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Guess my weight

One summer in middle school I got a season pass to Kentucky Kingdom amusement park with my friend Kathy. This was before I eventually got too fat to ride the roller coasters and completely lost track of Kathy, who moved a lot because her dad was in the army. For all I know, she could now be married to a German chiropractor and have lil’ babies that greet her every morning with “Guten tag!” before going off to kindergarten.

At the park there was a carnival game that fascinated me. It was the “Guess My Weight” game, positioned right by the human walkway over the highway, thus granting it maximum exposure to passers-by. Standing beside the barker was a scale with a circular face as large as Godzilla’s frisbee. The object of the game was to have the barker guess your weight and if he wasn’t within 5 or 10 pounds (can’t remember which) you’d win a prize.

I never played this game. Obviously. While I could still cram my ass between the safety bars on Thunder Run, I wasn’t petite either. Public weigh-ins seemed to be reserved for the sanctity of weight watchers meetings, where you would at least be surrounded by people as fat or fatter than you. I didn’t even know how much I weighed, and I certainly didn’t want to find out in front of packs of teeny-boppers in short-shorts sucking down Diet Coke and Dippin’ Dots ice cream.

However, I was very curious to know how well the barker could guess someone’s weight. This is a skill that people think they are better at doing than they actually are. Mostly this is because it’s hard to get good feedback. You can find out how much you weigh, but finding out what other people actually weigh is difficult since they lie. If we were to estimate how many Americans were fat by what they said they weighed on their driver’s licenses, we’d have the obesity epidemic licked! So even if you do start guessing people’s weights, you can’t know if you’re right or how far off you are to make corrections in the future.

It gets harder if you only see someone on TV because you don’t necessarily have a good sense of scale. If you watch a basketball game, all the players look normal compared to each other. But if you see them walk into the crowd you suddenly realize their shoes could comfortably house a family of puppies and a foster kitten. Recently Kirstie Alley went on Oprah in a bikini and I read one person comment on another blog that she must be lying about her weight. This was because the commenter weighed more than Kirstie but they looked similar. I have no idea what Kirstie Alley really weighs since I’ve never drugged her and hauled her ass onto a scale. (I don’t live in LA, plane seating is cramped and I doubt I could get the chloroform through airport security, so it’s just not worth it.) However, when you factor in height differences, ratio of fat to muscle, and other nonsense like how much sodium they’ve had recently and when their last long trip to the bathroom was, you can’t assume that just because someone on TV looks similar to you that they will weigh the same.

My mom recently showed a picture of me to one of her co-workers who was surprised to hear I weighed about 200 pounds. Granted, it was a shot from the waist up and I carry most of my fat in my bottom half, but this reaffirmed by belief that not only are people bad at guessing someone’s weight, they don’t even know they’re bad at guessing. This woman works in a bridal store too, so she comes in contact with every size and shape of woman there is. She just doesn’t get to weigh them. Perhaps the only people who would be good at guessing weight are nurses, doctors or weight watchers leaders, the only people who do get to weigh lots of people.

People also get scared of guessing above certain scary numbers, like 200 or 300. If you have to rollover the digits into the next group of hundreds, you risk insulting the person. 199 sounds a lot better than 200, just like that $0.99 cent candy bar sound so much cheaper than the $1.00 one. I wonder if the carnival barker would make such adjustments in guessing someone’s weight to avoid being mauled by angry fat people. If he thought someone actually weighed 205, would he round down to 199? It’s also possible that the carnival scale might not have been accurate. This was a carnival game and those carnies are notoriously stingy about giving away their pink teddy bears, employing tricks to keep you from wining games.

Today I would play the “Guess My Weight” game with no shame at all. That happens when you post your weight every week on the Internet. The shame starts to evaporate like the water in your T-shirt after a good soaking on Mile High Falls. Too bad my season pass expired in 1993.

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Andrea • December 15, 2006 at 10:26 am

Doctors and nurses apparently aren’t so hot at it, either. A few months ago I had to go to the doctor and the physician assistant (who I like) put me on the scale. I weighed 220 that day, and she looked puzzled and replied, “I was sure by looking at you that you weighed 40 pounds less.”

