Fran The Fat Lady

My buddy Fran will always remembered as “The Fat Lady.”

Not as the nice lady.

Not as the kind, generous, smart woman.

Not even the hilariously, funny one.

Just the big ole’ fat lady.

Franny was morbidly obese. If I had to guess, I would say she weighed 400-500 pounds. She got around just fine though, tooling around in her black Chevy pickup, nothing stopped her. But it was fat that killed her in her early fifties, and she knew full well it would be the death of her.

Laying in a hospice, on Mothers Day a few years back, she watched my 6 year old daughter Grace twirl around in her pink sparkly princess dress, while Fran clapped her hands with a huge smile beneath her oxygen mask. Her hands, arms and face were a scary blue-purple, something I had never seen on a person before. My daughter took note of it for a brief second, before she went on entertaining the hospice crowd.

Even as Fran was struggling to take her next breath, she enjoyed life. She enjoyed people, and those of us that bothered to get to know her, found a dear, dear friend. What a gem she was.

I think everyone should be required to befriend a fat person. I am sick of all the discrimination and just plain meanness. I mean, where the hell has our compassion gone?

Do fat people bring out our fears?

Are we afraid we will be one of them some day?

Do we just not like looking at them?

Do we think we are somehow better because we are simply lighter?


Fran died just a few hours after we visited her that day. I realized today as I write this how much I miss her.

We were an odd pair the two of us. The ex-model and The Fat Lady.

We always had this unspoken understanding that we were the same inside. I have no doubt we both knew this with our heart and soul.


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35 Responses to Fran The Fat Lady

  1. Vanessa says:

    this was a wonderful post. i sometimes have wondered whether you were compassionate towards fat people, whether you could even understand enough about what being fat in our society is like to have that compassion. you proved me badly wrong with this remembrance of your friend.
    i have a weird relationship towards fatness and fat people, i want to scream out in their defense, and i feel a lot more in common with someone who has always been fat than with someone who never has.
    on the other hand my actions are extremely motivated by a fear of being fat again, and my memory of having been fat- really fat, not just a bit overweight- are memories of a person who hated herself and felt her fatness was the first thing anyone saw. i remember feeling both invisible and constantly judged by everyone for my fatness.
    right now i’m told i look underweight. when i tell people i used to be fat i always get the same reaction: “you???” a shocked disbelief that i could ever have been one of “them”. it makes me sad. and angry. and sad again. and also it makes me proud and it makes me feel superior to people who are fat. i love to hear that shocked “you???” as much as i hate everything it represents. i get mad at myself for having such a hatred of being fat and how that hatred drives everything i do.

  2. Erin says:

    My grandma is morbidly obese and has been fat/overweight all her life. My mom has always been determined not to be her mother and it has worked out. She exercises, eats right, and looks great. Her constant worry of not being or becoming “fat” got passed on to me in the form of an eating disorder though. I have grown up afraid that obesity runs in the family and my mom doesn’t notice that I keep a low weight by unhealthy measures. So yes, I think fat people bring out our fears and I know I’m afraid I’ll turn into one.
    I don’t hate fat people persay, but I hate what they’re doing to themselves. My grandma has all kind of health problems and she’ll probably die before any of her grandkids get married. I get angry that she does nothing to try and better her health. She’s been in the hospital twice in 8 months and it both scares me and pisses me off.

  3. Katie says:

    I admit it, I am prejudiced against (and oddly fascinated by) fat people. I know I am prejudiced and I hate that I am, but I still am. Fat just terrifies me. I have gotten to know plenty of overweight people and liked them, but still the prejudice persists about new people.
    I know it’s got to be extremely hard to be overweight in today’s society, so I never make fun of or laugh at overweight people and I try not to let others do so either.

  4. Jxx says:

    it’s being fat before is wat got in the trouble some place i am now. becuase i spent my whole day at school being called fat. so i do kinda get ur point that evry1 is different and that there are all different body shapes. i just h8 mine. and i prob always will but that is thanks to those people that for about four years of my life called me FAT and theyeven made up a song about how fat i was. now it is the opposite.

