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'Fat Stigma' is Spreading; What Can We Do?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
By Beth Donovan (~INDYGIRL)

The stigma of being overweight or of “Being a fatty” is growing globally, according to a recent blog post in the New York Times. Whereas once, a heavier weight represented wealth and the ability to have healthy children, it now represents laziness and sloth to many.

Parents were quoted as saying they would rather have their children be anorexic than overweight. To me, an eating disorder is an eating disorder. Why is one where you don't eat more socially acceptable than one where you do?

I do have a theory. It is still socially acceptable to make fun of a heavy person, but make fun of someone’s gender or skin color and there would be fallout. Why? "Fatty" chose to be that way, right? Wrong.

There are so many reasons people are heavy, but generally “I want to be fat” is not one of them. Genetics can play a part, and so can biology, psychology, environment, and just plain old lack of exercise and proper diet. It is never just a simple fix or a choice to just “be thin.”

While many are not “born heavy,” I believe the sentiments in the following song apply to everyone, big or small. To quote Lady Gaga:

““There's nothin wrong with lovin who you are"
She said, "'cause He made you perfect, babe"
"So hold your head up girl and you'll go far,
Listen to me when I say"
I'm beautiful in my way
'Cause God makes no mistakes
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way
Don't hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you're set
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way.”

Heavy people are not weak; many diet practically every day of their lives. They may fall off the wagon every day, but they still get back up. They get teased in public by strangers, berated by loved ones in private, have foods pushed on them and then get a talking-to about being on a diet. They get passed up for jobs and promotions, as proven in many research studies. They are not weak. They take a lot and keep going every single day.

Pain is also a side effect of being heavy. This is just another reason most people do not want to be heavy and struggle against it. It’s also a reason the general populous considers heavier people to be lazy. It isn’t that they are lazy, it takes more energy to move a bigger body and when pain is involved, it takes more fortitude than anyone without that extra weight, pain, or lack of energy can imagine. This makes it even harder to lose weight.

I’m not trying to make excuses here, I’m trying to give you a glimpse from the other side. WHY would someone choose to be fat? Some people do choose to be overweight. It is a choice and one with some very dire consequences. Just the same, there should be no stigma attached. I’m not going to attempt to explain the lifestyle of some who choose to become as big as they possibly can and have people who enable them purposefully with the same goal. Just know this lifestyle does exist. It is not a healthy choice, but it is a choice--one with a short life span and many health complications.

Life is hard enough without finding different segments of people to belittle.

Here are 5 tips to combat thoughtlessness:

  1. When you meet a heavy person, treat them the same as anyone else. If they move slowly, consider they may be in extra pain depending on their size. If they need to sit down, don’t assume they are lazy.

  2. If you see someone of size while you’re out, don’t snicker, laugh or take pictures with your camera phone. If they are like me, they will call you on it in public. I believe in politely correcting people’s rudeness so they think twice next time.

  3. Don’t let your child make fun of a heavy person without correcting them, apologizing, and explaining that that person has feelings, too. I generally will explain to a child that they hurt my feelings if the parent does nothing, because I feel there is a chance of changing the child’s attitude.

  4. Don’t treat heavy people like we are invisible. We are more than visible. Look at us and listen to our ideas. I hate being at cosmetic counters… when they wait on everyone EXCEPT me. I know they see me.

  5. Never EVER make fun of your child's or another family member’s weight. The scars you leave are invisible but deeper than you know.

With the global spread of the dislike of the overweight, there is more pressure than ever to lose weight and be healthy. Change can come from pressure, but most often it will come from that place deep inside of you that just gives in. When you hit rock bottom and start to realize you have to take those baby steps and work on the things you can do for the rest of your life.

If you have read this, you realize by now that by being overweight in the first place, you are stronger. You have dealt with diets, exercise programs, teasing, bias, and you are still here. Take that strength and run with it!

How do you fight fat stigma?

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SNUZYQ2 1/4/2020
A true insider's view written from the depth and wealth of experience. Thank you for writing this, Beth. Superb! Report
EVIE4NOW 12/10/2019
My dad (RIP) was the worst at making comments, but only to me, never to my sister who was much bigger then me. Report
1CRAZYDOG 10/19/2019
You just do NOT know each individual's circumstances, so it would be unfair to make a judgment! Yes, though, people surely do. It irks me, because not only do they NOT know the circumstances of the person they're judging, they also have to realize -- being overweight is something the person already knows. WE KNOW when we're overweight! It doesn't help a situation to be judgmental!

