'Fat Stigma' is Spreading; What Can We Do?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
By Beth Donovan (~INDYGIRL)

The stigma of being overweight or of “Being a fatty” is growing globally, according to a recent blog post in the New York Times. Whereas once, a heavier weight represented wealth and the ability to have healthy children, it now represents laziness and sloth to many.

Parents were quoted as saying they would rather have their children be anorexic than overweight. To me, an eating disorder is an eating disorder. Why is one where you don't eat more socially acceptable than one where you do?

I do have a theory. It is still socially acceptable to make fun of a heavy person, but make fun of someone’s gender or skin color and there would be fallout. Why? "Fatty" chose to be that way, right? Wrong.

There are so many reasons people are heavy, but generally “I want to be fat” is not one of them. Genetics can play a part, and so can biology, psychology, environment, and just plain old lack of exercise and proper diet. It is never just a simple fix or a choice to just “be thin.”

While many are not “born heavy,” I believe the sentiments in the following song apply to everyone, big or small. To quote Lady Gaga:

““There's nothin wrong with lovin who you are"
She said, "'cause He made you perfect, babe"
"So hold your head up girl and you'll go far,
Listen to me when I say"
I'm beautiful in my way
'Cause God makes no mistakes
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way
Don't hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you're set
I'm on the right track baby
I was born this way.”

Heavy people are not weak; many diet practically every day of their lives. They may fall off the wagon every day, but they still get back up. They get teased in public by strangers, berated by loved ones in private, have foods pushed on them and then get a talking-to about being on a diet. They get passed up for jobs and promotions, as proven in many research studies. They are not weak. They take a lot and keep going every single day.

Pain is also a side effect of being heavy. This is just another reason most people do not want to be heavy and struggle against it. It’s also a reason the general populous considers heavier people to be lazy. It isn’t that they are lazy, it takes more energy to move a bigger body and when pain is involved, it takes more fortitude than anyone without that extra weight, pain, or lack of energy can imagine. This makes it even harder to lose weight.

I’m not trying to make excuses here, I’m trying to give you a glimpse from the other side. WHY would someone choose to be fat? Some people do choose to be overweight. It is a choice and one with some very dire consequences. Just the same, there should be no stigma attached. I’m not going to attempt to explain the lifestyle of some who choose to become as big as they possibly can and have people who enable them purposefully with the same goal. Just know this lifestyle does exist. It is not a healthy choice, but it is a choice--one with a short life span and many health complications.

Life is hard enough without finding different segments of people to belittle.

Here are 5 tips to combat thoughtlessness:

  1. When you meet a heavy person, treat them the same as anyone else. If they move slowly, consider they may be in extra pain depending on their size. If they need to sit down, don’t assume they are lazy.

  2. If you see someone of size while you’re out, don’t snicker, laugh or take pictures with your camera phone. If they are like me, they will call you on it in public. I believe in politely correcting people’s rudeness so they think twice next time.

  3. Don’t let your child make fun of a heavy person without correcting them, apologizing, and explaining that that person has feelings, too. I generally will explain to a child that they hurt my feelings if the parent does nothing, because I feel there is a chance of changing the child’s attitude.

  4. Don’t treat heavy people like we are invisible. We are more than visible. Look at us and listen to our ideas. I hate being at cosmetic counters… when they wait on everyone EXCEPT me. I know they see me.

  5. Never EVER make fun of your child's or another family member’s weight. The scars you leave are invisible but deeper than you know.

With the global spread of the dislike of the overweight, there is more pressure than ever to lose weight and be healthy. Change can come from pressure, but most often it will come from that place deep inside of you that just gives in. When you hit rock bottom and start to realize you have to take those baby steps and work on the things you can do for the rest of your life.

If you have read this, you realize by now that by being overweight in the first place, you are stronger. You have dealt with diets, exercise programs, teasing, bias, and you are still here. Take that strength and run with it!

How do you fight fat stigma?

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Comments

Thanks for the blog. Fat stigma is rampant. I think it is the only legal prejudice....jobs, airlines, etc. Report
Great blog, as usual Beth..

I have a question for those of you who say that being fat is a choice they make by eating the wrong foods and leading a sedentary lifestyle: does that make it right for the rest of the world to judge them??? If you, for example, had an extraordinarily big nose, should people be able to make fun of you for that because you could have surgery to correct it but do not??

