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'Fat Stigma' is Spreading; What Can We Do?

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
4/29/2011 2:07 PM   :  166 comments   :  24,867 Views

By Beth Donovan (~INDYGIRL)

The stigma of being overweight or of “Being a fatty” is growing globally, according to a recent blog post in the New York Times. Whereas once, a heavier weight represented wealth and the ability to have healthy children, it now represents laziness and sloth to many.

Parents were quoted as saying they would rather have their children be anorexic than overweight. To me, an eating disorder is an eating disorder. Why is one where you don't eat more socially acceptable than one where you do?

I do have a theory. It is still socially acceptable to make fun of a heavy person, but make fun of someone’s gender or skin color and there would be fallout. Why? "Fatty" chose to be that way, right? Wrong.

There are so many reasons people are heavy, but generally “I want to be fat” is not one of them. Genetics can play a part, and so can biology, psychology, environment, and just plain old lack of exercise and proper diet. It is never just a simple fix or a choice to just “be thin.”

While many are not “born heavy,” I believe the sentiments in the following song apply to everyone, big or small. To quote Lady Gaga:

““There's nothin wrong with lovin who you are"
She said, "'cause He made you perfect, babe"
"So hold your head up girl and you'll go far,
Listen to me when I say"
I'm beautiful in my way
'Cause God makes no mistakes
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way
Don't hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you're set
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way.”

Heavy people are not weak; many diet practically every day of their lives. They may fall off the wagon every day, but they still get back up. They get teased in public by strangers, berated by loved ones in private, have foods pushed on them and then get a talking-to about being on a diet. They get passed up for jobs and promotions, as proven in many research studies. They are not weak. They take a lot and keep going every single day.

Pain is also a side effect of being heavy. This is just another reason most people do not want to be heavy and struggle against it. It’s also a reason the general populous considers heavier people to be lazy. It isn’t that they are lazy, it takes more energy to move a bigger body and when pain is involved, it takes more fortitude than anyone without that extra weight, pain, or lack of energy can imagine. This makes it even harder to lose weight.

I’m not trying to make excuses here, I’m trying to give you a glimpse from the other side. WHY would someone choose to be fat? Some people do choose to be overweight. It is a choice and one with some very dire consequences. Just the same, there should be no stigma attached. I’m not going to attempt to explain the lifestyle of some who choose to become as big as they possibly can and have people who enable them purposefully with the same goal. Just know this lifestyle does exist. It is not a healthy choice, but it is a choice--one with a short life span and many health complications.

Life is hard enough without finding different segments of people to belittle.

Here are 5 tips to combat thoughtlessness:

  1. When you meet a heavy person, treat them the same as anyone else. If they move slowly, consider they may be in extra pain depending on their size. If they need to sit down, don’t assume they are lazy.

  2. If you see someone of size while you’re out, don’t snicker, laugh or take pictures with your camera phone. If they are like me, they will call you on it in public. I believe in politely correcting people’s rudeness so they think twice next time.

  3. Don’t let your child make fun of a heavy person without correcting them, apologizing, and explaining that that person has feelings, too. I generally will explain to a child that they hurt my feelings if the parent does nothing, because I feel there is a chance of changing the child’s attitude.

  4. Don’t treat heavy people like we are invisible. We are more than visible. Look at us and listen to our ideas. I hate being at cosmetic counters… when they wait on everyone EXCEPT me. I know they see me.

  5. Never EVER make fun of your child's or another family member’s weight. The scars you leave are invisible but deeper than you know.

With the global spread of the dislike of the overweight, there is more pressure than ever to lose weight and be healthy. Change can come from pressure, but most often it will come from that place deep inside of you that just gives in. When you hit rock bottom and start to realize you have to take those baby steps and work on the things you can do for the rest of your life.

If you have read this, you realize by now that by being overweight in the first place, you are stronger. You have dealt with diets, exercise programs, teasing, bias, and you are still here. Take that strength and run with it!

How do you fight fat stigma?