Thank you for this common-sense, heart-felt blog. Report
ANHELIC 10/10/2019
Thanks. Gotta think about this. Report
LE_SIGH 10/9/2019
I can't imagine making fun of someone for their weight. It's amazing that some think that's ok behavior. Report
ERIN_POSCH 9/23/2019
thank you for your share. Report
LIZZIE138 9/6/2019
It makes me mad that being overweight is still the thing ok to make fun of.
Everything else has to be so politically correct but it’s open season on obese people. ?? Report
I just learned of a woman who would not let the girls in her house have seconds, while the guys could have all they wanted. She must be sneaking food herself, because she has not kept her girlish figure. It just goes to show that people tend to judge because they have their own issues and want to focus the negative attention on others. Report
I am not sure we can defeat this completely. There will always be intolerance. Report
People do not like being called out for their weight. Seems to me that some folks that believe they are overweight as believe it is perfectly fine to call out someone for being underweight or at a normal weight a lean. I think the golden rule is a good one: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Report
GREAT article, with bonus points for quoting Gaga! Thank you! Report
My MIL called me a fat__s behind my back and made nasty remarks to me in person. She is an extremely nasty, narcissistic individual who tries to control her children. I've responded by answering her back if it gets too bad, but usually ignore her. We moved out of the same town and live 1200 miles away. Now she's in bad health due to her smoking and drinking and would love to have us there to wait on her. But she's lost any chance of my lifting a finger to help her. My doc said to not get into any discussions with her, but to wish her well. I will---from a distance. Report
Good read. Report
It is not fun to be called names and some don't even do it to your face. They are safely in their car calling you the names. That is what happened to me. Most would not want that done to them but they think that they can do it to others and not take in that persons feeling or health. Report
I don't understand why people can't be nice to one another. Report
I can only wonder at the people who've left intolerant and judgmental comments here. Why are you even on SP?
Maybe some folks "made poor choices." Much more likely that addiction, abuse, past violence or trauma is at the root of weight issues (to say nothing about physiological causes, ethnic heritage, inherited genes.)
Ultimately, we can never know the Report
Intolerance breeds hatred. Hatred creates divisions. Divisions destroy common grounds.
Mamur Mustapha
I read a lot of this in many of these comments it makes me sad. Report
I suffer from a severe spinal condition. Several years ago after I had surgery that left me permanently in a wheelchair I had to go for a CT scan. The technician asked me why I was in a wheel chair. I told her it was because I couldn't walk. Her reply was "Yes I know that but why can't you walk". I then told her I had spinal damage. She said "OH, I THOUGHT MAYBE YOU WERE JUST TOO FAT TO WALK." I was about 240 pounds at that time. This was not part of a consult, just idle chatter during the course of the CT scan. I should have asked to speak to her superior but I was too devastated at the time so I let it slide. It has bothered me ever since. The comment yes, but more so the fact that I just let it go. Report
I've been heavy since my mid 20's but formerly a star athlete in high school and physically active with tennis and golf until mid thirties. Now I weigh 360 lb and I really, really don't care what others think about my size. I still go swimming and if people stare, I stare back. I will never give people power to influence how I see myself. As Lady Gaga repeated "God doesn't make junk". For all the people out here with a visible disability, and being very heavy is included, we have intrinsic dignity and value, even if not in the accepted image that society dictates. I am following my own road - and since SP, this road includes loving myself better by pursuing a meal and fitness plan that will make me stronger and healthier. Report
The body is just the vessel that holds the consciousness. The consciousness is the important part. Assumptions made about the consciousness based on the appearance of the vessel are meaningless. I am me, fat or thin, love me or don't, if you can't do that, I don't want you in my life anyway. Report
Thank you for this heart-filled, thoughtful, compassionate blog, Beth! Your hard-won wisdom is a great gift to us all :) I was obese from about age 6 to 60, and I've been at a slim weight for the past nearly three years. My husband and I both lost 70-80 lbs. each. These days, our only concern is not other people's exteriors, but 1) what the numbers read on our bathroom scale, and 2) what the numbers show on the regular blood tests we get at the doctor's. Beyond that, people's size - or other aspects of their appearance - is pretty immaterial to me. It's all I can do just to mind my own :) Report
For me, losing weight has been a journey of change and self discovery. I have discovered that I have low self esteem and a very poor body image. I am working on it and I have recently rediscovered an old saying: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me. I used to dread summertime vacations. That meant the beach/pool. As a 250lb fat slob I was absolutely embarrassed to take my shirt off and go swimming. As a result, I don't think I have been swimming in 15 years. Looking back on it now, how stupid am I? Even if every person at the pool pointed at me and started laughing and calling me fatty, so what? Why should I care what I look like in front of a bunch of strangers who I will never see again? I am learning that if you don't love yourself, not only can you really not truly love and have empathy for others, but you easily give power to the words of others over you. I beleive that if you are truly self confident and love the body you are in, be it 150 pounds or 350 pounds, all those insults, all those friendly little jabs (plenty of my buddies call me "big guy" or "big Bob"), all those naysayers will be little more than background noise. In the pool example, in the past, I empowered complete strangers over me. The fear that someone would make a fat joke, or that they are even merely thinking "look at that fat guy with no shirt on" crippled me with fear, resentment, and depression, and ultimately kept me from doing something I enjoy. A big part of my healthy lifestyle is taking the power back. I may still be 200 pounds with a flabby gut, but the next time I go to the pool ro beach, I am going to take of my shirt and walk with my head held high. If someone makes a comment, that's their problem. People who put others down are bullies. If you tell them off, punch them in the face, or run away crying, they have won. If you walk on by with your head held high, you just took the wind right out of their sails. It is silly now to think that I limited my activities because I feared that STRANGERS would make fun of me for being fat.

