Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Fat people have feelings too

The weight loss industry is a multi-BILLION dollar industry.  Yet, Americans are fatter than ever (not that you'd know by the bikini-clad twits on reality TV shows -- my theory is that every single skinny person on earth must have been on TV by now because supposedly the fatties have taken over the world!).  (Side note:  And if the "big ones" HAVE taken over the world, WHY does the fashion industry still cater to the size 0?!  If bigger people are over-running the earth, their dollars should count for something and designers should be falling all over themselves to create cute clothes for us!)

I remember having an argument with someone on Facebook about what "average" sized means.  He was on a dating site and a girl called herself "average."  She ended up being a size 12.  He felt that she shouldn't have been over a size 8.  He compared it to a guy adding a couple of inches to his height on his profile.  They are not even close to the same issue.  Height is something you can actually measure.  Asking someone to choose:  Slender, Athletic, Average, or "More to Love" is completely subjective, and, therefore, open to interpretation.  My argument was that a girl who wanted to call herself "average" instead of "more to love" had every right to do so (a size 12 IS the American "average" size now).  A guy adding two inches to his height was just a tool, because if all six feet of me -- er, 5 feet, 11-3/4 inches -- showed up for a date, I'm going to notice that you're 5'10" and not 6' -- especially since I'll probably be in four inch heels.  

It's amazing to me how accepted it has become to be prejudiced against fat people.  (Article by a high school senior regarding fat prejudice.)  I started thinking about this subject recently when director, Kevin Smith, was given a hard time on a Southwest flight because he was too big for one seat.  I have now been on both sides of this coin, so I thought I should talk about it.  (Here's a listing of websites regarding fat prejudice and fat acceptance.)

I remember when I had to fly at my biggest, I was so embarrassed to ask for a seat belt extender (but I had no choice).  My dad moved from California to Texas, so I was "forced" to travel to see him.  I tried to only fly with family members so I wasn't infringing on a stranger's space.  One time I had to fly alone and I was so stressed out.  I was sitting next to another bigger lady so we were "fighting" for space.  It stressed me out so badly that I passed out twice during the flight.  My blood sugar was so low and the stress basically put me over the top.  I woke up sweaty and scared (I was out for literally seconds...not a big deal, just scary).  I was traveling alone and I didn't want to tell the flight attendant because I was terrified they'd land the plane and kick me off.  I asked for orange juice and just did some yoga breathing to get myself through.  I believe that was the last time I traveled while I was that overweight. 

I had gastric bypass within a year or so of my dad moving.  My first trip out to see him was probably a couple of months after surgery.  I had already lost enough weight to avoid asking for the seat belt extender.  Of course, all of my weight was gone within the first year.  It was so nice to FIT in the seat.  I mean, I'm still a big, tall, broad-shouldered girl, so it's not like airplane seats are COMFORTABLE but they're not as uncomfortable as they used to be for me.  

So, now I'm on the other side.  And how do I feel?  I can't lie.  When I have to sit next to a bigger person who is infringing on my space, I get a little irritated.  How is it that I've forgotten where I've come from??  I KNOW how it feels.  Knowing you're taking up someone else's space and feeling bad because there's nothing you can do at that moment (which is why I usually tried to take up my family's space because, what else is their purpose in life, other than to make my fat ass feel more comfortable??).  Yet, I still have that split second thought of: GET OUT OF MY SPACE. I try to be aware of my irritation and keep it under control.  I was there once and I would have been mortified if someone had been mean to me about it. 

I actually enjoy traveling more now and am relieved to BE on the other side of that coin.  A lot of that really was a mind trip...not real at all.  I definitely haven't stressed myself into a blackout incident since losing weight.

It's funny how our brains work. They say it takes about a year for your brain to catch up to your weight loss.  For example, if you see a space that your body will now physically fit through, your brain may tell you that you won't and you'll walk around it (think crowded bar situation).  And people very clearly treat you differently after you lose weight.  I remember going to a 7-Eleven with a friend after I'd lost weight.  A man tripped over himself to run to the door and open it for me.  And let it slam in my friend's face.  We joked about it (not like she was overweight or anything, and clearly I can't say that he did that ONLY because I was skinny, but situations like that happened to me over and over after I lost weight), but it kind of hurt her feelings!  No one tripped over themselves to open doors for me when I was fat.

I had a really hard time trusting people after I lost weight.  I ended up getting into a relationship a couple of months after I had surgery (bad move, by the way; the majority of relationships break up after extreme weight loss -- higher confidence on the part of the person losing weight; jealousy on the part of the partner), but when people (men especially) would give me attention, I would catch myself wondering if they would have been so attentive before I lost weight.   It became a huge issue in my life.  Every person I met, I would ask myself:  Would this person have wanted to know me when I was FAT?  

It's a valid question/concern but you also can't spend your entire life second guessing everyone and everything.  But it was a complete mind trip.  It was sometimes easy to pick out the people who treated me differently after weight loss.  I'm not stupid, boys....if you called me once every few months before surgery and now you're calling me daily or weekly, I KNOW why you're calling.  But I do love the whole:  Hey, I liked you when you were big!  Uh, yeah, right....  But you clearly like me more now.  

Anyway, I don't believe that it is acceptable to be prejudiced against fat people.  Whether you believe people are overweight because they have a disease or because they are just piggies who eat themselves to death -- they're still people and you should have some respect for their feelings.  I realize that, in this day and age, people have a general disconnect and it seems so easy to be mean to strangers.  I don't want to be that kind of person, so I am making it my daily goal to be a good and decent person to everyone I meet -- fat or not.  :-)

Until next time, keep twirling!


  1. You could not sleep last night;-) Excellent post. Airlines need to start thinking of people, not sardines. David is 6 foot tall. He does not fit in the chairs either.

    I can agree people treat you different when they see you as someone different. When I was on dialysis people would always keep a greater distance from me. (Emotionally as well as spatially?) I did find out those who were and are important to me and those who I have slowly pulled away from. Good post. (Darn it, now you got me thinking again.) 3 cheers to one of my favorite Twirly Girl Sisters!

  2. Actually, I wrote all that this morning! I slept well last night! :-D

    People are very strange, huh. They don't know how to deal with illness and/or differences.

    And thank you!! I can appreciate John for one thing especially -- introducing me to your family! :-)

  3. Hey, I am 6' 1". Don't go stealing any of my height short person. Next time you have to fly, take Kate. She's small so you can steal her space. I usually have to steal her leg room or my legs and feet go to sleep.

  4. Wow, I love reading your posts, educational, interesting, enlightening and thought provoking. You are a beautiful girl inside and out and I love being in class with you gals. I have so much fun.See you tonoght

  5. Dave, Kate would be a dream come true on an airplane! haha!!

    And Anonymous, if that's your real name, I'll see you tonight! LOL! ;-)

  6. I'm actually getting less attention/action now that I'm 40 lbs lighter than I did 7 months ago when I was 220 lbs and high on alcohol and sugar. Dang inhibitions!

    And I'm challenged as to how to describe my current size. I fit a lot of 12's now, even some 10's. And I fit medium tops in the misses department (large and XL in juniors). So, I guess I'm on the large side of "average" or the lighter side "plus size". Hmmmmm.

  7. Rachel, I was definitely more comfortable in my "fat skin" right after I lost weight. I had been big my whole life!


  9. I swear, you need to write for a magazine!! Or publish a book containing all of your blogs! (kind of like Carries on Sex and the City!) ;) GREAT read!

  10. Thanks!!! That would be fun! I am looking into taking some creative writing classes. Just to freshen up on how to write. :-D