  5. Lia says:

    I admit it, I’m afraid of “fat” people. (like you, MamaV, I’ve found calling them that offensive… or, well, my ED has made this strange distinction of fat people=me, overweight people=normal people who are not at fault for their body shape) I always look at them and see myself- it makes me very uncomfortable. I try not to show it, but it’s there. Add to that a very sensitive nose, and, well, hot&humid days in my home state and, well… OK, I admit it, I shunned overweight people I had no relation to. I went as far as getting up from a seat on the school bus because I was afraid the fat of the person sitting next to me would find me an inviting target and jump over- I think I’ve gotten over this craziness pretty soon, but that was when I was just fourteen and had had to start at yet another new school, safe in the knowledge I would never belong in the popular club.
    My little brother was quite overweight most of his teenage years- now he has started to exercise differently (more cardio instead of simply playing sports), and this really beautiful young man has emerged from the shell (oh, he’d kill me if he read this, but he’s not just handsome- he, like everyone of us siblings has my maternal grandmother’s face…). He was the one that created the distinction between me&the others who are just unfortunate- he was an ace at sports and didn’t eat any different than us others, but the puppy fat just clung to him far beyond what it did for me&my twin. I always looked at myself in the mirror and saw a body shape like his- and I was afraid, so afraid, and I would go for another two-hour run outside just to get away.
    I have made quite a few overweight friends in college&uni. It kind of turned out that way, you know, the way you unconsciously try to be the hottest of your clique? I think I have gotten over that (I’ve been in outpatient therapy for a while now), but I still compare myself to everyone I see.
    For my friends, it’s their inner self that counts- it’s about them being funny, cute, friendly, warm, intelligent, wonderful people who bear with my overbearing nature and fits of discussing totally out there theories while watching a certain hospital series in the evening. It’s about them enjoying life while I guiltily nibble at my first slice of no-cheese, veggie pizza and try not to give in to the urge to just do some crunches NOW before the evil food gets to me- and they’re OK with it! They help me through more than anybody else, and I am SO grateful to have met them. Then I feel guilty again because I met them for the wrong reasons.
    They still have a way of making me feel good about it- they’re amazing.

  6. Anonymous says:

    MamaV – I did enjoy the general spirit of this post. However, I have a few comments. I am fat and I actually prefer the word “fat” over “overweight” and certainly over “obese” or “morbidly obese”. The same is true for many fat people I know. Here is why: Overweight implies that the respective person’s weight is not “normal”. It is at least inherently far more of a judgement than “fat”, although fat has acquired a negative meaning. I truly and honestly believe that my body was not designed to fall into the range of what is defined as normal by today’s standards. Yes, I am fatter than I would be without my eating disorder, but “normal” eating (i.e., not under und not overeating) and regular, sane exercise (i.e., not overexercising) would never ever get me down to a BMI of 18.5-25. This is particularly problematic since the a “normal” weight is usually assumed to be what people should aim for. However, a normal weight is not realistically achievable for many people, at least not in a healthy and sane way, and aiming at an unachievable goal in this context can be very problematic. In addition, the current definition of normal weight is dodgy because it is not clear that “overweight” people (i.e., people with a BMI of 25-30 have overall increased health risks compared to “normal” weight people.
    Also, you use a picture of a fat person without a head as illustration. Personally I think that these “headless fatty” pictures should be avoided. These pictures are somewhat parallel to women being potrayed in magazines in objectifying ways that focus on the body rather than the face, while men are far more often potrayed in ways that focus on their face. Showing a headless photo of a fat person objectifies and dehumanizes him or her, particularly compared to photos of thin people that usually include a head.
    I do agree with you that fat people are far too often seen as being defined by their fat. Being fat also means that people make assumptions based on stereotypes, some of which are actually quite ridiculous (but nontheless hurtful).
    I can to some degree understand when people assume that I overeat and don’t exercise because although these behaviors have different effects on every person on average they tend to contribute to weight gain. However, these assumptions still ingore the fact that the causes for being fat are varied and differ from person to person.
    I do start to get a little annoyed when people assume what kinds of food I must be eating. For example I cannot count the times when people who heard that I have been a vegetarian for about 15 years now told me that “I don’t look like a vegetarian”. It is completely possible to be vegetarian or even vegan and still be fat. It is even possible to eat mostly foods that are generally considered “healthy” and still be fat.
    However, the worst parts of the stereotype have to do with completely food and exercise unrelated things. Because I am fat people assume that I am lazy, have no self-control, have lower than average intelligence, use more than my share of resources, cannot be attractive to any sane person, must be emotionally unstable and have bad personal hygiene habits.

