A little while ago, I asked the wonderful, amazingly awesome readers of this site who they allow to bring their weight to their attention. Lots of great comments, with a couple of standouts below:
I think people who really have your best intentions at heart are allowed to express their concerns to you about becoming healthier; however, there is a thing called tact! – Chanel
i’d rather not have anyone call me fat except for me. I decide when I need to hit the gym and i decide when and if i am happy with how I look. – Elledub
Honestly, though I may dislike hearing it, I think my family and friends should be allowed to call me fat. I’ll tell you why. As I’ve stated before (maybe not here, but on my blog or Twitter), I didn’t really notice the weight gain. I knew it was creeping up, but I still looked (in my mind) pretty good. When people started making comments, inclusive of a student that had absolutely NO tact whatsoever, I took stock in what they were saying and decided that I needed to do something about it. – Tracy
Honestly, anyone who loves me had better tell me if I’m picking up weight. – Winnie
I wish to God one of my friends or family members had had the courage to tell me I needed to do something about my weight a few years ago. […] Now that most of the excess weight is gone, everyone is all “OMG, you look great”, but I can’t help but to wish someone had remarked on my weight before. But that’s easy to say on the other side of the fence… – Sister Toldja
I think that “other side of the fence” is a big part of this. As I wrote about the conversation between my Mother and my sister, it’s hard for me to think about what my response would’ve been to someone telling me I was gaining too much weight. I mean, I was a snappy chick… quick to rain jokes down upon the head of anyone who was willing to step to me about my weight. I could only imagine what kind of torrential terrible twenties tantrum fit I might’ve thrown had someone told me that I was any less sexy, dope, amazingly gorgeous, downright stunning and perfect than I believed I was in my own head.
And that’s not to say that being overweight means that I couldn’t be sexy, dope, amazingly gorgeous, downright stunning and perfect. It means that since I saw “fat” as a flaw (and let’s face it, most of us do), having someone remind me of a flaw I was diligently ignoring felt like the chink in my armor turning into a hole. And that’s, well… unacceptable.
I think of the countless times my girls tried to get me to hit the gym with them. My best friend, an avid runner, actually offered to walk with me one day. (Do you know how hard it is to get a runner to slow down for your slow behind?) My mother made side salads for dinner, while making sure that the more calorie-heavy parts of the meal were “all gone” by the time I’d go to fix my plate. Apparently, everyone had something to say… but no one was saying it. Meanwhile, I was gaining weight at a rate of about 20lbs a year.
Am I making that gain everyone else’s fault? Nope. It’s my body, my responsibility to learn how to care for it, and care for it properly. However, what kind of climate was I creating where the people around me couldn’t even tell me – in love and in kindness – that something was going on with me? Couldn’t express their concern for me?
Frankly, I ain’t the one. I can’t afford to be the one.
Let’s say that you and your girls are getting ready to hit a major event. Before you all walk out the door, you check each other out to make sure you’re all looking good. Isn’t the expectation that one of them will tell you if you’re the one looking a mess? We expect our friends to tell us if we’re looking a fool before we walk out of our houses, but they can’t tell us we’ve put on too much weight?
Is it the fact that we, as women, tend to be so objectified – everything has to do with sexuality and sexual appeal – that we’ve equated “you’re gaining weight” with “you’re unattractive?” Are we so used to everything being about attraction, that being told we’re packin’ on the pounds must also be about being attractive (or, in this case, less than attractive?) It couldn’t simply be a “Hey… check on your health.” type situation? It has to be about “cute?”
Or is it the fact that everyone’s threshold is different? Southerners have a different definition of “putting on weight” than Northerners. Miami’s definition is different from Houston. Mississippi wouldn’t understand California. An extra ten pounds vs an extra hundred or so. For someone to acknowledge that I’ve put on the pounds, when “put on the pounds” means “ten pounds” to them? I won’t even lie. They just might get the finger.
I think about myself now. I get at least one comment/email/tweet/anonymous whatever a week calling me a “fat bitch.” I usually laugh, but every now and again I raise my eyebrow and wonder… “Once upon a time, I couldn’t get people I love to tell me I was too big. Now, I’ve got strangers telling me I’m fat? What part of the game is that?” 330lb Erika might not’ve had that reaction. 180lb Erika, however… is tickled.
It goes back to that “other side of the fence” note I made earlier. Looking at the person I am today, I can acknowledge that this is the person I needed to be to get to where I am. Allowing the people I love to feel comfortable addressing my flaws might’ve helped me become this person much earlier on in my life. If I keep them close to me because I trust their influence to make me “better,” why exclude health? Why exclude weight? If the people who love me want to offer me solutions, why not be open to them? What do I have to lose?
And let me clarify.. I’m talking about people who love you. The ones invested in you as a person. The ones who are there for you at your worst. They deserve to be able to help make you better, and enjoy you at your best. We can talk about “haters,” but I fully believe they’re not worth talking about. Nor are they worth thinking about. People who mean you no positivity aren’t worth time or brainspace.
