There’s been a lot recently about how people who are overweight are tired of being picked on. They want to be left alone. I get that. I used to be obese. I wasn’t hot on the fact that I couldn’t easily find clothing that fit me. My first clue that I was larger than the average was when I realized I couldn’t buy underwear at Target. I didn’t think I was that big at a size 22. I thought I was fine.
There is a stigma to being overweight, certainly. There is such a stigma that we use euphemisms. Someone is heavy. Or portly. Or large. They aren’t ever fat or obese or even morbidly obese. We use euphemisms about everything we don’t want to deal with. Someone didn’t die. They passed on. They transitioned. They have left us.
Fat is the new normal. We Americans are so overweight that we don’t even recognize when we are fat. We think obese is 500 pounds. Yet there is still a stigma. There is still social pressure against fat people.
Don’t take it personally. People pick on anyone who is seen as different. Any deviation from the arbitrarily determined norm is seen as weak, and weakness is picked on. If you drink too much or smoke at all you’ll be picked on. If you don’t watch TV you’ll be picked on. If you vote the wrong way, dress the wrong way, talk the wrong way you’ll be picked on.
It isn’t personal. In fact, it is as impersonal as possible.
Society picks on people it deems as different because they see them as weak. It is the same as in the animal world. Baby birds that are seen as less than perfect are kicked out of the nest. Male lions eat their young for the same reason. It is to thin the herd to make it stronger. Weakness isn’t tolerated.
We’d like to think we aren’t animals, but we are. We are animals first and humans second. What makes us human is when we embrace differences and are welcoming to strangers. What makes us human is when we act with kindness and compassion. What makes us human is when we overcome our animal nature and work with each other instead of against each other.
Obesity is attacked because it is seen as a sign of weakness, specifically a lack of self control. It is seen as a sign of gluttony. At its heart it is seen as an addiction, even though few people would be aware enough to name it as such.
While it would be lovely if we could all be what we want to be and nobody got bullied for any reason, there is some good to fat shaming. If it encourages a person to get healthy, then it is great. If their response is to learn healthy coping methods, then it is awesome.
Sadly, this isn’t usually the case. Sadly, most people who use food to deal with their problems don’t suddenly learn new ways to be healthy in mind or spirit. Our society doesn’t teach that. It doesn’t teach self-care.
It teaches blame everybody else and don’t take responsibility for your actions. It teaches people to be a victim. It teaches instant everything. Don’t wait, don’t work for it. It teaches people to get lucky from playing the lottery rather than hard work.
People don’t need to lose weight for losing weight’s sake. They need to get healthy. People need to move more, eat better, and develop healthy ways of dealing with stress and anger. I’ve done it. It can be done. It isn’t easy. Anything worth having isn’t easy. Health is worth having. Learning to deal with problems other than stuffing them down is a valuable thing to know.
I remember where I was in my head four years ago before I started to get well. I remember thinking “how dare they tell me I’m fat” when I’d have to go to the “large” section of the store to buy clothes. I remember. And then I remember I went to the hospital with a racing heart, feeling sick. I remember always feeling out of sorts and out of shape. I remember just not feeling like I liked my body very much because it didn’t fit me very well.
I started moving. I found exercises I liked to do. I started eating better. I started loving myself enough to take care of myself.
I’m glad that society didn’t tell me that everything was fine for being so overweight. I’m glad, because if I’d kept going that way I’d be immobilized. My knees were giving out. My heart was weakening. I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of even walking up and down my street. Crime wasn’t keeping me from leaving my house; fear of my body giving out was. Being fat was crippling me. Eating instead of facing my problems was crippling me too.