  7. Gabi says:

    One of my closest friend is morbidly obese and she is one of the nicest people in the world.
    Last night she rused to the hospital at midnight withme in an ambulance becuase i had fainted and my heart was beating too fast due to my potassium being really low. Thats now twice in one week ive been rushed to hospital. Yet while we were their waiting she was stuffing her face with chocolate anmd sweets and i refused even water….
    I abosloutly adore her, however you know what i do fear being like her. But no matter ho much i fear being like her, im just like her. We both have eating disorders that unfortunately will kill us. I hate people who look at her and thinnk that she sint worth the time of day because she is better than most people around. Yes she is morbidly obese, but she is one of the most live llife to the fullest, kindest people i know… even my own boyfriend didnt come to the hospital… yet she got out of bed t midnight to come. What a gem!

  8. mamaV says:

    Dear Poster who did not leave a name above:
    Thanks for your comments! My tone is my style, if you are a new reader you will see this…it is not meant to be offensive, I write as I do to hit home my points. At times I am very in your face, not politically correct, and my spirit may be a turn off…but its me and its from the heart so I tend not to apologize. Please just know my intentions are good and true, especially on this topic which is near and dear to my heart.
    Your comments are essential for us to read, twice. This is the first post on obesity, although I have been asked to do so many times in the past 2 1/2 years of blogging. I didn’t object to the topic, I just didn’t know if I had a voice, or better said I didn’t kind my voice until yesterday.
    On the topic of the appropriate word to be used to describe a person – fat or overweight. You make a good point about not wanting to be called “overweight” because it labels you as not “normal.” I agree these charts that establish the norm are invalid, and as to BMI….the best fact I have read is that Michael Jordan is considered fat/overweight according to the charts. I think that speaks for itself. Question on this though- what do you think children should be taught?
    In regards to the image I used, you know, I search the darn web for 15 minutes before I choose that photo? I ended up buying it on istockphoto because I could not find a picture of a fat/overweight woman (with a head)…all the images they were stuffing their face or sitting in front of a diet plate of food. Those images ticked me off….so I went with the headless lady. I will keep in mind your comments about this being dehumanizing. I recall when I downloaded this image I wondered if the woman pictured in it even knew it was taken. Point taken.
    Your comments about being a vegetarian and being told “you don’t look like a vegetarian,” immediately reminded me of the anorexics/bulimics here who express they are told “you don’t look like you have an eating disorder.” The judgement reins up and down the scale.
    Laziness. Unclean. Dumb. How horrible we are as a culture. As I read the other comments above my heart stops when I think of a person moving away from a fat person in a seat….or complaining about one invading their space. I have always found myself going overboard to make a fat person, or black person, or gay person feel comfortable when I know they are in a situation they are not. I see the fat discrimination all in the same realm of acceptance…each different and unique…but at the core the same. All rejection or shaming of someone who is not the “norm.” What is the norm anyway? What do you think on this?
    Finally, I wholeheartedly believe there are fat genes. No doubt about it. I know that I could eat the same foods as a fat person, they would gain weight, and I would not. We could exercise the same routine, and I would gain muscle/drop fat, and they would not. There is not a doubt in my mind about this.
    There is also not a doubt in my mind that combined with the fat genes is just another form of eating disorder. Fran had it. Food as comfort. Food as security. She admitted it, she tried to change at times, but it just wasn’t worth it for her. And that’s ok. I wasn’t walking in her shoes. But I can tell you that at her funeral, there were a few family members that were very angry at her. Angry that she couldn’t beat her eating disorder so she could be alive to see her grandchildren grow up. This whole topic is very, very emotional…and I could probably talk about it all day so I will stop here.
    Thanks again for taking the time to share.

  9. mamaV says:

    Hey Vanessa: This post just kind of came out…and I am glad it did. It stemmed from my meeting with a bunch of Fit Bloggers in Chicago. I found myself surrounded by a totally different group of individuals, those who are weight watchers lif-ers”, some who were fat, all who have struggled, and I was just inspired.
    Inspired to take a different path here, express feelings and thoughts on obesity, and fat discrimination.
    You make an interesting statement about feeling “superior” now that you are not fat…..I think there is more to explore there. I need to ponder this.
    Last point, several people have asked me to talk more about EDNOS, and now I realize the individuals who fall in the EDNOS category is massive. This needs to be examined because as a society we are not. Still pondering this as well, so feel free to post your thoughts.

