For the majority of my life, I have been overweight. I wouldn’t classify myself as morbidly obese or a few twinkles away from calling in a crane to haul me out of my wilting mattress - but, I’m bigger than I should be. As a child, I played outside, enjoyed basketball with my best buds, and rode my bike - a lot. But, that didn’t change my yearly visits to the “husky” section at Sears or JC Penney.
It’s fair to say that I was aware of my added padding when I was young and in fact, ironically, my mother used to tell me that if I ever got cancer I’d survive longer because I had more fat than others. She was joking, but when I hit 19 I found out she was correct and promptly survived
Stage 3 Hodgkin’s Disease Cancer. I don’t think my weight added to or took away from my survival.
As someone who has carried an additional 30 to 50 pounds his entire life there’s something I would like the world to know about. In fact, I think this article, though it may be humorous, may be helpful. What I’m getting to, is that as a man of larger carriage (as the great Mike O’Meara says), I hear you. More importantly, I hear your comments that are often meant to be helpful, inspirational or perhaps threatening. I get it. Being overweight isn’t healthy but hating my body, not accepting the challenges that are before me, or allowing “helpful” advice to drag me into a Dorito laden weight gain purgatory isn’t healthy either.
So, let’s turn these lemons into lemonade (sugar-free if that makes you feel any better) and discuss what you shouldn’t say to someone who’s overweight. Also, please realize, if someone is overweight - they know.
“Hey, Big Guy…” or any variation of this hardly ever refers to a person’s height unless they’re Yao Ming. Even if you are saying, “Hey Big Guy” to someone who is big the phrase is offensive. How could someone possibly not know that? Being called “big” when you’ve been overweight your whole life is simply a stark reminder that you are still overweight.
“Looks like you’ve been eating well!” I once attended a church that I had not been to in a few years due to a move that my wife and I made. During my time away I managed to pack on about 25 pounds due to some poor eating decisions and the amazing discovery of a southern food franchise named, “Zaxby’s.” Upon my return to the congregation, one of the first comments I heard was that I looked like I “must have enjoyed the Southern BBQ.”
Now, do I really need to pontificate about why this comment is insanely inappropriate? But, for some reason these types of comments happen much more often than many “thin people” would believe. It’s as though comments about someone’s weight are okay to make but dredge into the other less politically correct zones and you’ll be figuratively or sometimes literally, slapped.
Touching, petting or poking my stomach will not result in a cute “woohoo” squeak. What it will result in is me feeling extremely uncomfortable and more than likely me wanting to touch, pet or poke you with a sharp object not made of sugar. I cannot tell you the amount times I have been having a conversation with someone when suddenly they feel it is appropriate to pat my stomach when the conversation ends. It’s as if they’re bidding adieu to a lonely pug that they have decided to not adopt. My stomach is not a public access beach, please refrain from fondling it.
Assuming I want to lose weight is a bad assumption. Assuming I am ashamed of, held back by, or for some unknown reason embarrassed of my body would be a very wrong assumption to make. Please don’t assume since I carry more weight than I should or that I am currently pursuing a relationship with Jennie Craig, Dr. Atkins or Oprah. The fact is I’m okay with my body and extra weight. Do I think I should drop some pounds, yes. But, that knowledge does not chain me to walks full of shame, self-hatred, and a feeling of unworthiness. When I’m ready to put down the burger and pick up the barbell, you’ll know. Or, maybe you won’t.
Being overweight is not a curse unless you allow it to be. I am not a fanboy for morbid obesity, but neither am I a believer that overweight people should hang their heads low. I also happen to believe that some people just have a genetic makeup that lends itself to weight gain - while others just happen to be lazy, sick, or lack the discipline that it takes to shed the weight. I think I have a mixture of all three of the aforementioned conditions and while I do plan to drop a couple pant sizes in 2016 it won’t be due to anything anyone told me. It will be due to a decision that I made for myself and not anyone else.
Hoping that a Michael Jordan quote might fuel my next fitness breakthrough is about like hoping that binging on powdered donuts will provide me the energy to go to the gym. Both are not likely to happen but at least, one goes well with milk.