***I apologize in advance for rambling on (and on and on) in this post. I've been thinking about what to write for a few days now, and I can't seem to put my thoughts into a cohesive essay.***
This weekend I was subject to some written abuse by a member of my husband's family. It was unprovoked and shocking. Apparently, this person hasn't liked me for a long time and all it took was a meme I posted on my Facebook page to set her off. It seems that most of her animosity for me comes from the fact that I'm fat. Her attack was peppered with the word- "FAT." Sure, she had some other things to say, but none bothered me more than this because I can't deny it.
I'm no stranger to ridicule stemming from my appearance. I was never skinny, even as a child, and people can be cruel. The names have run the gamut from "Shamu" to "Fat Ass" to "Wide Load." Most of the time the taunts came from pre-adolescent boys when I was a kid. I haven't had to deal with name calling in years. No, for the last 15 years the abuse has been internal. I hated myself. Looking in the mirror was difficult. I've married into a family full of thin women- I am by far the heaviest one at our gatherings. I've been the biggest in the bridal party for several weddings. It's both motivating and discouraging. I want to be one of the thin, fit ones. I will continue to work to get there. But for every pound I lose, there are still 20 more to go. Clothes shopping is a terrible chore. Nothing fits, and if it does, it almost never looks good. Almost every time I leave the store on the verge of tears. If, miraculously, I leave the store with something I'm happy with I will definitely change my mind once I get home and see what it "really" looks like. Also, am I the only one that looks in the mirror before I leave the house thinking I look pretty decent only to see photos later that prove I looked like a fat mess?! This is a cruel, cruel phenomenon.
I originally wanted to make a "word cloud" of all the derogatory names for fat people for the top of this post (unfortunately, I couldn't get the site to load) so I took to google to add to my arsenal. I found an old blog post called "Should we be mean to fat people? You bet." In it the author argues that negative reinforcement can only help. He equates the taunting of obese people to the anti-smoking campaigns that have become so popular in the past few years.
There are good arguments for being mean to fat people. Like smoking and riding a motorcycle without a helmet, obesity is a choice that drives up health costs for all of us. And there’s an even better argument: Because it works. In 1950, roughly half the population smoked. It’s now fallen below 20%. Why? Because of a panoply of mean-spirited anti-smoking measures, from taxation to advertising to social stigmatization to good old fashioned scolding. Humans are social creatures. We can’t help it. We care what others think. Make something uncool enough and we will stop doing it. Currently 2/3 of adult Americans are overweight and 1/3 are obese. If we are mean to fat people as we are to smokers, could we get that down below 20% as we have smoking?Maybe I'm naive since I'm not a smoker, but I don't see those anti-smoking campaigns as mean. Blunt- yes, but not mean. I also believe that smoking is more of a choice than obesity. I agree that 99% of the time, obesity is the result of decades of poor choices- the choice to eat fast food instead of whole fruits and vegetables, to sleep in instead of exercising, to watch TV with a bowl of buttered popcorn instead of jogging to the local farmer's market for some fresh grapes. I disagree with the author's assumption that people are happy being fat and need a reality check. As if informing someone that they are obese and it isn't healthy will be shocking. They will say "You know- it never occurred to me to try and change. By golly- you're a genius!" And the "meanie" will be credited with changing someone's life since, after all, he was doing it out of love. Because, apparently, fat people need to be ridiculed for the benefit of all.
No, most of the people I know who are overweight aren't happy about it. They aren't sitting down at night planning how to get in the most calories and the least exercise the next day. They aren't walking into the plus size department in glee at all the fabulous frocks they get to wear! Nope, they are more likely standing in front of a mirror crying because nothing fits right and they aren't quite sure when it happened. Most of them are trying to do something about it. How does he know the person he's nagging about being overweight hasn't already lost 50lbs and is working on the rest?
I don't think negative reinforcement is the way to go.
I think this comment on the post says it better than I could:
To Bea- I love you. :-)
I'm certain the person who was calling me out this weekend wasn't doing it out of love. She knew exactly what to say to hurt me and said it over and over. After being upset about it for a little while I realized something important: being fat does not make me bad. As much as she would like to believe it and as often as I tell myself how horrible and gross I am- it doesn't make it true. If being overweight is the only thing I have to apologize for- than I would say I'm a good person. I'm smart, caring, nice and loving. I would never launch a personal attack on something because I disagree with something they say. I will do anything for my friends and family. I don't aim to hurt people, if I do it's entirely accidental and I will apologize and feel guilt.
I will lose this weight and she will have nothing to say that can hurt me.
Thanks for reading!
PS- I have decided to moderate all comments since I don't know who reads this blog and I don't want anyone posting inflammatory statements.
PPS- I decided to link this post for Project 10 this week. Please visit Stephanie's Mommy Brain for more information on Project 10!