Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Rant From A Formerly Fat Person

Something has been bugging for a long time now and I think it's time I said it. Or I'll choke on it. My issue is about weight gain, and people, sometimes even strangers, who feel compelled to tell you:
a) You've gained weight
b) You should go on a diet/start an exercise regime.

Let me clarify: I'm not fat. I'm currently in good control of my weight and eating habits, and have been for 2 years now. I wear size 14-16 clothes and have done so for years. Ironically, that's the size I was when I was 17 years old 25 years ago. Physical labour in my garden and walking gives me ample exercise. And when I run/walk an occasional 5km or 10km race, or go hiking, my body copes well, thanks.

But, I WAS a chubby child who turned into a chubby teenager who turned into an overweight young woman. And you know what hurt me the most during all those years when I felt I was not in control of my body? Not the weight itself, which was not healthy for my overall well-being. The greatest hurt came from inconsiderate busybodies who felt compelled to tell me I was fat and should lose weight.

Here's my message:

You're not my friend ( or you would know that discussing my weight is the fastest way to offend me). So why do you think I care what you think about my body? And what business is it of yours whether I have gained a few kilos/need to go on a diet/need to start an exercise regime? And what would you say if I told you that:
a) your hair is ugly
b) you need to go to the hairdresser right now to fix it?
Is your ugly hair my business?

Fat people are not stupid. They know they are fat.
Fat people are not blind. They see themselves in the mirror everyday, and know they are fat. They don't need you to tell them that they are fat.
Fat people can read. They see the same health warnings you do. They read the same magazines and books and newspapers that explain how they can lose the weight and get healthy. They don't need you to tell them what to do.

You think telling a fat person is tough love and will get them to act? Not it's not. That person already has someone who loves them; who tells them uncomfortable truths. And judging by your words, I suspect they don't think that person is you. Your words are the reason they need comfort. They are the reason they spend sleepless nights asking God why he didn't give them different bodies. And sometimes, God help us, your words are the reason they hate their bodies more, and try to find solace in food. Viscious cycle, and your words sometimes contribute to it.

You know what makes me even angrier? When an adult person says the same things outlined above to a child. Children are helpless against us adults. They are smaller, more vulnerable and can't fight back. They need us to love them, care for them, validate them. So when an adult acquitance says to a child "You're so fat!" I have to ask myself, to what purpose are you saying this? Your words are not words of love or comfort. They are certainly not teaching this child how to live a healthy and fulfilling life. You're not giving this child tools to help them navigate the tough terrain of life. So what's your point?

Were you were just in the mood to punch something and this child was convenient? Do you feel better about yourself now, now that the fat child has slunk off to cry on his /her mother's shoulder?

So what got me to this place where I just had to rant? Yesterday Baby and I bumped into an acquitance. Baby is tall for an 11 year old (more than 1.5 metres) and she's chubby (she'll lose the baby fat. I did). And this acquitance, a friend of a friend of one of the mothers from Baby's school, felt compelled to remark on Baby's weight. Of course she was hurt and felt self-conscious afterwards. I just wanted to smash something. Preferably this woman's face.

Instead I blogged about it, because I know there are many more people like this acquitance out there. And I wanted to say STOP. YOUR WORDS DON'T HELP. Your words steal a child's confidence. And sometimes, the damage you do lasts until adulthood.

I'm doing my best to make sure Baby knows confidence comes from deep within yourself, not from other people telling you who/what/how you should be. I'm also confident that pre-teen weight gain is temporary, and she'll grow into her beautiful, healthy body.

But many overweight people never learn this fact, and negative words simply aggravate an already bad situation. So, the next time you meet a fat person, think before you speak. Their weight is none of your business.


Gaynor said...

Spot on Damaria. Comments about weight enrage me too. And in general what do adults get from saying horrid things to children?

Wenchy said...

People are idiots. Honestly...

Corinna said...

