Don’t Ever Assume

I admit to judging thin people when I was obese. I would look at a thin person and think that it just wasn’t fair that they were thin and I was fat. I know it’s unfortunate and petty that I felt that way – but it’s the truth. I even made snide comments under my breath when I drove past people running, walking or biking. I’d whisper to myself, “What a show-off.”

I didn’t judge other heavy people when I was obese because I understood how they felt. I knew the pain of trying on clothes only to find that nothing fit. I knew the embarrassment of having to get out of the amusement park ride because the bar didn’t come down over my stomach and I had experienced the shame of being the heaviest person in the room.

This weekend I experienced something interesting. I was looking through the clearance rack at Macy’s alongside several other shoppers. As I was flipping through the out-of-season clothes a lady next to me said, “What do you think of this?” I looked up and realized she was talking to me. (Remember I’m in the South where everyone talks to each other.) She was holding up a pink top that was nice. I said, “It’s a nice shirt – it will probably look great on you.”

She looked at me and said, “I wish I was thin like you. You’ve never had to worry about whether or not you can find clothes that fit you.” I was surprised that she said that to me, because even though we are in the South, there are some things you just don’t say. I laughed and told her a bit of my story. We had a nice conversation and went our own separate ways.

The encounter made me think about the dangers of making an assumptions about people based on appearance. Just because I am a certain size now doesn’t mean I was always this size. And just because I was morbidly obese for 10 years didn’t mean I was always morbidly obese.

The woman at the store assumed that I wouldn’t understand her clothing struggles because I had always been this size-but she was wrong. Just like when I  assumed that thin people running alongside of the road were “showing-off” to make me feel bad about my own lack of exercise. Both assumptions are unfortunate and can lead to misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

I don’t know if you have ever felt judged by other people because of your appearance. If you have, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Since I’ve lost weight, I’m very careful to not judge or assume anything about someone just because of how they look.

Have you ever had people make assumptions about you? How did you feel?  Diane

36 thoughts on “Don’t Ever Assume

  1. Miz says:

    I love this:
    The woman at the store assumed that I wouldn’t understand her clothing struggles because I had always been this size-but she was wrong

    because it happens so frequently.
    people assume a lot about me 🙂 sometimes they are right—but more likely they are not.

  2. Marcelle says:

    Its great I personally think that we know both sides of the scale as makes us better rounded people to understand. I was thin ~ then fat ~ now slim again…I know how each feels and while fat I was desperate to be like the slim women as I knew how good that felt…
    Now I do understand how overweight people feel as well and never judge as it can happen so easily.

  3. Susan says:

    Back when I was a size 18 and almost 200 pounds I felt judged by others especially my parents. I felt ashamed to have to wear what I preceived to be “fat clothes”
    As a society we need to stop making judgements on each other based on looks. The so called skinny person may be sick, and the so called fat person may have gotten fat because of medication they have to take.
    Even though its hard I think we all need to stop judging other people especially by their looks.

  4. Sharon says:

    What a great illustration. I have my own story to tell along those exact lines. My false assumption story isn’t weight loss related, but taught me a great lesson about assumptions that’s helped me both before and after losing weight. Never assume anything about anybody. You just never know what their story is.

    Also appreciate your candid admission that you judged “thin” people prior to your own weight loss. A non-judgmental spirit works both ways. Sometimes our eyes are closed to any “side” but our own.

  5. Mary says:

    It took me a long time to actually understand the quote “what other people think of me is none of my business.” Thankfully, I am at the age where I care less and less what other people think (except those closest to me.) My issue now is to stop judging myself, to stop beating up on myself, and stop being harder on myself than anyone else.
    Great post today – very thought provoking!


  6. Carly says:

    I am always jealous of my skinny friends because they seemingly can shop without struggle. However, although they can shop for single digit pants sizes, they have their own struggles. Big boobs, big hips, feet too small, feet too big, scars to cover up….etc.

  7. Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman says:

    Ugh, yes. I’m pretty thin and I’m thankful for that but being thing doesn’t make life perfect. I’ve had a friend say that I’m so lucky I’m thin and my life is so much better than hers because of that. Still, I’m in constant pain with two bad knees and unable to walk more than a few blocks. She’s heavier than me but could run six miles if she wanted to. It’s so silly to assume thin people are immune to health problems.

  8. Jules - Big Girl Bombshell says:

    Diane…this is why I LOVE U…This is about the core of it all…assumptions AND hiding…we assume things about others, are shocked when we find the truth..EVERYONE has a story, a reason, a secret, and you just never know..I keep it close to my heart something my best friend told me YEARS ago…It doesn’t matter if its 5 lbs or 305 lbs..we ALL feel the same about ourselves and our weight! We WISH it were different!
    Everyone has a story AND appearances can be deceiving!