You seem to be losing sight of the main issue, which is that no one has the right to judge another by their appearance. A fat person is no less a person than a skinny person. They have the right to look any way they do and still be treated with respect. Who but themselves are they hurting? Why does society think they have the right to turn their noses up at them, to judge them, to tell them how to lead their lives? Never mind the fact that most fat people do wish it were different, do know they are fat, do try their best to make it change. Get off your soap box and worry about yourself.

I am fat, have been for most of my life. I am a lawyer, hold a responsible full time job in my community, I am a mother, a wife, I care for my family and my home, I am on the board of my son's cub scout pack and a co-den leader, I am his hockey team's team mom, I have helped to coach his baseball team, I have been on the board of his baseball leagues directors, I help out the PTO when I can..shall I continue? How dare anyone look at me and decide that because I am fat, I am lazy? I am not sitting at home eating bon bons..I dare most people to walk in my shoes for a day, as my days generally start at 5 am and run non-stop until 9 or so.. Lazy? I don't even know the meaning of the word.. Fat? Yes, I know the meaning of that word, and begin every day with the resolve to change it. Some days are more successful than others, but I never stop trying.

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I think the author is making too many excuses. It's all about choices that one makes....in EVERYTHING we do.

I feel bad for people who have had comments made right to their face but people are always finding "something" to pick at. I used to tell my kids that (when someone called my daughter a name). If they can't find something, they'll make it up ("your nose is too big, you are ugly")

But rudeness from adults, about anything, is just wrong. Report
Unfortunately, being overweight can have a number of contributing factors and stress can add into the difficulty of losing the extra weight. Report
I'm shocked by some of the reply's to this blog. There's so much unknown about the physiology of obesity. Very few people make a consious choice to be obese, many people in my family have fought being overweight or obese for most of there life. An ironic thing, the most obese Aunt I have is now in her 90's and has out lived most of her younger brothers and sisters. The oldest of 9 children, she has survived all but her youngest 2 sisters whom are more than 20 years younger than her.

I'm finally getting healthier, but it's been a great struggle my entire life. I've lost 100 pounds 4 times and I'm doing all I can to make sure I don't have to do it again. I've had bariatric surgery, and it has not been an easy way to lose either, but I felt that it was my only chance to lose and keep my weight in a more normal range. I still have at least 25 lbs more to lose. It's still a struggle, now I struggle with pain from the consequences of my sugery, but now I can move and exercise without the joint pain I've experienced in the past. People still judge without knowing of our struggles, but I've also found that being overweight is a shield against such shallow ignorant people. The fiends I've developed while being overweight are people that don't judge people by their appearance, but by their inner beauty, which outlasts physical beauty anyway. A thought provoking blog, Bev. I enjoyed it.

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JJ4311
While few people"choose" to be fat, most of us who have reached that point have chosen to eat too much. We're adults, we know what the consequences of gluttony are, yet we CHOOSE to eat too much. Comparing that choice to skin color or sex is farcical.

The REASON we are all fat is that we keep making excuses like this and saying "it isn't my fault" or "there is something wrong with me" rather than taking responsibility for our actions. The percentage of people who are large because of actual medical conditions is very very small. (You have only to travel around the world to see that people in other countries magically do not seem to be so incredibly large...and surely they would be if it was all medical?)

It's time to put aside the excuses and admit that YES, we choose to be fat every time we choose to put the wrong food in our mouths, and YES, we choose to be fat every time we choose not to exercise. If anything motivates me, that does. Every time I go to cheat on my diet, I think "I am making the choice to be fat, right now with every bite of this I take." And why am I overweight? I'm overweight because I ate too much junk and didn't move enough. Period. No excuses. Report
Thanks for another great blog, Beth! I would like to add that smoking is also a life choice which shortens your life perhaps more than being overweight, and yet for some reason, smoking still seems to be more acceptable than being fat. And some rude people actually defend their right to pollute the air other people have to breathe! Report
Having lost 100 pounds, I will NEVER treat someone the way that I used to be treated when I was "fat". I have had obese friends tell me that I treat everyone nicely and even though I lost weight, I don't patronize or forget what it was like on the other side. Hey, I am still working towards my goal, but I realize that we are all different, and NO ONE should be treated negatively for ANY reason: race, religion, politics, or the size of their nose!