I sooo got this Damaria. I do not even know what size I am anymore as I only buy stretchy clothes, but even recently someone said to me, you should really lose weight you know. It would help your joints. As you say, do people think I have got to the age of 61 without knowing a fact or two about being overweight? Seems they must think that, or why tell me as if I do not know. I just say now that I am this age, this size, this weight and I am not about to try extreme dieting anymore. I believe that my weight is as high as it is from starting to diet at the age of 20 with Weight Watchers, when I was a 14/16 and my husband told me I was fat. Since then I have been up and down, and each time it goes up it hits a higher ceiling. I am not wishing to get any bigger, so I am not dieting anymore. I eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegies, rarely rarely a cake, not lots of bread, do not drink much at all, do not smoke, and so on, and my maternal greatgrandmother was my size and shape. I was a large baby, a skinny kid. My sister was a medium baby, plump kid - she is now very slim, to the point that my mother is always worrying about her. I have suffered comments and suggestions down the years and I am very conscious of my body, but a couple of weeks ago a younger guy told me, out of the blue, in front of his wife that he thought I was a very sexy and clever woman. Due to being self conscious about my body I am not good at accepting complements but I felt good and I thanked him.
Even larger people [I hate the word fat] have something about them that is good, be it their hair, their eyes, their skin etc. Pay a compliment instead of being critical of their weight. As Damaria says, my weight is none of your business. If I am your friend, remember why you became my friend, what it was about me that attracted you, that you liked, still like. I would never dream of going up to some really thin person and telling them they need to put on weight. It would be the height of bad manners and impertinent, so why would you feel that you can do something similar to me?

Barb said...

ÜÜÜÜ thank you - you rant beautifully

Anonymous said...

Whoo hoo - you go Damaria! I have to agree completely. I'm fat (very fat), and what people say or do has never bothered me (I find a sense of humour helps a lot), and if they try and pick on me, I'm NOT shy to tell turn the tables.

I have a child who used to be fat (from about age 8 to age 12). As he grew older, he started to lose weight and now at 13, is still losing weight. I experienced the same things as you - people just HAD to remark on his weight (esp. my own mother). It hurt him and he became extremely self-conscious about his outer (he still is). He's the youngest of three with his two older siblings being super-slim, so he's lived in their shadow all his life (for the record, while I believe all my kids are beautiful, he IS in fact the best looking). However, he has developed other strong personality traits - he's intelligent, kind, sweet, patient... always puts others at ease.

From what I've seen and experienced, perhaps the fat business is helping turn my 'baby' and your Baby into gorgeous human beings (both inside and out).


Damaria Senne said...

thanks ladies, for your comments.
@corinna - you're so right. it's much more constructive to encourage those traits that we like in people, rather than criticising.
@Deb - it's sad when the person who puts your child down like is family. I had an aunt like that, and my experience with her made me very determined never to let people determine who I am and how I should feel about myself. In a sense, she contributed ( A LOT) towards my character-building:-)

po said...

OMG I totally agree with you. I have never understood why people bother about commenting on weight, but especially with children. I wonder how many of those comments have led to an anorexic or bulimic child? For me it was a parent's comment about another child's weight that triggered my eating disorder. And when I later gained weight it was people's comments "oh you have gained weight" (oh really? I didn't notice. Thank you for pointing that out. Not.) that made me conscious of needing to lose it again asap.

Sally said...

Weight is such big issue, it works both ways though. I have a very thin daughter and people have actually asked me if I feed her. Like i would really be starving her on purpose

Weight either way should be no one else's business. I hate people who think they have the right to comment. My ex told me to go running 2 weeks after my son was born as I was looking too fat.

Trish Donmall said...

I'm so with you and you rant so well Damaria. The old adage "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me" certainly isn't true when it comes to weight and children. If I was the mother she may well be making problems at home that she doesn't yet know about. At school I remember this really skinny mom (you know the kind I mean) and I'm not joking her daughter was the largest at school.....because the mother was always going on about weight and what you should and shouldn't eat etc. Whenever the daughter got out without her mother she'd stuff herself with all the unhealthy things her mom was always telling her about.

I'm also overweight, I know it and I do try and eat health. Not having a car means I walk often which is also good for me, now if I could just convince myself to do the sit ups I'd be aware. I don't need some busy body telling me I'm overweight, so butt out!

