Enough with the fat-shaming; realize overweight people have a struggle unique to them

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We all can't be A-Rod
We all can’t be A-Rod.

By Darren Johnson
Campus News

Fat people of the world unite!

So be it. About two thirds of the country is overweight or obese, according to the Internet, and even many “normal” weighing people at one point packed on a few pounds before losing it, so, perhaps 80 percent of readers can relate to this article.

But 100 percent of the people I see in glossy magazines are “normal” weight or even underweight. Billboard ads are similar, unless the ad is for a comedy movie. Even in pro football, where a majority of players are technically obese, it’s the thin quarterbacks who get all of the endorsements.

And who designed these seats on Southwest Airlines? Mick Jagger?

Why hasn’t there been a mass movement of overweight and obese people against all of this?

Let’s go through the preconceptions.

Obesity Is a Choice
Yes, it’s true. A 300-pound person can lose weight and become a 200-pound person. But it’s not easy in the least. Perhaps bad choices were made along with way that led to a person gaining the weight, but that doesn’t change the here and now.

When I have an important life event coming – say I am considering changing careers, and it helps in the interview process to be thinner – I will go on a serious exercise binge, a la “Rocky,” and go from, say, 230 to 195. But even that is extremely difficult for my body type and takes many months. My body fights to get back to the higher weight, and, over time, wins.

But I will get to the point where I am running three miles a day several days a week, plus various other training. I doubt most “normal” weighted people can do the routines. But, no matter what, I am always “overweight.” I can exercise for three years consistently and eat relatively normal meals and still be about 20 pounds over the high ideal.

That’s just the way it is.

And even if some fat is turning into muscle, as they say, it doesn’t make that seat on Southwest Airlines any cozier. The weight just goes up a few inches from belly to shoulders, so my wideness is the same.

Meanwhile, these exercise routines wreak havoc on the joints. You’re in a constant state of soreness just to be a few pounds trimmer and just to be able to pull in the belt a couple of extra notches. Is the risk worth the reward? Or would it be better to just have solid cardio and heart rate and not worry so much about weight?

Fat People Are Pathetic
I don’t know. When I watch YouTube fights between two different body types, the fat guy usually wins – except for the one where the small girl threw a shovel at her larger opponent. (No, I don’t go looking for these videos. They show up in my Facebook feed, shared by others. Maybe I need better friends!)

In MMA on TV, normally the middle-weights are shown. These are people who would be considered normal weight in mass media. The heavyweights, who usually are thick around the middle, are not. The ratings must indicate that viewers want to see normal weighted people.

But athletic stereotypes should be put aside. Some heavyset people really can scoot. The average heavy person is definitely stronger than the average light person. OK, the cardio isn’t always there, but cardio is a relatively new phenomenon in human history. Sure, there was the original marathon runner in Greek antiquity, but he dropped dead from the exhaustion after delivering his message. People really have only been doing cardio in earnest since the 1970s jogging movement (founder Jim Fixx died of a heart attack at 52).

Being Fat Is a New Development
I make it a habit of watching old films when I can, and there were heavyset people even in the black and white days. Except for Ralph Kramden, these larger people were usually treated with respect. In war movies, the heavier guy could be an MP or a sergeant. Their extra weight was considered an asset. “Scrawny” was considered bad.

Today, there are lots of large soldiers. The military has changed its training. In today’s house-to-house street warfare, it’s better to be able to carry heavy equipment for short sprints.

Different body types have different abilities. Don’t discount any.

What I Don’t Like
What I don’t like is that there seems to be this cultural indignation – coming from a minority of people, but they have power – against larger people, as seen most prominently in mass media.

I’ve gone through many phases in my life – “passable” normal weight to 50 pounds heavier than that – and even was bullied for a short time as a kid, but realized that I was stronger than the bullies most of the time, or at least could put up a respectable fight if not. The bullying stopped fast enough.

Other times, when thinner, I’d get fair-weather compliments and warmer responses from people in general, but never trusted them. Where were these people when I was heavier?

While even 50 pounds overweight is still passable for a lot of things – I still can fit in those airline seats – I really feel for people who may be 100 pounds or more overweight.

Please realize – these are people. They have feelings, emotions, and everywhere they go they are outsiders. People don’t look like them in the media, seats aren’t built for them, they can’t sit on the corner eating an ice cream cone without feeling as if they are on display.

Yes, part of it is eating, but there’s also stress (mental stress that leads to eating the wrong foods along with physical stress on joints), slower metabolism (despite what the 5 a.m. informercials say, there is no way to speed up a metabolism) and lack of knowledge about exercise.

It is hard to build up that courage to be the fattest person in the gym. Even the No Judgement (sic) Zone judges. Yes, there is walking, and that’s a start, but some people can walk from here to Alaska and not really lose much weight. There’s crashing, but that doesn’t seem to work for any length of time. If I didn’t play sports for so many years, I wouldn’t know how to do a “Rocky” when needed.

So, what I’m asking is, ease up a little on people who may not look like the people in magazines.

Yes, everyone judges – even an overweight person may judge an obese person for being too fat, needing a scooter, etc. – but do know that usually there is a lot more to the story.

For once, if that person feels unjudged, you may see that wonderful glimmer you see in people’s eyes when they, finally, feel that they belong. That sparkle all the thin people seem to have in magazines.

Their weight is their struggle, not yours. Just accept it, and accept that person all the same. Their struggle may not be a weakness – in fact, maybe because of the struggle they gained a singular strength that can be admired, too.


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