Sunday, January 27, 2013

On Being Fat

"You have a big bum."

I was helping a friend at her house, and the child of another good friend of mine was watching me. I looked at this adorable three-year-old girl with a smile on my face. "Yes, I do, " I said, "that's why I'm going to exercise classes to make it get smaller." She said, "Yeah." and skipped  away.

This sweet little girl wasn't being mean. She was stating a fact. A fact she saw right in front of her. It's hard to miss. And although it stung my pride a bit, her comment didn't make me feel bad. I'm a big girl. (Ha Ha - see what I did there?)

Soon after I started writing this blog (officially a year, now - woohoo!), I got a message from a woman telling me that she didn't like me calling myself fat. I assume it was because of the name of my blog. I was touched that my very kind friend worried for me. But, I named this the Song of The Fat Lady, deliberately, for two reasons. 
  1. I wanted to make it uncomfortable for myself. It's not fun being called fat - even by myself. This is supposed to be about me losing weight. The word "fat" is a harsh reminder that I need to work hard.
  2. The saying goes, "It ain't over until the Fat Lady sings."  So, if the Fat Lady is singing, it must mean the end of something. That something is (hopefully) being unhealthy - being fat.
We're taught that calling people fat is a mean thing to do. Most people don't want to purposely hurt others. I talk to my sons about it, too. Last year, in the second grade, Boy 1 got written up for bullying. Apparently, his class was lining up to go to PE and there was a woman in the hall. She was watching them. Our anxiety-ridden, socially awkward, quirky boy sometimes says and does things that others would find odd. When he noticed that this woman was watching him, he got very uncomfortable and blurted out, "You're fat." His teacher heard it, and asked him to apologize. Now, being the center of everyone's attention, he shut down and would not even speak.

Was he trying to bully this woman? No, of course not. Was he doing it in a mocking or teasing manner? No. But, I am sure his tone was rude. He wanted this woman to stop looking at him. Not apologizing, I'm sure, made it seem that much worse. But why did he choose those words? I don't know if we'll ever know.

This past week on Facebook, I saw a link to an article on fat "shaming." Daniel Callahan, president emeritus of The Hastings Center, wrote a paper calling for more social pressure on overweight people. He suggests improving community education,  the use public posters, and curbing marketing  of unhealthy foods to minors. But, those steps aren't enough. Shame should maybe be part of the plan.  He wrote, 
"Safe and slow incrementalism that strives never to stigmatize obesity has not and cannot do the necessary work."
 Mr. Callahan cited the success of the "anti-smoking campaign of recent decades." He, himself,  was a smoker. He wrote, 
"The force of being shamed and beat upon socially, was as persuasive for me to stop smoking as the threats to my health. I was also helped by the fact that others around me were stopping as well. If they could do it, so could I."
Mr. Callahan then discusses the difficulty of using the same social pressure on the obese. 
"Stigmatizing the obese...goes after their character and selfhood, it is said, not just their behavior." 
I thought this paper was extremely interesting and I found I agreed with much of what he wrote. While it's the same theory that I'm trying to use on myself (calling myself the fat lady, opening myself up for criticism on the Internet, etc.), I would never call someone else fat, or use shame to try to get someone else to lose weight. Being unkind is never a necessary road to take. But I do believe we need to be honest with ourselves and with others. Especially in a country where so many of the adults and a record number of children are in the obese range according to their BMI.  Honest discussions about obesity and the accompanying health risks are required.

The shame is already there. I would rather drive 13-14 hours to visit my mom, than take an hour and a half flight. I usually say it's about saving money and having a car while I'm there, but it's really about shame and embarrassment AND saving money and having a car while I'm there. I don't want to be that person that someone has to be squished next too on the airplane. I don't want to have to ask for a belt extender. I don't want to worry about being asked to buy a second ticket because I take up too much room. So I choose to drive.

When we eat out, whether it's real or not, I perceive judgment if my choice is less than healthy. In restaurants, I ask for a table in case a booth might be a tight fit. 