I think obesity is an acceptable prejudice in society because unlike, race, gender, and skin color, obesity is a CHOICE. Yes, it is a choice. I chose to be fat. I have been fat for about 20 years now, and obese for at least the last ten. I could have done something about it when I was 20 pounds overweight. I chose not to. I knew I was overweight and was unhappy about it then. I chose to do nothing. Two years ago my annual physical didn't go so well. The doctor told me I was pre-hypertension, pre-diabetic, and my cholesterol was through the roof. He didn't want to put me on medication at the time. He told me to lose some weight and come back in six months to see how my levels were. I chose to "fire" my doctor and have not been back for a physical since. I also chose to not lose weight, but instead gain another 20 pounds. I don't want to be fat, never did. I just made poor choices and rationalized them along the way. People often tend to play victim. It makes them fell better. Why? Because when you are a victim, it takes the burden of responsibility off of you. Being a victim implies that someone or something is responsible for your condition and not you, and since that someone or something is out of your control, you are powerless to change your situation. Being a victim makes it very easy to justify doing nothing to change your situation. I have read that more than 95% of people who are overweight and try to lose weight will fail, and out of those who lose all the weight, the overwhelming majority will have not kpet it off for more than five years. At my heaviest, I was 90 pounds overweight. I knew I was fat, I knew it was wrong, I knew it was unhealthy, and I knew I was unhappy, but yet I told myself why bother when I am so far overweight and the only reward for suffering through deprivation is 99% chance of failure anyway. So I kept on eating and slowly killing myself as my depression worsened. Much like an alcoholic, I had to hit rock bottom before I decided I needed to do something different. But this was all my choice, it was all my doing. I'm done making excuses for myself. I am done hating myself. I am done giving others power over me. I am done giving food power over me. I want to be a winner not a whiner. Report
This article is really interesting...I have to confess that I find really overweight people really hard to deal with, just as I find really underweight people hard to deal with...

It actually has nothing to do with appearance...it's the result of having some bad experiences over the years with people who have eating disorders.

Here is my experience...

In the workplace, I've worked with several Anorexics who have been overworkers, focussed on unecessary details and quite poor at inter-personal relationships. They stick to themselves and are emotionally distant.

Very obese people I've worked with took a lot of time off work, were ill-suited to anything but desk based work (they got winded and very tired when asked to present, walk around etc...) and found it really hard to be empathetic towards others.

In my personal life, I've had some awful experiences with obese people - very aggressive, defensive, disorganised and unwilling to accept other people's opinions.

My view now?

Anoerexics blame themselves for their problems.
Obese people blame everyone else for their problems.

