Saturday, July 16, 2011

What do you say to an obese person?

My wife and I, energized by our significant weight loss and re-discovered energy, have found ourselves making regular trips to the mall to buy clothes for our incredibly shrinking bodies.  I used to be known for the suspenders I wore—no more. I have lost over 10 inches in the waist and can wear a belt again.  But that is not today’s story.

At the entrance to one store is a male greeter, welcoming us to our latest redecorating expedition.  He probably has a BMI like mine used to be—off the chart!  Anne and I had talked about how do we approach someone like that and share our concern for his health and that there are some real answers and tools to manage weight and regain health.  Sort of like witnessing—how do you break the ice or take the initiative. 

Finally I had a window of opportunity to practice my listening skills when I greeted him upon our entry to the store.  His response to my “How are you?” was “Well, my feet hurt.”  He shifted his weight from one side to the other as he looked down at his tired feet.

That was my cue!  “Would you like to do something about that?”  He returned my question with his own:  “Do you think you could do something about it?”

In a flash all I could think of was Dr. “Moonlight” Graham in Field of Dreams asking Ray Kinsella, aka Kevin Costner, “Are you the type of fella that could make that dream come true?”  That was after Ray invited him to a ball field where he could fulfill a lifelong dream to get a hit in the majors.

Well, I stepped up to the plate and said, “Yes, Sir, I can.”  And I shared with his a brief snapshot of our journey from morbid obesity back toward healthier living and normal numbers on our blood work.  The living proof was right in front of him in person.

I wish I could tell you a storybook ending—that the man asked me to become his health coach and he now has a BMI less than 25.  That didn’t happen that day—not yet.  I planted the seed.  And I will need some smaller clothes in a week or so.  I’ll be sure to greet him again on my return and trust God’s Spirit will go ahead of me and speak to his heart or his doctor or someone who has his ear.

What do you say to a person who needs to lose weight?  I know I chafed at the times others told me I had to do the same, especially those gatekeepers in the denomination who said I would never go anywhere in the church overweight.  And in our culture, you could risk your life saying anything.  Yet can we ignore the perishing--those whose bodies are perishing too soon?

The answer is to listen to that person’s story.  Through listening, a window of opportunity will open to share good health news, too.

There are 200,000,000 Americans who are either overweight or morbidly obese.  That means that 2/3 of the people in our churches, in our neighborhoods, at work, or with us at play are affected by the ravaging health effects of too much weight on the bodies they were given.  Hard to miss!  Yet what do we say to say “Hello”?

Years back there was a song with a line that asked:  “How do you tell a hungry man about the bread of life?” The Rev. Barry Manilow in me re-writes the songs other people sing:  “How do you tell an overweight person about the health of life?”

Share with me your attempts to hear the cries for help that are coming from the very first thing an overweight person says to you when you greet them.  Meet them where they are at.  That is what listening is all about.

Interested in losing that excess baggage you have been carrying around, damaging your health?  Email me at  I will offer you free coaching on a plan that worked for me and many others.

Interested in coaching a person back to health?  I’d love to train you to do that for the ones you love and care about.  Same email.

And, yes, I’ll be listening for your message.

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