Since losing so much weight, my personal interactions have changed. People seem to smile more, approach me more and want to interact more. While it is easy to assume that this is because they “like” me better now that I am lighter, that assumption would actually be too easy. There are several possible reasons for such an experience, some external, some internal, but all positive.
First off, it is possible that some find it hard to be friends with someone weighing over four hundred pounds, as I was. There are those who are repulsed by such people. I know, because I’ve had people tell me my weight repulsed them. Because of this I know some in the past may have been unable to be friendly with me. In that case, reducing my weight so that I do not repulse is a good thing—especially for someone whose calling in life involves trying to attract people to a faith community. Being overweight handicapped my career for years. It got in the way of personal interactions, because some people would be repulsed by my weight. I even had one couple tell me they were leaving our church because I was so fat. Now, don’t feel I am being too harsh with myself and try to make me feel better about how heavy I was. It was understanding exactly what I had done to myself that inspired me to work so hard to lose the weight. It was the problems my weight caused me professionally and personally that caused me to really want to get rid of it. Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.” This includes painful truth—actually painful truth is probably the most freeing truth out there.
Another issue that weight can cause on a professional level is that it can be hard to take an overweight person seriously. Discipline, self-denial and energy are important professional qualities. When one wears their lack of discipline and self-denial on their face and frame, as every overweight person does, it can be hard to take them seriously. How can one believe you will deny yourself and discipline yourself enough to act in a professional way, if you will not deny yourself and discipline yourself enough to not eat too much? Or to exercise enough? I know that one thing helping me in some professional relationships is seeing that I went from 425 lbs. to 260 lbs. in a few months. This is an obvious and undeniable act of discipline and self-denial. It would have been far easier to just keep eating myself to death. Please don’t see this as a boast. I had a lot of help and over twenty years of self-loathing to inspire me. I am simply expressing what others have said to me. It is also simple truth that we know another person’s ability for discipline and self-denial by seeing examples of it. The obvious examples of failing in this area are what speak loudest. Often our weight can be the loudest proclamation others “hear” about us. Losing weight allows others to take us seriously. “If you can exercise that level of self-control in such a difficult area, what are you capable of in other areas?”
The previous thoughts all touched on the effect of weight loss on other’s perception of you. However, there are also internal reasons for a difference in relationships that are impacted by weight. The biggest would have to be self-image. I am a very outgoing, and very friendly person. I love to talk, to laugh, to tell jokes and stories. Actually, being a Texan means I have a license to stretch the truth into any form I want so long as it makes for a better story. It is a skill learned at the feet of our elders, and as such is an honored practice to be honed to perfection. However, over the years, as my weight ballooned higher and higher I found friendly interactions harder. When you do not take yourself seriously and cannot see yourself as anything but repulsive it is hard to interact with others. You find yourself wondering what that person must be thinking of you. You find yourself questioning that person’s motives for every action. This problem then works itself out in your actions and expressions. You often hear that animals can smell fear. Well, humans are pack animals used to interacting in very subtle ways. We give facial, pheromone, and body language clues even when we do not speak. Then when we open our mouths we give clues with speech cadence, pitch, tone, and voice that share how confident we feel (or do not feel). These spring naturally from our self-image. For example, some studies show that when two males converse, the voice of the more dominant will deepen and the voice of the more submissive will rise. This is unconscious and deeply ingrained. Even picking up on the difference is automatic—even the youngest children respond without knowing why.
This means that much of my perception of problems with personal and professional interactions when overweight sprang from my own self-perception. One, it would cause me to question the response of the other person—which only served to reinforce that negative self-image. It would also cause me to speak and act in ways that reinforced their poor image of me. Losing weight has caused me to see myself very differently. This causes me to respond differently to others—which is really responding to my own self-image.
Losing weight can radically change personal and professional interactions. These interactions and relationships are part of human health. Having a healthy body helps to have healthy relationships. You will be taken more seriously. You will be seen as self-disciplined. You will project a different image to others. You will project this different image because you will be different. Don’t wait. Start now to transform yourself and your future. Do it for yourself, but also do it for the impact you can have on the lives of other people. I am sure you have something positive to add to the lives of those around you. By losing weight you give them more reason to listen and give yourself more opportunities to speak into their lives.