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Hiding behind health

I often get the impression that telling someone they should lose weight because it’s a health issue is just a politically correct way of saying fat people disgust them. It would be nice to think that there are so many people in the world wringing their hands in concern over what that fat person on the street’s blood sugar levels must be. But I don’t see many people running around with glucometers warning fat people that they’re about to become diabetic. If someone doesn’t like fat people, I wish they’d just suck it up and say it and not hide behind the “it’s bad for your health” charade.

For example, I don’t like cigarette smoke. I think it smells gross. Whenever I visit my smoker friend in another city, the first think I do when I get home is throw all my clothes in the washer and then take a shower. That smoke smell manages stick to every fiber and every hair it brushes against, just like cat hair.

Everyone knows smoking will kill you. I would guess more people could tell you that smoking is fatal than could tell you who the Vice President is, and he just shot somebody, so he is just as potentially deadly! If someone is smoking around me, I could always say “You really shouldn’t smoke. You’re going to get cancer and/or emphysema.” But honestly, do I give a shit if some anonymous stranger is hacking up their blackened lungs 20 years from now? No. America doesn’t have socialized health insurance, so I don’t have to worry about my taxes paying for their treatment either. I just don’t want to inhale their second-hand carcinogens. So if I ask someone not to smoke around me, I just tell them “I don’t like the smell of smoke. Could you please smoke elsewhere?” I don’t pretend to care about the state of their air passageways.

If someone says “You should lose weight because it’s unhealthy,” I call bullshit, unless said person is a friend or family member who might actually have to foot the bill for my funeral arrangements or at least send a tasteful flower arrangement (fifty dollars, at least). What if tomorrow all the scientists came out and said “Oops! We were totally wrong. Being fat is actually good for your health.” Would fat people suddenly be embraced and glorified? I bet dollars to donuts that they would not. Because health really isn’t the issue here. It’s about appearances and all the power that goes along with beauty and what beauty is perceived to be.

If you think fat people are ugly or gross, just step up and admit it. We all have prejudices and the only way to start overcoming them is to face them.

ETA: Of course, if your doctor or a health professional is telling you to lose weight, they obviously get a pass. I’m talking about people who aren’t friends, family or medical professionals. Just random “guy on the street” people.

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16 Comments

Eh... not so much • March 28, 2006 at 12:33 pm

Interesting. My mother was just diagnosed with Type II diabetes. I had known this day was gonna come at some point. She’s also had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and arthritis, all complicated/brought on by her obesity. Having been obese myself (see before and during pics at http://photos.yahoo.com/ellewiz ), I knew the risks. Mom is thankfully taking her diagnosis seriously and already starting to change the way she eats. But she will be a diabetic forever.

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Amy • March 28, 2006 at 1:34 pm

Do strangers actually tell you to lose weight for the sake of your health? Personally, my main concern about the fat people is truly about their health, both physical and emotional, and their quality of life. But, I also believe that everyone has the right to make their own choices regarding those personal matters, so I keep my concerns to myself. Also, wouldn’t a person need to be living under a rock to need to be told she’s fat and that it may affect her health? Who doesn’t know that by now?

In the case of smokers, I am less concerned about their health and more concerned about my air quality. It’s more offensive to me for someone to do something that may affect my health, as opposed to do something that may affect their own. This is probably why I’m much more likely to be friends with a fat person than a smoker.

I wonder if people who advise fat people to lose weight wish it were socially acceptable to be intolerant of how a person affects the aesthetics of the world, just as how it’s now socially acceptable to be intolerant of how a person affects the air quality.

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little miss ess • March 28, 2006 at 1:59 pm

Amen, sister, amen.

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Amyt • March 28, 2006 at 2:15 pm

it seems to be all over the place lately that fat people are all unhealthy and sad and they choose to be that way because they’re too lazy to do anything about it. it’s driving me mad. why must our society equate thin with sexy and beautiful. take dawn french, she’s gorgeous and hilarious and successful and FAT. maybe i’m really just up in arms about the fat equals no self respect thing MIM said the other day.

while i was typing that one of my male customers took a long wandering glance to my chest, bet he wouldn’t if i was skinny with no tits.

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PastaQueen • March 28, 2006 at 2:16 pm

Eh… not so much – Sorry about your mom. My cousin was recently diagnosed with Type I diabetes, which has a different cause, but has certainly affected her life drastically.

