Thoughts from the Fluffy Side

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I remember the first time I saw Walter Hudson on the television.  The day that the paramedics had to cut down a wall in his house because his body was stuck in the doorway.  The year was 1987.  I was 11 and I was borderline overweight.  I was one cookie away from shopping in the “husky” section at Sears. Interesting because my parents were all about fresh food, nutritious snacks, fresh brewed unsweetened iced tea and no fast food.  But, I used to sneak and buy snacks on my walk home from school, then hide them in the very back of my closet.  I’d buy the types of things I saw my friends eat because my mother wouldn’t buy them – Funyuns, Hostess Lemon Pies, Moon Pies, Now and Laters, Peach Nehi soda, etc.  I was developing an unhealthy relationship with food and I didn’t even know it.

I imaged that Mr. Hudson started out of average height and weight as a child.  He lived a mere 1.4 miles from my childhood home in Hempstead, NY.  Hempstead is a suburb on Long Island.  It’s a decent size town, but not so big that some kids at school couldn’t figure out where Mr. Hudson’s house was based on the news footage the night before.  After school, a group from my class decided to walk down his street in hopes of seeing “the whale.”  I didn’t join them.

It would be 4 years before I thought of Mr. Hudson again.  He died in 1991 at the age of 46.  The police had to cut down another wall, hoist his body into a borrowed whale/shark sling from the New York Aquarium and drive him away using a construction crane.  The very fears that kept Mr. Hudson confined to his home even when he was well enough to leave the house were realized on Christmas Day.  He went from being someone’s son, brother, cousin, nephew, friend and neighbor to being less than worthy of a dignified death.  His death and subsequent removal from his home made him everything he didn’t want to be – a spectacle, a sensational media feeding frenzy, a side show act at the carnival.

Obesity is a disease.  Pause.  Breathe.  Now, read that again and really absorb it.  Obesity is a disease.  It’s a dirty little disease that people don’t like to acknowledge as a disease.   Doctor’s are still debating whether it should be classified as a disease or not, but NIH and the CDC have concurred that it should be one.  Its’ “sufferers” get even less compassion hurled on them than alcoholics.  Yes, folks, alcoholism is a disease too.  For the purposes of this post, I’ll be specifically referring to obesity, which is when you are 100 lbs or more above the suggested medical weight range for your height.  Common sense says that it’s the fault of the fatty.  Just stop eating.   Stop eating bad food.   Stop eating fast food.  Just exercise.  Make better choices.  Use self control.  Don’t you have any willpower? Stop making excuses. Stop being so lazy!

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If you’re obese, you’ve heard them.  If you’re not, you’ve probably said them.  You don’t have to admit it to me, just be real with yourself.   I can say with about 99.9% certainty that those who are obese, morbidly obese and super morbidly obese, are not in their current situation simply because they are greedy, lazy pigs.  The physical symbol that the world sees (their large body) is the manifestation of many other things including, but not limited to stress, childhood trauma, abuse, depression, vascular problems, lymphoedema and metabolic problems.

Now please don’t take my previous statement to be a “pass” for excessive and improper eating habits, mixed with complete inactivity.  All of us know many lazy people, of average size or a larger size.  Usually there is catalyst, either a specific event or pattern of behavior/life circumstances that affect some people and they turn to food in an unnatural and unhealthy way.  And unfortunately, once you are on a certain course, it’s much easier to stay that course than to make the change that you may desperately want to make.  Unlike alcoholics and drug addicts, food is essential for daily life.  However, if your relationship with food is anything more than eating to survive, you may be in trouble.   We MUST eat to survive.  You MUST consume food everyday.  So, if your relationship to food is unnatural, if you’ve never learned or acknowledged nutritional values and how to eat healthily, then you could be in trouble.

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Lately, much talk has been made of the super morbidly obese.  I suppose that the increased focus on bariatric surgery has brought this segment of the population into the national spotlight.  Television show’s like “Inside Brookhaven” and “Big Medicine” have given a voice and a face to super morbid obesity.  However, the problem that I have with these shows is that the coverage is a bit more sensational than it is helpful.  Often times, the stories that are chosen to air represent “that person”.  The 400 lb teenager who is shown consuming 2 pizzas a day and is unapologetic about it.  The woman who had bariatric surgery 3 years ago, but has gained a majority of her weight back and is being consulted for a 2nd surgery.  Their stories are incomplete and they are more inflammatory than they are educational.  In the 30 or 60 minutes that it takes to tell their story, it is near impossible to touch on the real reasons behind their situation.  But, that makes for good TV, so the shows continue.

