Fat shaming is an ever prevalent phenomenon in America and something that has touched my life in a serious and sad way. It all started long ago when I was sitting in the gymnasium of my grade school. I saw my mom, the school photographer at the time walking through the gym one of my classmates started making fun of her, calling her fat and mocking her for it…rage welled up in my tiny and I yelled at them that she was not fat!! And that she was my mom…I can’t say that I made a difference but the mark that it left on me was indelible. As a child I told myself that I would never be heavy like my mom was…but alas something’s that we hate the most become who we are. I have battled my weight since Junior High I was about 25 pounds overweight then a late bloomer and at the time I didn’t see it as a big problem. But the weight continued to come on and by the end of high school I was 50 pounds overweight.
Throughout my whole school career I was teased and taunted I was not rich but went to a school where most of the other children where rich. I was socially immature and very emotional to partner with that I battle ADHD and was medicated from 2nd grade on. I remember distinctly in 2nd grade I was made to take my medicine at the drinking fountain at the front of class my medicine dropped into the sink as I tried to take it I didn’t notice but the next person did and announced it to the whole class I was ashamed teased and embarrassed beyond belief. 3rd grade when I had to get glasses the minute I did my teacher moved me from the front of the class to the back by myself…nothing like being discriminated against by your teacher…my peers fed off of that…in 6th grade I was followed around the playground by the boys in my class and called slug bucket, fatty and kicked to the point that I was crying in fear and an emotional disaster. Later that year while trying to get back to my desk while my teacher was out of the class…(for what seemed to be a horribly long period of time) leaving me with my tormentors upon arrival back she found that I had been punched in the face, glasses broken with a fresh black eye, blamed it all on my and made me sit in the hallway for 3 hours in turn missing lunch. I was too afraid to move and this action just perpetuated the idea that the abusive and bad behaviors of my peers was acceptable behavior I was miserable!!
After all these incidents in grade school my mother was my strongest advocate and always went to bat not only for me but for all of her children. A lot of the time I was either ashamed or embarrassed and didn’t tell anyone what was going on. I was young and dumb and just wanted to get through it and have a measure of peace so that I could function day-to-day.
As I mentioned before I started to gain weight in Junior High and I cried nearly every single day during or after school. I was tormented and because I was not a good student I was shamed for being in remedial courses. Back 20 years ago a learning disability felt like it was a curse. No one understood it and my teachers didn’t want to deal with me so they pushed me through and let me do less than best…my grades were a point of contention with my parents as well and it was a battle to get homework done everyone was frustrated and at their wit’s end.
In High School while the weight was coming on any shred of self-esteem seemed to evaporate though the bullying and teasing subsided slightly I still experienced to a high degree in the community I experienced things like being mooed, barked and oinked at…I was made fun of constantly and it broke my heart. Part of being ADHD comes problems with impulse control so I continued to gain weight. Though this was a constant battle there was some days that I was free and they were cherished I took solace in the few friends I had and in my family and my church family made it more bearable especially through high school.
Then at 19 with my life in shreds after the murder of my friend Kay (15 years later) I lost it in a sense. I was destroyed and spiraled into places I never thought I could go. I didn’t have the tools to handle my everyday life and I didn’t know what to do and I found comfort in what couldn’t “hurt” food, irresponsible spending and behaviors (though they had their own destructive powers.)
Springing forward into current day here I sit an obese single mom trying to do everything in her power to make a better life for me and my little Peanut girl. The things I mentioned before still occur on a somewhat regular basis. From animal noises to the media telling my daughter through commercials and ads with women flaunting their bodies all over town, that her momma is bad and ugly. On Valentines Day last year I took her out to eat and she said that she was embarrassed and that she was afraid that people would make fun of me at the restaurant because I was fat. That is so sad and pathetic that the stigmatization of obese persons is so strong in society that my then 4-year-old was worried about it. In all honesty all my hurts, habits and hang ups that hang over my head are sometimes overwhelming as I have written about in the past…but, what prompted me to write this post was an article I found yesterday…Fat shaming may curb obesity bioethicist says. I read through this article that essentially says…that social pressure in a non-biased way, like the campaign against smoking that could be effective…not only do I feel that this “expert” is totally off base but I feel that the stigma and prejudice in relation to jobs, relationships and body image serve to shame the “fat” community enough. Largely “fat” people are thought to be gross, unlovable, lazy and stupid. So now we are going to openly and very publicly shame and bully them into thinness? I am not here to debate whether or not being fat is good or bad for you. The effects that obesity takes on a person’s life are obvious to first and foremost them and to all that surround them. But the point that needs to be made is this…anyone who battles with obesity is a human being and is deserving of love and acceptance…acceptance does not mean being in agreement. But, it does mean according to dictionary.com favorable reception…to me that means respect, lack of judgment, an attitude of understanding, and unconditional love for someone.
Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself. Harvey Fierstein
Tearing someone down in an effort to create positive change in their lives is the worst possible way to affect change in someone’s life. Especially when it is something (like overeating) that is so entrenched with lifestyle patterns and with all the coinciding factors that come into play a public flogging will create an outrage not an outreach. After reading the above listed article I found this one…Obesity expert says daily workouts can’t undo damage done from sitting all day. It talks of creating better habits all around and gives more information on how the body works in relation to weight loss and weight management As far as I am concerned this is something that needs to be heard more. Finding compassionate and tangible ways to bring about change in the battle against obesity is a workable and a positively proactive way to combat the epidemic…because I know of no one ever who said…when I grow up I want to be fat.
FAT SHAMING DOES NOT WORK!!! Being treated with love, understanding and compassion does. If you know someone who has a daily battle with obesity or any eating disorder, hug them tell them they are not alone and offer your support not judgment and hatred. See them for the quality of their heart, mind, personality and what they contribute to your life and to society. Looking at the toll that bullying and shaming has done…from suicide to self-harming behaviors like cutting, the thing that keeps running through my mind is…isn’t the loss of life and sanity enough to prove this is an ineffective way to deal with the problems in society??
Leave behind a legacy of love and healing not hatred and judgment.