Amy – I haven’t actually had a stranger come up and tell me to lose weight for my health. But I will occasionally read an article about obesity, health or whatever and there will inevitably be a quote from someone about how fat people shouldn’t be fat because it harms their health. Which is a valid point, but I always question if it’s the *only* point. It’s usually tacked on at the end, like “Oh, by the way.” There seems to be such a moral superiority about it too, much like how non-smokers can be very judgmental of smokers.

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kathryn • March 28, 2006 at 3:26 pm

Well said :)

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kim • March 28, 2006 at 7:11 pm

I guess I was “blessed” in the fact that my husband never once said “I want you to lose weight for your health” He plainly stated “I did not marry a fat woman. I don’t want to be married to a fat woman. You were not fat when I married you.” Heartless some might say but at least the man was honest. Though he would occasionly throw in a “If you weren’t overweight you probably would not be sick all the time.” A statement I constantly refuted. However, now that I have lost weight, I am hardly ever sick and when I am I recover quite quickly. So I guess he had a point.

Further on the subject of being overweight, It is quite noticeable that people treat large people differently then “average” people. I have been working downtown for 6 years and people that have previously never said boo to me now greet me quite cheerfully. Is it because my attitude has changed so that I seem more open or is it because people just think that if you are overweight you are less of a person? Perhaps it is a little of both? Whatever the reason the life of a very large woman is not easy emotionally or physically. I still feel resentment toward the checkout boy that now offers to help me out with my groceries when before he would just shove my cart at me.

I guess society (with myself allowing it) made me feel less of a person and not worthy of anything. Sorry to rant but everytime I think of someone knocking on the overweight it sends me right to my soapbox.

By the way losing the weight does have its downside…I am so full of myself sometimes that I am just the most obnoxious person ever. My husband likes to say “Its all about you isn’t it?” and I reply “Yep and it should be”.

I guess when I lost some weight I lost some humility also.

Just wanted to let you know that I am extremely impressed with your drive!!!! I also think it is awesome that you can look at your journey with a sense of pride and a sense of humor!!! Keep up the good work!!! I love reading your blog!!!

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hilly • March 28, 2006 at 9:06 pm

It is really a bad habit that people have as not all fat people are unhealthy…just like you said, an overweight person that is trying to lose weight, working out, eating well, sleeping well is probably BETTER off than a smoker who is skinny…trust me, I quit a year and a half ago and I feel so much better health wise and I am still chubbalicious!

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Kirsten • March 29, 2006 at 3:32 am

There’s been a lot of debate in the media about smoking recently, and whether there is concrete proof or not that secondhand smoke is dangerous, because Scotland has banned smoking in public enclosed spaces, starting last Sunday.

I couldn’t agree more about the ickiness of smelling of smoke. I used to work in a pub for a while, and after I’d been in there all day, I had to have a bath however late it was… When it comes down to it, it isn’t totally about the state of the nation’s lungs, but about the comfort of the majority. Maybe this does then make smokers an oppressed minority, but as a member of the majority I’m finding it hard to be anything but glad about the ban.

(I’d like to think that not being able to smoke while you’re out might help people give up, but I’m not convinced, given that the best way to give up permanently seems to be not to ever start.)

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Amyt • March 29, 2006 at 9:24 am

i always find it fascinating that hollywood glorifies smoking and vilifies the overweight. it doesn’t make any sense.

ps-i added a t because there were so many amies. less confusing.

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Josie • March 29, 2006 at 11:24 pm

I wish I had had the nerve to tell my grandmother and aunts what I thought of their so-called ‘helpful, honest comments’ about my weight, but I’d like to think I didn’t because I had more class than them. I cannot fathom walking up to a perfect stranger or friend and making a crack about their weight, smoking, drinking, etc. Quite frankly, I try not to notice people’s flaws, and IT’S NONE OF MY BUSINESS. Un-believable.

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B.J. • March 31, 2006 at 3:17 pm

thank you for saying it! Hell yeah!

(and side note, congrats on all the work you’ve done. I just came upon your site from bitchypoo.com, and you’re now going to have to be one of my lurker places. :)

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Bob • July 30, 2008 at 5:45 pm

I do not know where to start… I am the husband of a fat women for 32 years. She constantly blames me (or somthing else) for her being 280 lbs. Thirty two years ago at 183 she felt she was over weight – now she has many helth issues which take long periods of time to get over. SEX is the issue now, she does not want anything to do with it, has not for years. Think about a sexless marriage and picture what happens if you do not practice sex over a long period of time. No it does not fall off the guy….wrong answer.

Looking for feed back, obviously I love her very much and have a HUGE frustration with her not understanding the concept that I am 20 lbs overweight because I would like to be average – yes how we look does matter.