These are just my observations and experiences over the years; you don't have to agree...

It will take a miracle to change my mind on this... Report
i grew up with my mom telling me every day i was fat and ugly. ever since i was around 4 years old. my mom would go on diets and force me to do them too which being a young child usually left me very hungry every day. when i was a teenager i was active in volleyball and playing tennis with my dad and i was thin but i wanted to learn to eat healthy to lose the extra 10 lbs i had and tone everything up. my mom would start eating right with me and we would go on walks. then when i would tell her how i lost my 10 lbs and how happy i was she would sabatoge me and start buying junk food and making crap meals as a snack and bully me into eating it. ive never had high self estieme because of her. even when i was 16 140 lbs and solid muscle i thought i was fat and ugly. im 23 now and im 100+ lbs overweight and im finally turning it around. i keep getting turned down for jobs i would be perfect for and i feel it is because of my weight. i hate seeing those kids that make fun of the bigger people. i hate that i dont want to go to mall because i feel like im being judged if i go into a store made for skinny people. people laugh at me when im out with my best friend who is a size 4. she yells at them when they do and stands up for me because she knows how hard im working on losing the weight. i joke about my weight to my friends and family and they all joke with me and im ok with that because they will make the same jokes about themselves. Report
Read thru all the comments for this blog, and am pretty floored at how narrow-minded and shallow some people are. They still act self-righteous (I know how to fix you! I've been there!) instead of grasping the point.

The point of the article is: don't treat others differently because they are overweight. That's all. Simple point.

We are supposed to be spreading the Spark. So, let's spread it by showing that we view everyone as a good person instead of defining them by their size. Report
We make assumptions based on what we've experienced, and if we are thin, we have probably dieted and exercised, to try to stay "fit". A thin person might assume that someone who is obese must have the same knowlege and experience as they have, but lacked the willpower to stop eating or start exercising. Thin people are not so evil. If you do not assume weight gain is something you have power over, then, it could happen to you at any moment. As mentioned, very few people desire to be overweight, and I would guess that the people who make fun of the obese are doing so in response to their own fear that they may lose control and gain weight. If a "fatty" is seen as less capable, then it eases the fear that "skinny" might be succeptible. It is still hurtful and rude, but, in truth, no one who is confident feels the need to bring others down. Don't let their comments linger for too long in your heart. Everyone has a capable mind and a sensitive soul with potential you cannot understand if you are too quick to judge. Report
I like the honesty in this blog to a certain extent. There are certain things that I agree with and others that don't make sense. I will however say that I have more recently changed my thinking on obese people. I used to be (and still am sometimes) one of those that definitely looked at obese people and thought, what is their problem? Why don't they get up and move and make some healthy choices? Why do they let themselves go like that? Then just recently I saw my husband's aunt and didn't even recognize her at first. She had put on a large amount of weight since the last time I had since her and I couldn't even tell it was her. But you know what? It wasn't because she had gotten lazy or complacent. It wasn't because she was making unhealthy choices or because of anything in her control. It was because she had gotten cancer and was undergoing so many different treatments and issues that she couldn't hardly walk. She tried as much as possible but even then she had a hard time going more than 100 feet or so without stopping because she was so weak from all she was enduring. Seeing that (and her frustration with her weight gain) has definitely helped me see obese people in a different light. I'm not saying that's the reason across the board (obviously it's not) but try to remember when you are looking at people that they might have a deeper issue that you don't know about that is causing the obesity. Report
I have two great women friends that I love. They are kind, intelligent and lovely. They are both obese and I would do anything that I could to help them but it's kind of like the elephant in the room that we never talk about. They have to know that they are really fat; they don't need me to tell them. It bugs me that they don't do anything about it but as many others have noted, we all make choices. I respect theirs although I think they realize that they miss out on a lot of great things in life because of their weight. Oh well. Report
I was generally thin most of my life. Then when I turned forty I started gaining weight & over the next eight years I gained 85#. I then was able to shed all but 10# but I looked & felt better. Then, as a result of sleep deprivation I gained 50# in four months from 9 - 12/2007. The #s continued creeping up & I presently weigh more than I have ever weighed in my life. I hate the excess weight. Yes I want my thinner, healthier body back but due too many health issues it is difficult for me to exercise to any great extent. Walking isn't even an option as it was once as both my knees need to be replaced. I do my best to watch what I eat, however, I don't eat much to begin with. Someday maybe I'll figure it all out. I've been bullied most of my life, it just wasn't because I was overweight. It doesn't matter what the cause is, any & all stigma causes harm to those who are it's victims. Report
I appreciated this blog and all the comments. Each one had a truth... or truths.

