Thursday, November 10, 2011

Not my problem.

I am one of those people who happily gives directions to tourists, holds the door for people, lets courteous drivers into my lane (but not cabs, never cabs) {or people with Duke stickers on their cars}, helps newbies with sportz questions, loan things to friends, shovel snow out from old ladies' cars (not that they should be out driving anyway) but you know, an upstanding member of society. However, there are also plenty of times when I'm happy to just say, whoa, that's so not my problem, and walk away. Usually it entails people being jerks, people being loud and offensive, people being manipulative, people taking advantage of a situation, and did I mention people being jerks? But sometimes there's a gray area.

I read a post yesterday on Endurance Isn't Only Physical that got me thinking about something. Tricia wrote that she had once been overweight. Ok, actually she said this:

      "But I was obese. I was morbidly obese. I was dying from being fat."

She said she wished someone had said something to her. Ok, actually she said this:

      "Did I need someone to tell me? Emphatically yes!"

Also, she said this:

     "The dirty little secret behind being morbidly obese is you don’t get that way simply
     because you like food, you get that way because you're hurting over something. You
     aren't feeding your body, lord knows you don't actually need that much food, you're
     feeding your hurt. I know that better than most. So while weight is a symptom, I’m
     really addressing the hurt."

Wow. I've never had to deal with this. Not yet, and hopefully never. I definitely keep an eye on my weight in terms of how my clothes are fitting and reign in the candy corns when my pants get tight. Training for endurance races means you're pretty much always hungry, so what you choose to stuff your face with matters. But that's not even the point of this post.

The question I have for people who read this is: what do you do, if anything, if you see someone who is the opposite of obese? Someone who is clearly destroying their body by NOT eating? I mean, I guess the answer depends on how well you know the person. Which, in my case, although it's someone I see almost every day, is not at all. There's a girl who goes to my gym. She's always there when I am. She's usually doing a variety of sportz. She's not just thin, she's skin and bones.

The reason I really started to notice her is because we swam side by side one day and, I hate to say this, and I really don't mean it in a rude way, but she smelled funny. Not bad like Dude, take a shower, but just sort of off. Her body was clearly angry with her. I know it's none of my business, and I don't know her, and there's nothing I can do, but it's hitting me in the head and in the heart somewhere between "I really should sneak the phone number for a therapist into her locker" and "Not my problem."


  1. I ask in a nice way, "I don't mean to pry but we see each other a lot and I am wondering, are you doing okay? I noticed you are looking thinner than normal, are you okay?" It may not go over well but sometimes, after the fact they might think about it and question themselves or they might open up to you. If they do, be prepared to help. You never know when someone is really waiting for someone to ask.

  2. This is Not Your Problem.

    I mean, I don't know. To an extent I agree that sometimes it just takes that one time of someone asking to push someone to getting help. I get that, and I think it's true. But.

    Having watching several people extremely close to me wrestle with signifcant eating issues, I can tell you: You can't help. There is so much going on that cumulates in compulsive exersizing and compulsive undereating that so much more than a well meaning statement is needed or helpful.

    There's also an elements of, I don't know ... I would never- NEVER - say to someone I casually knew at the gym (or, say, someone I knew just in passing) "Hey, you look like you've gained weight. Something is obviously wrong, what's up?" Even if I only had the truest blue well meaning intentions, it is stil judgemental, out of place, potentially extremely hurtful, and not my business. I kind of feel like that opposite is true for those who are excessively skinny -- we don't get a pass on commenting on their body just because we're not calling them fat. It's still out of place.

    I hear what you're saying -- as people who are so in tune to our bodies and so grateful for the lifestyle we have because of our bodies, it's hard to see it lacking in others, and to see the hurt and the pain that manifests in a person's body structure. What you described seeing is heartbreaking. But I do believe it is Not Your Problem. (Unless you want to make it your problem, above and beyond a one-off statement. Are you willing to be a confidant? To take on the hurt and the whatever is going on with her? Are you willing to be more than just an observer with advice?)

  3. I lean toward 'not your problem' only because I don't see how you could help.. You're a familiar stranger, but you don't know her.

    In that same vein.. Would you ask her anything else? Would you ask her out to lunch? What she's training for, etc? Also, is there a nutritionist/etc on staff at the gym who you could ask for advice or to whom you could mention the girl?