What Do You Wish People Knew About Being Overweight?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
If you've never been overweight, it's impossible to know what day-to-day life is really like. And it's easy to assume that an obese person has made poor choices that led to their situation—they must eat a lot of unhealthy food and never exercise, right? And beyond the more obvious issues, like low self-esteem and ill-fitting clothes, a slimmer person likely has no concept of the daily challenges of obesity.

If you're the one who's overweight or obese, it can sometimes be a very lonely feeling, as well. It may feel like you're living under a microscope, surrounded by thin people who are judging everything from the food on your plate to your clothing choices. They may not understand why you don't want to engage in certain activities, or why a simple phrase or sideways glance can be so upsetting.  
SparkPeople coach Jen Mueller points out the importance of maintaining a positive mindset, even through the most challenging parts of a weight-loss journey. "I see so many people beating themselves up about gaining weight, whether it’s five pounds from a vacation or 100 pounds over the past 10 years," she says. "Although it’s good to learn from mistakes of the past, it’s important to remember that you have total control over what happens from this moment forward. If you let others' judgements about your decisions or appearance determine your own self-worth, it’s difficult to see the power you have inside to change. You have that power; we all do. You are so much more than a number on the scale, so don’t let that define the person you are or the life you lead."

Real People’s Experiences with Being Overweight

To help bridge what can seem like a very large gap, we asked a few people to share real-world experiences from their weight-loss journeys. Our hope is that these anecdotes will help illustrate what it's really like to live as an overweight person while encouraging others to be more sensitive to their struggle.
"Even sleeping is a challenge. You have to find ways to get comfortable—you can't sleep this way because you can't breathe, can't sleep that way because your chest pushes up on your throat and blocks it. I had to sit up half the night because of the sleep apnea, the hurting back, the edema…" GPALMER29
"I have had someone—a complete stranger—assume that I'm pregnant when I was not. That's pretty embarrassing and humiliating. Unless you emphatically know someone is pregnant, do not comment! Don't even ask!" Rebecca Scheerer, Cincinnati, Ohio
"I was in McDonald's once—for the first time in over five years—and while I was perusing the menu, the manager behind me said in Spanish (with me being Italian, I was able to pick up some of the words) to the girl behind the register, 'Take this fat lady's order.' I haven't gone inside a McDonald's since. I do the drive-thru because there is no one there to address your weight." BEVIEG41
“There's so much people don't understand....from going to amusement parks and worrying about fitting in the roller coaster seats to the looks you get just walking around. I remember going on a business trip many years ago when I was at my heaviest. It was a sales presentation and I was the subject matter expert. Our salesperson, who had never met me in person before that day, said (in no uncertain terms) that I didn't present well physically and wouldn't be asked to go on more sales presentations no matter how great of a job I did.” GAILIEBEE69
“It seems like being around people, your jokes revolve around your size [...] I would joke about myself all the time, about my size, to make people laugh. I was the ‘fat, funny guy,’ and it was actually depressing. I put on a good front and a happy face, but inside it was a heavy burden.” GPALMER29
"I'd see the looks. I was afraid to eat in front of people. It was isolating. A person who is overweight […] should not be shamed or ridiculed or endure snickers and whispers. If you don't feel comfortable snickering toward a person in a wheelchair, you should not feel comfortable doing the same toward someone overweight, no matter their size." Cathy*, Cincinnati, Ohio
"I think that it's tough to know that some people assume I'm totally unhealthy. I really eat pretty well (although I do have a wicked sweet tooth), but I also have a thyroid disorder and I think it makes it tough for me to lose and keep weight off. I typically have to stay under 1,100 calories a day to lose or maintain. I would give—I don't know what—to figure out how to be thin, enjoy food and maintain a more ideal weight without so much work and counting every calorie that goes in. It's exhausting, both physically and mentally, for me." Rebecca Scheerer, Cincinnati, Ohio
"The most disturbing [reality] for me has been feeling unhealthy. Before I started working out again, my heart felt weak and strained, which was an alarming wake-up call that I could not keep putting off taking my health seriously." Wellness expert Gabrielle Loehr
"When buying clothes, you have to go to the big and tall stores [...] and you walk up to the counter with size 64 pants and deal with a retailer who is average size, and you get that look, everybody knows the one [...] it's the one that says, ‘Man, could you get any bigger?'" GPALMER29
"I hate how your stomach skin flops down in front of you and you get this icky moisture, which chafes in the hot weather and smells if you don't keep up with it. Not pretty." GABY1948
"I have girlfriends of many sizes. The thinner ones love to shop. When you're overweight, that is not fun. I enjoy it a little more now, but am still apprehensive. I wear a size 12 now and still find myself gravitating toward the plus-size clothes, as I cannot believe/accept the smaller me." Cathy*, Cincinnati, Ohio
"At work, I'd look around for a sturdy chair and one not too close to others. I always went to staff meetings early so I'd get a chair appropriate for me. I never broke a chair, but my sister who was a little heavier than I did. At restaurants, booths usually didn't work for me. Even if I could squeeze in, I felt squashed and trapped. Sometimes we'd wait longer for a table." SLENDERELLA61
"Just taking a shower was a challenge. I washed off in the sink most of the time because I couldn't move around inside the shower. Even driving was a chore [...] when you have this massive [stomach] in your way, it was difficult to steer a vehicle." GPALMER29 