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Comments

  • 116
    good blog! - 5/3/2011   12:15:49 AM
  • 115
    I've noticed that when I'm wearing my sun glasses people think that if they can't see my eyes I can't see....or hear them! Who's stupid now haters?! - 5/2/2011   6:18:34 PM
  • 114
    I agree with alot of the comments on here. Yes we shouldn't make fun of others but for being overweight/underweight the person has made some choices and is active in that decision. Whether to eat this or not, exercise or not. Those are all choices made by the individual. What I can agree with in the article is not to make such broad judgement calls on people's appearance period. There are many factors that lead people into either category. Plus someone made the point that they lost quite a few pounds but would still be considered overweight and thus seen as lazy. It's true when I go to dance class/zumba I always get people surprised at how well I can move as well considering I am overweight. - 5/2/2011   3:42:46 PM
  • 113
    Obviously, all people should be treated with respect and dignity. But I hate, hate, hate the comparison of the "fat stigma" to racism and sexism. I'm white, but I know that if I boiled all the discrimination that minorities in our country have had to endure down to just being made fun of by little kids or being ignored at cosmetics counters, I would be doing them a great injustice. I'm not saying that heavy people don't have their own burdens or discrimination, but it simply does not compare to the legacy of slavery, and being deprived of basic civil rights such as owning property and voting.

    I guess if you're looking at things superficially, you could say that no one chooses to be fat. But I know myself. Even though I didn't choose to be fat, I chose to let my exercise habits fall by the wayside when I started working. I chose to eat big, unhealthy lunches at work, only to go home and eat a regular dinner. When I was in law school, I'd go to a student group meeting and eat the pizza there, meet my boyfriend for lunch an hour later, then eat dinner later that night. I chose to do that. It didn't just happen to me because of my "metabolism" or "genetics." I may not have chose the consequences, but I literally have no one to blame but myself. - 5/2/2011   1:38:01 PM
  • WXGIRLIZ
    112
    "I was born this way" hits a raw nerve with me. I wasn't born this way. I was born 7.6lbs ,naked and a clean slate. My family, my community and my life experiences made me this way. Now I am an adult and I am able to make the choices in life to make myself healthy so I can enjoy all the world has to offer. It is now up to me to make the right choices to be a healthful influence on my family and to those in my community, which includes teaching them to be respect to all people. The best way to teach them this is through my own example. - 5/2/2011   11:47:50 AM
  • 111
    I fight the stigma within. I used to think it was everyone else. They pick on me because I am big. They don't wait on me because I'm large. Until one day I walked into the store with an in-shape friend of mine. The store had a mirror to the right and I noticed the two of us. My friends was walking with her head up, her shoulders back, and a pep to her step. She was also making eye contact with everyone. On the other hand, my head was down, my shoulders drooped, and I only made eye contact if called upon. While there are definitely very rude people in this world, many people take their cues from us. If you don't love you (pudges, rolls, and all), then I wouldn't count on others stepping up to the "love me some me" plate. - 5/2/2011   11:24:35 AM
  • JANISLOVESPIE
    110
    I believe in treating all people with dignity. I also try to control my (unspoken) opinions about others until I know them well enough.

    For instance, I'll never forget the lunch that I had with a good friend who was complaining about her inability to lose weight. "No matter what I do, I just can't lose weight! It must be my metabolism." What was in front of her? A grilled cheese sandwich, French fries, and a large chocolate milk shake. What was in front of me? A lunch salad (dressing on the side) and a glass of unsweetened iced tea.

    I have been thin and I have been fat. My weight has always borne a direct relationship to the choices that I've made, however, I know this isn't true for everyone. My mother, for instance, took a medication to treat breast cancer that made her gain a lot of weight. She ultimately lost all that weight - and then some - as she lost her fight with cancer.

    When it comes to drawing conclusions about another person's weight, there is no "one size fits all." And there's still no excuse for treating people with anything other than dignity. - 5/2/2011   9:34:03 AM
  • ALICOTTER
    109
    I love it when people assume that because I am a woman of size that I am out of shape. It generally motivates me to work harder and feel great about myself.

    For my 50th birthday I challenged myself to do a fitness class at my gym for each 10 years. 5 for 50. I completed 5 hours of fitness classes in 7 hours. Something not many could do.

    I was talking with one of my spinning instructors one day after class and it had been an interesting class. As there had been a couple of new people in the class. They were 20 somethings and about a size 2 or 3. They both had a hard time keeping up and had to stop several times to rest. I on the other hand matched the cadence of the instructor. However if someone who did not know us was to be asked to say who was person in the best shape they 20 somethings would likely be picked not the big girl. Whne in reality the bit girl was kicking the skinny ones butts.

