Sunday, December 21, 2008

Overweight and Prejudice

Ever since my son decided to make a stomach-bypass, I have found it easier to keep my diet. And now that he has been home for several days, I find it easier still. Its hard to pile your plate up when someone else in the house is currently surviving on (post-op) “meals” of 6 tablespoons of pureed food .
But it all makes me pause, wondering about how the world views overweight. I want to lose weight because I want to live longer, be able to do more, feel stronger. And I know that my current state is the result of choices I’ve made.
But what makes me really upset sometimes is the attitude I feel sometimes from thin people. [Like the lady who once told me “You know, you are really fat.” (As if I didn’t know….)]
We all have our shortcomings. Some of us hate technology. Others are not so good at expressing themselves. Some people are afraid of heights, and some are loathe to speak in public. Some people are angry people who are hard to get along with. The list goes on and on. These shortcomings are often exasperating for others who don’t share them. But normally we try to understand, and be sensitive.
However, along with this, much of humankind are people who feel “better” than anyone who has shortcomings that they do not possess. And as for our own shortcomings, we “understand” it.
The person who fears dogs remembers the huge dog that knocked them down as a toddler, the person who hates technology understands often the things that led to it, as well as the present circumstances that contribute to the unwillingness to change.
But being overweight has the disadvantage that EVERYONE sees your shortcoming. There is no hiding it. Most other shortcomings are neither readily viewable nor obvious to the next person on the bus. It is also a fight against the body’s survival instincts (which causes hunger as fat is burned) as well as any contributing physiological factors. The smoker can decide not to buy cigarettes, but the overweight person (especially if they live with others), can only partly limit the amount of temptation that they come in contact with.
I am not saying that overweight people shouldn’t try and loose weight. I think we should, if we can, because of the health risks. But sometimes I feel very peeved by the condescending attitudes I get from people. Do these strangers have any idea of the battles I fight daily, of the numerous things that make dieting difficult for me? Does it ever cross their mind that I am something other than “fat”?


Anonymous said...

My friend, who is a very capable lawyer, recently asked me if I thought being overweight would hurt her in her search for a new job. I honestly told her, maybe. And unfortunately, it's held against women more than men, and it's not fair.

Anonymous said...

Not fair to either the men or the women, of course, is what I meant.

rickismom said...

Studies have shown that overweight is definately a factor which hurts one in hiring.

mother in israel said...

I've been thinking about this issue from a different angle. We want people to be accepted for who they are, whether they are fat, disabled, etc. We also want people to accept themselves and not feel like failures because they overeat or have other bad habits. But with the epidemic of obesity, I've noticed a trend toward accepting overweight as the norm, say, in an illustration in a children's magazine. I understand the motivation behind this, but it disturbs me because of the health implications.
At any rate, I believe that the prevention of obesity must start very young, even before birth, and blaming people or judging them for being overweight is counter-productive.