"[When I weighed] over 300 pounds 30 or 40 years ago, an orthopedic doctor told me that if I did not lose weight, I would lose my weight-bearing joints and be in pain. Here I am at 69 years old with a knee replacement and another one needed. I have also been diagnosed with sciatica. I didn't do what I needed to do until four years ago when I lost 240 pounds. [My advice is to] lose weight before damage is done in so many areas of your body." SINGINGLADY_JLN

"Inexpensive clothing for the short and overweight woman is still virtually non-existent. It is hard to be overweight and feel attractive." SUNNYCALIGIRL
"When I was thin, overweight women often seemed angry with me, as though my thinness was directly responsible for their weight. Now, I have noticed that I am not taken as seriously as I was when I was thin, and that thin women look at me as though I am their motivation to work out, which is both hurtful and misplaced. My brain works just as well as it did before I gained weight, and life is not a beauty contest. There is no prize for being the thinnest." Wellness expert Gabrielle Loehr
“When eating out [at a restaurant], trying to sit in a booth that's made for small people, knowing you have to find a table with pull-out chairs [...] and people are looking at you like, ‘We better hurry up and get up to the buffet before they do!” GPALMER29

"Being overweight [when flying on a plane] means you have to ask the stewardess for the extended seat belt. Some are discreet and some love to announce it." BEVIEG41
“When I was in fifth grade, we moved to a new school and I was terribly embarrassed about my size. I was teased, called ‘moo cow’ and ‘marshmallow.’ I refused to run in [gym class] because I didn't want anyone to see my fat jiggle. Besides being overweight, I was awkward. Would I have been more graceful if I had been a normal weight? Maybe. I tended to walk into things like counters and I tripped a lot. A gym teacher told my father that I was a ‘motor moron.’ I heard it. It hurt.” SLENDERELLA61

If you've ever struggled with being overweight or obese, what experiences might be surprising to people who have never faced this challenge?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
See more: weight loss