Also, I would hope that not ONE sparker would be negative about another person! Most of us are on that journey, or have been there, done that! Report
The people who make fun are orthorexics, it's an eating disorder, same as the people who have problems controlling how much they eat. And if they "arn't" orthorexics, they are people deficient of full intelligence, born that way, not a "mistake". Look at Jay Leno and Letterman, still making fun of overweight people, just to get a laugh. Yet they wink and smile at people who get high and drive a car and "oops" accidentally kill someone. Pop Culture. Media approved. Report
To me, it's a part of a larger problem of labeling (usually negatively) and being judgmental in general. It's so much easier to slap a label (or more than one) on a stranger than it is to get to know a person, easier to categorize and think we know what we are dealing with. Used to be mostly young people labeled (lack of experience, I'd say) but now, with media, etc., it's a general disaster. Too many minorities! and each one gets labeled both from inside and from outside. Report
Wow. Lots of opinions out there. Confusion as well. The idea that fat people do not care about their health is misguided at best. Not one of us knows the reason(s) behind another's behaviour or state of being. There is no good reason to stigmatize nor glamorize obesity or thinness. At either extreme the conditions come with their own consequences - any comments or attitudes by others is simply bad manners. Stigmatizing is rarely, if ever, a motivator.
Choice is a loaded idea. We want to believe we got our hair color from Dad our smile from Grandma but we tend to reject the idea we got our size from family genes as well. There have been enough studies to demonstrate to all but the most obstinately ignorant that genetics play a role in obesity. It is more difficult for some of us to lose weight - that calorie count works for the "typical" person. Some of us are literally more hungry - we have far more hormones that set off signals telling us we need to eat. Bariatric surgeons are finally realizing that and changing how they cut the stomach so as to reduce this hormone. If a person doesn't want this very invasive surgery he or she may have to settle for being hungry ALL the time. Could you handle this? This isn't an "excuse" it is very real
and very difficult to deal with.
Some of us have medical conditions and or take medications which slow weight loss while encouraging weight gain. I, personally, can't go off my medication I would kill myself. Its called Major Depression and the meds that help me live keep my body from losing weight without a great struggle. Continuing in a personal vein, I have done very little exercise for nearly two weeks. Is it because I am morally weak or corrupt? I don't like exercise? What is the reason? Well, I enjoy exercise and had been looking forward to participating in a 5K. A big step for me. But, you see, I have responsibilities to others which include helping my 75 year old mother around the property. I also suffer from fibromyalgia. The work that I did with and for Mom caused an intense flare up of the ole fm. I guarantee you that I did not want nor did I choose that. I also guarantee you that I would do the same work again. Taking care of myself cannot be so self-centered as to not help those who count on me or need me. The choice here was about love versus self it was not about pain versus weight loss.
So, hopefully tomorrow or soon thereafter I'll be able to return to exercising. In the meanwhile my body keeps holding extra calories like it needs them. And every so often I hear unkind comments. Then, with disappointment, I read excuses on SP on why it is really okay to be rude. It is never okay.
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CLARITY40
Useful article. I hope people will make use of your suggestions. There is a young man who works at a coffee place nearby, and when he was helping us one day, my (then) five year old gasped and said "he's fat!" Very calmly and quietly, I asked her "Do you think he knows he's fat?" (yeah) "Do you think he needs us to point it out to him?" (I guess not) "Do you see how pointing it out might hurt his feelings?" (yes) And I haven't had to deal with any more finger pointing. (I'm not smart enough to have thought of that...a grad school professor told me about it in relation to race--also useful for small children and people who look different from them.) Report
Thank you for this blog. I have to admit some of the comments I've seen written in response have blown my mind.. Report
CD2712264
Great blog, Beth!! Spark ON!! Report
I agree that we should fight the F-- stigma. That 3-letter F word is banned in my house unless it is in specific context such as fat content in foods. It is unconscionable that our society perpetuates this stigma and acts as though mistreating large people is socially acceptable. I realize the stigma exists, but size should not prevent one from getting or keeping a job unless they are incapable of carrying out their duties. Mistreating people is NOT going to motivate anybody to make positive changes! Punitive measures should be prohibited, in the workplace and elsewhere.

I like your 5 tips. I would like to see more. I learned from Dr Wayne Dyer that we attract what we focus on. Thus, I take part in peace demonstrations, not anti-war protests, because I want to attract peace, not war. The focus on the so-called obesity epidemic is to me very misguided. I am concerned that it will only attract more obesity and cruelty.

