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That’s a cool super power

An itsy, bitsy, teeny, weenie, spoiler for last night’s episode of Heroes follows. Nothing of any importance really, but if you are a complete spoiler-phobe, turn your eyeballs elsewhere right now. I think there’s a bug crawling across the ceiling that you’ll find fascinating.

Heroes is a show on American television about characters with special powers. A recently introduced character, Candice, has the ability to cast illusions to make people see what she wants them to see. She frequently uses this ability to make herself look like someone else, but when she’s not tricking people she’s played by Missy Peregrym who looks like this:

Last night she was having a conversation with another character while munching on junk food. What follows is not an exact transcription of their dialogue because I can barely remember what I had for lunch yesterday, never mind the exact words of fictional characters on a TV show. He said something like, “I have a cousin who eats like you. He’s really fat.” To which she replied, between bites, “So am I.” At which point my eyes boggled out of my head. Candice is a fat girl and we didn’t even know it!

Which makes me wonder, if you could make everyone else see you as a skinny person while still being a fat person, would you do it? Is the incentive to be thin only so other people will think better of you or do you have other motivations such as your health and feeling fit? I’m at a point now where I am really digging my fitness. I love the ability to run and ride a bike and complete the entire kickboxing aerobics class while other people whimper and whine on their mats. However, if you’d offered me this option 190 pounds ago I’m not sure what I would have said. I certainly would have liked to look thinner even while I was working on making it actually happen. But if I could fool everyone, would I have lost my incentive to make the real thing happen? Back then I doubt you could have ever convinced me that I would someday enjoy running and eating healthy. Maybe I only did it because I had to.

And what does Candice see when she looks in the mirror? Can she fool everyone including herself? I love checking myself out in the mirror these days. It would be a bummer if everyone else saw me as thin but I didn’t get to see it myself.

I don’t think Candice is morbidly obese because there are some things you can’t fake with illusions. She wouldn’t be able to move around as agilely as she does on the show. One of the side affects of my weight loss is that I am now a fast walker. If I’m walking with people fatter or more out of shape than me, I have to noticeably slow down so they can keep up. She also wouldn’t be able to slip through narrow spaces or fit comfortably in small chairs with arms. I can’t imagine she would feel very good either if her diet is composed mostly of refined carbohydrates.

The fact that Candice is a fat girl pretending to be a thin girl brings up some uncomfortable social undertones. What if she’s also a black woman pretending to be white? What if she’s a man? It seems she’s chosen a form that gets the best reaction from other people. I can only think of Mystique, a shape-shifting character from the X-Men movies, whose true form is blue and scaly. When asked why she doesn’t stay in disguise all the time she simply replies, “Because I shouldn’t have to.” If Candice’s character ever gets killed, I hope we get to see what she really looks like. No one should have to spend their whole life in hiding.

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22 Comments

Sofie • May 15, 2007 at 12:42 pm

I just started on my own weight loss journey. You’re definitely an inspiration! Amazing job and I wish you luck in getting to your goal.

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Heather • May 15, 2007 at 1:00 pm

I would totally do it.

I eat right and exercise for health.

I want to be thinner for sheer vanity.

Take vanity out of the equation by giving me a way to sidestep the perceptions of others, and I’d stay my weight now.

(However, I still would not allow myself to become actually obese)

Oh wait… I just realized you said she can put on an illusion not shapeshift… well, then I might still lose weight for the feel of it… but it certainly wouldn’t be as high on my priority list!

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Joy • May 15, 2007 at 1:50 pm

Your last paragraph actually gave me goosebumps. This was a great post.

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Marla • May 15, 2007 at 1:58 pm

A very thought-provoking question!

I am totally grooving on the fitness and physical abilities, so Yes, I would do it anyway. But people treat fat and thin very differently; I think some aspects of my life would be much easier if I was thin. So, in the best of both worlds, I would continue to workout and become fit and strong, while everyone else already saw me as being so.

I remember reading somewhere a question along the lines of, If you could pres a button and suddenly NO ONE could change their weight regardless of diet or exercise – everyone is frozen at their current weight forever – would you press it? Because then you could just relax, and not have to keep trying to lose, because you couldn’t. I had to say No, I wouldn’t press it, because I still have hope, but boy it would be tempting.