No, really. I mean that. So those family members who insist on spitefully bringing up your weight – the ones you know mean you no earthly good, and usually never have any support to offer you beyond “Yo booty gettin’ kinda big” – you can give them a polite “I’ll take that under consideration,” and change the subject… while mentally giving them the finger.
My plea is just that we not shut out the people who we trust to see the worst of us. Don’t prevent them from helping to develop the best in you: the healthy you! I’m talkin’ about those people who – like my friends (who, I’ll have you know, are still my tried and true friends fat or skinny) – are willing to walk through the fire with you, support you and offer you solutions to help you get to where you want to go. Where you need to go.
This journey isn’t one that we can go on alone. You will always need a support system that will giggle with you at your failures, cheer you on through your successes, and help you learn from both. You trust them to have your back, so trust them to tell you about something you might be overlooking… like your weight. If you love them and they love you (and you know it), give them a chance. They very well may have the answers, resources and support you need.
Be happy, but most importantly… be healthy. 🙂
I like what you are saying because nobody and i mean NOBODY that loves me has ever said you are to big. My highest weight was about 325 not my family or girlfriends ever said hey you are to large. It’s hard being your own motivator. The funny thing about it is I always get on them and say something like, don’t get like me girl or you don’t want to change places you better cut back, trying to get all this weight off is hard, come on and go to aerobics with me. The funny part is none of them really listen. I think it’s hard for them to listen to someone who is way way larger than them about weight loss. Heck now that i am down to 260 and work out at least 5 to 6 days, most of my girlfriends still won’t go to the gym with me or aerobics classes. But because i love them and don’t ever want to see them endure the stigma that i have over the years, i always tell my neices, sisters, church members, and friends, don’t come to where i am and have been, start eating better and exercise. They never get angry and a lot of times say you are so right, but sometimes i feel like because of my size it falls on deaf ears.
This is right on time! I have had family comment about my weight and I would immediately get defensive. So much so, I realized just recently that people had stopped completely. This just came to my attention, because I finally got my act together and started eating better and exercising and have dropped 40 pounds so far. I went to a family function and everyone was floored at my transformation and couldn’t stop talking about it. Later I asked my mother, was I that big? She said you had gotten pretty big. I had the nerve to ask, well why didn’t anyone say anything?! She gave me that motherly look, that lets you know at any age, you are seconds from getting slapped! I realize now that I took those caring comments as personal attacks on my character, that I lacked control, etc. and that I wasn’t attractive at almost 300 pounds. Goodness knows that I wasn’t healthy. Now I’m open to any helpful advice and exercise partners. It is hard to do this alone! Thanks so much for this blog, it really inspires me and gets me through!
This article, although a little late in seeing it, is right on time for me as well. After being hospitalized on February 28th of this year for having symptoms of a heart attack because I was 318 pounds (my highest weight being 338 pounds), I realized that I was not taking care of myself. However, more than that, I realized that no one else encouraged me more to get myself together before I reached 300 lbs. Was it because I didn’t allow others to call me fat or was I too sensitive to the word fat? Honestly, I don’t know and frankly, since it’s hindsight, I can’t afford to care. What I do know is that being a southern-born woman, we do use phrases that may indicate concern but are too sweet to distinctively know what is the actual concern. Such phrases I received were “take care or yourself” or “get it together”, which may have told me of their concern but it didn’t tell me what in particular they were concerned about. As humans, we all have many issues going on at once, so phrases such as those may show concern but does very little to point the person in the direction one feels they should go.
Perhaps, it sounds nasty, ugly, despicable, trifling or just down right rude to say someone we love is “fat”, but I much rather hear that and a solution to how I can fix it rather than “take care of yourself” or “get it together, girl” and land my butt back in the hospital, incurring bills that I could have easily avoided should someone I love loved me enough to be nasty, ugly, despicable, trifling or down right rude in telling me that I was too fat. Now that I am 40+ pounds lighter (yes, I lost 20 lbs in 3 weeks) than my highest weight and are out of the 300’s, I’m making it my business to help others who know they are obese/overweight but are unmotivated to lose it because I don’t want them to have their status confirmed in a hospital bed, lying next to people who are 30-50 years their senior like I did. Their wake up call should be by people who love them and are concerned about them, not by doctors, nurses, heart monitors and tubes. By then, it may be too late. If that is the case, who would then care about the word “fat” and the way it sounds? Just a thought…
I don’t think that your encourangment to your friends fall on deaf ears, its just that those friend are not on the same page as you. You just keep on being an example and encouranging the one you care about to join you; you never know who’s watching and will eventually come around. I thank you for sharing your story.
My mom was obsessed with weight. She called me fat (or some other version) all day, everyday since I started school. When I was in Jr High, 5’7″, 155 pounds and fairly athletic, I was still fat. There has never been a moment in my life when I “didn’t know” that I was fat. So if anyone, no matter how much they cared about me, told me I was fat now, at 335 pounds, I wouldn’t take it very well. Just sayin’.
I once had this guy who was so crossed about the fact that I wasn’t interested in him that when, after a good number of polite noes, I was forced to voice a not-so-polite “stop sending me unsolicited stuff through e-mail”, he sent me an e-mail from him full of insults and use of demeaning words related to my being overweight: think of every synonym of “lard”, going on and on.