  9. Diane says:

    Constantly !!!! People often assume, because I have been obese my whole life, that I know nothing about nutrition, healthy cooking, exercise, behavior modification and that I MUST do nothing but sit and watch TV all day. When they spend a little time with me they learn that the exact opposite is true. People make quick judgments about others for many reasons, because it is human nature to do so. I don’t let it bother me, and I realize that if they were not making a judgment because of my weight, it would be something else. The fact that I have one child makes me look either intelligent or selfish( neither is true, it just happened that way) , when he has a moment same people have called me a bad parent , and it is not true, because we homeschool it is assumed that I am a conservative christian and judged accordingly ( not true) and so on. I think the whole judging thing is part and parcel of being human, and getting past doing it or letting it impact us is one of the bigger goals in life. Great post !

  10. Alissa says:

    I’ve had people make assumptions about me because of how I look. It’s hurtful. But it’s important not to make judgements on even the skinny people- we don’t know whever anyone has been!

  11. Jody - Fit at 52 says:

    Really interesting to talk about Diane! Yes, I have people say to me all the time: You don’t have to do that or eat that way cause you are already thin. I tell them I do this AND eat clean cause I want to stay this way & I have not always been like this. Yes, it does go both ways. Great stuff Diane!

  12. vickie says:

    I have often wished we had little buttons or signs saying – on the way up, on the way down, maintaining a Xlb weight loss, etc. Because you are right, there is no way to know when you see people. And I bet your lady (in the store) was shocked. It is hard for people (I think) to picture us any other way than how they see us now.

  13. Melinda Neely says:

    This is a really nice post – thanks for sharing. After a life of Southern living, I moved to Boston when I was 30. With blonde hair and a deep Southern drawl, everyone with whom I worked just assumed I was dumb. I felt like my opinion/thoughts were immediately discounted regardless of what I said. I was so determined to prove to everyone that I had a head on my shoulders that could out-smart a lot of folks in the vicinity.

    And I did prove myself, after a couple of years! But like you, it made me realize you should never assume stereotypes to be true.

  14. Jane says:

    Being judged in a negative way is a big fear for those of us who are overweight. I have been heavy and thin, and I know that others seem to find me more approachable when I am thinner. Maybe it’s because of how they judge me, or maybe it’s because of the vibes I give off. When I am heavier, I want to hide from others (and actually have ducked around corners in stores to do so). Nevertheless, I think people will always make snap judgements about other people. I need to remember that I am essentially the same person inside, no matter what weight I am–but it’s a fact (for me) that when I am thinner, I am more comfortable with myself and less sensitive to perceived attitudes and criticism, regardless of what people assume about me. That is probably because of a better self image on my part.

    I loved this post, Diane, because it illustrates one of my beliefs: overweight people often develop a more sensitive attitude toward others (and not just in terms of weight), because we remember the pain and embarrassment of being heavy. You must have given off an “approachabililty vibe,” and you were very kind to have shared some of your story. You may have had a postive effect on her life in that spontaneous moment of sharing with another human being.

  15. Marsial2010 says:

    Diane, I made an assumption about 20 years ago that still shames me. I was in my early 40’s and PMS was raging through my body. I went grocery shopping, and, as I finished parking my car, this lady….probably about 70…slowly pushed her shopping cart to the back of her car across from mine. She was on an incline, and I thought, “Oh, she’s probably going to leave that cart there when she’s finished, and it will come rolling down the incline and smack into my car.” So I decided to wait so that if she left it, I could wheel the cart away. I sat irritably and waited…and waited…and waited while she slowly fished for her keys, opened her trunk, and began to fiddle with her bags. Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore, and went over to her car, and with great artificial sweetness asked her if I could help. She turned and said, “Oh, thank you so much. I’m just recovering from a broken back, and this is so hard for me. I should have asked for help in the store, but I thought I could do it.” Had I had a gun, I probably would have put it to my head and pulled the trigger. I loaded all of her bags for her and even asked if she wanted me to follow her home so I could carry them in for her, but she said there was someone there who could help her. She was so grateful to me and thought I was wonderful and, of course, I knew the truth and felt horrible. It was a life lesson for me, and I’ve never forgotten it.

  16. RNegade says:

    I’ve been a member of several support groups for women over the past 20 years, and one thing I have been consistently taken aback by is the high percentage of women with eating disorders…women who look like they never have to think about food issues, women who cannot stop purging with laxatives, exercise and/or vomiting, women who run to the gym for an extra hour if they eat an extra cupcake or two, women who obsess about food every waking minute, who equate being *good* or *bad* with what kind of foods they have eaten that day, women whose self esteem disappears completely at the slightest increase in their weight, women who take abuse from their partners because they feel they deserve it for letting themselves get *so fat*… And all of them lovely, *normal* looking women who nobody would think has any food issues. Then there were the bulimic women I met in nursing school, who felt pressured to keep their BMI in the “normal” category so they would look healthy and presentable for future employers. Sigh. Diane, you are so right. We cannot assume we understand anything really significant just by looking at a person’s exterior.

  17. Mary (A Merry Life) says:

    Yes. I think it’s human nature to make judgements about others. You kind of can’t help doing it. So I know that people do it about me, but I just try not to let it become something I focus on or care about.

  18. Leah says:

    Good morning! I’ve just caught up on your blog and am so glad I did so. Reading your blog and doing my own blogging is akin to attending a weight loss meeting. It helps me refocus and recommit to what I know I need to be doing.