It has been hard for me to try new classes at the Y. Although I have had so many good experiences and have been accepted and welcomed, I worry about new classes. I know it's because I am ashamed of how I look, and I don't want to embarrass myself. It's so much easier to hide away. My sister has been such a good example of trying new classes. She's always trying new things - either to shake it up a bit, or to vary her workout. I really admire her determination and dedication. And she looks amazing! Hard work pays off.

Although I didn't and don't want to be fat, I chose it. I lived a fat lady's life. Yes, the family history is there. Yes, my metabolism only gets slower the older I get. I'm not complaining here, you get what you get. I'm saying that I can't blame it on anything or anyone else. It's about the choices I made and what I decide to do next. I can't change the past. I can only move forward and make better choices now.

It was a busy week. 1 day off from school, doctor, dental,  and orthodontic appointments for the boys, the dog finally got to the groomer, and so did I. ;) The furnace got a tune up - and we were advised to just replace it - oh joy. Boy 1's first Pinewood Derby for Cub Scouts was also this week. And to top it all off, I wasn't feeling very well. Those kind of weeks happen, though. 

I was able to lose 2 pounds - almost back to pre-Christmas weight. 

Follow the link to Mr. Callahan's paper. Read it and tell me what you think. I'd love to know. Have a great week!

Weight gain/loss: -2 lbs (Finally!)
Total weight loss: -26 lbs
Exercise: 1 home workout, 20 minutes (a lot of appointments & not feeling well this past week)
Food Tracking: 3 of 7 days - progress...
Healthfulness/portions: Lots of veggies & lean protein - but at the end of the week, I struggled with stopping at 1 serving.  
Hydration: pretty good - more water!


  1. I think it's pretty obvious we're sisters because we are both pretty courageous. You're sweet to complement me. I do work hard, but I still have a ways to go until I meet my goal. Slow and steady wins the race. I'm so proud of you!

    1. Thanks, Brooke! I'm pretty proud of you, too. Slow and steady...slow and steady....

  2. Amy, I love your writing! I don't read a lot of blogs, but I always read yours (when you remind me about it on FB...) :)

    I love your realistic attitude and candor! I'm torn on the shame issue. I agree that the campaign against smoking was successful, and shame was a big part of what made me lose weight. But weight is such a personal issue. Smoking does not effect one's self-image, generally speaking. As women, tend to be very sensitive about our appearance, regardless of our size...and it can be so detrimental to our ability to accept and love ourselves. I say do whatever is needed to motivate yourself, but remember you are a beautiful woman inside and out. Don't be ashamed of you!

    1. Thank you, Jen. I feel pretty much the same way about shame. It's been a good motivator for me, but I think it's more about just being honest with myself. Always a work in progress. Thanks for reading!

      PS - you look FANTASTIC, by the way.

  3. My wife rocks!!!!!!

  4. You are a good writer Amy. Ya know, it's funny. In our line of work (Layne's and mine), we are somehow lacking in credibility by NOT being bigger than we are. Yet, RD's who are overweight or obese also have no credibility. It's the science vs. emotion thing. Once L was giving a lecture on BMI, which he did in a very information, factual, caring and engaging way, and he got shamed by a lady in the class who objected to the fact that he was not obese so "oh what would you know" and also that he was a man (as if that matters). She called him an "insensitive lout" because he was not an overweight woman and therefore could not understand her pain. He didn't mention that he is a disciplined and often struggling diabetic every hour of his life, which provides plenty of empathetic pain for anyone. So we made him a cute nametag that says "Insensitive Lout", just to be upfront about it. I think pain is universal, and no one who is reasonable really wants to inflict pain on another, even if they call it as it is. You are doing a great job at moving forward with this, and daily improvement is awesome! Love you!

    1. Thank you, Kris! I can't believe that - poor Layne! I guess it can go both ways. Oh, we humans are complicated creatures.
      I think being kind is always a good choice. Thanks for reading, my friend!

  5. I know you say you get nervous about flying and new classes and things, but I must say I think you are more courageous than you give yourself credit for. I think you are one brave lady, putting yourself out there every week on this blog. I love your writing. I often wish I could talk more about my feelings on my blog, but I'm afraid of getting too personal. I'm afraid of being judged. Any time I do get very personal, I end up second-guessing myself like crazy. I admire you for sharing so much. You are making such great progress!