Beth, sounds like you're feeling pain because you're needing understanding and acceptance? Addiction is baffllng to those who don't share that particular hell. When I was actively alcoholic the "normies" in my life could not understand why I couldn't just "sip" or give it up. In my experience, there is no choice in active addiction. I know those hopeless "born that way" feelings. What's important, I believe, is not that other people understand our situation but that WE do. We can't control whether others love and support us but we can start loving and accepting ourselves.

That said, there ARE solutions available to overweight. (Improvement can happen even with tough medical conditions. I have juvenile diabetes and gained quite a bit of weight treating insulin reactions. Weight loss is more difficutl with this condition but it can be done.) In that way it's a different situation than race, sexual identity, ethnicity and other prejudices as some have pointed out.

I was a course marshall at the 2011 Seattle Marathon last month. There were several BIG women RUNNING the marathon. They were stronger athletes than I, for sure. I'm betting they didn't start there. I also bet they are the targets of all kinds of negative assumptions in checkout lines. I hope they don't care because they know they are athletes and that they won't let anyone else's opinion stop them.

Bless you on your path to Light and Love. Report
You know, I've seen many people make comments that run to the tune of "I haven't got the time to take care of myself properly because I'm a parent/carer/businessman or woman that's working hard" etc etc.
I'll say the same thing that I say to myself. It's actually from a Nike ad, but it rings extremely true. "Someone with less time than you is out for a run right now".
I know it doesn't exactly fit with the blog theme, but it's something to think about. Also, I agree. I was born at 5.8lbs and screaming. I was not born the way I am now. Years of bad choices and then a decision to start making good ones made me this way. I take ownership of my situation because I'm the only one that can. Report
It always shocks me when I read blog comments that are mean and not supportive on spark people. We are all here trying to be healthy and learn new ways of improving oneself. As a fat person I could give you a million excuses, but none are valid to anyone who thinks that fat people shouldn't be alive to begin with. I know why I am fat, I know that I am fat for that matter, but no matter if I have a reason or not, I still demand and expect to be treated with dignity and respect and try to show others the same courtesy. Shame on people who feel they can be disrespectful to any person for any reason. Report
You know, I've gotten the odd comment here or there, mostly from kids, and it never really bothered me. Yes, I am fat. Yes, I do look different. Kids point out things that look different. By itself, a comment from a kid never bothered me - and now that I have kids myself, I know that when a rude remark pops out I often wait until we get home to address it because you never know what will come next. What has bothered me more is the underlying assumption of incompetence. I've always had to prove myself doubly to get respect - I can recognize the surprise on a new co-worker or student's face when they realize that I am not only good at what I do but most likely smarter or more competent than they. I went to NYU law school on a full academic scholarship, and was offered scholarships by two of the four schools that ranks higher. How many people can say that? But I always have to rebut the presumption that because I'm fat I'm stupid.

My husband is severely underweight. We make a very odd looking couple; him short and skinny-skinny and me tall and morbidly obese. He was telling me one day that he'd love to have me come visit his office because he has two colleagues (lawyers!) who are constantly complaining about fat people and making fun of them and he just sits there listening and thinking how embarrassed they would be if they realized they were essentially insulting his wife.

They complain about a fat person who took too long bending down to get his neck lanyard ID to the contact to open the door. (What about a tall person? Why is this a fat problem?) They complained about a fat person who asked them to move their bag from the metro seat -- all fatties are so entitled! They try to avoid walking near fat people or having to talk to them -- they are so self-absorbed and usually stupid. My husband refused to repeat the insults, insisting there was no point (he's probably right) and he didn't remember them anyway (yeah, right!).

I was really taken aback. No one's ever spoken to me like that, but is this really what they're all thinking? Report
What a wonderful and educational blog. The other day, someone on Spark said that when you look at a heavy person, you are looking at the unhealthy choices they made in the past, not necessarily the healthy choices they are making right now. That resonated a lot with me. Report

Some people can eat and sit around without gaining wait. God Bless them. I have to face the fact that that is not the way it is more me.

