A Lesson In Empathy: The Reason The Obese Woman In The Coffee Shop Let Herself Go

You had the urge to grab a Frappuccino at Starbucks, and as soon as you had entered the one in your neighborhood, you noticed something quite difficult to look at and to be around. An extremely obese woman who was slurping her Mochaccino with whipped cream all over her face, and she was wearing tattered black and old clothing that smelled as if it had not been washed for years mixed with body odor. Her hair was a mess, she had not had a haircut in a long time, and she had acne. She clearly had not been showing or washing her face. She also had two brownies in front of her that she was about to devour because she was an out of control glutton – or was she? 

Well, that is the first thing that crossed your mind as soon as you entered that Starbucks coffee shop. This woman was a slob that was completely out of control. And how could someone even let themselves go the way she did. You can’t help but look at her with disgust. She appeared to be very lazy, gluttonous, and just plain gross. But if you knew what was going on in her world, perhaps you would look at her with compassion (or more like pity and still being seen as lazy since she would still receive plenty of judgment since her shoes have not been walked in). 

This obese, dirty, smelly, woman has a son with complex special needs who she did her best to help for years. However, even after years and years of therapy with the amount of money unimaginable spent, he did not progress. And in some ways, he even regressed. He had it in him to do better, but his needs were complex even though he was on the higher functioning end. The therapists were in it for the money which is why they did not come clean about not being able to really help him. 

She did what she could to work with him on her own but it only led to frustration and further stress. He wasn’t responsive. And she was on her way to giving up. She was incredibly burned out and was severely depressed Between the high cortisol levels and the need to escape by stuffing her face, she ballooned and kept needing to escape. She wasn’t getting much sleep either due to her depression and even though her son was completely bathroom trained, he would smear poop on his walls out of anger because he also wasn’t happy. His home life was not a good one because his burned out and severely depressed mother became a shell, and couldn’t do any more for him. And his sister was being neglected too. 

When did this mother have an opportunity to go to Starbucks considering that her son took up her time and energy? Of course, when he was in school, that wasn’t helping him but it still got him out of her hair because this was the only real respite she had gotten. She had a side business that she started before life became so sad. But it stagnated, just like her son, and just like she did. The only thing she looked forward to was her Starbucks excursions so she could go after high-sugar and fattening foods to escape in. 

That sad woman that I am talking about was me, 3 to 6 years ago. Than GOODNESS that woman is not who I am anymore. And thank GOODNESS that boy is not who he is anymore! Just like night and day! I complete 180. No comparison. What caused that miraculous transformation? The difficult and bold decision that I had to make (which is the result of the only amount of energy I had left in me) to transition him to the residential school. And based on what I said, it was not just the right one but the only one to make in order for anything to move forward again. 

So now when I go to Starbucks, I am 60 lbs down (yes I know I have more to go and I will), but my hair is not all over the place. I don’t wear fancy clothing but I wear clean and new clothing. My face is clear. And when I go to Starbucks I no longer order that Mochaccino and brownies. Instead, I get a sparkling water, a cake pop, and egg bites for lunch, all under 500 calories! Something I would not have given a crap about when I was incredibly burned out. 

What is the lesson with this? Before you make harsh judgments and snide remarks, perhaps the one who you are judging is going through their own personal hell. Be kind. You don’t know what battle people are fighting. And that was my battle at that time.