CECELW 3/25/2021
name calling is hurtful, not helpful. People can be so mean Report
SPINECCO 3/25/2021
Thanks. Report
You know what, the same things happen when you lose the weight, or even when your a little too underweight. People always talk about your wait and joke about it. You can't eat in public without people talking about you.
DARCY-B 3/25/2021
It hurt just to read this. One of the most hurtful things I have encountered with being obese is the assumption that I am unintelligent because I am obese. Report
Thank you for this well written article. Being overweight is not a case of always being lazy and you pointed that out so again thank you Report
I actually have an eating disorder probably linked to PCOS and anxiety. When I first started tracking my food, I had to work to get in my minimum. Now I have so much more energy, my anxiety is less and I'm very slowly loosing weight. I'm even having to be more mindful so I can stay within my limit because I actually get hungry now. Once I've reached a certain point, I'm going to start an exercise regimen. I'm still getting used to tracking food. I'm not ready to track activity plus I had to increase my food budget and I can't afford to increase it again. Report
CECTARR 3/25/2021
Thanks Report
There is a misconception that if a person is overweight or even obese, they're sedentary couch potatoes. not true ! When I was obese, I was still active. I took fitness classes at the gym. I used the cardio equipment. I walked everywhere. I did a lot of manual tasks at work. I may have been fat, but I could do plenty of jumping jacks without getting tired. Report
ty Report
NEPTUNE1939 3/25/2021
ty Report
What’s not mentioned is the fact that doctors do not take you seriously. Every symptom is blamed on your weight. Every. Symptom. It’s actually life threatening. Not just because being overweight is an issue, but because most doctors won’t look past the weight. Report
NASFKAB 3/25/2021
helpful article can understand for sure Report
SUNSET09 3/10/2021
We all have our stories and should not be categorized, SparkFriends Report
THINCPL2004 2/8/2021
Interesting stuff Report
BILLTHOMSON 11/24/2020
One word, "insightful." Report
RYCGIRL 6/21/2020
thx Report
KITTYHAWK1949 5/28/2020
as with all groups of people we each think differently Report
I wish that people knew that I don't hate or even dislike myself. I'm overweight. Okay. I'm also pretty, and smart, and I love to workout. Wanting to make a lifestyle change and get fitter does NOT mean that I don't love me. I absolutely do. Report
SLSIWIK1982 5/26/2020
I feel like a prisoner in this body. I've battled Binge Eating Disorder for 20 years. I think I fina!!y have it under control. I hate how introverted it has made me. And also I hate not feeling sexy big. It's been 20 years since I felt sexy in clothes. The weight is finally coming off but I don't eat sweets anymore. Theyre my trigger food. Report
ATHENA2010 5/26/2020
Awesome topic! So much I relate to. The funny looks, being uncomfortable, no clothes that fit, worrying about where to sit, moving my chair away from the others to have enough room, breaking chairs, not being able to do fun things with family or friends. I hate being really hot all the time when others are cold and want to blast the heater. I also had the experience of bringing my son to the doctor for an ear infection and sore throat but instead of help got a lecture about his weight and mine. It was so wrong. All my life I've fought with food, binging and starving, trying every diet. I was miserable and usually fat, and almost alway hungry. Now I realize that carbs and processed foods trigger my hunger...when I eat real food and stay away from a lot of carbs I actually feel satisfied and the weight is coming off. It is 40 years late to change my life but at least I am finally succeeding and feelng better after all these years. I sitll get weird looks from people..but those who know me are surprised and happy to see the changes in me. Report
CHAOTICJEW 5/26/2020
I have been overweight since childhood. The worst thing about being overweight for me is knowing how slim (pun intended) my chances are of ever being and staying a healthy weight. It's ASTRONOMICALLY more difficult for an overweight person to lose and then maintain their new weight than it is for a person who has always been a healthy weight to maintain that weight. Their metabolism is often slower than average for their weight, and their body continuously produces hunger-inducing hormones to try to regain weight. They have to fight against their own body's attempt to regain the weight, indefinitely. People who have always been a healthy weight don't experience that and often have no idea about it when they judge people for being overweight. If their bodies were fighting back against them to pack on weight, they'd struggle with it, too. It's not a personality thing. It's just not a fair fight. I've promised myself that even if I'm one of the lucky ones who can lose and keep the weight off in the end, I'm never going to look down on people who are still struggling with it. Report
This is truly heartbreaking because I used to be obese and almost died because I threw multiple blood clots in my lungs and my bones were buckling under all of the extra weight. I also have Cerebral Palsy which was exacerbated by my weight. My BMI wasn41, and despite wanting to be healthy and fit, I could not stop binge eating my feelings. I’ve had a warped relationship with food because of a history of emotional abuse and neglect and every eating disorder out there. My ex-husband has consistently struggled with alcohol and substance abuse, so one of the ways I chose to cope was to numb myself with food. Food was my best friend and always there, however, I’d feel so much guilt and shame because of feeling like I was some kind of loser or the poster child for what NOT to do with food. People would grimace with disgust, stare,, or whisper God knows what about me. I eventually underwent gastric bypass surgery, almost 10 years ago; subsequently, I lost 125 pounds and felt like I had faced my demons and came out of denial as a food addict. Flash forward to the present day: I’ve gained 50 pounds because those old demons took over again (I let them in), and I’ve had one health problem after another, and I’m scared to death of gaining it all back, but I’m still emotional eating. I’m also very protective of people who are overweight because I know how it feels to be ridiculed and ignored because of being over weight. It’s as if people think we don’t deserve to be cared about or cultivate relationships, until we “learn our lesson” by loosing weight. I know, intellectually, that ones weight is about being healthy and doing what’s best for our bodies, but food is like the sirens of the sea: dangerous, alluring, deadly, cunning, necessary for life, intoxicating, and inescapable once one is caught in their nautical clutches. “One Day At A Time” has been my mantra for years, but lately, I fall short daily, often times more than once. I have to pray my way through. All I can do is pick myself up, dust myself off, and try again. This article was just what I needed—still need. Report
SWEEPIE10181 5/26/2020
My mother is morbidly obese and l can not have a relationship with her. Everything she does is an effort for her. She chose to not be a part of my life and her grandchildren life because she just gave up on trying to lose weight and taking care of yourself. She has to get a knee replacements for the pass 20 years but can not lose the weight. Growing it was hard l helped her a lot eith errands and housework. I got teased a lot for having a fat mother and those looks that people gave always wanted to make me cry. Report
CECELW 5/26/2020
this is really sad actually. Report
NANASUEH 5/26/2020
thanks Report
PIKA1319 5/26/2020
Should change the title of this from "overweight" to "obese". The issues presented here are what truly obese people experience, not people that are merely "overweight".