Certainly, there are a zillion reasons to promote healthy, healthful activities and choices, but the media and medical establishment should focus on what they want to attract: more physical activity, healthier food choices, and so on. Plus they need to stop confusing causality with correlation in their research studies, especially in segments presented in the media! Correlation is NOT causation! Large people CAN be quite healthy.

Beth, I don't see you as making excuses. We must recognize that every one of us is fighting invisible battles and demons, and we need to respect others. We can ASK folks to identify issues and barriers to a more healthy lifestyle, and maybe help address those. Perhaps we can recognize there are medical and other reasons why folks do not make choices we or the "experts" consider healthful or healthy. Some years ago, I carried a cushion of weight to keep people at a physical and emotional distance from me. Only when I was ready to let that cushion go, I actually dropped 60 pounds without much conscious effort. I've developed a new cushion, so now it is my job to identify why I have this and how I want to deal with it.

You mention pain as a side effect of heaviness, but it can also work the other way: many in physical or emotional pain have difficulty with physical activities and may eat to self-medicate. Either way, there is no reason for folks to stigmatize others for their size.

I have a huge problem with the No Excuses stuff I see on SP and elsewhere. Maybe some of us are rationalizing or making excuses, but none of us should be judging others. We need to recognize there may be barriers and explanations, and just maybe we could help folks accept and love themselves as they are and thus enable them to make different choices, IF that is what they want. If you want to encourage somebody, fine. Don't put folks down. Don't criticize.

I know a personal trainer who believes he has a duty to inform people of their poor choices, and I disagree, unless he has specifically been asked for his expertise and advice. It's difficult not to judge others, but if we want to kind and humane, we should at least try our best to refrain from judgment.

My two cents worth and then some. Report
I was chubby as a child, not huge, but back then it was unusual for a child to even be chubby. My mother, however, who has always obsessed with being thin, did not deal well with having a chubby child, and always made horrible remarks about fat paople. She had the decency not to say them openly to the fat strangers, but over and over I remember hearing, "Oh my! How could she let herself get so fat?" The hint/implication for her own fat child was obvious.

I have never forgotten that, and I will NEVER make such a remark nor allow my children to, openly or privately. Report
I try not to let it define me, but you do have to acknowledge that it is a real issue. A head hunter called me for my last job, and luckily I did the technical interviews over the phone. Not only am I overweight but I'm over 50 so, even though I look young for my age, high tech leans more toward younger people. By getting through all the initial interviews on the phone, by the time they saw me they were already "sold" on me. Since then I heard several managers make disparaging remarks about someone who was overweight (not even obese) so I know the odds for me to get the job "face-to-face" would have been slim. So now I try to talk to people when I hear those remarks (one-on-one- not call them out in front of anyone), hoping I might change their minds for future interactions. Report
DORISJ8
How am I dealing with being fat? Quietly. I am me. I am trying to fight my sweet tooth and flour-loving self, trying to include more exercise and getting back on this Spark-living way of life. I am not as pro-active as you, but like your style. Go Woman Go. Report
I grew up with teasing and bullying - not from being fat, but being severely underweight. I just had a very fast metabolism and was super-skinny to the point I was ugly. I was called all sorts of names and even once, a boy came up with a song and sang it in front of all my classmates about "Little Miss Bo Peep lost all her meat" it was embarassing and humiliating. My parents were not very supportive either. As a result I grew up with very poor self esteem that still haunts me today.
Needless to say now I have the opposite problem but I still remember those days like it was yesterday. Too fat or too thin, or if one looks any different than the 'norm' population, would lead to ridicule and humiliation.
How to fend this? Instill good values and self confidence in your kids from the start. Teach them to be happy with their bodies, and teach them good healthy habits. Enroll them in sports, which also build self confidence, friendships, and healthy self esteems. Always praise your kids' positives and never dwell on the negatives. Teach them to never compare themselves to others and never let others down. Report
I hate to admit this, but I curl up in fetal position, and wish I WERE invisible. Sorry, just took stock and had to admit the truth. Report
Thanks for a great blog. When we were little kids, we did not set our sights on growing up to be obese. My mom is obese but would still tell me that my cousin made up her mind to lose weight and did. I heard that so many times and it hurt. Now I am built just like mom but not as heavy. My cousin is obese and diabetic and had a mild stroke recently. I am sure she never intended to grow up with these problems either. Report
Thank you for this. I was not fat when I was in high school, and yet every single day that I was in high school I had someone tell me that I was ugly and/or that I was fat. I even had a group of boys who were always in my honors English classes and would sit in the back of the class discussing rather loudly how ugly I was.