    My point is that just because someone is big does not mean they are out of shape. Lazy and do nothing but eat.
    - 5/2/2011   9:27:36 AM
  • 108
    Sorry, I can't sympathize. I have more people make fun of me for being skinny than I have ever made fun of for being fat. If someone overweight is at the gym, I am more likely to encourage them than snicker. But if the same person is at the buffet with three plates in their hands, what am I supposed to think? We're all adults. We all make our own decisions. If it's not weight, it's the pattern on your dress, or your hair cut, or your shoes aren't trendy enough.
    I just don't care what people think (so now I'm a bitch!- and I'm ok with that)
    What matters is how you feel about yourself- I feel great! How about you? - 5/2/2011   9:03:59 AM
  • 107
    I agree that there should be NO harassment to a person because of their size. As a plus-size woman, I know what it's like to live with that stigma. BUT - I have also been living right since the first of the year. I really struggled at first with the fact that I'm still overweight. (I'm currently 276, down 44 pounds since January first.) I have a long way to go and I had a little crisis over that in March. Of course, God's timing is always perfect and that month I had a women's retreat in Bloomington where I came to realize that just because my body still bore the effects of my previously sinful lifestyle of overindulgence and laziness, my behavior was no longer sinful. Yes, I still indulged in unhealthy things from time to time, but I was in a process of giving those addictions and desires up to God and He was really blessing me. I'm still losing weight and getting healthier everyday. A stranger meeting me on the street could easily judge me to still be an over-eating, lazy person. I used to worry about that when I would walk into Zumba class. But then I thought, as healthy as I'm getting, if it motivates a skinny person to exercise more when they see a "fatty" like me dancing circles around them at Zumba, then they can think what they want to think. I'm not always going to have this chubby shell! I totally disagree with Lady Gaga. When we bear the effects of poor (or, as I consider it, "sinful") behaviors, that is NOT who God intends for us to be. He intends for us to be whole and healthy and effective in our lives. There is a strong, healthy woman inside of me who IS as God made her to be. As this chubby shell is melting away, she is being revealed. To God be the glory! - 5/2/2011   6:23:11 AM
  • 106
    if I say: "I was born this way.", "I am beautiful even if weigh 70 kilos, 90 kilos, 100 kilos" - I would lie and cripple myself. If me and my child pass an alcoholic, lying all stinky and dirty - I won't let him make fun of him, but I'll tell him, he should take a picture of him and memorize it to know what he can become, if he doesn't have will power. the same is with fat people.

    I'm sure there are health conditions, that can't be so easily cured and cause obesity. But these are not 100% of all fatties. The majority just ''CHOSE TO BE FAT''. Chose not to exercise, chose to get pleasure from food, chose to look that they. And I'm sure they are ready to pay the price for that - to be laughed at at school, be discussed, be blamed.

    Slender people pay another price: 5-times a week exercise. Celery instead of chips. Carrots instead of candy. 2 liters of water every day, and no soda. A piece of cake once in two months... and lots more. Well instead you get rapt attention, compliments, control over your body, energy and health.

    I wasn't born this way. I was born beautiful and healthy! Let's not abuse ourselves and then shift responsibility to "born this way".