Though I can only speak from personal experience; however, I myself am overweight and have never experienced any of these issues. But I have a much larger friend who definitely falls into the obese category and she has told me about things like this. Report
I have not been overweight to the point of where I have felt discriminated against, but I can definitely see it happening all the time. And even the excess 40 lbs I gained still makes me feel miserable, hard on joints and back hurts more. Report
wow, I could have written most of that Report
So many sad stories. Very depressing. Report
Thank You Report
Thanks. Report
It's never too late to start to eat healthy. Report
Being fat has kept me in a prison. I'm afraid to go out. I'm afraid to be seen eating. I'm afraid to interact with anyone. Report
The coach quoted does NOT take into account the trauma response when she says we have total control from this point forward. When the "fight, flight, or freeze" response is triggered, executive functioning goes off line and a person is in survival mode. Rational thought, goals, good intentions, willpower - not accessible until the crisis passes. The number one thing that is not understood by non-obese people is that in many cases, excess weight is a symptom of undiagnosed and untreated trauma. If the trauma response keeps derailing weight loss efforts, the primary focus needs to be on trauma recovery. Develop a trauma recovery skill set and then weight loss is easy. Report
We are visual people, whether it's race, gender or your size and to does matter to those who are not overweight. When I was younger, my Mom would threaten me by saying she was going to have to start shopping at the fat people stores for me. I was 177 pounds max and larger than my two other sisters. I lost the 77 pounds over eh summer, just not eating seconds, or eating late. When I started to gain a few pounds, "people" was commenting on how skinny I was. You have to be comfortable in the skin that you're in, if you're not willing to change it. I couldn't understand why larger people had to pay more for their seats on the plane until I sat next to someone who's weight came over into my seat and the seats are small as it is. Some have been denied knee surgery as the weigh would just make it worst, as I worked in benefits. It's an issue for everyone and I've been on both sides of the fence, SparkFriends. Report
My own family makes me feel the worst about my weight. My daughter works out in fear of letting what happened to me happen to her. My son is into body building and is flat out disgusted with me being overweight. If I visit my mom and she offers something to eat and I decline, she askes me if I am dieting. No thank you, Mom, I just ate at home or we have plans or I'm just not hungry. Report
I empathise, especially with the hypothyroid comment. I control what I eat (often below 1300 cals and no sweets) and tend to exercise frequently, but because of my bum thyroid, the weight does not come off. There is an implicit assumption that we are lazy. The opposite is true. Report
A group of my friends like to go out for "ladies night". Usually to a restaurant which is usually lots of good fun and conversation. But lately it has been to movies. The seats at the theater they go to are too small and close together for me to sit in. I doubt that the others are even aware of the problem. I was speaking with another of our group who doesn't go either. When I told her my issue she agreed. I wonder how many others have excluded themselves for this same reason. Now I have to get the confidence to be honest about the situation and suggest we go to a theater half an hour further away. Will they accept the suggestion so this other lady and I can be included? It will be tough to be honest and put myself out there. Report
Encouraging article. Thank you! ! No one however young, old, or in between should ever be judged on their physical appearance, whether overweight, underweight, whatever is the case. If we can be "stepping stones" for each other instead of "stumbling blocks", we can all go higher in attaining our goals of life, whether losing, gaining, or maintaining. I can relate to folks saying they don't realize their size until I see a photo. My husband makes me feel so beautiful, that I feel that I am! ! He is a "stepping stone " towards success in my weightloss goals. My health is a large motivation as well. So, hey folks, however large or small you are, you are "beautiful " or "handsome "!!! : ))) Report