I can look at pictures of myself from back then and see that I was actually quite thin and even somewhat pretty. But the pain of being treated that way in high school has never fully healed. Because I felt that pain, I never make fun of people and I try to treat every person I encounter with respect. I only wish that being a bully didn't come so naturally to so many people. We'd all be a LOT better off without it. Report
This is so very sad. Yes, it is so pathetic that teasing is so acceptable. And I find it so disgusting and horrifying that a parent would rather have a child be anorexic than fat. Report
I like this blog post alot..people should not be made of for any reason.. Report
HEAMAMA
I am a mother of four and I deal with this problem everyday. If I'm not hearing something like "PUT THE FORK DOWN!" it's something closer to "WERE"S THE CLOWN CAR?". I think the first thing that needs to be recognized is this is an action that is taught, no one was born with an urge to eviscerate anyone else. However, no matter how many rude and obnoxious people say something thoughtless and hurtful to me, I always wonder what was said to them to make them think their actions are okay. Report
We have indeed gone too far with our perspective on free speech. Hey, I call em as I see em is too rampant today as we become more preoccupied with me we become less aware of how this impacts on others. What a great reminder for all of us. Now how can we reach those who really need to hear this? Report
I smile:) now at ALL people.
Although I did feel like dying when a woman on the beach commented that "it wouldn't be long" before my baby was born....

And when a man shouted "fat bitch" as my husband sat silently. Report
What I have come to understand over the years is that the "Fat Stigma" is an unprotected issue.. Society, at large, still allows bullying of this issue due to the fact that is is unprotected issue, such as religion, disability, race and ethnicity. Yes, it is politicly incorrect to commet on in an open forum, yet due to the fact that some doctor publicly verbalize distain for people that are not ideal weight, society has taken it apon itself to be judge and jury...
Lastly, we will know when it is a protected issue when comedians stop using the "Fat Stigma" as part of their acts for an easy target.... Report
CD7898490
While some people called me names, I learned to ignore them. I had friends drring bad times that could careless. One girl (size 6), loved to go shopping. She would happily go into the large size places with me. Report
I know that in my case people at work actually seem to think they are better then everyone else the thinner they are. It's not everyone, but the ones that are like that are quite vocal. They will criticize what you eat if you happen to be at lunch at the same time, even if it's super healthy they will find some fault with it because of the fact I'm not thin. The thing is I do have life to balance as well. It would be really easy for some people to drop their children off with whoever and go workout for 2 hours. Me, (like MANY other sparkers I've talked to) would rather find a way to incorporate their children into their workouts. (walking to the parking, nature hike, playing ball outside). I also refuse to take diet pills (like many of the meanies at work have done or are doing). I didn't take a pill to get like this and I sure don't expect that a pill will help me fix the overall issues.

The problem is that people make snap judgements about heavy people without knowing ANYTHING about what is going on inside. Be it emotional, psychological or medical. I'm sure none of us sat down one day and said ...."hmmm, I think I want to be 100 lbs overweight....bring on the cupcakes!"