    (: - 5/2/2011   5:46:50 AM
  • 105
    What I find priceless is the fact that the stigma is increasing and yet we are also getting fatter. Obviously, fat people are criticizing other fat people. Have you ever seen a man with a huge beer gut make some slight about an actress who is overweight, or even make a rude comment about his wife or daughter, but he doesn't even take into account his fat? Have you seen a woman talk about other women who are fat, and yet they themselves are also fat? Yep and yep! Some people feel that even though they are overweight they aren't as bad as "that person" or they don't even see their own fat. Or, perhaps they feel better about themselves when they are criticizing someone else. - 5/2/2011   4:56:08 AM
  • HAILEYSMEMAW
    104
    I let peoples comments about my gaining weight bypass me.Why ?For most of them now have gain weight themselves.And it is them that make an excse for their weight.As a matter of fact you could say half of them avoid me.An when we do see one another it is them that glance to their own body.I say not a word.So before you laugh at an overweight person remember that could be you one day. Just talk to one of my--" I'll never look like that' friend oops my used to be friend. - 5/1/2011   9:09:14 PM
  • 103
    "To quote Lady Gaga.." oh sweet heaven there are a million better people out there to quote. - 5/1/2011   8:48:26 PM
  • AZELMA1
    102
    I was raised in a very fit and healthy-weighted family, and never once did we comment on people's weight. It makes me sick to my stomach that people judge others on their weight, whether high or low, and go to such extremes as ignoring them or laughing at them! Everyone has their mountains to conquer, and weight is just one of them. More power to those who can accept you for who you are! - 5/1/2011   8:30:50 PM
  • 101
    I will always speak up when somebody makes a comment such as "I can't believe they let themselves go that far" some people just don't have sensors. - 5/1/2011   7:18:20 PM
  • 100
    I don't make fun of them or push them. Instead, I teach them to make healthier choices, which is their decision to follow. - 5/1/2011   7:15:41 PM
  • 99
    As usual you have hit the nail on the head! You have, as always provided me with some new way of thinking about an issue. The pain factor, is something I have recently become aware as many of my peers and former acaquaintances have seemed to have mobillity issues, and weight often appears to be a part of the challenge. I really took note when you made the point of the extra effort it takes for someone heavier to do everday tasks. It is so true. My experience has been a long struggle through many extremes. This is something I should never forget even as I slowly make improvements of my own. - 5/1/2011   6:56:48 PM
  • 98
    I treat everybody, I meet as an equal. Very good blog. - 5/1/2011   6:20:20 PM
  • BOUNCECOINONABS
    97
    How unfortunate that weight bias, remains one of the last "acceptable" prejudices. I sincerely hope this & many more articles, will bring about awareness & healing. - 5/1/2011   4:47:15 PM
  • 96
    You go Beth! - 5/1/2011   2:49:27 PM
  • 95
    I don't personally care how someone got too thin or too heavy, I care that they are treated as a human being. I care that they take steps to be as well as they can be given their set of circumstances. If ANY of you think I personally make excuses for myself or cry poor me, read my page. I overcame and lost 145 pounds using SparkPeople. I am still losing and gaining more ability every day.

    Sometimes things are not excuses, but instead are reasons.

    I am only asking people to show humanity, compassion and kindness, despite size.

    WHY is it an argument here to treat people with dignity? (All people) - 5/1/2011   2:03:01 PM
  • 94
    I won't even attempt to argue with the folks who are responding to this article with blame and judgement. Not a good use of energy. It took the passage of FEDERAL LAWS decades ago to get most racially prejudiced people to keep their comments to them selves (they are, of course, free to THINK whatever sad thoughts they like). They are missing out on interacting with some wonderful people, and don't even know what they've lost.

    What can I do about it? I've taught my daughters to care more about who and what a person is than what they look like. I've taught them to respect themselves. While 2 of my daughters are overweight, and built suspiciously like my side of the family, they are strong and healthy with advanced belts in Tae Kwon Do. At nearly 50 I've finally learned to be kinder to myself and that I shouldn't believe most of what people say about size if their intentions are unkind. I challenge fat stigmatizing comments just as I would racist, sexist or homophobic remarks whenever I can. Not for their benefit--for mine and for my daughters. - 5/1/2011   1:51:20 PM
  • 93
    While I agree with BLONDIEGRRL and JJ4311, I still think this blog does a great job of providing solutions to not perpetuating the stereotype of overweight and obese people. As an educator and a person who was formerly considered "obese", I think we can still recognize obesity as something a person did to themselves without ridiculing them and being condescending. I expect my students to treat each other with respect. What good comes from damaging someone's self-esteem (who probably doesn't have the highest self-esteem to begin with if they've gotten themselves to the point of obesity)?

