What It’s Really Like to be Misunderstood

sharma-obesity-risk2One of the risks of blogging, where putting out provocative thoughts is what makes for interesting posts, is that sometimes these ideas may be misread and perhaps provoke the exact opposite response of what one might expect.

Case in point is a response by the writer and blogger Elizabeth Hawksworth in the Huffington Post to a repost of my recent thoughts on how the Kubler-Ross Stages of Grief may (or may not) apply to the issue of living with a chronic disease – in this case obesity.

Here is what Hawksworth had to say about my post:

“When I saw Dr. Arya Sharma’s article, “The 5 Stages of Living With Obesity”, I was interested. Here was a doctor who appeared to actually get what my life was like. I clicked, expecting a change from the numerous fat-shaming articles in the blogosphere, and hoped for a doctor who actually could write from the “fat experience” and offer empathy and advice free of blame, shame, and moral judgement.

What I found was a reworking of the Kubler-Ross Five Stages of Grief, written in what I found to be a condescending and completely detached way. This doctor did not appear to understand what living with obesity is really like. He is an expert in obesity diagnosis and treatment, and it’s clear he’s spoken to and successfully treated many fat patients, but it was not apparent to me that he understood or felt any empathy towards their situations.”

While I would never for a second assume to know what it possibly could be like to live with obesity, it was most interesting to read how my “reworking” was perceived.

Obviously, I took no offence to Hawksworth’s perception – I fully trust that those who follow my work will happily attest to my empathy and understanding of those living with obesity. But it does remind me of the fact that simply taking posts written for my regular readership and putting them out to a more general audience, that is totally unaware of my actual work or positions on these issues, is not a “slam-dunk”.

Not that my regular blog readers agree with every post – indeed they don’t – that’s exactly what makes this daily exercise so interesting and educational (I cannot begin to say how much I have learnt from the many thoughtful comments left on my site). But at least my regular readers have a context in which they read my posts and perhaps even manage to read between the lines, when I fail to clearly express my thoughts.

Thus, Hawksworth’s post serves as a reminder that I do need to perhaps give far more consideration to how I discuss issues in a forum (in this case The Huffington Post), where most readers have no prior knowledge of my thoughts on obesity.

So, indeed I am most grateful to Hawksworth for this kind reminder.

Even more importantly, I must complement her on doing a much better job of describing how the Kubler-Ross Stages may apply to those living with obesity than I ever could – after all, she does speak from experience, I clearly don’t.

BTW – for interesting discussions on how these stages may or may not apply to obesity, readers may wish to revisit some of the responses and discussions in the comments on my original post – you’ll see what I mean by noting that it is these lively discussions that make this whole exercise worthwhile.

As for Hawksworth, I can only offer my sincere apologies for any offence taken – thank you for reminding me what it feels like to be misunderstood.

Edmonton, AB