What Do You Wish People Knew About Being Overweight?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
If you've never been overweight, it's impossible to know what day-to-day life is really like. And it's easy to assume that an obese person has made poor choices that led to their situation—they must eat a lot of unhealthy food and never exercise, right? And beyond the more obvious issues, like low self-esteem and ill-fitting clothes, a slimmer person likely has no concept of the daily challenges of obesity.

If you're the one who's overweight or obese, it can sometimes be a very lonely feeling, as well. It may feel like you're living under a microscope, surrounded by thin people who are judging everything from the food on your plate to your clothing choices. They may not understand why you don't want to engage in certain activities, or why a simple phrase or sideways glance can be so upsetting.  
SparkPeople coach Jen Mueller points out the importance of maintaining a positive mindset, even through the most challenging parts of a weight-loss journey. "I see so many people beating themselves up about gaining weight, whether it’s five pounds from a vacation or 100 pounds over the past 10 years," she says. "Although it’s good to learn from mistakes of the past, it’s important to remember that you have total control over what happens from this moment forward. If you let others' judgements about your decisions or appearance determine your own self-worth, it’s difficult to see the power you have inside to change. You have that power; we all do. You are so much more than a number on the scale, so don’t let that define the person you are or the life you lead."

Real People’s Experiences with Being Overweight

To help bridge what can seem like a very large gap, we asked a few people to share real-world experiences from their weight-loss journeys. Our hope is that these anecdotes will help illustrate what it's really like to live as an overweight person while encouraging others to be more sensitive to their struggle.
"Even sleeping is a challenge. You have to find ways to get comfortable—you can't sleep this way because you can't breathe, can't sleep that way because your chest pushes up on your throat and blocks it. I had to sit up half the night because of the sleep apnea, the hurting back, the edema…" GPALMER29
"I have had someone—a complete stranger—assume that I'm pregnant when I was not. That's pretty embarrassing and humiliating. Unless you emphatically know someone is pregnant, do not comment! Don't even ask!" Rebecca Scheerer, Cincinnati, Ohio
"I was in McDonald's once—for the first time in over five years—and while I was perusing the menu, the manager behind me said in Spanish (with me being Italian, I was able to pick up some of the words) to the girl behind the register, 'Take this fat lady's order.' I haven't gone inside a McDonald's since. I do the drive-thru because there is no one there to address your weight." BEVIEG41
“There's so much people don't understand....from going to amusement parks and worrying about fitting in the roller coaster seats to the looks you get just walking around. I remember going on a business trip many years ago when I was at my heaviest. It was a sales presentation and I was the subject matter expert. Our salesperson, who had never met me in person before that day, said (in no uncertain terms) that I didn't present well physically and wouldn't be asked to go on more sales presentations no matter how great of a job I did.” GAILIEBEE69
“It seems like being around people, your jokes revolve around your size [...] I would joke about myself all the time, about my size, to make people laugh. I was the ‘fat, funny guy,’ and it was actually depressing. I put on a good front and a happy face, but inside it was a heavy burden.” GPALMER29
"I'd see the looks. I was afraid to eat in front of people. It was isolating. A person who is overweight […] should not be shamed or ridiculed or endure snickers and whispers. If you don't feel comfortable snickering toward a person in a wheelchair, you should not feel comfortable doing the same toward someone overweight, no matter their size." Cathy*, Cincinnati, Ohio
"I think that it's tough to know that some people assume I'm totally unhealthy. I really eat pretty well (although I do have a wicked sweet tooth), but I also have a thyroid disorder and I think it makes it tough for me to lose and keep weight off. I typically have to stay under 1,100 calories a day to lose or maintain. I would give—I don't know what—to figure out how to be thin, enjoy food and maintain a more ideal weight without so much work and counting every calorie that goes in. It's exhausting, both physically and mentally, for me." Rebecca Scheerer, Cincinnati, Ohio
"The most disturbing [reality] for me has been feeling unhealthy. Before I started working out again, my heart felt weak and strained, which was an alarming wake-up call that I could not keep putting off taking my health seriously." Wellness expert Gabrielle Loehr
"When buying clothes, you have to go to the big and tall stores [...] and you walk up to the counter with size 64 pants and deal with a retailer who is average size, and you get that look, everybody knows the one [...] it's the one that says, ‘Man, could you get any bigger?'" GPALMER29
"I hate how your stomach skin flops down in front of you and you get this icky moisture, which chafes in the hot weather and smells if you don't keep up with it. Not pretty." GABY1948
"I have girlfriends of many sizes. The thinner ones love to shop. When you're overweight, that is not fun. I enjoy it a little more now, but am still apprehensive. I wear a size 12 now and still find myself gravitating toward the plus-size clothes, as I cannot believe/accept the smaller me." Cathy*, Cincinnati, Ohio
"At work, I'd look around for a sturdy chair and one not too close to others. I always went to staff meetings early so I'd get a chair appropriate for me. I never broke a chair, but my sister who was a little heavier than I did. At restaurants, booths usually didn't work for me. Even if I could squeeze in, I felt squashed and trapped. Sometimes we'd wait longer for a table." SLENDERELLA61
"Just taking a shower was a challenge. I washed off in the sink most of the time because I couldn't move around inside the shower. Even driving was a chore [...] when you have this massive [stomach] in your way, it was difficult to steer a vehicle." GPALMER29 