Recently, there was a young woman in England who had bariatric surgery (at the expense of the government) and after losing about 150 pounds, her monthly benefits were cut by about 1/3 because she no longer received an additional disability check.   She expressed to a local paper that she was having trouble eating healthy and was unable to afford it.  She also expressed that she didn’t always feel like eating an apple and that it wouldn’t satisfy her mentally.  Well, all the web people call her horrible damn and made some of the meanest comments that I’ve ever seen.  Yet, few are seeing or understanding the big picture.  This young lady has a problem.  Mentally, she associates food with comfort and happiness.  Why?  How did she get to the point that FOOD became more than just sustenance for the body?  There are clearly larger issues at play.  Does she over eat and is she making the wrong choices?  Absolutely.  But, what are the catalysts behind those choices?

Before that woman, there were a bazillion emails about Manuel Uribe, a Mexican man who weighed over 1000 lbs and was featured on a TLC Show documenting his struggle with super morbid obesity.  The comments and judgments expressed about Uribe were so distasteful and despicable that I actually stopped reading on of my favorite bloggers for about 2 months.  Cruel and insensitive remarks regarding his sexual prowess, ideas of naming a new animal for him and those are some of the MILD comments.  I realize that sympathy is hard for most, however, are empathy and compassion too much to ask for?

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Discrimination comes in many forms and I believe that discrimination of the obese is widely accepted and not often discussed.  Every time a morbidly obese person leaves the comfort of their home, they open themselves up to ridicule and judgment.  Some of the “comedy” and venom that is spewed toward them would be completely unacceptable to other groups of discriminated people.  But, the difference is in the assumption that all obese people “choose” to live their lives in a greedy and lazy manner.  Compassion and empathy for their struggle is hard to come by.

I’m not an advocate or bell ringer for the plight of the obese in America.  However, it’s a topic that affects me deeply and personally.  I’m not seeking to start a revolution or convince anyone to think or feel a certain way, however, I have one simple request.  In the future when you see an obese person, please try to not automatically judge what you see.  Don’t insert your story on why that person is that size/weight.  Believe me, that person is very aware of their physical condition.  I’m currently overweight, but having once been morbidly obese, I understand the complex emotions that the weight brings.  The mental “weight” is much heavier than the physical pounds could ever be.  I welcome your thoughts, comments and questions because open dialogue builds understanding.

18 thoughts on “Thoughts from the Fluffy Side

  1. “The mental “weight” is much heavier than the physical pounds could ever be.”

    PLEASE say that again for the slow people in the back. Many folks of larger size have to deal with being treated crappy because they are overweight and struggle with eating habits and other health-related problems. NO ONE asks for that trauma, no one asks for that struggle, no one asks for the stigma. It’s a long shot to ask, but yes, compassion would be nice not just for obese people, but all of mankind.

    • Isn’t the mental weight just awful? Developing a thick skin to handle the treatment is a must. And, learning to program your brain and “thinking” hard about every choice – Can I do to this movie theater? How big are the seats? How far is the walk from the parking lot to wherever? How big are the bathroom stalls? How sturdy is the furniture?

      I appreciate your comments!

  2. While I have always struggled with my weight, I never considered myself “morbidly obese” until I was rejected for health insurance coverage by 4 different insurers with the number one reason on every rejection letter being my “pre-existing condition of morbid obesity”.

    Just kick me in the friggin teeth.

    I know the struggle, I know the demons I deal with. I get so sick and tired of hearing about how friggin “easy” it is; how simple it should be if you just ate this vs that or closed your mouth. Not a damn thing easy about it.

    I do know how hard I work just to keep myself together and I have empathy for anyone in the struggle. I do admit that I get a tad disgusted or irritated when I see someone super morbidly obease going for the entire pizza pie (or something similar), but since I don’t know where they are at, what is going on in their lives/mind – I KEEP MY MOUTH SHUT and my commentary to myself …cause I don’t know what could trigger me to end up on the same path. Every day is a struggle of choices and motivation. It ain’t easy or simple.

    I don’t have the answers. I just keep falling forward and do my best.

    • You? Morbidly obese? Wow. I definitely wouldn’t have guessed that. You run marathons for goodness sake!! However, I think those damn height/weight charts are pretty freaking unrealistic, so I’m guessing that’s the culprit.

      I do understand that it’s hard NOT to get disgusted or irritated when you see someone downing an entire pizza (or the like), but recognizing that there is probably more to the story than the 30 seconds or minutes that you’re saying is very important.

      I appreciate your comments!

  3. I have to say this something that I needed to hear today. I am so guilty of over eating and beat myself up about it and eat more to make myself feel better. It is so hard day to day to be what everyone wants me to be. I am a closet eater. I have had two weight loss surgeries; lost the weight and gained most of it back both times. I just am facing the fact that I use food as my happiness. I don’t even know where to find happiness anymore. When I was younger and had all the friends and hung out all the time I didn’t even think about food. Yes I was what you would call overweight but I was healthy. Now I have diabetes, high blood pressure, back and knee problems and I am only 34. Do you think that it will get better. I try to get support, but when I don’t hear what I want to hear I go back to my closet and get my comfort. I have been thinking about having a third surgery but with the complications I had with the second I don’t know. Yes everyday is a struggle when I am surrounded by all these skinny people that love to shop and hang out. All I ever do is sit in the house and think about what I am going to eat next……..

