Support vs. Excuses vs. Blaming & Shaming [Lex Fitness]

I came across the following video a few months ago, and I wanted to share it to create a discourse and bring up a few points because I both support the video and the approach and believe that it is completely out of touch of what folks who are obese often times go through.

I always hate to pull the “but you didn’t have that experience, so you can’t say anything” card, but there is something to be said for a first-hand experience. It is the reason that I feel passionate about this project that mixes life concepts with research and anecdotes. Since this week’s theme IS excuses, I want to go to that uncomfortable place of calling people out on their bullshit as well as being sensitive to everyone’s story. There is a space in between coddling a person

Sanford – Challenge and Support [cite]. The theory of challenge in student development theory (he looked primarily at the college environment, but I believe that the theory rings true for anyone) gives a notion that if we support someone too much without challenging them, they will never learn, with a reliance on the support to get them through difficult situations. If we challenge someone and do not support them enough, they will fail because they do not have the resources required to make it through a situation. A delicate balance between challenge and support is ideal to successful move through a difficult time. I find that the proposed video from Lex Fitness is a little off-kilter on the support side of things. Providing an overview of “the basics” will not truly inspire a change for someone, especially if their work goes well beyond their obesity. We’ve talked about adversity, and what I have found is that tackling one form of adversity in your life at a time is best. It’s difficult to quit smoking, lose weight, find a job, and deal with an episode of depression all at the same time.

The final facet of Sanford’s theory proposed that an individual must be ready for the change to occur. This could mean readiness in either a mental, emotional or physical state. Although Sanford intended for his theory to work in conjunction with a stated developmental trajectory, the portfolio of this work aligns a trajectory closely tied to a self-actualization process. Therefore, the challenge and support necessary required to make a transformation can be difficult to determine. If we isolate the variable of weight loss as a development trajectory (even though it is not a theory), a journey that is primarily purported by oneself requires a different level of challenge and support. Due to the multidimensional nature of weight loss (as it relates to all of the other concepts that I am exploring), “challenge and support” is helpful to think about as a way to understand the delicate nature of successful growth in a person during a time of change.

MISUSING SANFORD: http://doctorgentry.blogspot.com/2016/03/can-we-please-stop-misusing-challenge.html

The reason I bring up challenge and support as a general concept is because I don’t believe that Lex Fitness really understands the balance. Of course, tough love is an effective method for some, and he raises some seriously valid points, that are the primary platform for this week’s theme.

Blaming someone for something they are not aware of is not helping them. Education is a lot different than finger pointing.

 

I am going to post the comment that I made on his page back when the video was posted, and then address a few another point.

“As a person who has lost over 100 lbs. myself, I think there is a real lack of understanding about mental health vs. physical health issues in this explanation. Believe me, full awareness of excuses is integral to a change process. As someone who lived in a mist of my own food indulgence, without the education of where I needed to go, I was lucky enough to find my way. Having never experienced obesity, I think it is hard to give advice on the mental aspects of losing weight (which is only lightly covered anyways). Our mental health [can] dictate our physical health on an overwhelming scale.

I agree with a lot of the points in this video as far as the pathway to successful change, the marketing, the avoidance of talking about the issues, and a culture that misinterprets body positivity and human health. But, what I have found for myself and for the vast majority of stories I have come across in regards to obesity (not just a little extra that one needs to lose to feel better about themselves) is that there are other issues going on for that person, and they are a long stretch away from “the basics”. Education is absolutely essential, but, for many folks, for example, living in poverty where education and food are always at odds with each with additional life stress factors, it changes someone’s ability to strive to a place of change. Again, it does not mean that someone cannot preserve, but it does mean that someone will have more work to do, which can feel daunting.

I also wouldn’t agree that someone who is trying to get a little leaner and someone trying to escape morbid obesity is the same. The kind of education might be relative, but I remember the fear of stepping into the gym when I was larger was consuming (everyone can feel this way regardless of their body type, but when you have no experience to rely on, again, it is more daunting).

So, yes, the basics are the same for everyone, but stories are a lot more complicated than the basics. I do think an honest and direct conversation like the one in this video is important though because there is a serious lack of urgency over a very serious social health issue. All good discourse!”

