As I casually pulled on my 'staff' t-shirt (from the weight loss camp I worked on) to laze around in last Sunday, I realised I had never actually posted about this. Suddenly many of my thoughts, feelings and experiences came back to me and I felt the urge to share it.
Just to set the scene I worked on this weight loss camp in the UK for two consecutive summers. Both of which I had very different experiences. In the first year I was in charge of the 10-12 age group and then the 18-24s (I was only 19 at the time, so this was an experience in itself). The second year I looked after the 13-15 year olds. So all in all I met lots of kids from all over the world of varying ages. They all had one thing in common. They were severely over weight and had committed two months of their summer to crying blood sweat and tears.
Prior to camp if anyone had asked I would have considered myself quite a caring person who had strong considerations for other's feelings. I'm not fatist and wouldn't dream of passing comment. However, I did have the generic view that loosing weight wasn't that hard and you just need to move a little more and replace the junk food for healthier options.
Within the first few days of training, I realised that this was far easier for me to say. I enjoy exercising, I salivate at a salad, getting into a car was never humiliating or embarrassing in case the seat belt didn't fit and my joints didn't get sore from my daily activities.
I quickly learn't how to adapt daily activities to accommodate the kids. Every morning we began with an hours walk. The camp was based at the University Of Exeter (which is beyond beautiful but super hilly). So imagine the first day, the first thing these kids were faced with is what's known as 'cardiac hill' and strangers attempting to encourage them to climb it. Being away from friends and family was hard enough and for many of them it was their first time in the UK. This was my first exposure of how hard life really was. For many of us we may moan and groan walking up a hill but the struggle isn't really that real. The look of worry and despair on some of their faces made me want to wrap them in cotton wall and promise everything would be ok. Thoughts flashing through their minds of whether they'll make it and questions such as, 'how bad will the chafing be if they reached the top' and 'how will I keep walking?' I just wished that all the stigmas attached to being over weight would vanish into thin air. We stopped, I assured them that they can do this and that in two months they'd be running up. To which I got some laughs 'as if' they said. With much deliberation and long rests we got to the top - only to continue to the next hill. Each and everyone of them made it. This was the first glimpse of pushing themselves to achieve a goal (something that became overly familiar during the 2 months).
Sure enough in 2 months not only were they running up the hill but they'd optionally run up and down it during the day. So much so I had to chase them down as to not lose them!
(I will talk more of their progress in part 2).
After some time of getting to know and understand these children (I use the term lightly as many of them were older than me) they became my inspirations and since camp have become friends. I learn't how hard life was to be over weight, I heard some incredible stories (to which I had to cover up my shock and even tears in some cases). They shared everything, what it was like to have stigmas against you, how eating in public is a constant struggle when you know people are passing judgements and comments, travelling is a nightmare and how they ended up in this downhill spiral of self-loathe and desperation.For many of them this spiralled into binge eating disorder which is a downhill spiral of comfort and self-destruction.
Everyone had their own story but every struggle was real. Once I had heard the difficulties associated with being overweight and how having to deal with daily struggles of everyone's normal life which were made 10 times harder by being over weight I really wished everyone would hear this. Maybe then you'd think about passing judgements or comments when you see others eating or even just walking in the street.
In part two I will come onto the changes that were made and to this day I am still inspired by some of the people I met there. If a workout is hard I have their voices in my head when they used to tell themselves 'I won't stop until I'm done' or as they panted at me 'how much longer Jenna?' to which they'd just keep going like a never ending carousel.
Stigmas surrounding obesity have to be wiped out. Obese people shouldn't be the butt of a joke or a nasty remark, they have their daily struggles just like you and me, except theirs are heightened by their weight and in many cases medical issues attached to obesity. The struggles with obesity are real and until you've walked in those shoes then you will not understand. I just hope this post has provided some insight and might make you stop and think before you make a nasty remark or comment and you might even step up if you hear someone else pass judgement.