Thoughts From The Fluffy Side – Sensitivity

I’ve never been one to shy away from the issue of obesity.  I’ve discussed some of my struggles with obesity and shared the fact that I underwent gastric bypass surgery (the best decision of my life).  I typically will engage in discussions regarding obesity in an attempt to present points that are often overlooked or misunderstood by others.  I’ve never thought of myself as a crusader or the voice of an underrepresented group of people, but apparantly, my writing has struck a chord with some readers.  To date, this post has resulted in over 30 personal emails to me.  I’m shocked ya’ll.  Most of the emails have been inquisitive, you know questions about this and that.  Others have been expressions of encouragement regarding me speaking up.  A few have been troubling as they were from folks who are in pain.  I’ll save those for another day.  The tone of most has been positive and the overwhelming sentiment was, we need to hear your voice more on this, so please write more “Thoughts from the Fluffy Side.”  So, I shall.  Not exactly sure how often I will, but I’ll try to make some consistent posts regarding weight, obesity, bariatric surgery and everything related.  I’ll try to make sense of what I’m feeling, but forgive me if I ramble a bit at times.

A few weeks ago an inboxer asked me how to deal with insensitive friends.  I had a conversation with a friend over the weekend and she hurt my feelings.  I know that she did not do it intentionally, but that does not negate the fact that she did.  As I’m a true Cancerian woman, my tone changed slightly, but I retreated inside my shell and did not let her know that she had hurt me. Instead, I stewed for two days and allowed myself to become even more hurt.  I sent her an email last night because when I’m full of emotion, I can express myself much better through written word.

Ya’ll know I can’t rush a story (LOL), so here’s what happened.  She and I were navigating our way through the crowded dining room at a local Thai restaurant.  She was in front and chose one path.  I watched her, then scanned the room and took an alternate path, based on the amount of space between the other diners and the “bump” potential.  I arrived at the table a few second after her.  She gave me a puzzled look and said, “Why did you go that way?”  Duh, cause I’m fat and I couldn’t fit through those spaces.  Before I could respond, she laughed and said, “TDJ, dude, you’re so much smaller than you think you are.  You could easily fit through the spaces I just did.  Why can’t you see what the rest of us see?”  She paused, looked around the restaurant and said, “You’re not THAT fat anymore.  Look at that lady.  You’re way smaller than her.  You used to be big big like the girl that played Precious, but now you’re more like, uhm, I don’t know.  Latifah with more booty.”

She laughed.  I stared.  Then the waiter came over.  Wow.  Which part of her comment actually hurt me? That’s a damned good question.  To tell you the truth, I’m still not really sure.  I am overweight; well, obese even, based on that crappy ass height and weight chart.  I’m no longer viewed as super obese by anyone.  Well, maybe Ally McBeal would think I was, but not so much to everyone else.  Strangers who meet me have no idea of my struggles or how far I’ve come.  Those that knew me at my heaviest do know.  When I look in the mirror, I’m pleased with what I see.  However, I see a woman much heavier than I appear to others.  And, contrary to what I saw at 417 lbs, I see myself as heavier now at 268.  Crazy huh? Well, maybe, just a little, according to the medical professionals.  There’s a little thing called body dysmorphic disorder.  Oversimplified, it’s a disorder where a person’s mental image of themselves doesn’t match the actual, physical image.  Extreme forms of the disorder are usually the underlying causes for anorexia, bulimia, etc.  Often, bariatric patients develop a mild form of the disorder after losing a significant amount of weight.

Perhaps the sting was the usage of the phrase “THAT fat” or maybe it was the emphasis on “big big”. I still don’t know.  Weight is such a sensitive and personal thing, and as someone who knows a lot of what I’ve gone through, her comments had a callous, off handedness that stung.   I’m often in conversations and people will forget that I’m the fat person in the room.  When I go to make a comment, they usually follow it with something like, “Oh, but you’re not THAT big.” Hmmm, compliment? Insult? Sometimes, I’m not sure.

No, I’m not fat enough to require a seatbelt extender or two airline seats anymore, nor did I encroach on my seatmate when I traveled in June, but I’m definitely fat enough to shop in plus size stores and get a little winded walking very long distances.

No, I’m not fat enough to be unable to fit behind the steering wheel of a midsize car anymore , but I’m definitely fat enough to have rented a midsize and not a compact during my June trip to ATL.

Don’t misunderstand my comments – I am extremely happy in the skin I’m in and I thank my bariatric surgery for giving me a renewal and resurgence at the age of 31.  Health benefits aside, I can logically acknowledge the changes in my physical appearance over the last three years, but sometimes that doesn’t jive with the woman in the mirror.  I still see a beautiful fat woman, but I often wonder how the world sees me?

