What exactly is “fat cruelty?” Here’s how I see it: people who are overweight for whatever reason are a target for bullying, cheap laughs and downright cruelty. It’s as if being overweight is the height of social crime, therefore making that person somehow deserving of scorn and ridicule. Favorite words to define a person’s weight range anywhere from “sloppy,” “stupid,” “gross,” “lazy,” “smelly,” “piggish,” “greedy,” “slovenly,” and worse.
We all know that there are many reasons for excess weight, encompassing everything from how people were raised, health conditions, ignorance, bad choices, emotional issues, and so on. It speaks poorly of us as a society if we find making fun of someone overweight common fodder for all those sad and hackneyed jokes.
Why is this behavior acceptable? It is every bit as cruel and pointing fingers and laughing at someone in a wheelchair, a mentally retarded person, or a baby born with a harelip. I’m sure that many people would say, “Well, that’s very sad, but they can’t help it if they were born that way. But an overweight person CAN help it and chooses NOT to.”
That’s an easy answer, and in many cases I’m sure it’s true. But it’s not true for everyone. I was a skinny baby, a skinny child, and a thin teenager. My weight stayed the same for years, and I never thought twice about it. Clothes of any kind looked great on me, and I took my size for granted. I could eat anything, and did. I could eat huge quantities of food, and did–and never gained an ounce. I, too, thought that people who were overweight could help themselves ‘if they just tried.’ But at that blissfully ignorant time in my life, I personally had not understood what it was like to BE overweight.
In my mid-thirties, my habits caught up with me. Add this to shall we say, some pretty bad choices in relationships and jobs, and pretty soon I was putting on weight. Food comforted me, and became an easy drug. However, I had always been an exercise freak, so for years I could balance over-eating with constant exercise. But unless you have extraordinary genes and lifelong good habits, this way of life can, and for me, did–fail.
At age 50, I was heavier than I had ever been, newly divorced and on my own again. I still exercised regularly, and that made me feel better. But I hadn’t yet learned how to retrain my brain to work on self esteem and why my eating habits were what they were. Oh, I could go on and on about a cheating husband, a couple of major surgeries, bad times, blah, blah, blah–we have all had bad times and bad relationships, and I am nothing special. My weight issues are a reflection of how I felt about myself, and I am fully responsible. I blame no one but myself.
Decades ago, it was very common for a stigma to be attached to anyone who went to a psychologist. It was considered a weakness; something you would never want anyone else to know. It was something shameful to be hidden from view. Hopefully we have evolved beyond that narrow viewpoint.
The next frontier to be crossed is the ‘I’m thinner than you, nyah, nyah, nyah’ issue. Here are some truths I’ve learned:
- Pointing out to someone that they are fat is useless. Don’t you think that they KNOW that?
- Unless someone is ready to change, they will not change.
- If the overweight person ASKS for help, then give it kindly and helpfully.
- If the overweight person DOES NOT ASK for help, then shut up.
- Burdening an overweight person with your own fears about their health does not help. It merely adds guilt to shame.
- If talking to someone about their weight would make them any thinner, then would it be helpful. But only then.
- Shaming someone into losing weight is hitting way below the belt. Bullying them is even worse.
- Unasked for opinions are just that–UNASKED FOR.
- Getting angry at someone for being overweight is worse than cruel.
- Gently expressing your concern about someone’s weight is kind. Do it ONCE and then back off.
The worst thing in my opinion is the careful story about ‘somebody’ someone knows who put on weight and then they couldn’t find a man or woman to love them, a job they liked, they had no confidence, etc. But most of all, the ones telling these oh-so-careful stories make sure that an overweight person is right there, hearing every word. As if hearing that story will make them jump up, hold their hands to the heavens, proclaiming “I HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT! I WILL GO FORTH AND OVEREAT NO MORE!”
Bullying an overweight person is not only cruel, but it reflects badly on the bully. Trust me on this: those who bully, will eventually get what’s coming to them. Remember: bad karma out, bad karma IN.
So you might ask me at this point, “How are YOU doing with your weight?” Answer: Actually, I’m doing pretty well. Although I can’t jump on the scale yelling “WHOOPEE!” yet, I have no doubt that I eventually will. My attitude toward myself–and everything that IS me–began to change. It began with my reading books like “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success,” by Deepak Chopra, “The China Study,” by T. Collin Campbell, PhD and Thomas M. Campbell II, and “What Are You Hungry For?” by Deepak Chopra. My metaphysical classes in the past two years has helped to open my eyes about the mind-body-spirit connection, as did my Reiki I training. I began to see myself as a whole being, not as simply a body. Who I am is not just my weight. I am living my life now better than I ever have, and taking care of my body is a part of it.
Although I gave up sugar two years ago, I sometimes give in to a cookie. When that happens, I feel like french-fried crap. It’s a pretty good reminder of why I gave it up in the first place. These days I think more about what I eat and what it does to my body. I have learned to respect that elegant machine that holds my soul and allows me to walk upright and feel good. Weight loss will come when it comes, but that is not my main reason for living better. My main reason IS to live better.
It took me a long while to write and then post this on Luluopolis. I almost didn’t, but I have heard one story too many about overweight people being ridiculed in public and in private NOT to tell my own story. Take from it what you will.
I am a work in progress, as are we all.