Thursday, November 10, 2011

NaBloPoMo Day 10: Fat People Know They're Fat

Tricia's "I'm Hurting For You" post yesterday really made me stop and think. Judging from the 64 comments (and counting) on that post, it touched a nerve for a lot of people.  She asks why, when she was 278 pounds, none of her family and friends talked to her about her weight:
Did I know I was fat? Absolutely yes! 
Did I need someone to tell me? Emphatically yes!
Oh sure, it wasn't going to be new information for me. I KNEW I was obese. I knew exactly how much I needed to lose to be considered only "overweight" and I knew to the pound how much I needed to lose to be considered "healthy". With a past in healthcare I knew all the co-morbidity's.
I had all the text book information but dammit I needed someone who LOVED me to tell me I was out of control. To show they cared, to acknowledge the issue, to do SOMETHING. Every bite was a cry for help, help I never received. 
My first thought was how lucky she was.  When I was in my twenties and at my highest weight, the number one thing on my mind at all times was my weight.  Not only was I depressed and demoralized by how large I had gotten, I was constantly worried that someone would say something to me about it yet again, and that I would have to explain that I was trying to lose weight, it just wasn't working very well.  I could count on at least one lecture from my father every time I saw him about how "if I were young, I would never let myself get fat," and almost every time I saw one of my sisters, I would get hints that Weight Watchers had worked really well for them. At the time I was resentful and panicky at the thought of these conversations.

Tricia's post aside, fat people know that they are fat.  They may be in denial, which is a constant effort to surpress that knowledge and try to do whatever they can to keep other people from noticing, but they know it. All the tips on "dressing slim," suggesting that if you wear the right size earrings, no one will notice the size of your butt, are an attempt to hide from the kinds of conversations that Tricia seems to be saying that she needed.

Later in the post, though, I think she gets to the heart of the issue. She didn't want someone to acknowledge that she was fat, she wanted someone to acknowledge that she was hurting inside.
The dirty little secret behind being morbidly obese is you don’t get that way simply because you like food, you get that way because you're hurting over something. You aren't feeding your body, lord knows you don't actually need that much food, you're feeding your hurt. I know that better than most. So while weight is a symptom, I’m really addressing the hurt. ...I see you, I acknowledge there is a problem. I'm hurting because I know you're hurting. I love you and I'm here to help you in any way I can. 
I can relate to that.  I remember in those hopeless days the feelings that if I could only fix my weight problem, everything else would be better.  I would berate myself for ever letting myself get so big, and I felt helpless to change the situation.  When I look back on that time in my life, though, food was the only way I knew how to cope with some pretty big problems that I didn't have the skills to handle.  If someone could have reached out to me then with a willing ear and maybe some ideas on how to work on the bigger picture, I might have felt gratitude.

Instead, they talked about diets and exercise, and all I felt was resentment.

I would like to tell the readers who saw Tricia's post and felt empowered to confront the fat people in their lives that if they do, they should be ready to help with big, hairy, ugly issues.  And I'm not talking about the person in question's thighs.  The problems they have are probably directly proportional to the amount of excess weight they are carrying, and unless you're ready to really hear and help them handle those bigger issues, you should probably just forget it.


  1. Ouch! Your post really resonated with me, and I agree entirely. After being bullied, insulted, shamed, ridiculed, ignored (I could go on, but I think you get the picture) every day from the time I was five about my weight, I didn't need to hear about diet and exercise.

    I had to figure out how to deal with the bigger issues on my own. It took a long time, but I eventually worked through it.

    So yeah, unless you have something kind and constructive to say, just don't say anything!

  2. "Did I know I was fat? Absolutely yes!
    Did I need someone to tell me? Emphatically yes!"

    What I needed was someone – *who loved me unconditionally* – to give me the space to heal. In my family, me being fat was something they were concerned about ONLY because they thought it reflected poorly on them. Big difference.


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07