So, to the inboxer and others, I would say this: Weight is and forever will be a thorny and sensitive topic. If you are the overweight person, remember that your REAL friends/loved ones mean you no harm when speaking of your weight.  They are speaking with you from a place of love and concern for your well-being and quality of life.  If you are the friend/loved one, be mindful of how you speak to your friend/loved one; especially those of you that shoot straight from the hip with no filter.  Your opinion is yours alone, and although it is your right to share it as you see fit, there is a time, tone and place for every conversationYour voice is not the only one in the room and often your message can be lost in the caustic, insensitive or heavy handed delivery.

I don’t mean these posts to be lectures, so please share your thoughts.

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34 thoughts on “Thoughts From The Fluffy Side – Sensitivity

  1. As you probably know, I had RNY GB surgery 4 years ago, lost 130 pounds, so I totally get what you are saying here. A couple years ago I ran into an old co-worker and when she asked how I’d lost so much weight I mentioned surgery. Her response – “Oh. Well, I wish they had some kind of quick fix for people who only have to lose 50 pounds like me, but I have to do it the hard way.” Two years later her bitter words are still stuck in between my ears. I’ve come up with every come-back under the sun since then, but at the moment I just stared.

    I rarely tell anyone anymore, because I can’t stand the judgment that I took the “easy” way out, when it wasn’t easy and still isn’t. Now I just tell them it’s my secret or I ate less and worked out more (not a lie). But people who meet me have no idea where I’ve come from unless I tell them – so generally I don’t. Unless you’ve lived as a morbidly obese person (woman especially) I don’t think you can ever understand the damage on the inside that is struggled with even after shedding a ton of weight.

    And I agree with your last statement about tone being important in anything you say, but at the same time – when it comes to weight issues I’d prefer if you just not talk about them unless a) you’ve been there or b) we’re close enough that we’ve discussed it before or c) I bring it up. But that’s just me being sensitive.

    (Sorry for such a long comment. It’s what I do)

    • Ugh, not “the easy way out” conversation. If I’ve had it once, I’ve had it a million times. Guess I’ve post on that soon so that folks can be a little more enlightened.
      Agreed – I’d prefer not to discuss at all, but it seems like others NEED to make an issue regarding someone else’s weight.
      Long comments are never a problem. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts!

  2. I’m guilty of having ‘open mouth, insert foot’ moments. I crack jokes a lot (not like that was news, lol) and tend to just say whatever sometimes. While only one friend has ever brought it to my attention, that moment helped me become more aware of people’s feelings (about whatever) and my words and actions. I’m still a work in progress but now I truly try to put more effort into thinking before I speak.

    • Your comment reminded me of how many times I’ve had people make comments about overweight people to me when they don’t know my situation. Mostly men, but women, too. Inevitably it causes me to disconnect. I try to remember that when I say anything about anyone – dumb, country, butt ugly, bad mom, Seal….. Yeah, I fail, too, AR.

    • I’m happy that you took your friends words to heart. I don’t want everyone to walk around on pins and needles afraid to talk to one another, but I think that sometimes we all have a tendency to speak first, and let our brain catch up later.

  3. Thank you for sharing. “Weight is and forever will be a thorny and sensitive subject”….YES, it is for me and always will be. From sitting on tables at the Academy called TRIM (The Right Image of Me) & the resultant psychosis about what that image should be, to starving myself to graduate on time, to numerous diets, fitness obsessions and plastic surgery…the journey to acceptance is and has been extrodinarily hard. I pretty sure I have a touch of body dysmorphic disorder.

    I think I am coming to a place of acceptance & peace with my weight…yet I still very rarely weigh myself for fear that it will send me running into a bottle of xanax…and I am very careful with what I wear and the such.

    What really yanks my chain is people who have NEVER EVER IN THEIR LIFE have had to struggle with weight issue telling me how “simple” it is if I “just did such & such”. =_=

    I hear you and agree with your last points.

    • Argh! Yes, “they” annoy me as well. The “simple” part is that there will always be people who CHOOSE not to understand. They refuse to accept that things can be any different from their own vision of humanity.

  4. I come from an obese family, and weight to me is a very touchy subject. People don’t mind saying crude things like Wow! your mom sure has gained a lot of weight you better watch it! Or your aunt got big! I’m like really???? You feel comfortable saying that to me.?

    And I’ve been guilty of saying insensitive things to my mom about what she eats how she eats etc. But I’ve stopped that.

    I struggle with weight out of fear of being like them. I’m not naturally thin. I have to fight my fat gene regularly to stay at a size I’m comfortable. I mean really fight it!

    My aunt definitely does not have a problem telling me I’m getting too big or saying oh you stopped exercising again I can tell. I try to take it stride when it comes from her because I think its out of love. But it still stings!