    So yes, while people make excuses for themselves and excuses aren't going to help them, I think we should be more encouraging rather than condescending and mean, which is what I felt was the original sentiment of the blog. My parents are obese. I know how hard it was for me to lose this weight. Why would I approach them negatively and ridicule them if what I want for them is to successfully lose weight? - 5/1/2011   12:32:57 PM
  • 92
    I love it! GREAT blog. I love it. - 5/1/2011   12:27:07 PM
  • 91
    As a child, I learned to binge as a way to handle my emotions - definitely had an eating disorder. When obese, in my attempts to lose, I would practice bulimic or anorexic behavior before I had even heard about it in the media. When I was skinny, I would practice bulimia to stay skinny. After learning about what I was doing and why, it took years to slowly change my responses to my emotions. Just as each one of us is unique, each one of us has to find their own unique way to get and be healthy. Spark People is helping me be healthy.

    Sometimes people need to be educated to become aware of their learned behavior both in the way they treat others and in how they treat themselves. Great blog and comments, people! Lots of unique perspectives to ponder on. Keep on speaking out, please. - 5/1/2011   11:09:30 AM
  • MR21965
    90
    Awesome blog! i loved it! - 5/1/2011   10:51:17 AM
  • 89
    I agree with JJ4311. First of all, I do not under any circumstances condone someone being ridiculed or belittled because of their physical appearance. However, I am reading a lot of excuses into blogs like this one. The vast majority of people who are overweight made themselves that way through overeating and lack of exercise, and they need to own up to that instead of crying "poor me." I used to be fat. I got fat because I ate too much and didn't get enough exercise (imagine that). But I chose to do something about it. I feel like blogs like this one go a little too far in encouraging an unhealthy lifestyle. - 5/1/2011   10:44:33 AM
  • 88
    Thanks for the blog. Fat stigma is rampant. I think it is the only legal prejudice....jobs, airlines, etc. - 5/1/2011   8:38:57 AM
  • 87
    Great blog, as usual Beth..

    I have a question for those of you who say that being fat is a choice they make by eating the wrong foods and leading a sedentary lifestyle: does that make it right for the rest of the world to judge them??? If you, for example, had an extraordinarily big nose, should people be able to make fun of you for that because you could have surgery to correct it but do not??

    You seem to be losing sight of the main issue, which is that no one has the right to judge another by their appearance. A fat person is no less a person than a skinny person. They have the right to look any way they do and still be treated with respect. Who but themselves are they hurting? Why does society think they have the right to turn their noses up at them, to judge them, to tell them how to lead their lives? Never mind the fact that most fat people do wish it were different, do know they are fat, do try their best to make it change. Get off your soap box and worry about yourself.

    I am fat, have been for most of my life. I am a lawyer, hold a responsible full time job in my community, I am a mother, a wife, I care for my family and my home, I am on the board of my son's cub scout pack and a co-den leader, I am his hockey team's team mom, I have helped to coach his baseball team, I have been on the board of his baseball leagues directors, I help out the PTO when I can..shall I continue? How dare anyone look at me and decide that because I am fat, I am lazy? I am not sitting at home eating bon bons..I dare most people to walk in my shoes for a day, as my days generally start at 5 am and run non-stop until 9 or so.. Lazy? I don't even know the meaning of the word.. Fat? Yes, I know the meaning of that word, and begin every day with the resolve to change it. Some days are more successful than others, but I never stop trying.

    - 5/1/2011   7:35:36 AM
  • 86
    I think the author is making too many excuses. It's all about choices that one makes....in EVERYTHING we do.

    I feel bad for people who have had comments made right to their face but people are always finding "something" to pick at. I used to tell my kids that (when someone called my daughter a name). If they can't find something, they'll make it up ("your nose is too big, you are ugly")

    But rudeness from adults, about anything, is just wrong. - 5/1/2011   6:46:24 AM
  • SDANLSON
    85
    Unfortunately, being overweight can have a number of contributing factors and stress can add into the difficulty of losing the extra weight. - 5/1/2011   3:35:09 AM
  • 84
    I'm shocked by some of the reply's to this blog. There's so much unknown about the physiology of obesity. Very few people make a consious choice to be obese, many people in my family have fought being overweight or obese for most of there life. An ironic thing, the most obese Aunt I have is now in her 90's and has out lived most of her younger brothers and sisters. The oldest of 9 children, she has survived all but her youngest 2 sisters whom are more than 20 years younger than her.