Laura said...

I am having this same issue with Caemron at the moment. He is a little chubby and people comment on it - my dad often mentions it and it drives me mad!

I was an overweight teenager and have learnt to love my body - eventhough there are times, like at the moment, where I feel aweful in my skin - one person implies something and it still stings!

Damaria Senne said...

@po - I also wonder how many young people enter the unending cycle of dieting and yoyo weight gain/loss, when they were actually OK to start with.
@when I was a child, ver skinny kids were teased just as much as fat kids. so yes, it does cut both ways.
@Trish - sad how the mother brought about the very thing she was trying to prevent.
@Laura - would your father not listen if you explained that his way is not helping; that there is a better way?

FatBurningFurnace said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Cassie said...

Ah Sam. People can be so unthinking sometimes not realising that one comment can change a person's life for ever.

Please give VN a big hug from us and tell here she is absotively posilutely gorgeous and not to pay heed to some overbearing person's remarks.

You know, when Michelle was a little girl she used to be really dark - she was a real little tarbaby! And some of the kids on her bus used to ask here what nationality she was. Even some of her teachers - unbelievable! She used to come home telling me she wants to be white like me - coz without a tan I look like a flour bag!

I told her then that one day when she as 16 these same kids that are mocking her today are going to be dying to have skin like her - and it came true. Now we can laugh about it but at the time Michelle was really upset about these remarks.

So, just think of something that you can tell Baby that will lift her spirits and realise that one day she will be a beautiful swan!


Damaria Senne said...

thanks Jona.the sad thing is that she is a very attractive child, and I can't wait for her to grow into her body so I can watch the busybodies swallow their tongues when they see what she turns into. But as you know, it's the now that concerns her.

Corne Basson said...


I hear u... I've been fat my whole life, well actually only since my parents lost everything when I was about 12 and I started eating to compensate for being uprooted to a new home, friends, etc. My mother and sister are both beautiful and thin, so people noticed them. I however have been blessed with a warm personality and wonderful thick red hear, so people REMEMBER me! And not for my weight! I recently found a whole lot of my old high school friends on facebook and was surprised about how many of the "skinny" ones got big after having children. So I'm not alone! And most don't remember my sister, only me because of my hair.

I have a wonderful husband who never says I am fat, as he eats right along side me! We LOVE food, the texture, the tastes - so my eating to feel better has gone over into an honest enjoyment of food, especially since hubby is a great cook. Now my mother and sister are still beautiful and I'm still the fat one, but I've learned to accept myself and try just to control it. Loosing weight is a major battle for me - just trying to not pick up more is easier.

My eldest daughter is slim and tall, and instead of telling her "you'll get fat if you eat so much" (like my mother told me, thereby speaking the condemnation into my life), I tell her that she should be active and try her best not to be fat like us. She loves fresh fruit and vegetable (as I do) so I give this instead of sweets. And I try to teach her moderation, a word I learned too late. My second daughter is a bit chubby, but then she's only 18 months old! We're trying to get her to be as active as her sister and to only speak positives into their lives. Hopefully this overweight thing stops here!

I was always very obsessed with my weight (not being able to get any off) when I was living at home. Since marrying my husband (who I met when I'd FINALLY dropped about 10kg's), I've been more focussed on the things he loves about me. He compliments me on tiny things and has a good eye for clothes to flatter my (big) body. Who wouldn't want someone like that in their lives?? Strangely enough, we were sitting last night, discussing the fact that we REALLY should do something about our respective weights, as we seem to just have GAINED again this winter. Come on summer, I need fruit and water!

So, my point is this: Surround yourself with people who love you and see the REAL you, and the rest will follow. And teach you children what you know now about weight gain! And the next time someone makes a weight comment, please direct them to the nearest hairdresser!

Tamara said...

Someone (an acquaintance, not friend or family) nastily pointed out to me I had gained weight when I was in grade 10. I see that as the start of the eight-year battle I fought with an awful eating disorder. I will happily smash someone's face in if I hear her talking about weight to a kid.

Ordinarylife said...

What Wenchy said - some people are idiots!!!

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