    We have all the diseases in our family such as heart, diabetes high blood pressure and I know a contributing factor is weight, how you eat and lack of exercise. I see their declining health and I’m trying to prevent that from happening to me. It’s really scary.

    So I know how you feel!

    • In regards to your family, perhaps fear and anger were the motivators for the the things you used to say to your Mom. As you said, you are fighting to stay at a size you feel comfortable at, so to see your family in an obese state is troubling. I wish you (and your loved ones) the best in your fight. I would encourage you to be as supportive as they will accept.

  5. It’s very difficult for me to watch my mom and sister get bigger and bigger or at the least no smaller. I want them to live forever just like me. And without the health problems that accompany obesity. I sometimes say hurtful things to them without realizing it until their expressions change. I also don’t like when my sister says I have anorexic fingers or they make jokes about me working out or wasting away. I instituted a no-weight talk rule for my father when talking to his daughters because it NEVER came out right. It’s not like it’s an issue that’s going away, though and I have no clue how to talk about it with them.

    • I can understand how hard it is to watch someone make (or fail to make) choices that you think they should. It’s a very difficult subject to broach and honestly, unless they are in a place where they are receptive and ready to make a change for themselves, your talking will fall on deaf ears. Change does not happen until a person reaches their own person “ah ha” moment. I’ll write about mine one day.

      It’s interesting because often people don’t realize that comments at the other end of the spectrum (“skinny”) can be hurtful as well.

      • I just read this post and didn’t want to be insensitive and come in here with my comments about the skinny spectrum–but this resonated with me. People can be extremely insensitive. I’ve had people put their hands around my ankle, tell me I need to eat, and other hurtful things, without knowing how badly I’ve struggled to just look “normal.” Making rude comments, or comments in general, about people’s weight is a touchy area.

  6. Weight is and always will be a touchy subject. I have an awesome bunch of friends and family. When I was at my highest weight( a size 24 and counting), they didn’t even notice. They didn’t notice I was BIGGER until I lost a bunch of weight ( down to a size 14 and comfortable) or when we look at old pictures and they say, ” that doesn’t even look like you.”

    Being that I can relate to people with weight issues I never judge. Its not easy to take weight off. It’s much easier to put it on. i just really dislike when people make it seem like working out everyday and losing weight is so simple. It’s not and for some it will never be.

    • YAY to getting to a place where YOU are comfortable! Aren’t photo’s amazing? I look through my wedding album often and as beautiful as I look, I almost don’t recognize myself.

      TravelDiva just touched on that as well. You’re right – it’s NOT that simple and for some it will never be.

  7. i am so glad you have shared this!
    I am the biggest (ok maybe 5 lbs lighter than my heaviest weight) and it kills me when folks say someone is fat or big or whatever and i’ll look at them and say ok i am that size, so that does that make me?

    they try to avoid it and say that i am just “thick”

    ok

    you just keep doing what you got to do and I can only imagine the adjustment but keep doing what you are doing

    • I think that it’s hard for people who have never struggled to understand. And, if their minds, they aren’t talking about you; they’re talking about X, Y or Z person.
      Thanks chica! I’m not stopping. That damn elliptical calls my name every morning at 4:45!

  8. Girl, I don’t know where to begin, so I’ll just say that your post is dead on. I was always the larger of my 2 sisters and had to deal with comments from family as well as friends. Not easy to deal with when your teen, overweight with braces and your twin is elected to be on the homecoming court. I still see myself as a large girl, but I’m healthy and, really, that’s all that matters. But, dang, if I wouldn’t like to look hawt in a sleeveless shirt. 🙂

    • Wow, never thought about it from the twin perspective. Double whammy! Nope, the comments never, ever help.
      Girl, I started rocking my sleeveless shirts last summer. Da hell with everyone else. I bought two and was feeling pretty darn hawt at the time!!

  9. I get what you’re saying because I’ve been the brunt of rude comments on both sides. When I was a kid, my twin sister and I were always called “skinny twinnies”. The comments, “Look at those bony legs” continued to echo until I began to gain weight. Now, 47 years old, I’m bigger than I’ve ever been. I hate the fat comments or the “you’ve gotten big, what happened?” questions. But, it’s not about weight as much as it is about how everyone has their own areas in their lives that they are accepting or struggling with. For some it is weight, for others, hair, for others, height and more. I am learning to embrace myself just the way I am and not allow anyone to make me feel bad about me.

  10. weight is a sensitive topic for everyone. SO much emphasis is put on being SKINNY versus being at a HEALTHY weight that it’s disgusting.

    i don’t think that your friend meant anything ill against you but it seems no matter what when it comes to certian sensitive topics, there will always be no “right” way to say things. I think she was only trying to help you realize that some things that you think you can’t do, you actually can. Although it was a little tactless to start pointing people out. But that was a compliment to name Latifah with booty because have you seen her? She looks great!