    I'm finally getting healthier, but it's been a great struggle my entire life. I've lost 100 pounds 4 times and I'm doing all I can to make sure I don't have to do it again. I've had bariatric surgery, and it has not been an easy way to lose either, but I felt that it was my only chance to lose and keep my weight in a more normal range. I still have at least 25 lbs more to lose. It's still a struggle, now I struggle with pain from the consequences of my sugery, but now I can move and exercise without the joint pain I've experienced in the past. People still judge without knowing of our struggles, but I've also found that being overweight is a shield against such shallow ignorant people. The fiends I've developed while being overweight are people that don't judge people by their appearance, but by their inner beauty, which outlasts physical beauty anyway. A thought provoking blog, Bev. I enjoyed it.

    - 5/1/2011   2:08:07 AM
  • JJ4311
    83
    While few people"choose" to be fat, most of us who have reached that point have chosen to eat too much. We're adults, we know what the consequences of gluttony are, yet we CHOOSE to eat too much. Comparing that choice to skin color or sex is farcical.

    The REASON we are all fat is that we keep making excuses like this and saying "it isn't my fault" or "there is something wrong with me" rather than taking responsibility for our actions. The percentage of people who are large because of actual medical conditions is very very small. (You have only to travel around the world to see that people in other countries magically do not seem to be so incredibly large...and surely they would be if it was all medical?)

    It's time to put aside the excuses and admit that YES, we choose to be fat every time we choose to put the wrong food in our mouths, and YES, we choose to be fat every time we choose not to exercise. If anything motivates me, that does. Every time I go to cheat on my diet, I think "I am making the choice to be fat, right now with every bite of this I take." And why am I overweight? I'm overweight because I ate too much junk and didn't move enough. Period. No excuses. - 5/1/2011   12:34:03 AM
  • 82
    Thanks for another great blog, Beth! I would like to add that smoking is also a life choice which shortens your life perhaps more than being overweight, and yet for some reason, smoking still seems to be more acceptable than being fat. And some rude people actually defend their right to pollute the air other people have to breathe! - 4/30/2011   11:24:51 PM
  • 81
    Having lost 100 pounds, I will NEVER treat someone the way that I used to be treated when I was "fat". I have had obese friends tell me that I treat everyone nicely and even though I lost weight, I don't patronize or forget what it was like on the other side. Hey, I am still working towards my goal, but I realize that we are all different, and NO ONE should be treated negatively for ANY reason: race, religion, politics, or the size of their nose!