  10. sannanina says:

    Dear mamaV,
    it was me who left the anonymous post above – I did not intend to not give my name, I simply forgot to do so.
    Anyways, please don’t think that I critized your style and tone. As I said above, I truly appreciated the positive intentions behind this post; it was clear to me that you loved your friend and you did speak of her lovingly. I just tend to be very critical, so even if I like a post but something about it still rubbs me the wrong way I will tend to bring it up.
    As for the photo – I can absolutely see that it might be hard to find positive or at least neutral pictures of fat people with a head. Thanks for trying to find one – I hope that at some time in the (near) future there will be enough positive pictures of fat people available.
    I have one additional point to make. People here (and in general) often seem to see fatness or obesity by itself as an eating disorder. I find that a bit problematic since there are fat people, even very fat people, who are not eating disordered but became fat through a mixture of genes and things like medication (for example antidepressants) or illness. Also, for me as a fat person with an eating disorder it is very important to seperate being fat from being a binge-eater. My eating disorder contributes to my weight (although it is hardly the only cause), but it is not the same as my weight. A related point is that weight loss in my case does not necessarily mean my eating disorder is getting better, an assumption I have come across far too often in my life. (In fact, one of the most healing experiences I have had in the past was having the therapist I worked with at that time suggest that I was eating too little during a weight loss. It was the first time in my life that someone truly considered that someone like me might at times be restricting food too much.)
    I appreciate that you talk about fat people with eating disorders because this is a topic that is often ignored – so thank you.

  11. Rossi says:

    Firstly, without saying whether I’m fat, thin, or have been both, I think that it’s by no means “bad” for a person to be put-off by obesity. In fact, it’s instinct. When we see a beautiful person, our mind simply says that we are attracted. The brain doesn’t say “The shadows around her eyes make the whites of her eyes look whiter, which implies health.” Your mind doesn’t tell you “The pink in her cheeks resembles youth and fertility, thus you are attracted.” These thoughts are processed by instinct. Look up why we wear the makeup we do, if you don’t believe it. Everything we do is to mimic these signs of youth, fertility, health, and arousal that you instinctively look for in a mate.
    A lot of the same occurs in your mind when you see someone who is obese, only in reverse. Biologically speaking, our minds reject the unhealthy in general when searching for a mate–which is the true function of your body’s ability to feel attraction. For this same reason, someone who is terribly underweight will be as unappealing as someone overweight (specific fetishes aside). There are other subconscious psychological processes that contribute to it, as well. Your instinct will tell you that there is something wrong with a person who chooses to be unhealthy. This applies to the obese, eating disordered, those who self-mutilate, etc. Our instinct is survival, not self-destruction; it’s no sin to feel a conflict when something doesn’t make sense. It’s no sin to feel attracted to health, or repulsed by self-destruction.
    I’m not saying that people who are of an extreme weight are wrong or mentally unsound, nor am I saying that people who are fit are more sane. However, it’s perfectly natural to be drawn to health. No one is “bad” for processing information naturally. I think it’s wrong to manipulate instincts around morals, and attempt to make something “bad” simply because it hurts. Feeling a certain way is not the real “sin.” Rather, I think it’s how you allow these feelings to dictate your behavior that matters.
    P.S. My best friend in this world is morbidly obese. If I could, I would give him the world, and I know he would deserve it. His size bothers me, and he knows it. However, it’s because I love him so much that I don’t understand why he doesn’t love himself enough to take care of his body. It hurts me to see what value he places on his health. It’s not because of the fashion world. It’s not because of movie stars. It’s because I think he deserves a long, healthy life, and I wish he believed it, too. I think obese people blame models frequently to avoid admitting that they’re making a choice; in fact, I’ve noticed them blaming the fashion industry more than the eating disordered, who are also making a choice. Odd, isn’t it, that one extreme can demand respect and rights, while the other is an illness, and a voluntary one? If you don’t respect your body, in either extreme, how can you expect others to?

