There are so many stereotypes and assumptions that come to mind when many people see a fat person. A few maybe that the person is lazy, or they eat a lot of unhealthy foods and don’t care about their health. However, like every other stereotyped group, this may not be true for many overweight people.
A Healthy Start
When I was a child, fitness was always important in my household. My mom and brother used to go out for a morning jog together, and my sister and I would work out to fitness shows or videos. Often, my entire family would go out for an evening brisk walk on the beach. My dad never wore the right shoes for the occasion. He usually complained about sand getting into his shoes after our walk. But we all enjoyed the workout due to walking on sand adding to the intensity of it.
When I was a teenager, I lived too far from my high school to be assigned a school bus. So, my mom drove me in the mornings, and I would have to walk home, about 3 miles, on most days. After I got home, I would then do a strength training workout. Needless to say, as a teen I was very fit.
Falling Off of the Bandwagon
However, as an adult, I am no longer fit. In fact, I am fat. I am very aware of this. You might be wondering how I became overweight. Well, it was a combination of things. I had a hard time doing well in college. I would later find out it was because I had undiagnosed learning disabilities, but the stress and disappointment of repeatedly trying to do better, but failing anyway caused me to become depressed. I just couldn’t bring myself to work out as I used to.
And to make a bad situation worse, my brother died unexpectedly while he was working out at a gym. The doctors said they believed he died because his blood pressure went up too high while he was weight-lifting and it caused him to have a brain aneurysm. My brother was always healthy and took his health seriously. His passing caused me to have a phobia of gyms or working out in general for many years.
Abused By “Friends”
Despite me knowing I am overweight and trying to lose it, I find that many people in my life have taken it upon themselves to inform me about my body. Rude and disparaging comments are thrown my way, not by strangers, but from people I considered my close friends. It honestly surprised me how awful some people could be. I’ve never treated people differently based on their size, so it never occurred to me before that other people did.
Three times others felt the need to remind me I was fat
The first time I realized that my weight bothered people was when two former coworkers were recounting an interaction with our boss, where our boss remarked how skinny they were. The two of them then started to argue that the other person was more slender. I then stated that both of them were equally skinny. Despite the fact that they both repeatedly described themselves and each other as “skinny” my saying the word triggered another coworker who was in the room. He then went on a tirade that they were not “skinny,” but “fit.” And then emphasized that they had to work out to be their size. The interaction was so aggressive the room fell silent after his outburst.
Another time, a friend and I just finished having a great time hanging out and were on our way home. I had recently moved into a new apartment that was closer to our job. I told her that I was excited about how close my new home was to the job because I could walk to work sometimes. Her response was, “Yeah, get some exercise.” I was so shocked and angered by her response I didn’t say a thing the rest of the ride home.
A third incident happened at my job’s holiday party. At the time I was struggling financially and hadn’t had anything to eat that day. So, I loaded up my plate with food because that was the only food I was going to eat. Another coworker saw my plate and said, “Wow! That’s a lot of food!” I responded, “Yeah, it is.” And then went ahead and ate some. I found it interesting that she didn’t comment on other coworkers who filled their plates and even went for seconds.
A few other rude moments
I could honestly go on. There were times when I stated that I was trying to lose weight and right after people would invite me to go out to eat fattening things. When I reminded them I was on a diet, they just chuckled or said that I could start it the next day. Or the times people would just stare at my stomach as if the fat on my body was contagious and disgusting. Then there was the time when I told a “friend” that I was going to bring my elliptical from my mom’s place to mine, she remarked, “Do you actually plan to use it?” And on many occasions, people made the assumption that I was overweight my entire life.
People Love to Judge and Assume
I’ve learned a few things from these experiences. One of them being that people love to judge and assume things about each other. It doesn’t matter what it is, people love to compartmentalize themselves and others in arbitrary categories. These categories allow us to make assumptions that feel like givens or absolute truths to some. Most people in this day and age like to be knowledgeable about any and every subject. So if we make generalizations about people based on appearance, age, or country of origin, that feels just as good as knowing for some.
I was never asked if I was always overweight, it was just a given in their minds. It never even occurred to them that I might have had a reason. In their minds, I was fat because I was lazy and don’t care about my health. Each of my failed attempts to lose weight validated their bias.
However, the truth was that their comments made me even more depressed. Which in turn caused me to not have the energy to try to exercise. I think some of them thought that shaming me for my size would motivate me to lose weight faster, but it actually had the opposite effect.
One day, when I was recounting these occurrences with my family, I just blurted out, “Why can’t they just mind their own bodies?” I realized then that “mind your business, mind your body” really should be a mainstream slogan. Because trust me when I say fat people already know that they are fat, and they don’t need you to remind them of that fact.
Sometimes all we need is for someone to believe in us
What I went through made me remember something that I almost forgot about from my childhood. When my brother was in high school one of his closest friends was overweight. He decided to lose weight and no one believed in him and they made fun of him for thinking that he could. But when he told my brother his goals, my brother not only believed in him but encouraged him. From then on my brother and his friend would workout together regularly.
Then one day my family and I saw how much weight he lost. He looked incredible! We were so happy for him. That’s when he told me that other people made fun of him, but my brother was the only one to believe he could do it. And he kept the weight off too.
When I saw him at my brother’s funeral he was still pretty fit, even though it was over a decade since his initial weight loss. The power of positivity and supporting a friend, instead of tearing them down, stood the test of time.
Getting Back on the Wagon
I’m slowly starting to get back to my old healthy habits. I’m working out again and eating healthier. I bought a Fitbit to track my steps and a scale to weigh myself. I am seeing some improvement. I’ve already lost a little over two pounds in a week!
I have family members and real friends who encourage me, not berate me. I am so much happier now and can’t wait to get back to the level of fitness I had as a teenager. Whenever the pandemic is over and I’m finally allowed back into the office, I know I’ll look like a whole new woman.