    I am learning not to make assumptions on appearances either. I can’t tell if you were bugged that the lady assumed you’d never had to worry about your weight, but I think it’s great she commented to you because it allowed you to share your story. Maybe it was just what she needed to hear to encourage her that she can overcome whatever weight issue she feels she has. I know I sometimes wish I knew if a person was always thin or has taken care of their health to get there, then it would encourage me that it can be done.

    Thanks for posting this. Have a good week!

  19. KCLAnderson (Karen) says:

    I come from a long line of critical women…and they were/are especially critical of overweight/obese people. And so when I was at my heaviest, it wasn’t thin people that I judged, but people who were heavier than I. In recent years I have come to see that the women in my family are most critical of themselves…and so was I. And so as I have come to be more accepting of myself, I have been able to be more accepting of them…and of all people. Compassion for self = compassion for others = compassion for self = compassion for others…and so on.

  20. Tami says:

    Oh yes I can relate to this. I had someone say to me that I looked like the kind of person who can eat what ever she wants and not gain an ounce. Oh that could not be farther from the truth for me!

    I try not to judge others and instead I wonder what their story is.

  21. Kate says:

    It’s funny; as someone who has been both obese and slender at different times in my life, I’ve felt the judgements on both sides.

    I hope I’ll have the grace (as you did) to open up in situations like yours in the store, and explain that I DO know what it’s like to be limited in clothing options, and then, if asked, explain how I started down the road toward better health.

  22. Sandi says:

    I have an overweight friend that assumes that I starved myself to lose weight. She thinks I am still starving myself. I try to tell her how I’ve lost the weight, but she doesn’t want to hear it. She isn’t ready to deal with her problem yet, so I can’t help her. I understand how she feels, I did the same thing for many years.

  23. LAF says:

    This is a great point. I have a thin friend and would always intimate that somehow it came natural to her. She would take offense because she actually tracked her daily caloric intake no matter what and worked out regularly. She earned that body and I had no right to judge. I was just envious and did not handle my feelings in an appropriate way.

  24. 'Drea says:

    The assumption that folks make about me has nothing to do with weight — they assume that I’m standoffish because I’m quiet which is not true.

  25. Taryl says:

    That’s a great story, I keep secretly hoping I’ll get to the place where I ‘pass for normal’ and get judged as such, because being judged the OTHER direction is a whole lot less fun! I am fortunate that most judgments passed on my looks/ health have been minimal, and mostly by medical professionals. And having been closer to normally sized for almost two years now (even though I am still obese) the judgments against me seem strangely distant memories.

    I don’t miss them!

  26. Hope says:

    I was just thinking about this the other day, actually. It’s like you don’t exist to other people when you’re big. It makes you less of a person. So now, I try never to make assumptions about people, no matter their size. Although I must admit that sometimes I can get a little judgey around gals that run 30 miles a day..I’m working on that! More than anything, I think it’s sad that so many make snap judgements based on someone’s size.

    I think I still have people make assumptions about me now. I’m still wouldn’t necessarily consider myself “skinny”, more like normal, but my thighs are larger than the average girls, and I still think some people look at me and think I’m huge. But, I don’t care anymore, because I know I’m healthy. 🙂

  27. Biz says:

    It wasn’t until I started gaining weight that I starting not liking the thin girls because they could eat whatever they wanted!

    Well I did too . . . when I was a three season athlete that worked out 3+ hours a day. Sadly I kept eating the way I did without moving the way I did, and I wondered how I gained 90 pounds!

    Thansk for the reminder though – I’ll think twice next time!

  28. Shawnee says:

    I don’t know exactly what this person was thinking, but I was working with an older man (about 70). He was telling me how great he was and all of his accomplishments, he was quite accomplished. He then told me he runs every day and does 100 push-ups. As he said that he gave me the one over and raised his eyebrows. Just because I am 10 pounds overweight does not mean I am not healthy! Grr. It made me mad.

  29. Laura says:

    Some years ago I was very happy because for the first time in my life I was in my weight, or this is what I thought. I had lost 15 Kg in 2 years and I had spent 6 months in mainteinance. I was happy with me. I was eating very few things and exercising a lot, the only way to keep my weight.

    But I met a boy that hadn’t known me before, he only saw what I where there. He wasn’t thin, I think he weighted the double as me. But one day he told me:

    “I know what you are eating so few. You are trying to loose weight, because you are so fat.”

    That hurt me. I was doing a big effort and for the people that didn’t met me before, I was just a fat girl.

    So, I never make comments about other people’s appearence.

  30. Dr. J says:

    People have often made comments to me about my appearance, as I’m very fit. I usually do not like it because it goes to what you heard rather then just a simple, you look fine. I usually am polite. Sometimes less so depending on what is said. Some people, more than others feel they can say anything they want, it usually doesn’t happen a second time with those people 🙂

  31. MB says:

    People that were always friendly to me stayed away and avoided conversation when I gained weight but once I got back down to a “normal” size they tried to make nice again. I don’t need people like that in my life so I now keep them at a distance. It’s a strange feeling because I was always the same person no matter how much fat I was carrying around.

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