Thursday, April 06, 2006

Fat and Thin Extremes

We've all seen the news programs and stories on how difficult life can be for an overweight person in America today. The pretty model on an entertainment show, dresses up in a fat suit and is brought to tears because she's glared at or treated differently than when she is her usual gorgeous-looking self.

As someone who has been a little overweight most of my adult life, I can understand and sympathize with people who struggle with weight and the labels/treatment that goes with that. There are racists in the world, and, by the same token, there are also "fatists" who persecute anyone who is overweight. I have a dear friend whose ex-husband was really awful about this. She had another close friend who was obese and her husband rudely berated the woman as "fat and lazy" whenever he got the chance. My friend was horrified and hated his attitude and treatment of overweight people. Ironically, her husband began to gain quite a bit of weight near the end of their marriage, yet he still fat-bashed quite often, unable to see that someone looking at him with that attitude might be saying the very same things.

Now, while there is an extreme "fatist" attitude out there labeling a really big part of our population, there is the opposite extreme as well--the "thin haters." In my experience, these are usually people who are overweight themselves and either resent or feel anger towards thin people.

I have struggled for years to lose the weight I should. I must admit, I have moments of jealousy of someone who is at their ideal weight and can go out and eat as they please without any repercussions. Part of this year of change for me has been about accepting the fact that because of the genes I was born with, I will never be able to do that. I will always have to eat very healthy and workout diligently to maintain a weight. I have to cut back even more to lose it.

A good friend of mine, who works out more than most anyone I know, finally got frustrated that she was not toning and losing in the areas she wanted to lose (she's very trim everywhere else) and so she joined Weight Watchers. After talking with her, I felt genuinely embarrassed and sorry for the treatment she received by the other ladies in the program and even by the instructor. You see, when she walked in the door, she was already at her goal weight. A part of me felt very envious of that. Later, I learned that she was seriously questioned and treated as if she had an eating disorder for wanting to join a program to learn more what kind of foods she should eat to help her lose weight where she needed it and be the most fit person she can be.

At group function years ago, one of my friends who happened to be very trim commented on how cold our meeting room was. An overweight friend of ours suddenly loudly blurted out, "That's because your THIN! Skinny people are ALWAYS cold!" in a very annoyed tone. I remember the look on my thin friend's face at the time and how I could tell this struck a nerve with her. Imagine my surprise, when months later she confided in me that she'd had a serious battle with bulimia most of her young adult life and she had finally gotten it in control. Imagine to struggle with food like that, finally heal and get yourself to a healthier weight, and then find yourself negatively labeled because you are thin.

And, then I met "Kristie." Kristie attends my Weight Watchers meetings. She's a very large girl, all the way around--big boned, very tall, larger head and features with a big jovial personality. She has lost a huge amount of weight with the program and is a very big fan of our leader, more so than myself actually! I would often sit next to Kristie and another girl who I'd met in kickboxing class when I came to the meetings.

But, I started to get the feeling that Kristie did not like me there. Anytime I would ask a question, I'd get a short response back out of her. Or, if I'd make a point in discussion, I could always count on her to counter that point or play the devil's advocate. It was strange to me, because I wasn't aware that I'd ever offended this girl and she was openly argumentative with me.

My weight loss journey has been a very slow one. I've now hit 12 pounds in 14 weeks. That's less than a pound a week. But, it is still coming off slowly, so I haven't given up and I won't give up. Kristie does not know what my goal weight is, or that I still need to lose a great deal more. She also does not know why I am there to lose--to help my health and hopefully get off of diabetes medications if possible. But, she definitely formed an opinion of me quite quickly based on her opinion of what is fat and what is not.

One day, as I sat down after weighing in and finally losing more than just my usual .8 of a pound, I breathed a sigh of relief and smiled. I had finally reached my 10 pound mark.

Finally! I said. I have been stuck hovering at 8 1/2 pounds for three weeks--finally I lost some weight!

Those around me smiled kindly, recognizing how it feels to finally get out of a plateau. Not Kristie. She scowled and then looked to the girl on the other side of her and quite loudly muttered:

You know, all of these PEOPLE who are right at their goal and stuff just make it SO HARD for some of us who have so far to go.

My mouth dropped. For one thing, I am still quite far from my goal. But, as someone who looks at herself in the mirror and sees progress but still weight to lose, I was amazed that she was dissing me for being too thin for Weight Watchers! This group was about supporting one another, wasn't it? Does it matter if you need to lose 100 or 20 pounds? What about those success stories who sit amongst us as lifetime members who give inspiration to us each week? Suddenly, I realized that Kristie was a "thin-basher," and she'd been so argumentative with me because she didn't think I needed to be there as much as she did. Therefore, I didn't deserve to feel supported as she did.