So I’d say, I can take “fat” as a cold description of facts, but never as a weapon meant to attack another person’s self-esteem.
I want my friends and loved ones to tell me either way-if I’m gaining too much or losing too much. Sometimes, I’ve been known to not be aware. When I got up to 200 lbs (I’m only 5′ 1″), I was a little uncomfortable, but I just thought my T & A was fantastically juicy. It took me trying to be “sexy” with someone and that person being turned off by all the extra meat I was carrying to realize that I needed to do something. I started out changing my lifestyle because I was vain, but it ended up being about getting healthy. Once I realized how badly I was treating my body, I picked up the pace. Back when all that happened with the guy, I was really embarrassed for a while (and angry), but now I appreciate what happened because if it weren’t for that I probably would have gotten much worse before I got better. Unfortunately, my friends and family didn’t say anything probably because they are overweight themselves AND they may have been harboring a little jealousy (I picked up cuties when I was smaller, but when I picked up weight the attention shifted to them).
Everyone who cares about me would have been allowed to tell me I was putting on optional weight, as long as they do it in a caring way. (No one did, I figured that one out on my own when my clothes wouldn’t stop shrinking.)
Right now I am in exactly the other person’s shoes. While I have shrunk, the BF seems to have put on all my former optional weight, and now most of his clothes are really tight or too tight. I cook the same meals for both of us, but of course it is up to him to decide what and how much he eats. I am trying to show him tricks and help him make time to exercise again (he used to run, but life got busy), but at the same time I do not want to pressure him. After all he is still smaller than I used to be, although not by much these days.
When I put on weight I am aware of it. Since my thighs rub together when I am overweight. Most people tell you your putting on weight very rudely. For instance ” Stop eating all the fried chicken or they grab your arm and say girl you getting fat”. Then people like to compare themselves if you lost weight and say remember when you were fat. I go to the gym and eat healthier and people tell me I look bigger when I am currently losing. I just stopped listening. Do you think going to the gym for 75 minutes for 5 days a week is good?
lose the weight for you and i know sometimes when people do things like you described it’s hurtful but at the end of the day let it not be an esteem thing but a health thing
One time I was eating nachos at a restaurant with a friend.
I joked about being fat, looking pregnant, etc.
I was really upset when she said to me “No, no, you’re not *fat*, you’re chubby”.
I think she was trying to save my feelings but chubby is what young kids/teenagers can be. Chubby is (AT MOST) in the ‘overweight’ section of the BMI charts, NOT the obese.
The thing that really upset was that *I* knew I was fat. I even put it out there. Now, if you, as my friend, cannot admit that I am fat whilst I can, that’s a major problem for me.
Because what happens when I think “oh, I’m just chubby” and I carry on eating/not exercising until I get to a point where I cannot walk. Will I still then be chubby or will I finally have reached ‘okay, you’re fat, try to lose some weight’ category?
Just found your blog and as someone who is committed to getting back into shape I love it! I’m in the military and it is one of those jobs where being even just 20lb overweight is akin to being over a hundred. Luckily for me my husband and I have established that it is okay to express concern to each other about our fitness because it is important! I’d rather be irritated that he notices I’ve put on an extra 10-15lbs rather than wake up one day wondering what happened. We put the focus not on weight but on fitness and find ways to be active together even if it just a quick game of racquetball.
I think the best thing for people who genuinely care about someone else’s health is to focus on helping that person achieve a healthy lifestyle – helping them overcome emotional/stress eating, learning to get lots of enjoyable physical activity, and how to prepare nutritious, good tasting foods. If, say, your significant other is overweight, why not make them a healthy, great tasting meal, or introduce them to a new sport, or (if they already have a “get in shape” goal) ask what you can do to help (e.g. if getting to the gym is a problem because of childcare responsibilities, make a point of taking over that roll for an evening or two a week)?
Mind you, this all depends on a person’s self-image. If someone is comfortable in their own skin, being told they need to loose weight may not devastate their self-confidence. On the other hand, if it is someone who already hates their body and is trying everything they know to be healthier, being told they are “fat” is probably not particularly helpful.
I have 7 children. I would expand into pregnancy clothes and then after baby was born I would get “babyfat” clothes. Rinse and repeat 7 times. And I suspect sizes have been adjusted for “American lifestyle” in the last 20 years too. So the weight did creep up. There is a waist-height ratio profile-maker online, and that is an objective way to look at yourself without actually taking a nakey pic.
You mention in other articles about each person’s come to fitness moment, and you’ve always advised gentleness. I think that’s a sensible way to go.
I recently had an issue with this as well. I’m fat and I know it. Is being obese good? Not for your health. Does it mean you’re ugly and worthless? HELL NO. I posted a selfie the other day and someone said, “Honestly I can’t tell because I couldn’t see your huge body because your fat fucking face is covering up the whole god damn screen…” Guess what? I don’t care. I know I’m fat, but he was NOT ALLOWED to make me feel ashamed of myself. You can call me fat, hell, anyone can call me a BBW, fat, etc. But make it a negative derogatory thing and you’ll soon realize that you messed with the wrong fat bitch. /endrant 😀
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