How Fat-Shaming (doesn’t) Work

For those who don’t know how it works…

I got fat-shamed at the gym today. Yeah, you heard me. I go to the gym. I work out 3-5 hours a week on weight machines and in the pool, swimming laps. I was just congratulating myself on a job decently done (I’m not spectacular, but I do what I can which is all anyone can ask for), when I happened to run into a friend, and we began comparing notes. She is larger-than-she-wants-to-be, too. Hmmm… LTSWTB. I’ve just invented a new non-word. Yipiee. Of course I’ve changed her name because it’s none of your business who she is, but “Jessica” and I began having a conversation about techniques, attitudes, determination, and other things like that. Then this guy comes up and butts in to our conversation.

I was watching him work out on a piece of equipment I’d been using half an hour earlier. It’s the one where you sit, and there’s this long bar over your head that you pull down on to lift weights. I have no idea what it’s called, but you probably know which one I’m talking about. Anyway, I asked the guy if he had tried the machine sitting the opposite way, as I find it easier than trying to jam my legs under the padded bar they have in front of the seat. I also see a lot of guys using that machine and they’re leaning back and grunting and pulling on the thing, and it just doesn’t look very effective to me the way they’re doing it. This fellow was much the same as the others I’d seen.

He explained that he couldn’t do it backwards, because he had to have the thigh brace. He was, you see, lifting more than his own body weight, and so needed the bar to hold him down. He did about five reps on the thing, and then stopped. WTF?

I know that I know nothing about weight-lifting, but that doesn’t seem productive to me. What is he trying to accomplish? Would it not be more effective, in the quest to build muscle, to set the weight lower and lift it more often? I’m not talking about down to ten pounds, but certainly down from 170lbs to, say, maybe 100lbs? Mind you, I didn’t ask him that. I didn’t feel like listening to a lecture, and I’m glad I held my tongue, because what little conversation we did engage in was horrible.

See, he began telling me and Jessica all about his weight loss adventure: how he’d changed his diet radically to exclude all sugars and all carbs, reduced his portions, and went to the gym. For three months he’s done this, and he’s dropped roughly 30 lbs.

At this point in the story, I congratulated him on finding what works for him (though privately I doubt he’ll be able to maintain it in the long run), and reminded him that not everyone’s body works the same way, and that there are many solutions to the same problem depending on who you are. For example, I told him, I used to be a lifeguard and water aerobics instructor, and would be in the pool about ten hours a week. During that time, I did not alter my diet in any way whatsoever, and lost about fifty pounds (Which is all true, btw. I know exercise works).

He vehemently disagreed with me, repeating the incredibly ignorant and highly offensive “calories in/calories out” diatribe of so many thin people. It’s pure and simple, he says. Nothing you do will ever help you lose weight if you eat carbs, period. Because it’s not sugar that turns into fat when you eat it, it’s carbohydrates.

By this point in his ranting, I was ready to punch him. Seriously seeing red, pushing the anger down as hard as I could and carefully controlling my breathing. And let me tell you, that’s the REAL weight training right there! I don’t know how much of his irritating prattle “Jessica” and I tolerated, but it felt like forever. Finally he wandered off, and went to play with himself somewhere else. I followed Jessica over to her next machine and sat by her side while she continued her workout. I was done for the day. He never took in a word of what I said, except to acknowledge it just long enough to deny it all and tell me I was a worthless pile of crap who would never succeed. He also asserted, in great ignorance, that genes have nothing to do with one’s weight, and went on at some length about that. By this point, I was almost unable to speak, and so I didn’t even try to engage. He had already judged me, so why bother defending myself? He wouldn’t hear me, he’d just hear whining and excuse-making, not legitimate scientific facts.

So, having “pointlessly” (because, after all, I’d already eaten carbs that day, so what’s the point?) done a hundred reps of that machine at 40lbs, and a hundred reps of another machine at 40lbs, and tried the NuStep until my legs gave out, I really couldn’t take any more of that. I chatted with Jessica for a while as I waited for my calm to return, then headed out. Got in my car and drove away.

I’ve been out of milk for a day or so, and been very broke, but just that morning I’d gotten a deposit in my bank account, so I went to the grocery store to pick up a few things I’d run out of. I was still fuming and furious with Mr. Bullshit, and just wanted to hurt him. Really, like smash into him with my car and then back over him a few times to make sure he would never get up again. Extremely angry, violent thoughts running through my head. Yeah, I get those. All the time. I watch horror movies to calm down from anger fits, because if I can see someone else doing it, then I don’t need to.

So I get to the store, get in the electric shopping cart, and start wheeling my way around. I picked up some fresh strawberries, a cantaloupe, a gallon of 1% milk, a gallon of orange juice, two boxes of cookies, a box of brownies, four mini-pies, three tv dinners, and a thaw-n-serve chocolate silk pie.