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PastaQueen • May 15, 2007 at 2:15 pm

Marla – I might press the button for myself since I’m about 90% satisfied with the way I look. However, I have family and friends who would still like to lose weight and need to do so for medical reasons, so it would be mean to them if I pressed the button. I think they’d be pissed at me :) I guess we could try to wait until we were all happy with our weight, but that might never happen.

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G.G. • May 15, 2007 at 2:55 pm

It’s funny, though. As a kid, I didn’t think of myself as fat until others gave me that label. I was comfortable with my body. Even after I started to diet and obsess about my appearance, it was still other people who constantly gave me feedback, positive and negative about my weight. It’s so weird to feel one way (normal & healthy) and to be told that you’re freakishly large (even when you’re not, which eyes sharpened by time and distance can tell you when you pull out the old photo album). I got so used to living my life by the perceptions of other people that I lost my own feelers. The mirror those people held up to me was more flawed than the self-image I had.

So yeah, if I could have that superpower, I’d use it. I’d also like to be able to time travel, too!

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JEM • May 15, 2007 at 5:02 pm

Interesting. I am a big believer that health is one of the most important things. Who cares if you look good but feel like crap? Of course I want to lose weight for look better but feeling better is most important. I want to grow old but not feel as old! :) Good Post…it had me thinking. I will have to rent HERO’s when it comes out on DVD.

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Andrea • May 15, 2007 at 6:08 pm

I watch Heroes, too, and I had similar thoughts to yours. In fact, later in the episode she appears as a heavier black woman and she says to the boy she’s with, “Maybe this IS how I look.”

You raise some very intriguing points here, and I’m not sure how I’d answer. I’m fairly content with where I am right now weight-wise, but it’s nearly impossible to totally rid yourself of the “what ifs” of losing a few pounds more.

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virg • May 15, 2007 at 7:40 pm

heh! I have the opposite thing going on. I see myself in the mirror as this amazing ravishing gorgeous sleek woman and yet when I see pictures of my “real” self they look fat to me, and I think, “wow is that how everyone else sees me?” What is that about?

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Hilly • May 15, 2007 at 9:49 pm

Did you notice when she went off on a little tangent about people treating others badly because of the way they look?

And yes, I would so do it. Hell, I would take it for a second just to get motivated to see what I would look like at my ideal weight.

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barbara • May 15, 2007 at 10:50 pm

My answer to your question is YES – sort of. I would certainly take the option of having the world see me as a NORMAL WEIGHT person versus an overweight person. But I think I would continue to try and eat well and exercise for the health benefits, and the looking fit-and-healthy benefits, even in that situation. But yes, if there were a trick whereby I could be seen as normal weight by others without changing much, I’d take it. Let’s face it, the “social capital” of looking normal (not SKINNY, though, thank you very much) is one of the reasons on my list of why I, like you, would still like to lose 20 pounds.

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kim • May 16, 2007 at 1:56 am

I don’t think I would. I’ve built enough of a wall around myself that I don’t usually care what people think. I would like to be thinner, not thin, for the reasons that you described – I want to run, walk fast, not think twice about sitting on the floor, crouch, run after or away from something if necessary, etc. (away from snakes and perhaps towards a pool). I would also like to fit into a non plus size because I like the clothes better. But its all about me and the way I feel, because I want to be more comfortable with the image I am projecting. I want to be confident, which wouldn’t happen if I wasn’t being true to myself. It would be like highschool all over again – projecting some image you aren’t. Plus I’d probably still have to buy my clothes at LB.

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Kery • May 16, 2007 at 5:07 am

That’s a pretty interesting question. I think I’d still do my best to eat in a healthy way and exercise, because let’s face it, it DOES make me feel ‘right’ in my body, but I sure would display the illusion all the same. ;) Of course, I bet said illusion wouldn’t solve other kinds of problems–i.e. if the person has problems to find clothes that fit in stores, okay she may display the illusion of clothes, but she can’t just walk out of her house without *real* clothes on… if that makes sense. So I guess it can’t be a complete cop-out either.

As for the button: eek, no, I wouldn’t press it. I absolutely dislike the idea of people being stuck where they are. I wouldn’t want this imposed on me (like the excuses my family gives me–“we’re genetically fat”, “we’re not made to exercise in our family”, blah-de-blah…), so I also wouldn’t want to impose that on anyone. I prefer to struggle to lose my weight and know that it was all my choice and my committment. It takes time and it sucks, but at least it’ll be ‘my’ accomplishment.