We just attended a wedding of my son and his very thin bride. All the brides family has their weight in check, she does not like herself this way but cannot get moving to change….another wedding is only 10 months away…what can I say that might get her going on a healther lifestyle????

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PastaQueen • August 2, 2008 at 5:32 pm

Ultimately if your wife wants to make a change in her life, she’ll have to be the one to make that decision. The best thing you can do is set a good example and be supportive of her. If she does decide to pursue weight loss, you can do your best to help her, like offering to work out with her, keep “bad” foods out of the house, and be sure to congratulate her on her efforts.

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Dana • July 28, 2009 at 10:09 am

Re: smokers… When we speak of secondhand smoke there is actually two kinds. Mainstream smoke is the stuff the smoker already inhaled and is now exhaling. It’s had a lot of the bad stuff taken out of it already by the smoker’s lungs, it just stinks. Sidestream smoke is another matter. That’s what comes out of the end of the cigarette. It hasn’t even had the benefit of a filter. Do people really think that stuff is safe? I wonder what their logic is.

Not to mention the whole angle of I did not choose to adopt the nicotine habit and I would appreciate it if someone would not force it on me by smoking in my immediate vicinity. Not to mention my little girl’s dad is asthmatic and *cannot* tolerate cigarette smoke for extended periods of time. You can’t tell an asthmatic by looking at them, nor a person who is allergic to tobacco, so it’s exceedingly rude to smoke in public where you might affect them. They have the right to be in a public space too.

So it’s not about a “flaw” to me. This is serious business. Ohio has enacted a public smoking ban despite three separate efforts to fight it and I am SO glad.

Re: guys who talk smack to/about their fat wives… You did remember that part of your vows where it said “in sickness and in health,” right? That includes mental sickness. That means even if she loses an eyeball and both her arms. You stand by her anyway. If you only got married to get free sex then you got married for the wrong reasons and maybe you should get a divorce before either of you gets hurt any farther.

I happen to believe obesity only directly causes very few health problems. It is more often a symptom of other health problems, usually including deranged insulin and blood sugar levels. This not only impacts your weight but also your mental health. Also, someone carrying around that much weight is *tired*, and if they’re calorie-restricting as well, they’re also *hungry*. Put yourself in a fat person’s shoes for two seconds and ask yourself whether you would feel much like doing anything. Especially when the best info you can find about weight loss is “deprive yourself of the nutrients your body needs and keep your body constantly stressed by doing too much exercise.”

I have no sympathy for men who find themselves married to fat women. Absolutely none. These same guys would turn around and scream unfair if they went into combat and lost a leg and came back and got dumped by their wives. It is the same principle. Obesity is a form of metabolic injury. Have a little compassion. A husband who nags his wife about this or threatens to leave her or calls her ugly isn’t being loving, he’s being abusive. The commenter who mentioned her husband doing that, he’s *still* not happy with her. Now her personality isn’t good enough for him either. She needs to take stock and make sure she understands what is happening because I can’t see it getting any better from here.

And finally, it really disturbs me that society cares more about energy storage, which is all fatness really is, and not about heart disease or diabetes or cancer quite so much. When these diseases are mentioned it is ALWAYS in the context that they only happen to fat people and are caused by obesity and neither is true! I want to hear more media outlets say that we have a diabetes epidemic and that we can’t tell by looking at someone whether they are diabetic. You know? The fatness is just a distraction. There are healthy fat people and unhealthy slender people. It’s about the labs, not the weight.

Sorry to blather on about this but the whole thing just aggravates me. I don’t like being fat, myself, and I am doing something about it, but I also know that I’m fat because of underlying health issues so my approach is compensating for those health issues rather than starving myself or running myself ragged. And I would never, ever, ever date a guy who said that weight was an issue for him. I’ve dated fat guys before. I had a lot of fun. I still love one of them a whole hell of a lot and I don’t care how much he weighs. Amazing how it’s usually women saying that. Maybe men need to think about how much it sucks to be judged for your paycheck amount and extrapolate that to other things, I don’t know.

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Chris • March 22, 2011 at 6:11 pm

Yeah I agree for strangers off the street, but its perfectly reasonable to say this to people you love, and not just because you don’t want to pay the hospital bills when they have need a quadruple bypass :-P You want them to be around as long as possible, preferably with the ability to do stuff with you (i.e. not bedridden at home or in a hospital). It’s pure selfishness, but that’s love: you want them for yourself as long as possible.

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog at JennetteFulda.com.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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