Sorry - I'll step down off that soapbox. This topic is near and dear to my heart because I see the bullying at work and I think it's disgusting how people can treat others based on nothing more then their weight. Report
HOTMESSRISING
I wonder where this article would do most good? I think most of us on Spark understand all this.
Also, the author could mention there are many people out there who work out hard every day and are still overweight, even obese. In our case, lazy has nothing to do with it. Report
I get very mad at my husband because almost anytime we see an overweight person he makes some sort of comment. A lot of times the comment is subtle, but it is there nonetheless. It is not like he couldn't stand to lose a few pounds. I have some good friends who are avid bike riders, but they are overweight. If I say anything about their riding, I get some sort of comment. Sometimes I remind him that people may be saying the same things about me. I really wish he would give it up. Report
Life for fatties was much worse back in the 60s and 70s when we were really a minority.
P.S. lady gaga? sorry - nothing she says could influence me. Report
I agree that this is a big problem. Having lost over 130 pounds and STILL being significantly overweight at 303pounds, I face a tough issue. Folks who do NOT know me or the journey that I am on treat me with the FATTY Prejudice that you refer to. I live in a world that is almost two sided. There are those who KNOW my past & my journey and support me 100%. They great me with affirmations and motivation daily. Then there are those who don't know me at all who yell obscenities and rude comments when they see me walking or in the salad bar line at the local restaurant. The dirty looks that I get sometimes are scathing. At 52, I have learned to have a pretty thick skin but some days it is very frustrating. Being on a plateau doesn't help much because it's tough to go into that Nautilus or Weight room to workout and face not only all those mirrors but to look at the faces of the more physically fit when they see me trying to struggle onto a smaller piece of equipment or trying to get up off the mat after some reverse crunches on the floor. I don't know what the answers are, I only know that DAWN has to get fit to save her life and has to be kinder to others on the journey. Report
The fact of the matter is, most people who are overweight got that way because of improper eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle. Unfortunately, we're talking about a generation of people who learned how to cook out of boxes and cans instead of gardens and have a lifetime of misinformation to purge from their systems.

Sure, bad food and no exercise are things you can deliberately overcome, but it takes SO MUCH to see through the BS that's out there. You might as well try to "fix" a drug addict by telling her how stupid she was to try heroin. It may be true, but if you want her to change her body and her mind, it takes a lot of intense therapy and re-training. Same for obese people who never learned how to cook vegetables properly and ate more take-out than home-cooked food. Same for people in poverty (everyone I know who has 85+lbs to lose is POOR), who need better resources for afforable healthy produce and grains. Like anyone dealing with a physical deficit, the obese need time to retrain their bodies and brains.

So... yeah... I notice fat people. Shameful though it may be, I express thanks that I was able to stop myself from being so overweight. But I also know that their struggle to maintain their pride, confidence, and happiness is greater than the fat on their bodies. Report
I have lived in my adopted and beloved country for 45 years and became a citizen long ago. Bias is the saddest, most pervasive and unfortunate coarse thread in our society. For me it's my brown skin and my accent but for two of my children is their size. Having said all that your blog is timely and so true.

You have beautifully expressed what others struggle to say. Your are a beautiful, caring and sensitive person. I will be sharing your blog with my adult children. Thank you so much for giving my the opportunity to read it.
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I can't believe all the cruel comments about this article by members of sparkpeople, people who have been there and know what it feels like for heavens sake. I don't care what the reason is why someone is overweight, NO ONE has the right to make fun of tothers, to ignore them, or to make them feel less than someone else for any reason!!! As we all know weight issues are more than just overeating, their is the emotional, , genetic, physical reasons as well. I feel that laughing, making fun of and saying cruel things about tell us more about the lack of character in the person doing the laughing than it ever says about the person they are making fun of. Report
Say what? First you tell us, "There are so many reasons people are heavy, but generally “I want to be fat” is not one of them. {snip} It is never just a simple fix or a choice to just “be thin.” " But then you contradict yourself, "WHY would someone choose to be fat? Some people do choose to be overweight. It is a choice and one with some very dire consequences. {snip} It is not a healthy choice, but it is a choice--one with a short life span and many health complications."

You aren't making sense. I can't go along with this particular blog. It's not a choice - it's a choice - it's not a choice - it's a choice.

