DEAR ABBY: I was moved by the letter from "Losing Slowly in Ohio" (Jan. 14), who is 50 pounds overweight and walks every day with her friend to lose weight. She said that almost daily people made fun of them. My heart goes out to her.
I was in her shoes once. With diet and exercise I lost more than 60 pounds, and I've kept it off. But I was never ridiculed as she was. On the contrary, one day after I had just begun a daily one-mile jog and was struggling to keep going, I passed by a man who cheerfully called out to me to "keep at it, and one day you'll be a 10!"
Abby, I can't tell you what that meant to me. I thought about his encouragement whenever I felt hopeless and was thinking of giving up. The memory of his kind words inspired me to go on. Thirty years later, I still think about his encouragement with amazement and gratitude.
We all have a choice: We can be kind to each other and offer friends and strangers alike support for the challenges we all face, or we can make ourselves feel superior by being cruel and demeaning. In the end, our choice shapes our character and we receive what we give, so we must choose wisely.
I'm sorry that "Losing" has met with only ignorant jerks so far. I would be honored to pay it forward and tell her how incredibly brave she is, and to encourage her to stick with it. Because she has the courage to keep exercising in the face of constant humiliation, I know without a doubt that she will reach her goals. - WENDY IN COLORADO
DEAR WENDY: Thank you for your upbeat response. Many other readers were quick to "weigh in" with letters of support for "Losing Slowly":
DEAR ABBY: I, too, have a weight problem, which I am working to resolve. But I can tell you from experience that the worst kind of discrimination is directed against people with weight problems. I have been insulted in the workplace, in restaurants and doctor's offices. I have not been hired for jobs because I am perceived as fat and lazy.
I am not lazy! I keep a clean house, work hard at my job as a secretary every day, and I am a good wife and parent. We may ignore it and pretend that it doesn't hurt us or matter, but I can tell you it is painful, demeaning, and it doesn't go away. - STILL SUFFERING IN KENTUCKY
DEAR ABBY: Please let "Losing Slowly" know she has another option to continue her new, healthy lifestyle in a safe environment. I have worked in malls for years, and they have all had a mall walkers' club.
The mall allows people in to walk, including many seniors, before it opens in the morning. There she will have access to a place where everyone is on the same page. The walkers are safe from traffic, the climate, and morons who have the manners of a junkyard dog. The regulars there can tell her how many miles they can cover. It's a great society of people who support and root for each other. - NEVER GIVING UP IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
DEAR ABBY: I would suggest the two ladies create T-shirts that read "At Least We're Trying!" and watch the jeers turn into cheers. - CAROL IN WISCONSIN
DEAR ABBY: I applaud her effort and your response, but may I raise the issue of people like myself who are ridiculed about being too thin? Strangers say things like "Eat something, or the wind will blow you away!" Please remind your readers that making fun of very thin people is just as hurtful as doing it to overweight individuals. - WISP OF A WOMAN IN THE WEST
Write Dear Abby at DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.