    Also, I would hope that not ONE sparker would be negative about another person! Most of us are on that journey, or have been there, done that! - 4/30/2011   11:24:07 PM
  • ETHELMERZ
    80
    The people who make fun are orthorexics, it's an eating disorder, same as the people who have problems controlling how much they eat. And if they "arn't" orthorexics, they are people deficient of full intelligence, born that way, not a "mistake". Look at Jay Leno and Letterman, still making fun of overweight people, just to get a laugh. Yet they wink and smile at people who get high and drive a car and "oops" accidentally kill someone. Pop Culture. Media approved. - 4/30/2011   11:03:39 PM
  • 79
    To me, it's a part of a larger problem of labeling (usually negatively) and being judgmental in general. It's so much easier to slap a label (or more than one) on a stranger than it is to get to know a person, easier to categorize and think we know what we are dealing with. Used to be mostly young people labeled (lack of experience, I'd say) but now, with media, etc., it's a general disaster. Too many minorities! and each one gets labeled both from inside and from outside. - 4/30/2011   9:36:57 PM
  • 78
    Wow. Lots of opinions out there. Confusion as well. The idea that fat people do not care about their health is misguided at best. Not one of us knows the reason(s) behind another's behaviour or state of being. There is no good reason to stigmatize nor glamorize obesity or thinness. At either extreme the conditions come with their own consequences - any comments or attitudes by others is simply bad manners. Stigmatizing is rarely, if ever, a motivator.
    Choice is a loaded idea. We want to believe we got our hair color from Dad our smile from Grandma but we tend to reject the idea we got our size from family genes as well. There have been enough studies to demonstrate to all but the most obstinately ignorant that genetics play a role in obesity. It is more difficult for some of us to lose weight - that calorie count works for the "typical" person. Some of us are literally more hungry - we have far more hormones that set off signals telling us we need to eat. Bariatric surgeons are finally realizing that and changing how they cut the stomach so as to reduce this hormone. If a person doesn't want this very invasive surgery he or she may have to settle for being hungry ALL the time. Could you handle this? This isn't an "excuse" it is very real
    and very difficult to deal with.
    Some of us have medical conditions and or take medications which slow weight loss while encouraging weight gain. I, personally, can't go off my medication I would kill myself. Its called Major Depression and the meds that help me live keep my body from losing weight without a great struggle. Continuing in a personal vein, I have done very little exercise for nearly two weeks. Is it because I am morally weak or corrupt? I don't like exercise? What is the reason? Well, I enjoy exercise and had been looking forward to participating in a 5K. A big step for me. But, you see, I have responsibilities to others which include helping my 75 year old mother around the property. I also suffer from fibromyalgia. The work that I did with and for Mom caused an intense flare up of the ole fm. I guarantee you that I did not want nor did I choose that. I also guarantee you that I would do the same work again. Taking care of myself cannot be so self-centered as to not help those who count on me or need me. The choice here was about love versus self it was not about pain versus weight loss.
    So, hopefully tomorrow or soon thereafter I'll be able to return to exercising. In the meanwhile my body keeps holding extra calories like it needs them. And every so often I hear unkind comments. Then, with disappointment, I read excuses on SP on why it is really okay to be rude. It is never okay.
    TerrBear - 4/30/2011   9:28:06 PM
  • CLARITY40
    77
    Useful article. I hope people will make use of your suggestions. There is a young man who works at a coffee place nearby, and when he was helping us one day, my (then) five year old gasped and said "he's fat!" Very calmly and quietly, I asked her "Do you think he knows he's fat?" (yeah) "Do you think he needs us to point it out to him?" (I guess not) "Do you see how pointing it out might hurt his feelings?" (yes) And I haven't had to deal with any more finger pointing. (I'm not smart enough to have thought of that...a grad school professor told me about it in relation to race--also useful for small children and people who look different from them.) - 4/30/2011   9:05:17 PM
  • 76
    Thank you for this blog. I have to admit some of the comments I've seen written in response have blown my mind.. - 4/30/2011   8:42:33 PM
  • 75
    Great blog, Beth!! Spark ON!! - 4/30/2011   8:31:59 PM
  • RUNESHADOW
    74
    I agree that we should fight the F-- stigma. That 3-letter F word is banned in my house unless it is in specific context such as fat content in foods. It is unconscionable that our society perpetuates this stigma and acts as though mistreating large people is socially acceptable. I realize the stigma exists, but size should not prevent one from getting or keeping a job unless they are incapable of carrying out their duties. Mistreating people is NOT going to motivate anybody to make positive changes! Punitive measures should be prohibited, in the workplace and elsewhere.

    I like your 5 tips. I would like to see more. I learned from Dr Wayne Dyer that we attract what we focus on. Thus, I take part in peace demonstrations, not anti-war protests, because I want to attract peace, not war. The focus on the so-called obesity epidemic is to me very misguided. I am concerned that it will only attract more obesity and cruelty.

    Certainly, there are a zillion reasons to promote healthy, healthful activities and choices, but the media and medical establishment should focus on what they want to attract: more physical activity, healthier food choices, and so on. Plus they need to stop confusing causality with correlation in their research studies, especially in segments presented in the media! Correlation is NOT causation! Large people CAN be quite healthy.

    Beth, I don't see you as making excuses. We must recognize that every one of us is fighting invisible battles and demons, and we need to respect others. We can ASK folks to identify issues and barriers to a more healthy lifestyle, and maybe help address those. Perhaps we can recognize there are medical and other reasons why folks do not make choices we or the "experts" consider healthful or healthy. Some years ago, I carried a cushion of weight to keep people at a physical and emotional distance from me. Only when I was ready to let that cushion go, I actually dropped 60 pounds without much conscious effort. I've developed a new cushion, so now it is my job to identify why I have this and how I want to deal with it.

    You mention pain as a side effect of heaviness, but it can also work the other way: many in physical or emotional pain have difficulty with physical activities and may eat to self-medicate. Either way, there is no reason for folks to stigmatize others for their size.