  12. sannanina says:

    Rossi – I don’t know your comment on attraction was a reaction to my earlier point that people often assume I cannot be attractive to any normal or sane person. If it was – I don’t think anybody “owes” it to me to find me attractive. I start having a problem, when someone states that no “normal” person can be attracted to me because I am fat.
    Also, while there is some truth that humans tend to be attracted to potential mates that look healthy and fertile this is hardly the whole story about attraction. And as far as the unattractiveness of fatness is concerned: There were times and cultures when the beauty ideal of most people was considerably fatter than it is nowadays (and no, I am not just talking about supermodels). Do I want those times to return? No. But I think that the evidence just does not support the idea that finding people unattractive is something that is totally biologically (and not societally) determined. Also, even in this fatphobic time fat people have sexual relationships (and not just with other fat people), marry, and have children. In fact, a recent study found that fat women are not less likely to have sex than thin women. Of course, there were plenty of comments that fat women are “easier to get” etc., and that this somehow balances out their lack of attractivness – I am not going to comment on that. All I know is that I am “not easy to get”. In fact if I cannot have a partner that is genuinely attracted to me and to whom I am genuinely attracted I would rather not have a partner, thank you very much.
    Why is the attractivness part important at all? Because fat girls are often told from an early age on that they are disgusting and that they have no chance that anybody will ever fall in love with them. Because related to this even your friends often assume that you cannot have the same feelings when it comes to love than they do. Because you are taught from very early on that you are a freak. In a way this is similar and just as wrong to how society views the sexuality and attractivness of people with disabilities.
    Also, I take issue with your point that fat people don’t “take care of themselves”. I try desperately to take care of myself. I try to deal with my eating disorder, I try to deal with depression and social phobia that was probably partially brought on by being bullied and harrassed as a kid (not just because I was fat, but also because I was simply weird), and I try to get through graduate school while doing those things. However, weight loss without normalizing my relationship with food is not “taking care of myself”. Finding fun ways to exercise, going out although it is hard and choosing healthy and nutritious foods independent of calorie content and independetn of if it make me thin or not on the other hand is part of taking care of myself.

  13. Vanessa says:

    for people who aren’t fat but do have eating disorders to have a problem with fat people because they’re doing something “unhealthy” is the absolute height of blindness and hypocrisy to me. look in the damn mirror before judging someone else, and then shut up. how would you feel about people saying “ew, gross, bulimics are so disgusting” (which we are) or “ew anorexics are so unhealthy and stupid, why would anyone starve themselves” (seems just as valid to me).
    anyone who doesn’t have an eating disorder and has a more judgemental attitude towards fat people with or without eating disorders than they do towards bulimics or anorexics, same problem.
    on the other hand, having irrational attitudes about fatness that we can recognize as irrational and part of our eating disorder is something different. the important thing is recognizing the irrationality, and challenging it. that’s what i liked about this post, and it was in that spirit that i shared some of the superior feelings i have towards fat people, which i consider very shameful and bad for me to have.
    in my opinion, any and all attitudes i have that are negative towards fat people are irrational and wrong. i see no difference between those attitudes and the attitudes of someone who is racist. some people recognize their racism and struggle to overcome it- but anyone who persists in believing their racism is valid needs to be called out on it, in my opinion.

  14. Rossi says:

    Apparently something I said was unclear, which is astounding considering I used so many words in hopes of NOT being misunderstood. I’ll try once more.
    1. The person originally being discussed was morbidly obese. As I was reacting to the original post, I’m not specifying an exact reaction to someone 50 lbs overweight. Also, I never assessed the value of the person. (See #3). I merely defended a natural instinct for what it is and any “guilt” thereof. I advocated no type of behavior or thinking towards an individual past the first, instinct-driven impression. It doesn’t matter how much you claim to not judge others. Your brain will make an assessment of everything you lay eyes upon whether you like it or not.
    2. I never said anything about sex lives or lack thereof. Again, I was discussing the initial reaction to people who are morbidly obese. (Which hasn’t ever been the epitome of attractiveness despite changing paradigms.) Instantaneous, subconscious reactions were my only topic. That was incredibly presumptuous of you. Nor did I say it wasn’t “normal.” Two out of three Americans are obese. What’s “normal” to you?
    3. You’ll notice that my BEST FRIEND is obese. Morbidly so. Obviously, I am aware that there is more to a person than their size. How a racism metaphor could ever fit this situation, I know not–or maybe I’m the only one would would think it unlikely that a truly racist person would choose his/her best friend from the race they supposedly “hate”. So, as you can see, I don’t treat people differently according to size. Like in my original post, I simply choose to admit to a feeling that is quite natural to initially have, and not label it immoral. Also, I can’t take seriously the accusation of being hypocritical from someone who then tells a stranger to “look in the damn mirror” yet can say calling anorexics stupid “seems valid”.
    4. Being an extreme weight (over or under), nine times out of ten, is not natural. It’s a result of choice. Not only that, but you get a new chance every single meal. If you choose regularly to damage your body, I’d say that’s pretty much the exact definition of not taking care of yourself–exactly like an alcoholic, addict, etc. isn’t taking care of themselves. That doesn’t mean that the person can’t function or be successful at anything else; however, in the area of physical health, that’s doing the exact opposite of taking care. Everyone finds something unattractive. Some people may feel grossed out by piercings, but that doesn’t mean they’ve done any wrong to the dude with 50 earrings in his body.
    5. I never said that being overweight was in any way linked to intelligence. That’s as ridiculous as assessing someone’s mental abilities via hair color. If I felt it necessary to post personal details, you could share in the irony. It doesn’t seem it would matter, anyways. Those of you who feel addressed by my post (which was addressed to the original post) have assumed I’m of whatever body type you find most incriminating. You can’t assess my intelligence/experience/background in life based on the fact that I have an opinion that’s different than yours.

