Friday, June 6, 2014

One of the Last Acceptable Prejudices?

Growing up as the fat kid, I was accustomed to being mocked by other kids and bullied by a few during my high school years. Even after high school, there was the odd jerk who would make a snide comment about me in reference to my weight but generally this mocking ended by my early 20's. I assume it was because we grew up and this openly derisive behaviour became passé. Or it might have been because I have a natural frown and with my bigger size I looked like I might thump somebody who would dare challenge me. Either way, by that time the only real reminder I had of how society viewed me was that I couldn't find a girlfriend. Or at least a girlfriend I was interested in. I wasn't naive about how people viewed me though, the difference really was that instead of mocking me openly, it was done in hushed tones. Whether that was better or not is debatable.

The mocking of fat people has always existed, in fact, it's very common for fat people to ridicule themselves, to be the clown, as a defence mechanism and as a way to fit in. I know I did this and I know many others who did as well. Fat comedians use their weight for material to great effect, God knows what they would do if they ever lost the weight. Many black comedians like to use their race for material, in fact, comedians of different races tend to go that route in the quest for laughs. Women use female issues, people with disabilities or other physical issues draw from that, the list goes on and on. It gives us insight into their lives and the permission to laugh with them about it.

But outside of this realm, the only issue that isn't really covered by so-called politically correctness is obesity. You are not allowed to make light of women's issues, you cannot say "retard" anymore or use the "N" word. And all of this makes sense for the most part. But somehow, mocking fat people continues to this day. I bring this up because of some recent stories in the news discussing obesity. I mentioned in my last post the story about the demand for bariatric surgery rising as the numbers of obese people grow, and now there is another story detailing a study that has determined that those who lose weight are destined to put it back on again. Now everybody who has ever battled their weight knows this is a very distinct possibility. Most of us who have spent our lives trying to control this demon have been up and down the scale causing much frustration and stress. Most times, it's because you have reverted back to old habits; maybe you stopped going to the gym as much or at all or gave yourself permission to have that extra helping too many times. Whatever the reason, the bottom line is that you did not sufficiently conquer those bad habits and now you are right back where you started, often, in a worse place.

As bad as that is, it is disheartening to read the comments section of stories like these. You can't have a story on obesity without the resident peanut gallery chiming in with their ignorant hateful comments and simplified pronouncements about what you're doing wrong and how to fix it. Comments such as "put down the candy bar", "get off the couch and get some exercise", "its simple math, calories in equals calories out" or "fat people just don't care enough" are not helpful and show just how ignorant and spiteful they are. Of course, the fatties show up to defend themselves but it's really just a waste of time. These commentators do not care why some people are obese, nor do they care to understand the underlying issues often involved. It is easier to just assume you're lazy, unclean and do not understand the concept of a vegetable. But its not that simple. And it truly is one of the last acceptable prejudices.

People are fat for a variety of reasons. Some of them are emotional, some are due to lifestyle choices and a very few are medically related. By lifestyle choices, I mean those who choose not to cook or make time to prepare healthy options, instead reaching for take out or the highly processed crap from the grocery store. These folks can make the necessary changes as they usually aren't damaged in some way which is feeding their habits. It's the emotional ones who have the most trouble.  These people are feeding an unmet need somewhere in their lives, they've learned to cope with stresses, abuse, insecurities or whatever with food. For them, it's not as easy as not snacking or taking a smaller more reasonable portion. I know this because this is me. Did I learn bad eating habits from my parents? Yes. There was always junk in the house and take out was fairly common. Vegetables and fruit were not the norm and processed food reigned supreme. But there was more. I never felt supported, loved or secure. I was always being barked at for something, was never hugged or told I was loved and after their divorce, my parents spent too much time expressing their hatred of one another. My father, while being a provider, was not a loving or expressive person. My mother was the same, so my sister and I grew up never having that close bond with either. It is something that affects us to this day.

Is this why I'm fat? It's part of the reason. There's more to my story but my point is that people who mock have no understanding of what is going on with us. And it's like that with anything. Don't judge a book by its cover. You don't know until you've walked a mile in someone else's shoes. How do you handle stress? What are your coping mechanisms? Some people bite their nails, some cut themselves, some drink or do drugs; we all have our thing. Can you honestly say you are any better than us? Just because you don't overeat doesn't make you the better person. I'm sure you have your thing whatever that thing may be. And I'm sure it's just as ugly in its own way.

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