On the way home, I stopped at the Dairy Queen and got a medium cherry-cheesecake blizzard.

That’ll teach him.

See, the thing is, I’m a rational, intelligent, adult person, but when I get fat-shamed, logic and reason go completely out the window. There is nothing but the pain, and the anger, and the need to strike back at the person who hurt me. Of course, I’m not allowed to run people over with my car, so I have to find some other destructive, hateful and awful thing to do. Something that will ease my pain and make me feel better while I hurt someone or something.

And food is the answer. It soothes my pain and anguish and rage. It comforts me deep down on a spiritual level and makes everything alright. Food will never hate me, it will never judge me, it will only ever nurture me and make me feel safe and loved. Food doesn’t care if it’s my genes or my behaviour or my attitude or the flame-retardant chemicals in my sofa cushions that makes me fat. Food doesn’t care if I’ve been to the gym or mass-murdered every health nut in the nation to get all tired and worn out. It just loves me.

It does not hurt the man who hurt me if I eat an entire chocolate silk pie in one sitting. He will never even know. So why do I do it? Because it’s comforting. Because when my mouth is full of that luscious, perfect heaven, he’s not there in my mind at all. He’s nowhere. He’s destroyed utterly in my world. He ceases to exist. And I’m still here, and food still loves me.

Can you begin to see why that would be a worthwhile thing to do? Why it is reasonable, in that mindset, to take that action? Not just reasonable, but actually necessary?

Fat shaming does not work. And there’s the insider’s explanation of why. You ask your fat friends to read this article, and they will tell you I’m not a lone weirdo. Fat people feel this way. It is the way our minds work, and it is why fat-shaming is just about the worst thing you can do to a fat person if you want to help them lose weight. I’m not off my rocker here. Well, maybe I am, but the point is I’m not making a false claim about this, nor am I an isolated or unusual case. This has happened to me more times than I can count, and it plays out the same way every time. I’m fat and worthless? Fine. Then I’ll BE fat and worthless. Take that, asshole! You happy now that I’ve eaten my weight in pasta? No? Want me to eat more? Fine, I will. Go away and leave me alone, I was doing well before you opened your big mouth and told me what a loser I am!

I’m a horrible person. I know that, I didn’t need you to tell me. Now go away and let me die in peace. I hate me, too. Everybody hates me, or should. Because I’m repulsive and disgusting and will never be anything else. I know, I know. You’re completely right, it’s true. I should just kill myself now and get it over with. Save everybody the bother of being polite to my face until I keel over from my own weight and they can’t find a coffin big enough for me and I have to buy two funeral plots coz I won’t fit in just one.

I think I’m gonna go eat some of those brownies, now. I’m tired from all this emotional writing.

(This is an older piece of writing, it didn’t happen to me this year. I’m just sharing it now.)

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An Impassioned Plea

I’ve been conversing on facebook with my younger cousin lately about politics (G-d help me!), and we’ve gotten into some pretty heartfelt stuff. I wrote a reply to him tonight that was so long, facebook wouldn’t let me post it. I had to break it up into two posts, and even they were two very long posts.

We were discussing something I’d done earlier tonight. This blog post will consist mostly of quotes from facebook, but that’s because why type all this stuff twice? But I think it will make for interesting reading for a wider circle than just those three or four people who might click on a nested thread. You see…

****************

On my way home from running errands tonight I stopped and picked up an elderly woman who was out in the flying snow and the dark, begging on a streetcorner. I drove her in my warm car to a drive-thru, bought her a meal and hot coffee, and returned her to her spot (at her request), after ascertaining that she did in fact have a warm place to spend the night and people to take care of her. She hadn’t eaten today, and was trying to raise enough money to make it to the next town over from here (about 120 miles, two hours’ or so drive on the highway) to see her daughter for Thanksgiving.

I did not ask if she was a veteran. I did not ask if she was a refugee. She is a human being in distress. She is absolutely no different from me in any way except the random luck that life handed her. I’m no better than her, she’s no better than me. I believe the Christian phrase is “there but for the grace of God go I.” I fed her, warmed her up, gave her a few bucks, and sent her on her way. It is really cold and snowy out tonight in Butte, and supposed to be getting worse as the week goes on. No one should be out in the cold begging on a streetcorner tonight.

Turns out she was from Newport, Mass. Small world, eh? She’s been out here for about thirteen years, she said. I told her I’d been here a bit longer, and explained about the small hill towns “west of Greenfield.”

Does her being from Massachusetts make her somehow “more worthy” of being helped by me, a fellow Massachusetts native? No, it does not, in any way, shape or form. No more than her being female makes her more worth of being helped by me, a fellow female, or her being American made her more worth of being helped by me, a fellow American. Those distinctions did not come into play in my mind or my heart. A human being in need was the metric I was using. The rest was a coincidence, and something to talk about while I drove.

I would have done exactly the same thing if she were a Syrian refugee. I don’t care where she was from. I truly don’t. She was in my car five minutes before I found out where she was from, which was information she volunteered. She blessed me by giving me this opportunity to help, to put my action where my mouth is.

****************

To which my cousin replied,
“That’s pretty unbelievable that you did that for someone, I’m sure not many people would do that these days! When you think about it, random acts of kindness like that were so much more common a few decades back. Hitchhiking was a commonality because people were more willing to help out their fellow man. It’s too bad how the world and our cultures have shifted…

I think where I differ from you is the fact that our country and our society is not built to take on helping EVERYONE all at once. We focus all of our attention on ONE subject, ONE problem, ONE solution at a time. The only topic our president has been talking about for the past couple weeks is his strategy on ISIS and his plan for refugees. He doesn’t mention anything about the bills recently struck down for veterans, nor addresses the problems in his own country. While I’d like to see everyone get the help they need, I know it’s simply not possible. And therefore when the choice needs to be made, I’d choose my people first.”

****************

And I replied (abridged)

“… when the choice needs to be made, I’d choose my people first.”

I can understand that. You start right where you are and you do as much as you can with what you see around you with the resources you have. Which is precisely what I did today, because I am only one person, as are you, as is N_____ (as she angrily pointed out), as are we all. Well, most of us are, anyway.

….. long political rambling here…..

… but I wanted to talk about the personal stuff. There are so many things I try to live my life by that get boiled down to sound bites, snippets, and memes, and sometimes those are so infuriating, but sometimes, that’s the best way to get complex ideas across.be the change 2

BE the change you want to see in the world. Don’t wait for it to happen, MAKE it happen! Why is it “pretty unbelievable” that I would help this woman on the streetcorner? It shouldn’t be. It should be plain, simple, common decency. The fact that anyone would consdier it “pretty unbelievable” makes me horribly sad!

Usually (not sometimes, not when I’m in the mood to, but USUALLY), when I see someone on that particular corner, I bring them food, because a lot of people in Butte beg for alcohol or drug money. My logic is that if they are reduced to begging, they’re probably hungry. Even if they have food at home (and have a home), they’ve been standing on a streetcorner probably for hours, and are likely hungry. If they are druggies, they probably need a good meal, even if they don’t want one and would rather have my cash. So I drive down to the nearest fast food restaurant, which is a Wendy’s, and drop a couple bucks on a few burgers and a soft drink (or coffee if it’s cold out) instead of handing them cash. That way I *know* my money isn’t going to feed a drug habit, and I’ve still done something for someone. I do this quite regularly. But when it’s cold out, often by the time I get back, the person has left, and I’m left with food and drink I don’t want/need because I’m not hungry. So with this lady, because it was cold and dark, and I was worried about her, I took her into my car to make sure she was okay, and when I found out she was, I returned her to her spot. After feeding her. That way, she didn’t leave before I could get back with her food.

Don’t wait for society to change. Change it today. Change it inside yourself. It’s never gonna change if you expect it to change from the outside-in. You have to change it from the inside-out. Start inside yourself, and work outwards as you go. You’re absolutely right when you said, “…our country and our society is not built to take on helping EVERYONE all at once…” and it never will be if we don’t MAKE it that way. One human soul at a time. We can’t do that with laws, edicts, rules, and regulations. We have to do it with our hearts. Because (here’s another sound bite) you cannot legislate morality. People have tried that for millennia, and it doesn’t work. Whether it’s recycling or abstinence or drugs or whatever, you just cannot pass laws that will force people to be “good” people. Which is why you’re right about our country and our society not being able to help everyone at once.

But if enough people just suddenly started being nice, and saw how good it felt (I got so much of a high off of helping that woman, I can’t tell you how much more than money it’s worth!) to do that, they’d all become addicted to doing good. You can’t get that high anywhere else, I’m telling you. If people did that, and other people saw them doing that, and saw that high, and said “Hey, what’s going on? I want that!” and tried it too, and it spread like a virus or a drug… people would be lining up to change legislation for the good, and it wouldn’t be an effort, or a sacrifice, it would be a joy.

But if people don’t start with themselves, then no, of course that’s never gonna happen. It’s all purely hypothetical. Point is that it’s possible, though. We’ll never know if you aren’t willing to try.

I’m not singling you out, mind you. Not putting blame or guilt on your shoulders. I’m trying to plant seeds in your mind. Little idea seeds of hope and love and courage. Yes, someone getting in your car might have a gun or a knife on them. They might car-jack you or rob you or hurt you. That could have happened to me tonight. I took the risk. Willingly. Because of what *might* have happened, and DID in fact happen, which was that a nice, elderly lady got a warm meal and some gas money, and she now knows that there’s at least one nice person in Butte who cares about her well-being. And she’ll carry that with her for the rest of her life. And maybe she’ll pass it on to someone else somewhere down the road. I faced the fear, the possibility of death, to share some love and compassion with a stranger, because I would rather die with love in my heart, than live safely behind locked doors in fear. And today, I practiced what I preached in the main post above.