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Lose Weight With Me • May 16, 2007 at 7:39 am

Great post.

When I was at my heaviest, I would have loved to have other people see me as thin. The thing is, though, deep down inside I would have known that I was still heavy. After almost a year of exercising and right healthy, I really don’t care how others see me, as I’ve learned to like what I see when I look in the mirror.

:-)

Brian

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psychsarah • May 16, 2007 at 8:31 am

PQ-as always, you’ve got me pondering…

This question is interesting because at the moment I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how other people see me. I’m a little overweight still (about 15 pounds from the glorious “normal/healthy” BMI) but I think I carry it pretty evenly, and have a fair bit of muscle, so I don’t feel “fat” anymore, but I don’t feel “thin” either. (My husband argues with me that this is a dichotomy and if I’m not fat, I therefore must be thin… but I digress…)

So, I have been wondering how people who meet me for the first time perceive my weight. I have moved cities and started a new job since reaching this weight, so no one here (except my family) knew me when I was obese. It came up in conversation with a colleague the other day that I used to shop in plus size stores and she said “oh-did you used to be overweight?” which made me wonder if that meant she did not perceive me as overweight right now. What I would love is to believe that no one is judging my weight now, because I used to feel like no matter what I did, people saw my fat first.

So, in a longwinded, tangential answer to your question, I think I would like to take the oppportunity to create an illusion of myself a bit thinner (i.e. 20 pounds) just on an experimental basis, to see if people treated me any differently. (This is the scientist in me, I can’t help it!) I think in the end though, I would want to go back to being me, because I don’t think I could go through life “faking” it. Especially after the hard work I’ve gone through to get the body I have today.

Thanks for making me think as always!! Also, big props on your wicked arm/shoulder muscles. You’ve inspired me to get back to weights!!

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VegasGirl • May 16, 2007 at 9:20 am

Ooh! What a fun post/question!

Would I put up an illusion, yes! For the most part, I’m fine with who I am. It is the rest of the world that seems to have a problem with me. It is my mom saying, “if you just lost 5 pounds…” or my boyfriend, “I love you but…” or the working world want a “put-together appearance” which apparently doesn’t include the overweight.

I’m not a big fan of working out or eating right because they are both a lot of hard work, but I’d also try to stay on this journey, but for the time being, hell yeah I’d put up an illusion! Besides, can you imagine how much money you’d save on makeup, hair product, etc. hehe

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honi • May 16, 2007 at 12:09 pm

very powerful post… hmm I think too that if we had the ability to hide behind something we are currently not.. well I think the motivation to lose for other benifits besides beauty would totally dissapear.. my goal is not so others think I am more attractive.. thats the bonus… my goal is because I have chosen to live… not die..

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Erin • May 16, 2007 at 11:25 pm

Great post…great question.

I wouldn’t want the thinness and the beauty without the self-worth that came along with earning/maintaining it. I spend so much time wondering, as a fat woman, whether people who are being nice to me are doing it out of pity or as a form of entertainment; as a thin woman who was “fat on the inside” I’m sure I would chalk up kindness to superficial motives again.

Frances has an interesting post on Angry Fat Girlz about finding your inner self and whether that automatically has to include thinness, too. This is another interesting take on that same issue.

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Jen • May 17, 2007 at 10:10 am

I noticed this too — I’m glad that it wasn’t just me. I think most people would put up the illusion, if they’re being honest, because sometimes you just get sick of the comments and the way people treat you.

But I also want to look in the mirror and like what I see, and I want to feel better.

Actually, I wonder if exceptionally beautiful women might like to look ordinary sometimes, too, just to get rid of the unwanted attention that they must get from creepy guys all the time.

I love “Heroes” and can’t wait to see what happens next. :)

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Emily • May 18, 2007 at 12:11 am

Very good question.

I guess that I feel that looking good is my reward for eating right and working out. (besides feeling much better) So, I guess I think I don’t “deserve” to look good if I’m not willing to work at it. I tend to follow the thinking that anything worth having is worth working for. I don’t want a free pass.

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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.

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