    • Thank you for your honesty. Recognizing that you have the unnatural connection to food is the first step. Closet eating affects MANY! One suggestion that I have (as if you asked *lol*) is to stop comparing yourself to others. Getting to a place where you are comfortable in your own skin is hard enough without using the physical presentation of others as a measure of your own self worth. Let’s chat more offline!

      I appreciate your comments!

  4. I am torn. My husband is overweight – morbidly obese. He’s always been big – played HS and college football, but 15 years of inactivity has resulted in an amazing amount of weight gain and loss of muscle tone. I know he’s not lazy, trifling, etc., etc. But I also know he makes poor food choices most days and is not physically active. I’ve resigned myself to not mentioning his weight to him ever again. Ever. He gets mad, my feelings get hurt, and nothing good comes of it. I do think that one day I will be raising my child as a widow because I don’t think he will live to see 50. We’re 37 now.

    I have about 10-15 pounds that I have recently gained and need to lose. I’ve not been in this position ever before and I can only imagine that if I’ve got to get myself motivated and change my eating habits and exercise routine to drop 10/15 pounds how difficult it is to be faced with dropping tens or hundreds of pounds. This has definitely helped me be more empathetic to my husband.

    • I can understand you being torn. It’s frustrating to watch someone you love make bad choices, however, as you said at the end, your own, smaller struggle, has made you more empathetic to his larger battle. I can speak from personal experience that the spiral downward is hard and the “bottom” is quite welcoming. Tuning out the world and ignoring the concerned voices of family and friends becomes second nature when a person is not ready to make a change, even as desperately as they know that they do need to change. Does that make any sense? The psychology behind food addiction, overeating and super morbid obesity is complex. I surely don’t have the answers, but I do know the pain of being trapped in a body and life that you do not want to lead, but being too afraid to change.

      I appreciate your comments!

  5. Thank you for this. It’s not an easy feat to lose the weight and make the conscious decision to eat better. Those that are smaller sometimes struggle with their weight as well because they are either anorexic or bulimic; however, all you see is the small body and we assume that they are eating healthy. And when they see people like me, they assume I eat any and everything in sight. No wonder there are depression issues surrounding obesity. ALL people should be treated with respect regardless of their situation. You never know what a person is struggling with. You only know I’m struggling with my weight because you can SEE it in how I look; however, I can’t see if someone is struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction because I can’t ‘see’ that unless they are sloppy drunk or high as a kite.

    Traveldiva – No they didn’t tell you that you were morbidly obese! What in the world!

    • Exactly Gladys! The world can “see” the struggle of the obese, but they can’t understand it. Most other internal demons can’t be “seen” by a complete stranger!
      Yeah, eye rolling at TravelDiva being morbidly obese! I call a foul on that play!

      I appreciate your comments!

  6. After reading, I can at least better understand how and why people tend to associate happiness with eating, and what not. I like to joke around alot. And I make comments on not being able to argue while my stomach is full, but times like these, make me realize it’s hardly a laughing matter. Empathy, exactly what the world needs.

  7. Everyday is a struggle. Man oh man it’s hard as all get out!!! This coming from a WLS patient too! Food addiction is the only one where you HAVE to eat to live. With some other addictions you certainly don’t have to engage in any of the activities. Drinking, smoking, gambling… but with food, lord help! I’m now currently dealing with extra pounds gained this year 35-40 to be exact. I surely would hope folks start coming to grips with Obesity being a disease and learn to be empathetic to the plight.

    • Hiya Bunny! I’m a WLS patient too and yes, it is hard for us too. I’ll be writing something about the perception of WLS in a few days. Exactly – we need food to live, so if a person’s relationship with it is damaged, problems are unavoidable.

      I appreciate your comments!

  8. This was great word and thank you for writing it. I know I am not trying hard as I can to lose the weight I need to lose and though my eating habits have improved some and I do work out SOME, I need to do more. I am lucky though..I am on the smaller end of what some folks would call plus size and can still find clothes that look nice and I can still fit in airplane seats. Even dating hasnt been TOO much of a problem, although my weight has always been in the back of my mind. Obesity is so nuanced and complex an issue and beating folk over the head never gets the desired results.

    • Say it again, TIH – “Beating folk over the head never gets the desired results.” Many simply cannot grasp this concept. The contributing (and sustaining) factors are too complex to be addressed by a simple, “Just eat less and work out more. Geez!”

      I appreciate your comments!

  9. Pingback: Thoughts From The Fluffy Side – Sensitivity « Just Another Day with MrsTDJ

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