Sometimes during my health mission, I catch myself being kind of judgmental of others. I think it’s rooted in trying to keep myself on track mentally, like if I make judgments of other people, it’s a check on the possible hypocrisy of my doing the same thing. For example, someone I see every day who I know is trying to lose weight, was eating a jelly donut and drinking a sugary smoothie for breakfast today. My brain was like, “ooooooooh…!” Like a tattle-tale 5th-grader. I’m not going to have a donut, I thought to myself with a silent scold towards my acquaintance.
I’ve also done this in certain instances when people start describing their new diets to me. People come up with stuff that completely throws off their nutritional balance so they can give in to fad diets that will drop the weight quickly, but aren’t conducive to lasting success. I keep my opinion to myself because I want to support people in their efforts to lose weight, and at the end of the day, it’s none of my business, anyway… but man, the things people will do to themselves!
And strangest of all, in large crowds of anonymous people, I am always involuntarily scanning the area for the fattest and thinnest person. The fattest, so I can take comfort in knowing that, PHEW!, it’s not me (this time)!; the thinnest, so I can ask myself, does that look healthy? How would I look at that size?
I didn’t realize this was something I did until earlier this week on my commute to work. Once I caught myself in the act, I wondered how long I had been doing this. Since I started losing weight in earnest? Since I became officially morbidly obese? My entire life? Would I be doing it if I were average size? Do other people do this?
The psychology of this whole deal is fascinating. In my case, there’s always some proximal thought rolling around in my brain of size, health, weight, and/or appearance in every context imaginable. That’s not an exaggeration: every. Context. Imaginable. It’s so omnipresent that it’s difficult for me to believe that it’s not the lens through which everyone sees and thinks about everything and everyone. When people say they don’t notice how big I am/was, I’m like, come on. That just can’t be true. It’s not a thing you can just not notice.
Anyway, taking account of all of my private thoughts and behaviors lately has gotten me thinking about the danger of comparisons when trying to lose weight. I have learned and practiced not measuring my progress against that of others; all paths are unique and individualized to the point of complete impossibility and irrelevance where comparison is concerned. If I were to constantly judge my own success against someone else’s, it would only lead to frustration and disappointment on one side of the coin, or smugness and satisfaction on the other, and the worst thing is, it would all be baseless! There are too many variables between my mission and, say, yours. We don’t have the same goals, the same physiology, the same genetics, or the same eating, sleeping, or exercising habits. Making comparisons between two people’s weight-loss statistics is not a worthwhile activity.
Nor is it a worthwhile activity to compare how I look to how those around me look, or to feel any kind of way about it. I might not be able to flip a switch and suddenly stop subconsciously trying to spot the biggest and smallest people in a crowd, but I can remind myself that it’s a meaningless thing to do (and also just not very nice). The focus is here, with me, and that’s where I’ve got to keep it.