“I’m not fat! I’m big boned!”
“I think Carla is a good friend,” Surrena said, patting my leg. I gave a timid smile at her thoughtfulness… and then she continued, “And she’s not fat; she’s pleasantly plump.”
My fourth-grade classmates giggled and guffawed at her unintentionally backhanded compliment. Mrs. Nesmith had meant well — sitting us all in a circle and giving us the exercise to say something nice about the person on our left — but Surrena, bless her heart, had no way of knowing the class would still consider her statement as confirmation that I was overweight.
The pediatrician also confirmed it at every yearly physical: “She’s ten pounds overweight.” I got teased and ostracized for it — not a malicious, daily torment, but I would hear the occasional snide comment, see the up-and-down-then-disgusted look from the popular girls, or get chosen last for a team at recess or in PE. Carrying around ten extra pounds in childhood turned into carrying twenty extra pounds as a teenager — all at a time when kids weren’t nearly as big (weight-wise) as they are now. So my chubby self was in the minority.
Middle school was better than those fourth and fifth grade years, and high school was better than middle school. But I never really lost all the weight. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I believed that if I lost the weight, I was admitting that I agreed with all those who teased and shunned me.
I tell you about this experience because of this girl — who had the audacity to post a photo of her “grotesque” self online. The comments on the HLN article range from “good for you” to “you are hideous.”
With every article that goes up talking about weight issues, the comments section becomes inundated with people who say that fat people are just lazy. (As an aside, I truly believe that the establishment of a comment section on news sites is one of the worst things to happen to journalism in the internet age — a bunch of alpha gorillas beating their chests, hurling insults with horrible spelling and grammar, incapable of being civil or convincing other readers to change their minds. I wish every news site would dump them.)
In fact, compared to the articles I’ve read on addiction, those who are considered obese have been the only ones who are called lazy. No one tells a heroin addict to get his lazy ass off the couch and go to rehab. I’ve never seen someone tell an alcoholic that all she needs to do is just quit drinking.
I’m not saying that obesity is always a food addiction, but I do believe it’s possible to be addicted to food. Look at eating disorders. No one calls anorexics or bullemics names because they can’t magically stop starving themselves or binging and purging, yet many people just can’t believe that someone who is overweight just might have some mental issues that keep him or her from achieving a healthy weight.
And there’s another issue: “healthy weight.” So many people consider the BMI the authoritative measurement, but I know muscular people who are considered obese according to the BMI. Even in my case, I’m considered very obese by the BMI, but when I had a body fat composition test last year, I was just barely obese.
I’m not advocating the “fat acceptance” movement because I realize that being obese isn’t healthy; however, if you hate your body, you’re not inclined to take care of it. So hearing people tell overweight and obese people to “put down the fried chicken and get their ass off the couch” is not acceptable motivation. Losing weight for revenge is as mentally unhealthy as keeping the extra weight is physically unhealthy.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a plate of powdered donut pancake surprise calling my name…
(Yes, I’m kidding…)