FORTY POUNDS! I walked around for a week thrilled that an “expert” thought I looked 180 pounds! What simple things make me happy…


vickie • December 15, 2006 at 12:44 pm

You are so funny!! I get such a kick out of everything you write!


Sarah • December 15, 2006 at 4:08 pm

I actually did that weight guessing game at a carnival once. I had lost a lot of weight, from 270 to 190, and I was feeling like hot stuff. The carnie guessed 175 or something. I was struttin after that, let me tell you.


Heather • December 15, 2006 at 4:25 pm

People normally guess less than my actual weight…. I look like I weigh less than I do.

And I have experience that suggests carnie weight shouters will weight down for overweight females to be nicer. It still works out. $5 for the game and some cheap prize for him not guessing right.


Amanda Jane • December 15, 2006 at 5:42 pm

How very very true! Excellent post Pasta Queen :)


K • December 15, 2006 at 5:58 pm

People not only guess the wrong weight, but often guess the wrong size as well, in my experience.

I’ve had friends offer to lend me clothes a size or two sizes too small, which is flattering and embarrassing at the same time. I think it’s because my waist has always been relatively small compared to the rest of me. Losing weight hasn’t changed my shape at all – it’s just all slightly smaller.


Marla • December 16, 2006 at 9:00 am

I’ve watched a couple episodes of The Biggest Loser, and during the weigh-ins I am always surprised at the weights – people who look MUCH fatter than I do, people who look MUCH skinnier than I do… there is so much variety. Someone always mentions, so let me be the one, that a lot of our idea of what women weigh comes from the “personal information” on the back of the centerfold. You know, turn-offs include rainy days and mean people, weight is 108, hobbies are deep sea fishing and embroidery. All true and verifiable.


Lorrie • December 25, 2006 at 12:32 pm

This is very true, and Im not sure why I’ve put as much thought into this as I have in my life. Maybe because of my own weight. When I tell people I weigh (and have weighed over) close to 300 lbs, they dont believe me. Mostly because I gather most of my weight in the bottom, but even my mom as a nurse thinks that people weight a lot less than they do and she nearly falls out of her chair when I tell her how much I do weigh. Those “guess my weight” games used to scare me, I remember always making a new route through amusement parks to avoid them. My skinny friends always wanted to weigh themselves and more so in public. I remember this when going to a hands-on science center called cosi…sigh. I kind of laugh a little about my reaction to those when I was a kid. Im rambling, this entry was a good read though. merry christmas!


Lorrie • December 25, 2006 at 12:34 pm

oh yeah, and I once read an article about two room mates who weighed the same, but one wore a size 10 (or 12) and the other a size 4 (or 6, I cant remember). One was very active and has muscle mass and the other did not, I found that to be really interesting.


Ladyjay • January 11, 2007 at 1:52 pm

I had a similar experience to Andrea. When I started university, the doctor flatly wouldn’t believe I was 147lbs, thinking I was around 130. Then a couple of years ago, another doctor refused to believe I was around 190 (I had to stand on some scales to prove) and he said he thought I was about 145.

This made me very happy!


Kyle • May 12, 2007 at 3:33 am

Unfortunately I am of the opinion that people always underguess other people’s weight on purpose. Why? Because I myself do that. If anybody ever says, how much do you think I weigh? I guess 20 lbs less than what I think they actually do weigh.


Matt • November 3, 2008 at 1:08 pm

I’ve actually been one of those carnival barkers running the Guess your Weight game. I definitely had to make some of those minute adjustments intended to not offend anyone, but more often than not you didn’t get the people who you had to do that for, if that makes any sense. Most larger people tend to avoid those games much like you did.

I’ve been reading your entire archives as motivation to lose my own amount of weight (only 40 pounds, so it’s kind of a small feat, but being chronicled in my own cobweb-festooned corner of the web), and I just wanted to join everyone else in congratulating you on your dedication and your progress. What you have done is no small feat,


Elizabeth • December 12, 2010 at 6:02 pm

Since you don’t live nearby anymore, I don’t know if you heard that Kentucky Kingdom closed last summer. Very sad. I know exactly which scale and pedway over the road you’re talking about. Also, everything you said is true.


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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 JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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