Look, I know I’m big, overweight, husky, or whatever you want to call me. I’ve been struggling with my weight since I was sixteen years old and, unless a miracle takes place, this is something I’ll have to deal with for the rest of my life. I am currently over 200 pounds (especially after some scrumptious Thanksgiving and Christmas meals) so it’s not a shock when my name gets lumped together with words like “fat” and “unhealthy.” No, I don’t plan on staying this way forever but, for now, my body is considered obese by every standard. I’m not blind to this fact and neither is anyone else that falls into the category of overweight.
Amazingly enough, I’ve been skinny before — a few times, actually — and am still surprised at the different ways people treat me based on my size. When I was skinny, I got a lot of “Do you ever eat?” and “You can’t possibly understand what I deal with on a daily basis.” And now that I’m overweight (again), I’m facing a plethora of different issues. Some are done innocently and by well-meaning friends, but others not so much. Trying not to piss off fat people? Start here…
1. Don’t call me skinny. She’s a friend — one that I hadn’t seen in a while — and in the months that passed between us meeting for coffee, I had packed on over twenty pounds. I was aware of it and it didn’t take a genius to notice either. I assumed we would see each other, hug, and begin our usual routine of catching up on jobs, relationships, and families, but that didn’t happen. She opened the door, looked me over and exclaimed rather excitedly, “Oh wow! Look how skinny you are! Come here, skinny girl, and give me a hug!”
I stood there, stuffed into my size sixteen yoga pants, completely stumped and confused as to what the hell she was talking about. I managed to mutter an “Uhhh, okay” as she attempted to wrap her skinny arms around my large upper half, and we commenced our usual conversation, acting like the words she just spoke weren’t complete and utter crap.
I know you think it’s a compliment and that you’re “making my day,” but really all you’re doing is telling me everything else that is about to come out of your mouth is complete bullhockey. And that you’ll say anything to make me feel better, even if it’s not the truth. If you don’t have something nice to say, you don’t have to make it up. That’s not what friends do. I’d rather we not discuss my weight (unless I bring it up) than to have you try to make it seem like the obvious isn’t real. You mean well, but it’s not cool, lady.
2. Don’t assume I’m not trying to get healthy… And don’t assume I am. I’m not one of those people who thinks someone is healthy at 300 pounds, but I do believe we don’t know everyone’s story and you shouldn’t assume that just because someone’s overweight, they must sit on their large ass eating bonbons all day. Losing weight and getting healthy takes a lot longer than it does to pack on the pounds. So, maybe, instead of seeing someone for their size, just get to know them as a person. And stop judging people by their body.
3. Don’t believe the mannequins. After searching a number of retailers for the perfect outfit, I finally broke down and went to Lane Bryant to get a dress for the company Christmas party. It was hard shopping at a store for plus-size women, but I was desperate to find something that looked good on me at my current size. I tried on literally everything in the store and nothing looked good on me. I was starting to think my body was misshapen or disfigured in some way that made absolutely every dress, sweater, and sweater dress look hideous on me. I mean, they looked good on the mannequins, so what the heck is the matter with me?! Then I took a good look at this supposedly lifelike version of a plus-sized model and noticed she was probably a size 8 and the dress was strategically pinned in the back. Rude. Total lies. No wonder that sweater dress made me look like SpongeBob’s grandmother.
4. Don’t say I have a pretty face. I can’t even count how many times someone has told me I have a pretty face. And it’s ALWAYS when I’m overweight. I’ve been 120 pounds and I’ve been 220 pounds, and never, ever did someone tell me I had a pretty face when I was a size 2. It just never happened. Basically, what you’re saying is, “Even though the rest of you looks like a worn out bean bag, at least your face has held up.” Maybe that’s not what you’re trying to say, but that’s what we hear. Stop it.
5. Don’t hold me back. Anyone who has tried to lose weight, knows it can be a bit of a roller coaster. We gain sixty pounds, lose ten, then gain five more. And, each time the coaster goes down, we buy new clothes and make new resolutions. When I was on my latest weight-loss journey (before my third pregnancy), I was super strict in what I put in my mouth. My diet consisted of large amounts of vegetables, some fruit, and five ounces of chicken a day. Every once in a while I would allow myself a small amount of quinoa or other starch. Needless to say, my weight was practically falling off my body and I went from a size 18 to a size 10 in a few months time. I was so excited and immediately emptied out every drawer and closet of clothes that were too big for me. As I started stuffing my fat clothes into a large garbage bag, I heard a voice from behind me say, “What are you doing with those?” When I told my husband I was getting the clothes ready to take to Goodwill, I saw the look of doubt cross his face before the next words ever came out of his mouth. “Maybe we should hang onto them for a little while longer. You know, just in case.”
For those of you with friends or family who have lost weight or have reached some other goal in their life, I can’t express this enough: DON’T HOLD US BACK. Yes, you mean well and, yes, we MAY end up gaining all the weight back after a while, but that’s not your concern. Your only job is to be supportive, encouraging, and loving us through our journey…and not to remind us of past failures.