Today’s post is a difficult thing to write because it was so hurtful when I experienced it. So why would I share it? Simply to let people who have also experienced it know that they are not alone. What am I talking about? I am talking about something that hurts thousands if not millions every day, and yet still seems to be accepted quite readily by some parts of society. What am I talking about? Fat Prejudice.
Some people have even tried to tell me there is no such thing, because prejudice is when you make fun of someone, or discriminate against someone for something they cannot change like race.
“Fat people could change if they wanted to change. They are just too lazy.”
What would happen if you lumped any large group together and said “Oh those people are all (lazy, dirty, stupid, undisciplined)” You would be called racist or prejudice, but many people every day make those similar assumptions about fat people.
I will give you an example of something that happened to me back when I was 100 pounds or so heavier. My kids were both very young, and we were all at the mall as a lot families do. It got to be lunch time so I said to my wife “You take the kids and find a table and I will get the food.” I went to our favourite fast food place and got everyone’s food. Basically 4 burgers, 4 fries and 4 drinks. As I am walking back to our table, a group of young women were having lunch at a nearby table. One of them said just loud enough for me to hear “No wonder he’s so fat, look at his lunch.” Yes – all 4 burgers, fries and drinks were for me. Seriously?
Another time I was at a mall where I had been performing. It was a hot summer day so after my shows were over, I decided to treat myself to an ice cream. As I was heading back through the mall to the parking lot, this woman stepped in front of me and said “Do you really think you should be eating that?” I was upset, I just blurted out “Fine. YOU eat it” and stuck it in her hand.
It is not generally acceptable to tell jokes based on race or religion etc but fat jokes are ok. There used to be an old racial stereotype in early movies about black people – that they loved watermelon and friend chicken, were lazy etc. We see some of those old films now and we cringe at how ignorant we were.
I am a big fan of animation, especially early animation. I have bought DVD collections of cartoons and a lot of them have disclaimers saying some of the cartoons are from “another time” when we were less enlightened and we don’t think that way anymore.
It seems we do think that way about fat people. Fat people are still made fun of in film, TV and other media on an almost daily basis. Some actors have made careers out of being “the funny fat guy” from Fatty Arbuckle in the silent era through people like Jackie Gleason, Stand Up Comedians John Pinette and Louis Anderson, and actress Melissa McCarthy.
Even when I was working in the film industry, I was often sent on auditions where the only description of the character was “fat man”.
There are some big myths out there about fat people. If you are a fat person, how many of these have you experienced? If you are of “normal” size (what ever that is) how many of these have you believed?
1. We are not aware that we are fat. Really? You try living every day when your clothes don’t fit right, you get tired doing the simplest things, not to mention we can’t help but be aware when society tells us this all the time.
2. Fat people are lazy, slow and/or dirty. Yes some fat people ARE those things. So are some tall people, short people, bald people and many other people. Those are personality traits – not definitions of who a fat person is.
3. All fat people eat too much. If they just ate less they would become slimmer. There are many factors of why a person is overweight. Yes some people have brought it on themselves by over eating but some also are dealing with everything from diabetes, to thyroid issues, to metabolism issues to medications that can cause weight gain.
4. People are fat because they are always hungry. Many people seek comfort in food. They are hiding from some other issues in their life. In my case, I was often NOT hungry. I was sad, bored, lonely, angry, hurting or any number of emotions. Emotional eating is a huge issue, and has a vicious cycle. I have said this in a previous post, but people eat, get heavy, feel guilt and shame so they eat more. Now they are fatter, so they feel guilt and shame and deal with it with more food.
5. And one of my personal favourites – fat people are jolly. Really? How jolly would you be if you were laughed and snickered at, were the subject of people’s jokes, got “the look” on a plane coming down the aisle. You know the look “Please God, don’t let him sit near me!”
For my fellow travelers on this weight loss journey, I have a couple of bits of advice. The first is one I got years ago from Richard Simmons. Don’t wait until you lose all the weight before you learn to like yourself because all you will be is a smaller version of the same person. Learn to love yourself now. I don’t become an ego maniac, but simply believe “I am OK, and I am working on getting better every day.”
The second piece is something that took me a very long time to learn. Just ignore them. That’s it. Ignore all those people who feel they have to build themselves up by tearing you down. Why? First of all the problem is theirs, not yours. Secondly, you may not know what is going on in their lives that is making people mean to others. Rise above the attitude. Is it easy? No, but it can be done.
For those of you who who think some of things about fat people, try thinking before speaking. I am going to end this blog today with a quote from Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling
Until next time, have a healthy and happy day.