    But…you should let her know of your sensitivity about it and I’m sure that from here giong forward she will be more minful of how she says things

    • Yes, looking back, I realize that she did not intend to say something hurtful. However, my original point stands – I think that people, especially friends/loved ones, have a responsibility to TRY to understand the implications of potentially hurtful comments regarding known sensitive subjects.

      And yeah, I accept the Latifah plus booty compliment! LOL!

  11. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this issue. I have many, many issues with weight and have seen/heard people say CRAZY things about my weight and other people’s weight. I try to act like it doesn’t affect me. Usually I just get mad and curse them out. LOL
    I have struggled for over 10 years now with my weight and I am at the heaviest I have been my entire life. I take it one day at a time. I know what needs to be done to fix it, I just need to do it. Easier said than done. I believe I’ll get there soon. I pray that I will.

    • LMAO! Yeah, sometimes, I’ve really wanted to come out the pocket on folks! I’ve only ever had to flip out on one person.

      It’s a daily struggle and not nearly as easy as people think it is. I truly, truly understand the struggle. I pray that you get to a place that is comfortable and pleasing to you.

  12. Thanks for this post!
    My weight issues didnt become “issues” until people decided it was okay for them to comment on me. Because i have a bit of a rebellious streak, i decided to go as far left as i could … It is only recently that i’ve actually been uncomfortable with the way i look (coincidently i am at the biggest i’ve ever been).
    I take it one day at a time too, it’s easier (and a lot more fun sometimes) to put it on that it is to take of but through determination and some self discipline (thats the hard one lol) i think i can do it.

    -Sherine
    Check out my blog! Feel free to comment!
    http://sherinethegirl.blogspot.com/

    • Ah, yeah, the rebel thing. I can relate. I didn’t go through it, but I know a few people that have.
      Exactly – taking it one day at a time is the only way. When you are ready to dig your heels in, your determination and self discipline will kick in to overdrive.
      All the best. Thanks for stopping by!

  13. Hmmmmm…I do believe had I been with you and your friend I would have tagged her azz. Her initial comment wasn’t bad but when she kept going…it just got worse.

    HOWEVER…I will say that she probably got nervous saying something she thought was supportive initially and then trying to fix it and make sure you still knew that she was on your side, in your corner, as YOUR friend.

    I just don’t believe friends…REAL friends…are ever out to harm you in any way. They have your best interests at heart and love you. That said…sometimes we put too much thought into things that our emotions would over-analyze because WE feel some kinda way about it. Other folks haven’t had the opportunity to think that hard on it and I’d garner to say they probably never will.

    You should already know if she’s your REAL friend.

    • Ha ha! Yeah, I bet you would have tagged her azz something proper!!!

      Agreed – “sometimes we put too much thought into things that our emotions would over-analyze because WE feel some kinda way about it. Other folks haven’t had the opportunity to think that hard on it and I’d garner to say they probably never will.” You are very right about this. The rational part of my brain knows that she had no intention to hurt me whatsoever, but as you said, it’s something that I struggle with, think out, obsess over. So, it’s very easy to project my feelings onto to someone else and expect her to “understand”.

  14. I’ve always been ultra sensitive about all things Chris, especially my weight. I got bashed so much for being fat as a kid that I think everybody’s looking at me and talking about me. I would’ve reacted really badly if a friend said something like to me. People forget that while we may be heavier people, words still hurt. Some have control over their size, but most don’t and people forget that.

    • So many leftover feelings from childhood still affect us into adulthood. And, I truly do understand the almost paranoia regarding other people looking and talking. I hope that you can get to a place where those feelings start to fade away.

  15. I wish it were as easy as people believe it is to lost weight.

    Sorry your feelings got hurt. Hopefully more people will send a few seconds thinking about how the things they say come across. It’s not like we don’t see ourselves- we already know we are fat, we don’t need the constant reminders.

    • Excellent point – “it’s not like we don’t see ourselves”. I think that people ignore this and ASSUME that overweight people need them to point out the obvious. No thanks. Please keep all that to yourself.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  16. Although I’m not overweight I can soooo relate to this “I still see a beautiful…woman, but I often wonder how the world sees me?”

    You did a great job on this post. I have an aunt who is obese, and it’s very difficult to see all of the medical issues as a result. My mom and I have had separate conversations with her. To be honest I am guilty of thinking that she doesn’t see it. My thought is if she did see it there’s no way that she would continue to engage in her habits and have her young daughter do it as well. In any case, we have decided not to bring the topic up anymore.

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