I hate it when a child says, "Mommy that lady is fat" and the parent doesn't respond and lets the child keep making comments that hurt my feelings. The fact is I am fat. One child kept it up in the grocery line so long, I finally said, "You better eat fruits and vegetables and forget about those chips, cupcakes and candy I see in your cart or you will look just like me. Grab a carrot and not the cupcake." The little boy's eyes bugged out and he looked at me and then at the cupcakes. I wonder if he had a cupcake later.

You are right I do not want to be fat. When I was under 21 and living at home and going to school, I did not have control over what we ate or when we ate, but I could have gone for a walk, road my bike, etc. The fatter I got the less I moved.
When the only memories you have are of being fat, you just accept it. People see a fat person as lazy. The solution is you work harder and more hours to show your the best and end up moving less and hittin the drive-ins and vending machines. The weight slowing increasing. Since it is slow you don't notice the changes as much . Even professionals blame anything from a hang nail to a headache due to fat but didn't provide you with a referral to a nutritionist, therapist, etc. Most likely becuase insurance carriers discourage it while at the same time saying they are for preventative health. Last year a doctor I didn't even know and was not treating with came in to my room and said "Oh my God, Oh my God are you fat." He then tore the sheet off of me and said, "Your even more discusting naked and walked out." No life isn't easy, but I can change. No more beef, potatoes and gravy with buttered bread and 1/4 cup of generously boiled green beans with butter. I am cutting back on beef adding in fish and poultry and a variety of vegetables steamed or raw with herbs and not butter. I am moving and stretching. As the pounds come off I will get more aggressive in exercising.

Very beautiful blog. Lady Gaga is right .. No one in this world is perfect neither are the people who are giving judgmental remarks. Report
Wow, just read the comments added since I last read this, and I am appalled anew by the judgmental nature of some. No one has the right to "call out" those who are overweight. (Who died and left you in charge?) We have NO CLUE what-all contributes to a individual person's weight! Experts are still arguing over different aspects of weight and health issues.

I don't hear a call for pity in the blog, either, but a call to fight stigma and treat ALL people with respect, period. So somebody convinced a neighbor to join SP and he may not be doing anything more with it. So what? It may not suit him. It is his life and he is still a human being to be respected and treated humanely. Maybe the guy opted for Weight Watchers or decided he doesn't give a hoot. Maybe it's none of our business? Whoa, what a novel thought.

I still disagree with the simplistic SP philosophy that weight is SOLELY a matter of calories ingested vs calories expended. And for heaven's sake, yes, there are large people who are perfectly healthy. Saying, "I know, because I was that way" is judgmental, too, because there are a multitude of factors in weight. I don't appreciate judging people as "weak," again because we don't know the whole story. I was also born overweight or underheight and looked like a pale Buddha. I don't blame my genetics; I work with its effects.

I applaud those who are positive and encouraging, those who are compassionate. We don't know, just by looking, what steps someone is or isn't taking. Each person has a story, a life, genetics, and so on. Perhaps people are taking baby steps. Maybe that huge amount of food is less than they used to eat, or they are adding healthier foods to their diets and still indulging occasionally in certain treats. That's positive, but onlookers wouldn't know that. Even if it's a coworker or someone you are familiar with, you don't know their entire story, so reserve judgment.

The point is, people should not be judged for their size and mistreated, insulted, given unsolicited advice, and so on. It should not be socially acceptable to be cruel. If we want to help others become healthier, I think we'd better find positive ways to approach the issue, not confrontation, penalties, cruelty, or rudeness. And please let's teach our children and grandchildren to treat all people with equal respect. Kudos on the blog, Beth.

~~ Just a starry-eyed idealist truly pained by cruelty ~~ Report
Wonderfully written. Tore my heart out Report
We all know that in most cases, being overweight is a result of wrong diet and fitness choices (conscious or unconscious). And there can be various underlying issues why these wrong choices are made. In short, an overweight person is like a neon sign pointing out a problem that has not yet been fixed, and some people just love to point out weaknesses in others.

I think that's just plain mean, but these days it seems ok to be mean to fat people. Why? Because in today's society, fat is simply not 'cool' or (dare I say it) sexy.