That same meeting, I got an emergency phone call more than halfway into the discussion and had to duck out of the meeting briefly. I left my purse and all my materials under my chair and quickly ran out so as not to disturb. When I walked back in less than a minute later, I saw a new person sitting in my seat. Apparently, someone had come in late and thought the seat was open.

Kristie and her friend had devilish smiles on their faces when walked back to my chair. About the same time, the woman realized what had happened and popped up apologizing and said,

Oh, sorry! No one said someone was sitting there!

Kristie then giggled and half-heartedly said,
Oh, yeah...SORRY! I thought you'd left or something.

Why is it that women seem to really have a problem with relating to anyone who does not fit our definition or label of fat or thin? We either hate someone because they are "lazy and fat," or we hate them because they aren't (or we think they are not). In truth, we all have our ideal weight for physical fitness and well being. And, that just can't be the same for everyone. I have always weight a considerable amount more than I look like I weigh, thanks to my bone structure. But, honestly, that should not matter. My friend who is at her goal weight is trying so hard to learn to have a healthy lifestyle that will give her a longer and more happy life. Isn't that admirable? When did it become OK to negate someone based solely on your impressions of their appearance?

Just as in political debates, I find myself in the same middle-of-the road position on the fat vs. thin issue. Fat girls, thin girls, or in-between girls...can't we all just GET ALONG?


Blogger Vanessa said...

Kristie thinks she's the only one with a weight problem, and I'd bet you a truckload of money that she's got the same attitude about every situation in her life. Steer clear of her and concentrate on yourself and your goals and you'll be a lot happier. There are probably dozens of other people in your class who feel the same way you do about her, so know that you're not alone. Keep up the good work, Momma, you're doing such a good job! It's a struggle like NO OTHER, I know.

6:47 AM, April 07, 2006  
Anonymous Theresa said...

What I have found is that women can be so mean towards other women for no apparent reason beyond jealousy. Trust me, should she hit her weight loss goal, she will still find a way to point out others' faults, because she is just plain miserable.

You should be proud of yourself for sticking with WW to improve your health and fitness! Who cares how much you want or need to lose!

It really is a shame that women can't back each other up. We have enough to battle without having to fight each other!

8:38 AM, April 07, 2006  
Blogger Crazy MomCat said...

You are both so right! Nicole at Sitting Still has a good entry today on women labeling one another. I just don't get while we can't support each other more, you know?

8:55 AM, April 07, 2006  
Blogger DebbieDoesLife said...

Why would you WANT to sit by this mean spirited woman? Or be friends with her? Everyone else is right. She is like this in all avenues of her life. She is obviously jealous of you.

Congrats on the weight loss!

11:22 AM, April 07, 2006  
Blogger Nicole said...

I so agree. Women can be so catty and try to keep eachother down. Why? Sounds like she has a lot more problems that her weight. They say that those who are hardest to love usually need it the most. But congrats on you weight loss. Don't let her bring you down!

11:27 AM, April 07, 2006  
Blogger Erin said...

I'm so sorry you are having a tough time with her. She seems to have deeper issues than just her weight. You are doing a good job. That is all that matters. Find someone else to sit with. I'm sure there is someone who will support you no matter what.

Have a good weekend and keep up the good work!

12:43 PM, April 07, 2006  
Blogger Suburban Turmoil said...

Maybe Kristie is just a bitch. They come in all sizes, you know... ;)

5:48 PM, April 07, 2006  
Blogger Shelli said...

Really good post, CMC. She is just jealous of you. Obviously she can't find something in her own self that is likable. And isn't that sad?

10:47 PM, April 08, 2006  
Blogger jones said...

I think she hates herself so much, and needs an outlet for her anger. I feel sorry for her. Don't let it get to you. You're doing this for yourself - not for anyone else. All I can suggest about future meetings is "kill her with kindness," sometimes it actually works!

5:44 PM, April 09, 2006  
Blogger Jodi said...

First time to your blog, you have some good stuff here! Good job on losing weight. I need to lose weight too, so I hear ya. It's tough. And so easy to come with excuses why it can't be done. But, you are kicking some serious booty. :)

And, i agree with everyone else. I think Kristi just has a problem. It probably isn't even you. It's HER. SO, I think you should look for somebody else to pal up with who will support your goals.

It is VERy sad women are so catty. I don't know why we are like that?!

10:58 AM, April 11, 2006  

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