I'm sorry to be so disagreeable here, but I see too much contradiction. You're trying to have it both ways. Report
great blog. thank you for expressing it as we all feel. Report
This is an awesome blog. Many people don't understand, and when they don't understand they resond poorly. it hurts to read this? But is so true. I will be sharing it with some friends because I think it will help them. Thank you for thisblog. Report
Regardless of someone's appearance or any other characteristics - I taught my children not to make personal remarks. Ever. Report
Great blog!!!!! Report
I fight it by telling my kids it is not okay to make fun of people period. That people feel sad when you make fun of them and that someone's appearance on the outside doesn't make them nicer or meaner than another person. I was really touched by your story of the kids who made fun of you in the restaurant. Whenever I see kids making fun of others I think about this story and one of my own experiences which was similar. We should respect people not by how they look or what they have or don't have, but just because they are human beings. Unfortunately, people feel so insecure about themselves that they make fun of and belittle others to make themselves feel superior. You are wonderful and I love your blogs. You are a true inspiration and obviously a kind and thoughtful person. There are no mistakes and we shouldn't judge anyone period. It's not our job. Report
My friends are very similar about this. They don't see me as fat (well, atleast not to my face) but they do see others and "have no sympathy" and place all the blame on them. I'm trying slowly to change their minds, just by analyzing what they're saying, but there is always that push back, that idea that "it's strange you're disagreeing with me, but I'll acknowledge it without absorbing it". It's a start though, and sooner or later the message will get through. Report
I think Beth is right on this and I noticed it a few years ago, before reading this blog. My husband is constantly berating women on TV for being "fat," when they aren't even overweight by anyone's standards. He seems to focus on upper arms, and if he thinks they're thicker than they should be, the person (always a woman) is fat. Oddly enough, he was always slim until he retired and a couple of times when he's criticized women on TV, I've said, "Ahem! Have you viewed your profile in the mirror lately?" I would *never* say anything like this but it's really beginning to irritate me when he criticizes women this way. I'm 5'10" and currently weigh 120, but I've lost weight since I retired (no stress & no snacking!). I wonder what he thought of my weight when I was 30 pounds heavier? He probably thinks I'm fat now. Anyway, he's not the only one I've noticed who seems to think it's OK to openly criticize overweight people without knowing any of the facts of their situation. Yet the very same people would never utter a racial or ethnic slur. Maybe they're simply critical by nature, and when it became socially unacceptable to criticize one group, they just couldn't help themselves and had to pick on someone else? Maybe it just HAS to come out? I don't know ... but thank you for the thought-provoking blog, Beth. Report
I was never teased outside my immediate family for my weight. When I was teased, I was thin! I just wasn't scrawny like they were. Since I've been overwight, I haven't had any problems with "fat stigma". But, I do agree with what some of the previous people said about SP. People need to be careful what they're saying. Report
What a wonderful blog. My experiences have been completely different. I will say I am guilty of participating in the stigma. Go figure. I remember being heavier and always saying to myself whew glad I'm not that size and I'm sure it was someone saying that about me and probably saying it about me now. Definitely an eye opener and a chance for some self reflection. Report
I am afaid I have to agree with CAUTION86, below. "If we got rid of the stigma of being obese, wouldn't that be the same as saying it is OK to be obese?" Obesity, like any diseae, is NOT OK. It is nearly always fatal.

That is not to say I approve of rudeness, or allowing our behaviours to hurt others' feelings; however, I also can not agree to a policy that promotes unconditional positive regard toward obesity/persons afflicted with obesity.

I also disagree with the statements that bash the Sparkville members for promoting "skinny" images. After all, part of healthy lifestyle is attaining/maintaining a healthy body weight. And while we might be desirous of moving toward the skinny end of the spectrum, rather than toward the obese end ot the spectrum, this does not mean that very many of us are actually going to make it to the skinny side of the scale.

I think many of us became Sparks members because we wanted to lose weght in a healthy manner, as well as learn how to live more healthily. IMHO, promoting 'Skinny" images helps us to focus on the direction we wish to move in. We certainly aren't going to post images of obese persons as role models! Report
Great blog.

I think that it can go both ways--on the one hand, as people get larger our idea of "normal' also gets bigger, as others have said. But at the same time, I see again and again people being judgmental. People assume that if another person is overweight, it is because they 1) don't know better, 2) are lazy, and/or 3) they have no will power.

They see a heavy person at a restaurant eating and say, look at that fatty food that person is eating; no wonder they are fat. They have no idea if that person eats like that normally. They don't know how active they are. They don't know how healthy their heart is. They don't even know if the person eats the entire portion in one sitting. All they see is a one time decision by a stranger.

Certainly unhealthy food choices can and often does contribute to weight gain, no question about that. But so can injuries, surgery, thyroid issues, proscribed steroids, sedentary jobs, hectic schedules, stress, lack of sleep, and cost. As most of us know who have been struggling to lose weight, there are a lot of factors that lead to weight gain, and that can make it hard to lose weight. We have no right to judge a stranger, especially when we don't even know anything about why that person is overweight.

And, as others have said, it shouldn't be accepted to treat anyone disrespectfully. Report
Great blog, great tips.

Sad that people can't try to think of others feelings. No one knows what another person has been through or what they may be dealing with or how they may be dealing with stuff. Report