I mean, ok, so I'm fat. Contrary to what some people think, I KNOW! And for all you know, I could actually be doing something to work on it. But somehow, complete strangers feel that it's ok to be rude, to make fun of and give stupid advice to fat people.

What really gets me annoyed is that you never see the same treatment being given to smokers and alchoholics (unless they really go crazy). Yet, these are also unhealthy lifestyles that can lead to death or debilitating illness. Despite the fact that a smoker is slowly killing him/herself you would hardly find strangers going up to a smoker and rudely telling the person to get rid of that butt (pun intended!). I have never seen people laughing and snickering behind their hands when a smoker walks by. And drinkers are generally viewed as fun and outgoing people, while drinking is viewed as a social activity. In short, smoking and drinking are seen as cool and sexy, so society doesn't really have a problem with the people who do it.

It's a double standard and it makes me sick! Everyone has problems, it's just that, overweight people can't hide the fact that they have a problem. That doesn't give other people the right to make fun or cutting comments. It doesn't help and only makes the person feel bad. So, just STOP already! Report
To be perfectly honest, this article really disturbed me. I'm assuming it was meant to be motivational, but it really just seemed like something an overweight person would want to tell themselves as an excuse to what is likely what they consider a "problem" or would want to change about themselves. I know most of us wish we could blame our weight on a thyroid problem, or on someone else but that's not reality. That mentality will never help you lose weight. Overweight people aren't generally anymore stigmatized than they were just a few years ago. The worst thing an overweight person could ask for is pity. Just about every type of person has something they dislike about themselves. While I would never ridicule or humiliate another person, when I see someone else that is overweight I generally assume they are lacking self control. That is the largest part of their problem. They don't take responsibility. I definitely believe that "No one chooses to be fat" directly, but they do "choose to eat irresponsibly." Yes, everyone should enjoy themselves and definitely eat their birthday cake, but continually making unhealthy decisions does lead to becoming overweight, so essentially you are choosing to be fat. Being healthy isn't always a number on the scale or the size on a pair of jeans, it's a lifestyle. You can still enjoy certain foods in moderation. If food makes you happy, eat! But I'm sure that just because you enjoy chips that doesn't mean you don't enjoy apples as well. Overweight people can be easier targets, they generally seem lifeless and always unhappy. There will always be people out there to prey on the weak. I'm proud to be who I am, overweight or not. I'm still enjoying my life and because I have such a positive outlook, and great personality I'm never made fun of. Why would someone find it easy to make fun of someone who is so full of life? Life is good and if you can't make good with yourself, don't ask it of anyone else. Losing weight doesn't "start your life", so slowly start making a change and you will realize all along how much time you've been wasting. Report
People generally make fun of, or harshly criticize, someone else as a quick, cheap way to temporarily feel better about themselves. We all have struggles and imperfections and some of the most perfect bodied among us struggle with hidden addictions. Many factors contributed to me going from 93 lbs as a young woman to 193 lbs as a middle-aged woman. I work on the factors that I can control - how much I sleep, what I eat, how, and how much I move, and my committment to better health. It is always easier to criticize someone else's outsides than honestly assess our own insides. Report
I am so glad that I took the time to read this and then everyone's response to it. I want to thank you, indygirl, for writing this blog. I also want to thank everyone who commented. It was an eye opener that there is such a strong anti fat feeling from some of the members on this site.

When I was in my teens I was very overweight. On one particular day I had been shopping and walked by a gym that just opened at the far end of the strip mall I was shopping in. I had a bag of oreo cookies that I was asked to pick up. While standing and looking at the signage a man, probably an employee, asked if I wanted to enter a draw for a free membership.

I was 15 years old, overweight with pimples. The fact that a man was talking to me kicked my shyness and ackwardness into high gear, so I shook my head no. I'm sure his comment "Yeah, that's right, go home and eat your oreos" was meant to be helpful. Like come on, don't eat that, please see that it is killing you. Instead, I used those oreos to stuff the shame.

I do not blame him. I know it was my choice. However, I can honestly say that I would not have eaten an entire bag of cookies in 30 minutes if he had not made his helpful comment.

Some people just need to learn what healthy eating and active lifestyles look like. Some of them may be very overweight, some are barely overweight.

