Be Aware of the Pink Elephant: Getting Healthy

Posted by Nadine Johnson on

I recently read an article on EW.com where Shonda Rhimes was quoted as saying that since she lost weight, “I discovered that NOW people saw me as a PERSON.” She went on to say, “When I was fat, I wasn’t a PERSON to these people. Like I had been an Invisible Woman who suddenly materialized in front of them. Poof! There I am. Thin and ready for a chat.”

While I respect her comments, I believe that they may be unfair. Let me explain.

I’ve been in the same room with a drug addict. I had a discussion with the guy about his addiction, but he didn’t think he had a problem. Every time I was in the room with him after that discussion, the big proverbial pink elephant appeared only he didn’t see the pink elephant. Two minutes into a conversation, the pink elephant would drop a load (the addiction issue would surface). So I always made up excuses to cut our interaction short.

I’ve been in the same room with a mentally ill person who announced she was no longer going to take her medication. Reasoning didn’t change her mind so that pink elephant showed up. It was attached to her whenever we were together. Sure enough, the elephant would drop a load within a minute or two of our encounter. It created a tense atmosphere and again, for my own health, I had to reduce our interaction.

I’ve been in the room with someone who was in treatment for breast cancer and she was drinking and eating things that the doctor explicitly told her not to. Poof! The pink elephant appeared. I didn’t want to be a nagger because she had breast cancer! But it was painful to watch her sabotage her recovery. Although it was her body and totally her choice, it was an uncomfortable situation that broke my heart. So after the pink elephant appeared and dropped a couple loads, I had to dismiss myself.

I have also been in a room with someone who was obese. When they picked up that fourth can of soda for the day, that pink elephant appeared and the loads followed and I mentally or physically had to check out.

We all have pink elephants attached to us at times that can block the people around us from coming close. It’s important to understand that it’s not that people don’t see you or love you or think you are important. It’s just that the big ol’ pink elephant is in the way and it’s crapping up the room. Watching someone consciously sabotage his/her health is painful especially when it’s someone you love.

For individuals who have begun to take control of their weight, please know that people aren’t flocking to your skinniness. We are drawn to the fact that you now see the pink elephant, which immediately makes it disappear. We are drawn to the new elephant-free atmosphere that fosters conversations.

The problem with Shonda’s comments is that she is linking her weightloss to her physical looks and likability. That thought process undermines the disease of obesity, which does a huge disservice to children who are struggling with their weight. Adults and children need to understand that weight has nothing to do with beauty (even though the media constantly tries to refute that fact). It has everything to do with a person’s health and quality of life. It’s not about looking prettier; it’s about getting healthier.

Shouldn’t we celebrate an obese person taking control of their health just like we would celebrate a drug addict or a mentally ill person seeking treatment for their disease? Getting healthy is a great thing and human beings are drawn to people who are fighting for their survival.

Nadine Johnson
123 Mango Tree

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