"[When I weighed] over 300 pounds 30 or 40 years ago, an orthopedic doctor told me that if I did not lose weight, I would lose my weight-bearing joints and be in pain. Here I am at 69 years old with a knee replacement and another one needed. I have also been diagnosed with sciatica. I didn't do what I needed to do until four years ago when I lost 240 pounds. [My advice is to] lose weight before damage is done in so many areas of your body." SINGINGLADY_JLN

"Inexpensive clothing for the short and overweight woman is still virtually non-existent. It is hard to be overweight and feel attractive." SUNNYCALIGIRL
"When I was thin, overweight women often seemed angry with me, as though my thinness was directly responsible for their weight. Now, I have noticed that I am not taken as seriously as I was when I was thin, and that thin women look at me as though I am their motivation to work out, which is both hurtful and misplaced. My brain works just as well as it did before I gained weight, and life is not a beauty contest. There is no prize for being the thinnest." Wellness expert Gabrielle Loehr
“When eating out [at a restaurant], trying to sit in a booth that's made for small people, knowing you have to find a table with pull-out chairs [...] and people are looking at you like, ‘We better hurry up and get up to the buffet before they do!” GPALMER29

"Being overweight [when flying on a plane] means you have to ask the stewardess for the extended seat belt. Some are discreet and some love to announce it." BEVIEG41
“When I was in fifth grade, we moved to a new school and I was terribly embarrassed about my size. I was teased, called ‘moo cow’ and ‘marshmallow.’ I refused to run in [gym class] because I didn't want anyone to see my fat jiggle. Besides being overweight, I was awkward. Would I have been more graceful if I had been a normal weight? Maybe. I tended to walk into things like counters and I tripped a lot. A gym teacher told my father that I was a ‘motor moron.’ I heard it. It hurt.” SLENDERELLA61

If you've ever struggled with being overweight or obese, what experiences might be surprising to people who have never faced this challenge?