Other people have incredibly unhealthy relationships to food. I was one of these people. I am still a work in progress,

I do not want something I say to "help" someone make the same decision I made that day. I try to be respectful. I try to only offer comments when invited. I try not to give advice, but to speak from my personal experience. I speak up when I see someone making inappropriate comments. I do not buy the magazies that speculate on whether this actress has gained wieght or that one is "scary skinny". Most of all, if I have nothing nice to say, I try not to say anything. Report
It's a real problem, even for an obese person to think negatively about people who are noticeably larger than they are. I've been working hard and have lost 69 pounds in 11 months and sometimes get impatient with those I've left behind, because I forget just how fatiguing it was to carry those 69 pounds and how I didn't pay the slightest attention to what I ate and seldom about how much of it I consumed. I try to encourage those I see who are at an earlier stage in the process than I am and let them know that it can be done, but it can be frustrating to deal with those who continue trying to follow fad diets and refuse to altar their caloric intake the rest of the time they are not following a fad diet. My neighbor and I were the same weight last summer, I even got him to join SP, but I don't think he ever did a thing after joining. Report
It does seem that obesity is the last acceptable prejudice. There will always be people who bolster their own self-esteem at the expense of others. At the same time it seems that people have become more excepting of their own weight problem and don't recognize that they are overweight. They wear the same tight styles as slim people stretched over their bodies and are not embarressed that every roll is outlined. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or bad. The fashion industry is fostering this attitude by designing clothes for the overweight (that's good) but it amazes me when stylists on fashion networks pull overweight women aside and tell them that their cloths are to big, then strap them into tight clothes that are straining at the seams! Are we closing our eyes to our weight problems because we can wear the same revealing clothes as slim people? Report
I don't think people should be made fun of for their size, but people should be called out on their unhealthy choices. It is rarely ever an issue with genetics, but much more commonly a lifestyle choice that lead them to that direction. That is not to say that they explicitly chose to be fat, but there needs to be an acknowledgement that for someone to get to a point of obesity, they have to have made very bad choices to get there.

Lots of skinny people have unhealthy habits too and develop problems due to this. Nobody should get a free pass of making bad decisions.

The solution is not to stigmatize these people and tell them they are lazy and stupid for making these decisions, but rather making them acknowledge that they have made unhealthy choices, and help people educate one another about healthy alternatives. Report
Hey Wildflower,
Thanks for answering my "asinine question" that those three plates at the buffet were for your husband and 2 kids. GREAT ANSWER! Whatever you have to tell yourself.
I'll say it again: "We are all adults and we make our own choices."
I choose not to go to buffets. I choose to exercise and eat healthy.
And it was a rhetorical question. Report
I agree with this article, for the most part. I disagree that people who choose to be fat are going to deal with dire consequences. When are people going to learn that fat does not equal unhealthy, and thin certainly does not equal healthy? If we are going to be a culture of personal responsibility, let people be who they are and deal with the consequences, IF any. If someone chooses not to hop on the bandwagon of the so-called "healthy lifestyle," respect them!!! And don't try to encourage them to make healthier choices (according to you), and don't try to scare them into thinking they are going to die. And if someone does choose to lose weight, let them do it in a way that works for them. It's important to not make fun of people and treat them as less than human beings. It's also important to respect people and let them be who they are and live with the choices they make. Report
Gimme a break. Does being overweight make you stronger because you have to deal with ridicule? Sure. If you weren't overweight would someone probably find something else to ridicule you for? Sure. I am overweight and I don't treat overweight people any differently when I meet them or interact with them, but you are ultimately responsible for your own health and your childrens health. We need to stop being so PC and nicey nice. Overweight people are out of control and keep making unhealthy choices because they're easier than working out, cooking at home, etc. I know, because I was the same way. Report
This is so true of how other people can hurt you to the core! However, when I know that I am doing something about my health, and I realize it will take time, I honestly don't care what comments they make. It only shows how cruel they can be!! I just pray for them, and ask God to forgive them. Report
Well, how I deal with that sort of stigma is that i just hold my head up high. I get my manicures and pedicures just like the next woman (whether they are skinny or plus size). I know that I'm beautiful inside and out. I show that in my everyday routine. I wear nice clothes and shoes. I wear makeup to special occasions. What I'm trying to get at is that you have to love yourself first before you can make that transformation on your body. When you are at peace with yourself, it does not matter what others think about you. Because eventually they will think you are something special too. You just have to show it. Report
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