Awesome article; though the idea of it could be considered depressing, it's actually uplifting to me. It was wise to have it written for the rest of us to read. A few things: In my fourth grade class my teacher wrote on a report card of one of my classmates, "Needs to lose weight". This girl was NOT fat, just a larger frame and MAYBE 10 lbs over, not more. That teacher was not there the next year. :) Secondly, I don't have to go out and about in public regularly, as I am a focus-on-home mom. Sometimes I don't even REALIZE my extra-weight...until I see the photos. THEN it's a big bummer. What effects me the most is seeing my face. When I smile, my teeth look so tiny, my jaws (Jowels?) look massive, and my eyes disappear. Irritates me, because when I look in the mirror, I don't see what the photo shows. :( Also, when I was in highschool and was around 117 and 120, I felt FAT THEN, because others , who I thought looked larger than myself, actually weighed less. It didn't help that one of my sisters was severely underweight. Now all of the surviving sisters are just about my size anyway, so there's no 'looking down on each other.' Three of us suffer with hypo-thyroidism. My parents were on diets rather frequently. One year they tried a 'soup diet'. My mom tried to get me interested. When I didn't show interest, (because I don't like fad-diets) she asked, "Are you HAPPY with the weight you are now?" I suppose it was a pretty good way of asking. It was better than what my mother-in-law, whom I love dearly, said, "You used to be so PRETTY!" !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OWWWWwwwwwWWWW! Report
Depressing article. Report
I was around 220 years ago when I had to see a doctor for a sinus infection. Of course they insisted on weighing me. When the doctor came into the room she didn't even talk to me about the sinus infection. She started right in on how I was going to die if I didn't lose weight. I already knew I needed to lose weight. I had been exercising and dieting but nothing was working. She gave me the basic pamphlets on eating my fruits and veggies and whole grains and lowfat. Eventually she begrudgingly tossed me a prescription for some antibiotics. I sat in my car afterward and cried. Later in life I realized I can't lose weight on fruits and veggies. My body works better with more protein and healthy fat. I'm not skinny now, but I maintain a reasonable size 12. I'm still scared to go to the doctors because I just don't want to deal with their attitude. Report
What I don't get is how medical professionals can be so insensitive. I needed to have a small surgery to remove some skin cancer - they were out of the larger gowns and just told me to wear the smaller one which I couldn't even get my arm into. I told them this was unacceptable - it was a normal larger gown I needed not a special order one unbelieveably when they looked around within the system (and it was a big hospital system) they still didn't find one and I had to go into the surgery with a gown that I couldn't even get my arms in because - I was "keeping the surgeon waiting" and I "would have to come back a different day for the surgery" if I did not use the small gown.
My ortho Doctor told me I needed to loose 100 lbs to get a surgery I needed but he also said I know you will never lose the weight so you may as well just plan on becoming an invalid in 3-5 years. That was in early June - it is now July 19th - I am down 30 lbs so far - I will prove him wrong - I will be the right weight for surgery by next Spring (2020) (BMI 30) Thanks for allowing us to vent because in any other forum - people would typically respond to this post with something implying overweight people deserve to be treated badly because it's their "fault" that they are that way (without knowing anything about why they may be overweight). Report
good article Report
When I was really over weight, I hated buying clothes, so I had very few clothes. Being short and fat is difficult. After losing 80 pounds, I now find it hard to find pants and jeans that is meant for a woman's body, rather than a teenage girl body. I hate it when I bend over and my pants almost fall down. Now, short and tiny is difficult too when it comes to buying clothes. I'm not a teenager. Report
I get annoyed when people try to press food on me that I don't want, then make comments about my size or assume that I'm lazy - no I have a disability and much of my weight is due to that and my medication which makes it difficult to lose. Report
People are so cruel. Fat doesn't define us. Report
I’m not lazy because I’m overweight! That’s what I’d like people to know. Report
As a child, I do not ever remember my sisters calling me anything but "Fats".I was normal size at the time, but they were very thin.... Report