    I have a huge problem with the No Excuses stuff I see on SP and elsewhere. Maybe some of us are rationalizing or making excuses, but none of us should be judging others. We need to recognize there may be barriers and explanations, and just maybe we could help folks accept and love themselves as they are and thus enable them to make different choices, IF that is what they want. If you want to encourage somebody, fine. Don't put folks down. Don't criticize.

    I know a personal trainer who believes he has a duty to inform people of their poor choices, and I disagree, unless he has specifically been asked for his expertise and advice. It's difficult not to judge others, but if we want to kind and humane, we should at least try our best to refrain from judgment.

    My two cents worth and then some. - 4/30/2011   8:27:45 PM
  • MARYJEANSL
    73
    I was chubby as a child, not huge, but back then it was unusual for a child to even be chubby. My mother, however, who has always obsessed with being thin, did not deal well with having a chubby child, and always made horrible remarks about fat paople. She had the decency not to say them openly to the fat strangers, but over and over I remember hearing, "Oh my! How could she let herself get so fat?" The hint/implication for her own fat child was obvious.

    I have never forgotten that, and I will NEVER make such a remark nor allow my children to, openly or privately. - 4/30/2011   7:57:56 PM
  • 72
    I try not to let it define me, but you do have to acknowledge that it is a real issue. A head hunter called me for my last job, and luckily I did the technical interviews over the phone. Not only am I overweight but I'm over 50 so, even though I look young for my age, high tech leans more toward younger people. By getting through all the initial interviews on the phone, by the time they saw me they were already "sold" on me. Since then I heard several managers make disparaging remarks about someone who was overweight (not even obese) so I know the odds for me to get the job "face-to-face" would have been slim. So now I try to talk to people when I hear those remarks (one-on-one- not call them out in front of anyone), hoping I might change their minds for future interactions. - 4/30/2011   7:30:01 PM
  • DORISJ8
    71
    How am I dealing with being fat? Quietly. I am me. I am trying to fight my sweet tooth and flour-loving self, trying to include more exercise and getting back on this Spark-living way of life. I am not as pro-active as you, but like your style. Go Woman Go. - 4/30/2011   5:28:11 PM
  • 70
    I grew up with teasing and bullying - not from being fat, but being severely underweight. I just had a very fast metabolism and was super-skinny to the point I was ugly. I was called all sorts of names and even once, a boy came up with a song and sang it in front of all my classmates about "Little Miss Bo Peep lost all her meat" it was embarassing and humiliating. My parents were not very supportive either. As a result I grew up with very poor self esteem that still haunts me today.
    Needless to say now I have the opposite problem but I still remember those days like it was yesterday. Too fat or too thin, or if one looks any different than the 'norm' population, would lead to ridicule and humiliation.
    How to fend this? Instill good values and self confidence in your kids from the start. Teach them to be happy with their bodies, and teach them good healthy habits. Enroll them in sports, which also build self confidence, friendships, and healthy self esteems. Always praise your kids' positives and never dwell on the negatives. Teach them to never compare themselves to others and never let others down. - 4/30/2011   5:15:04 PM
  • 69
    I hate to admit this, but I curl up in fetal position, and wish I WERE invisible. Sorry, just took stock and had to admit the truth. - 4/30/2011   3:51:24 PM
  • 68
    Thanks for a great blog. When we were little kids, we did not set our sights on growing up to be obese. My mom is obese but would still tell me that my cousin made up her mind to lose weight and did. I heard that so many times and it hurt. Now I am built just like mom but not as heavy. My cousin is obese and diabetic and had a mild stroke recently. I am sure she never intended to grow up with these problems either. - 4/30/2011   3:27:17 PM
  • 67
    Thank you for this. I was not fat when I was in high school, and yet every single day that I was in high school I had someone tell me that I was ugly and/or that I was fat. I even had a group of boys who were always in my honors English classes and would sit in the back of the class discussing rather loudly how ugly I was.

    I can look at pictures of myself from back then and see that I was actually quite thin and even somewhat pretty. But the pain of being treated that way in high school has never fully healed. Because I felt that pain, I never make fun of people and I try to treat every person I encounter with respect. I only wish that being a bully didn't come so naturally to so many people. We'd all be a LOT better off without it. - 4/30/2011   3:10:21 PM

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