me or you or anyone else to criticize or judge another. No one knows what another is dealing with and it is not up to any of us to decide how and when that person should address their issues. And neither you nor I have authority to decide how a person should live their life. It is only our right and responsibility to treat one another with dignity.

Blaming someone else for your bad behavior ('I reacted badly because he sat there looking straight ahead, oblivious to the situation') is no different than an obese person saying 'it (my weight) is not my fault.' One needs to take full ownership for their actions. Behavior is a choice and no one is responsible for the choices you made, Mr. Lombardo.

No, I am not someone who is obese and took personal offense to this article. I am 5'2" tall and wear a size 2. Sitting next to an overweight person does not pose the same challenges to me as it did to Mr. Lombardo. Sitting behind someone who is a foot taller than I (as he is) is another story. However, he is entitled to be treated with the same courtesy and rights as I am.

This entire situation played out badly because each party chose to handle themselves poorly: one appeared defensive and rude, the other judgmental and insensitive. And I'm sure that both men are kind, wonderful human beings. Sadly they missed the opportunity to learn that about each another.

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