AN ASIDE: One thing that I aim to do (despite the near impossibility of it), is to avoid the kind of confrontation that does not create discourse. There will always be people who engage at the most superficial level based on a knee-jerk reaction, also known as “haters”. My goal, despite how impassioned I may be is to have a healthy discussion where I place my cursor. The response to this can be handled in a litany of ways, but I want my behavior to reflect a true exploration of the human condition, and disengaged landmines in the form of comments do not help anyone. I am also a realist, so I understand that critical engagement in a time period when a drive-by comment is a way to stroke an ego as well feel validated by oneself. My hope is that my comments are to shed additional light in the best interest of a person’s health. Sometime’s that means a cold hard truth, but there are a variety of ways to help people get on the rails of their future.

AS IT RELATES TO EXCUSES: I believe that Lex Fitness’ head is in the right place. I see it time and time again with people who understand their goal and what they have to do, but there is always a reason to not start today (or tomorrow). I get it, life has very real and very hard consequences at certain times, I talk about them through this project, but, at the end of the day, at the end of your life, those reasons don’t truly matter when it comes to your health. Your biology and your mentality will catch up with you. An excuse will mask a problem for eternity, but an excuse will not give you the life you truly desire or deserve. Lex’s head is in the right place, but your heart has to be in the right place as well. It is easy to say, “get up and go” if you have the resiliency built inside of you (built from supports, previous experiences, self-reflection, esteem, and efficacy, etc.) is a major determining factor to your ability to “start with the basics”. So, on one hand, there is a “valid” excuse for every story to avoid the pathway that will bring us to a more enlightened lifestyle, but those excuses will not create a better life for us. We have the option to hold onto our past and the stories we’ve told ourselves, or we can find ways to move beyond our excuses. The one thing I don’t believe that will help someone is by shaming them from a lack of knowledge or shaming them based on the story they have written thus far. We only write our stories with the utensil that we were given, and it requires an act of dissonance and education to upgrade our writing tools to tell a different story. 

ON SHAMING: One of the points in this video hits an important nail on the head. This conversation could be a dissertation, so I will try to keep the summary of its brief. The thin line that exists today between body positivity and acceptance and foundational human health. I want to tread carefully on the subject, as I am a big proponent of the ways in which self-esteem and self-efficacy bleed into our identity. Pride and ego are not negative characteristics of the human condition but can be bred as an insidious virus that creates a disconnect between people. The body positivity movement is an important one. I have seen numerous inspiring articles about “plus-sized models” (I put this in quotations because, in my opinion, many are average sized women in an industry of a different kind of unhealthiness), that are necessary to show the actual vast experience of people on this planet. A photoshopless world would, perhaps, give us a better sense of self, a more confident notion of our esteem, but, alas, we live in a retouched, idealistic world that few can physically achieve. Although this is a different topic and theme, I believe that the extreme version of body positivity gives people an excuse to not focus on health in an intentional way. Growing up, I was always a little bigger, and although I wasn’t happy with the way I looked, until I reached obesity, I never felt negative about the way I looked either. I take great critique with the BMI way of looking at the world, but we cannot deny that our weight, diet, and lack of exercise leads to certain health defects. I bring this up to caution about taking health for granted inside of a body positive movement. Body positivity is not merely about weight, it is about our moles and our scars and our color as well. We can embrace our bodies and still be looking to improve our welfare. In the same way that the lack of education or motivation or time can be an excuse to not create a healthy lifestyle, the over-emphasis of being content exactly how you are can create a veil behind an issue, just as well.

There is always an excuse not to do something. I think that Lex is trying to get at the core of people’s excuses, but looks at things like marketing as the hurdles people have to jump over. That may be true, but coming from obesity, the issue is a lot more complex, and many of the “excuses” we use are to avoid starting a process are valid , “I don’t know how to”, “I don’t have time”, “I don’t know where to start”, and these are the best excuses because they can be combatted. I believe that the most difficult excuses are the one’s that are buried deep inside of us that we are afraid to face, and that we are not even aware of. The excuses that we will have to change our entire way of living, or we will have to face what is buried underneath. This is where the real work is and where transformation comes in.

I hope that a deeper expansion (than the presented video) on the concept of excuses resonates with people. There is a fine line between reasons and excuses for the current state of our story, and it is up to us to find ways to be mindful, reasonable, and still push ourselves.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *