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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As Some Of You May Know…

This is a WordPress blog. Well, I mean I’m sure all of you know that. Or could, if you cared to, because it’s right there in the URL. But there’s a reason I mention this.

Stats.

For those of you who do not have a WordPress blog of your own (many of you who came here, for instance, by clicking on the facebook link), you may not be aware that WordPress allows its users to track visitors by geography (well country, at least), and frequency of visit, and which post they read, and when they came by. Other stuff, too. And no, it does not record MY presence on my own blog more than once.

I find those stats fun. And revealing.

Most of the time, for example, a blog post will have, say 12 visitors with 14 views. Which means that twelve separate individuals visited the blog, and two of them came back to view it again. Or possibly one of them came back twice. And yes, I will sit, camped out on my blog after posting something new, refreshing the stats page to see if I’ve gotten a hit, and whether they’ve commented. You devastate me when you read and leave. No comment. Not even a like. Sigh. I’m not able to track your locations, or who you are, or anything that fancy, don’t worry. I’m no cyber-sleuth, and frankly I don’t care that much. Stay in the shadows, oh ye stalkers! That’s fine by me. Read and leave. See if I care. Don’t comment. I’m fine here. Alone. Sucking my thumb. I don’t live for your comments. I don’t care what you think.

On the day I posted my rant against 9/11, I got fifty-eight visitors and sixty-eight views. Because tags work. Brought in a lot of visitors. Musta pissed off a good number of them with that post, too. Not one comment. No one even stuck around long enough to tell me what an un-American, scum-sucking pig I am. Betcha a dollar most of ’em didn’t finish reading the post, even. Same thing the day after: 14 visitors and 17 views.

Anyway.

Sometimes, my stats will change. Take, for example, my last blog entry, about boobs. BOOBS! Oh, people, you LOVED that post, didn’t you? Now, now, no point in denying it! The stats don’t lie! The day I posted it? Six visitors, thirteen views. Y’all came back to read it again, dincha? The second day, seventeen visitors, twenty-one views. And today? Oh-ho, today! Four visitors, fourteen views. Four of you. FOURTEEN views. Somebody just couldn’t believe what they were reading, could they? Had to come back and read it again. And again. And again. Don’t bother denying it now, the stats don’t lie. You were here. Of course, I have no clue who you are. But you were here.

“Ethel, you’ve got to hear this! She’s talking ’bout her titties! I gotta bookmark this one!”

I can just hear it.

You amuse me, phantom readers. Whoever you are…