And you can, too. I believe in you. I believe in all humanity. BE the change you want to see in the world. Don’t wait for it to come to you. Create it yourself.

Three Buildings, Four Airplanes, and a Field

Okay, so this is gonna be unpopular. But I’m gonna say it anyway.

9/11 is stupid.

Yeah, you heard me, America. You’re all a bunch of stupid, whiny babies for getting your panties in a bunch over 9/11. It was fourteen god-damned years ago. Get. Over. It. I am sick to death of reading all these chest-thumping proclamations of brain-dead blind patriotism over this stupid event.

And I’m an American!

Listen up, America: we deserved 9/11. We are assholes. We are the bullies on the international playground, who beat up all the other countries and take their lunch money and then pee in their hair. Yeah, you heard me, that’s us. Nobody likes us. But there’s a reason for that. Nobody likes us because we are assholes. So when another country (or even a few private whack-jobs) dared to stand up to us and spit in our face by bombing a few buildings, we totally and completely had it coming as a nation.

WE DESERVED IT!

I remember watching tv that day. I was watching M*A*S*H when it was interrupted by the news, showing live footage before the buildings came down. You know, the footage they don’t show anymore, of the people jumping out of the buildings and stuff? Yeah, I saw that shit live. I remember. I was pissed, because I wasn’t really impressed, and wanted to get back to my rerun of a comedy about the Korean War. A bombing in NYC? Using airplanes full of innocent civilians for bombs? Really? Who the fuck cares? I’m in fucking Montana, for god’s sake! And the Pentagon? Good fucking riddance! Please, blow up some more warmongers, and then get back to me when you’ve finished the job. That building’s still mostly intact. Jeezus, put M*A*S*H back on now, ya bastards!

I was a little bit impressed that someone had finally gotten the balls to stand up to America the Bully and given us a black eye. “Yes, we deserve that,” I thought. Okay, I may have even said it aloud. “This is entirely fair. Good for them, they did what every nation out there wants to do to us, but doesn’t have the courage to do, or even admit that they want to do. It’s only what everyone was thinking of doing all along.” But more than that, I didn’t really worry about it.

Okay, I felt sorry for the individuals who lost their lives. Did *they* deserve, as individuals, to die? No, of course not. But we, as Americans, most definitely and without question deserved to have a handful of innocents brutally ripped from our midst for no good reason. Because we do that to people all around the world every damned day. And we deserve to know what it feels like, to get a little of our own medicine back for a change. Yes, I said a handful. Because in comaparison to the numbers of innocent deaths WE inflict globally, it *was* a handful. Chump change. Fergeddaboutdit. It was a mosquito bite.

FLASH FORWARD

It’s 2015. 9-11-2015. Fourteen fucking god-damned years later.

And everyone in America has lost their fucking minds. Why? Because it’s fucking 9/11 again. And that date has this mystical quality about it that makes Americans go batshit insane. We have this double standard that it’s okay to do this unto others, but woe betide anyone who even thinks about doing unto us.

You know what? Fuck you, America. That’s not fair. That’s not right. You can do this to everyone else, but they can’t do it back? No. That mentality doesn’t work on the playground, and it won’t work in the international court of opinion, either. You knew that wasn’t right when you were five years old, and you know it now. Just because you can get away with it doesn’t make it okay. You are bullies and assholes, and you deserve everything you got and a thousand times more. Fuck you up the ass a thousand times with a rusty cheese grater. It’s for your own god-damned good. Maybe you’ll develop a little bit of compassion after you’ve experienced the pain from the other side for once in your priveleged, white-collar, spoiled life.

But you know what? That just didn’t happen.

Because some people are incapable of learning. They’re too stupid to learn! And those of us who already knew, we didn’t need the lesson, we were already compassionate, but we don’t make policy. 9/11 did not create a more compassionate, kind, and caring America. It just made the bully meaner and bitchier, and now whinier, too. And it made me that much more ashamed of my fellow countrymen.

So on this anniversary of nothing very important, I would like to encourage all my fellow Americans to put on their big-girl panties, say a prayer for the innocent lives lost (but just a quick one, for the love of Pete, it’s been fourteen years!), and get on with your lives. Stop waving flags, stop beating your chest, stop thinking you’re the center of the universe, stop killing people, stop hating your fellow man, stop beating up innocent Muslims because you’re an ignorant bigot, stop oppressing women, stop killing dogs, stop poisoning the environment, stop fighting over who has the best imaginary playmate, stop all that shit. Grow a pair, grow the fuck up, get a life, and go live it!

Thank you.