Connecting Kindly

I presented last month on a topic I’ve been studying, learning about, and practicing with for over ten years. Overweight adolescents, bullying and self esteem. What is it about our society that teaches one must never discriminate or be prejudiced against others for reasons such as race, culture or socioeconomic status, but then considers discrimination and prejudice against someone who is overweight not that bad? It’s been called the last socially acceptable prejudice. Even therapists, when polled, have associated overweight people with negative characteristics such as lazy and ugly.

Why? What gives people a right to judge? As I learned in my online survey, parents want to raise their children with compassion, empathy and respect (see my blog dated 4/30/10). So where is this empathy when it comes to people who are overweight? The Chicago Tribune published an article last year citing a University of Michigan study that found there has been an overall decline in empathy. President Obama was criticized for discussing our instinct for empathy (when talking about the Arizona shootings) because instead of it being instinctual, empathy must be taught and learned.

A book that I have used over and over again is called “Have You Filled Your Bucket Today?”. It teaches that we all have the power to make or break someone else each day. Choosing your words carefully is a skill all of us can work on, but being purposefully hurtful and mean is never OK. Illinois just enacted the anti-bullying law which includes bullying based on physical appearances. Other states are doing the same. Kelly Osborne was quoted as saying “I took more hell for being fat than I did for being an absolute raging drug addict. I will never understand that”.

Neither will I. Let’s change that.

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Lynn Zakeri

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