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Good info Report
Good article Report
Great article, very informative and feelings Report
You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
- Mohandas Gandhi Report
So many situations and comments that I can relate to my many years of being overweight. November 2015 (my pic with my nephew is proof) I was only 10 pounds from my goal weight that I hadn't seen since college (...and we're talking about the early 1970's). I hurt my knee, had an unsuccessful operation last February and have regained 70 pounds of the 135 pounds I had lost. It is so depressing and disheartening to be almost back where I started. If I can ever get back to my goal, I pray that I won't sabotage myself again. It is just too painful. Report
It is unfortunate how people don't understand how being overweight feels, not only physically but also psychologically. Report
I have lived through so may of the things mentioned here are and am still living with a lot of them. Report
I don't understand why people have to comment on other people's weight. Weight is between a person and their doctor. Report
The sad thing is that it's not anything to do with being overweight. It's because the mean person is just a mean person. I get comments all the time about my weight because I'm too thin! I'm not I'm "normal" at 120lbs for 5'5". "You want to eat a few burgers, you do" is a common one, "how long have you had anorexia/bulimia?". I've never had either. "You wouldn't feel the cold if you put some meat on your bones". The most humiliating one was going into a lingerie shop when I was 18. I asked where the AA cup sizes were. I was laughed at and told to try the mastectomy shop in front of a whole shop full of people who then made jokes about "fried egg club" and " you don't really need to bother do you?". I was mortified.
You can't win! Report
Prejudice and discrimination are the crappiest consequences of being overweight. We're even the butt (pardon the pun) of jokes. When I was dating, I even had men say, "but you have such a pretty face..." as if that was a compliment. Report
I love articles like this...more personable and real! Thank you! Report
So sad to be judged because of our size. Report
For me, the worst part of being overweight was feeling as if I had given up and that it was all downhill from here. I'm only 55, so that was a pretty crappy way to feel. However, the incredible rush of getting healthy again has counterbalanced that and then some. All I've done is walk and track my food, and I am 50 pounds down. It is a struggle everyday, however, and I could never forget how different I felt 50 pounds ago. Report
About 2 months ago I was walking in the park and this guy decided he should yell across the parking lot how great it was that I was walking. He said his friend list 60 lbs in a month walking so I should not give up. I was so angry and embarrassed. Who does that? Then I reminded myself, I had been walking daily over a month and had lost 15lbs so he could kiss my slightly smaller behind. Report
It is so sad that people are so often comfortable with being cruel to others. Report
So many of these resonate with me from when I was obese. Maybe the most was not being able to shop in regular stores. Did a lot of standing around waiting for friends. Thankful I finally took control of my life and health. Report
I went to a yoga class once. With hindsight, this was never going to be a positive experience! Having some lithe young thing telling me to bring my leg through when it just kept getting stuck on the 50lb wedge of fat round my middle, or trying to fold forward and being blocked by the tummy rolls and don't even mention what "the girls" did when I attempted downward facing dog: not being flexible is one thing but the feeling of being truly trapped and confined by the extra weight was soul destroying :-( Report
Great article! Thanks! Report
No one gets up and says I want to be humiliated and in pain all day. Obesity is a medical issue with a big emotional component that must be dealt with. It is not easy. Report
I wish people knew that we didn't just get up one morning and say, "Gee, I'm going to gain a bunch of weight. Being fat must be so much fun!" People (esp naturally thin people) seem to think it's a matter of pure laziness or just a whim. They don't understand that there are reasons we are fat; many, highly varied reasons. For many of us, it was illness that started it and it is illness that continues to be the biggest battle to lose weight. Rant over. Report
I just love the people who act like I could just lose the weight if I "just tried harder". Report
Good article! Report
Good article. Report
Great Article. Report
I know the feeling Report
thanks. Report
I relate and more its hard when you are a child Report
People truly don't realize that overweight people beat themselves up enough. We should all learn to not stare- point - judge someone that we do not know just because they look different from the way we expect people to look. Report
Many parts of our society is unnecessarily difficult and we can be cruel to each other for some of the most unusual reasons Report
Great article! Report
helpful Report
I appreciated the analogy of what person would do or say to a person in a wheelchair. It really is about respecting the same regardless of the persons difference to oneself. Report
Good read. More people should have this awareness. Report
Thanks for sharing this...tender Report
This is eye opening and touching. So much fat shaming and prejudice. Report
This is a good article. I gained weight due to school bullying and a eating disorder. I would basically only eat once a day, and never allow people to watch me eat. Now i'm 30, going to the gym and trying to get strong and healthy. I would love for the weight to come off, but I will be happy if I am just stronger, and healthier than I have been. I think the weight will come off, but the struggle is so real. Report
This is a great article. I have always been asked to talk about what it was like to be overweight. I just refuse to talk about it now. Report
Someone below asked if cashiers and other customer service workers ignore you... YES. I refuse to go into a Dick's sporting goods because of it. I was trying on running shoes and had more than one employee literally step over me while ignoring me. They lost any money I would have ever given them. Report
My story is a little different. I hit puberty and gained a lot of weight seems to be a genetic thing. Naturally awkward so of course was bullied. By the time I got into my 20s I was a size 18 or XL to 1X. And the XL was tight. I had loat weight, gained it and just reached a point this is my body and learned to love it. Over the past couple years I started losing weight by making two small changes in my day to day life. I got very confused as I watched my body melt away. But still saw me as my bigger self,then there was a mourning process as I really wasn't trying to lose weight and as I did I actually felt like I was losing a part of myself. At first when my jeans we're getting loose my thoughts were 'these are really stretchy jeans.' (I was a little clueless.) I am still losing weight and sometimes gain I am just going with the flow and trying to enjoy the changes. Like being able to balance in the shower to shave or climbing a step ladder a little easier. It definitely helps...and I learned no matter what certain body parts I probably will always despise but also learned despite my feelings to tock it anyway cause there is someone else who thinks opposit...though other peoples opinions are not my focus in a way it still helps,if that makes sense. Report
Thanks again! Report
Thanks for sharing ! Report
When I lost 50 pounds to my goal of 145 many years ago I went from a tight size 22 to a comfy size 13. Unfortunately through the years I gained many pounds until I had 100 pounds to lose. Since my highest weight I have lost 25 pounds and have only gone from a tight size 3X to a loose size 3X. As you get closer to your goal the size will dimish more. Also age plays a part. Report
thanks. Report
Great article!! Report
Good info. Report
THank you! Report
I always had compassion of people who are overweight. I never was until I was in my 30's and medication caused me to gain weight. I am active even though I am overweight. My biggest struggle is with depression due to being overweight now. Report