Posted by: CeCe | August 27, 2013

But she’s fat!

I’m going to paint a hypothetical scenario to which I’m sure some of my friends can relate.  A woman wakes up in the morning, gets on the scale and realizes that she’s reached a milestone in her weight loss efforts: She’s officially lost 40 pounds!  She still has another 40-50 to go before she reaches her goal, but this accomplishment puts a bounce in her step and a smile on her face.  She has the day off, so she decides to go shopping before running some errands.  While she’s out, she sees this adorable yellow dress that she just knows will look good on her, so she tries it on and she likes what she sees, so she buys it.  She decides that she’s going to wear it today as she’s finishing the rest of her errands.  After finishing her errands, she’s still feeling great, and she’s even gotten a few compliments on her dress, and a few smiles from men, so she decides it’s a good day to go for a short walk.  She’s walking down the street, still feeling really great about herself and her purchase, when suddenly she’s startled by someone shouting something from their car.  Her smile fades.  Her steps falter.  The words shouted at her?  “Lose some weight, fatty!”  Her eyes fill with tears.  She wonders if anyone else heard it.  She goes home, and even though this hasn’t undone all of her hard work these last few months, it has discouraged her.  She tries not to let it bother her, but it does.  Oh, it does.

These things happen a lot more often than one would like to think.

For example, a few weeks ago, a friend of mine who is curvy shared a story in which a man shouted “cow” at her while she was riding her bike on the waterfront.  Ever since then, I’ve been thinking about that a lot, and decided that it was time to write a post regarding this phenomenon.  I’ve written before about how there are things that will only ever happen to someone when they are overweight, and this is one of them.  Even when we’re outside or in a gym exercising, people are judging us.  Assuming things about us.  We dare to be “fat” in public (oh the horror, the horror!), and this is the treatment we get, even when we actually are taking control of our life and attempting to eat healthy and exercise.

The same sort of thing happened to me one night when I was out on my usual nightly 3 mile walk.  I was about to head up the last hill, the biggest one of my walk, when someone drove by and yelled “Loser!” at me.  At this point, I had already lost close to 50 pounds.  I had been walking 3 miles a night for several weeks, and was doing cardio, Pilates, and weight training during the week.  Yet this person, for whatever reason, decided that I would make an excellent target.  Wait, “for whatever reason”?  No, I know exactly why.  I was bullied too much in elementary and middle school to not know.

Look, I realize that being fat is not considered attractive by most people.  I get it.  But that does not give a person any right at all to make judgments about people who are overweight, to yell things at them while they’re out running errands, taking walks, riding their bike, or whatever else.  Even if they’re stuffing their face in a fast food restaurant, it is none of anyone’s business.  It is not up to you or anyone else to police a person’s weight, to judge what they eat, or to make guesses about their lifestyle.  You don’t have to consider them attractive, that’s fine.  But they do not need your permission to exist.  The world does not revolve around you.

Now, people in the anti-fat brigade may want to say that it’s not about appearances, even though they find it disgusting when someone is overweight, but about health.  Well, if this sounds like you, there are a couple things you need to remember.

First, if an overweight person has health insurance, which you would never know unless you asked them or you happened to work in a clinic when they came in for an appointment, they are often charged extra for being overweight.  What this means is that they are often shamed out of having insurance, or quite simply can’t afford it.  To this you may say, “Well, they deserve it for being fat!”  Do people who are underweight have to pay the same premiums?  No… yet they may have lifestyles that are unhealthy as well.  Does being thin automatically mean that you’re healthy?  No, it does not.

In that same vein, second, being overweight does not necessarily mean that a person is unhealthy.  Study after study after study on weight has shown that an overweight person who eats healthy and exercises is at as much risk for diabetes type 2 and hypertension as a “normal”-weight person who does the same; that is to say that they are at very little risk*.  Meanwhile, if a “normal”-weight person eats nothing but junk food and never exercises, they are at just as much risk for diabetes type 2 and hypertension as any overweight person who does the same.  What this seems to demonstrate is that the weight is less important than the lifestyle.  We could all probably stand to eat healthier and exercise more.  Just because you’re thin doesn’t mean you’re exempt.

Third, in many cases, being overweight is blamed for all sorts of conditions that may or may not have anything to do with one’s weight.  For example, I have a skin disease called hidradenitis suppurativa.  Being overweight does exacerbate it, but unfortunately, so does exercise (and stress, and a lot of other things).  So it’s a catch 22, and you would never know I had the disease unless I happened to reveal the areas where I have it.  Some doctors, however, would simply blame it on my weight, rather than acknowledging that there are other factors, like HS running in my family, even amongst relatives who are not overweight.  I’ve known women who have had bladder issues, where their bladder leaks on occasion when they cough, sneeze, or laugh, and this is also blamed on their weight, even though they had the condition even when they were thin.

Finally, it is not up to you to police anyone’s weight.  Their weight is between them and their doctor(s).  Period.

So what’s my point?  My point is, if you’re one of those people who goes around yelling things at people who are overweight or who judges them, stop it.  You’re not helping.  Bullying people actually makes things worse.  The best thing you can do if you see an overweight person exercising is silently cheer them on.  If you see an overweight person eating fast food, it’s none of your business, especially if you’re eating the same foods, because for all you know, this is their first time eating fast food in months, or even years.  If you don’t know their usual routine, don’t assume or pretend you do.

Should people who are overweight try to lose weight?  Sure, just because it opens up new possibilities for having fun, and it does help with confidence.  However, people shouldn’t have to lose weight just to exist without being bullied.

*Final note.  I am aware that there was a study performed in Sweden that basically showed the opposite of the studies I cited.  However, it was a much smaller sampling, of men only, in one town, and they were probably all Swedish.  So it really proves nothing, and I don’t understand why anyone would cite it.

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Responses

  1. Its easy to loose weight! An ugly spirit & attitude takes alot more work! Your blog is awesome. I too am an HS sufferer with a little “extra” weight. 🙂

    • Thanks Courtney! 🙂


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