  15. sannanina says:

    Rossi – first of all, I don’t think Vanessa addressed you specifically (although I am not her and therefore could be wrong). Also note that she talks anorectics and bulimics as “we”. (By the way, I don’t agree with Vanessa that anorectics/ bulimics are gross or disgusting and I don’t think anybody has the right to call another person gross or disgusting. I might find some behavior bulimics and anorectics engage in disgusting, but that is a completely different thing. I also find some behavior I have engaged in disgusting – and not just behavior involving food.)
    Secondly, I did not in any way intend to attack you or to question that you truly care about your friend – if my comment came across that way than I apologize. Independent from who much you care for and value your friend I can say personal experience that it is possible for someone to care about a fat person and still hold negative and even prejudiced attitudes towards fat people but I am not saying and never meant to imply this is true for you. I don’t know you personally, and though I don’t agree with some of the things you said I have far too little information on you to judge if you have an overall prejudiced attitude of fat people.
    Thirdly, concerning me being “presumptuous” by talking about relationships and sex lives in the context of attraction… I actually see this as a rather logical extension of what you said. I did not try to put words in your mouth, I just stated that a) what is considered an attractive weight does not seem to be strictly hard wired (although it still maybe subconscious because it differs greatly among cultures) while other aspects of what is perceived as beautiful such as clear skin, symmetrical features and in women a relatively large waist to hip ratio independent of weight seem far more universal and b) I don’t expect everyone to find fat people attractive – I just want people to acknowledge that independent of what they find attractive there are others who find fat people attractive. As for the sex and marriage part – I brought this up to illustrate why this is rather touchy subject. Actually, the authors of the same study I cited mentioned that doctors might be less likely to advice fat women on birth control and STD prevention. If this is true I do think that it might very well have something to do with what society things individuals find attractive.
    Concerning weight and choice – let’s just say what you stated is rather an oversimplification. Of course we choose to some degree what we eat. I said before that I am vegetarian, so how could I deny that? But the choice – particularly when it comes to amount of food is not absolute. Consciously regulating food intake requires self-control. Self-control has been clearly shown to be a limited resource. So for example in a stress situation that requires self-control a person might have a very hard time to overwrite her more automatic reactions to food – and if those automatic reactions are disordered this can be problem. In addition, eating the same amount of food results in different weights for different people, even if you control for exercise. Finally, you might not agree with this, but as someone who is constantly balancing between the urge to binge and the urge to go on another restrictive diet I do believe that working on maintaining my high weight without obsessing is a form of taking care of myself. Losing weight right now would set me up for another emotional and physical rollercoaster ride. So yes, I believe that trying to choose food that is high in quality but accepting that I eat more of it than I could eat and still lose weight is a positive action for me.

  16. Vanessa says:

    rossi- sannanina is right that i wasn’t actually addressing you in particular, although i did take some of what you’d said into account. you never mentioned whether you have an eating disorder or not, but if i was not 100% clear before i have had periods in my life where i fit each of the 3 disorders, most recently bulimia but before that anorexic and before that COE.
    when i said bulimia was disgusting and anorexia was stupid- i only meant to demonstarate that in comparison with a fat person no one with an eating disorder has any upper hand. no one who starves, binges, throws up, or overexersizes is healthy enough to judge how healthy someone else is being.
    i stand 100% behind my equation of hatred of fat people and racism. i’m sorry it made you uncomfortable. too bad.
    “some of my best friends are black” and “i’m not racist, but…” are the classic refrains of a bigot. the insistance that it’s “natural” to have a predjudice is also a classic. just go back a few years and you’ll see that the common belief was that the white race was naturally and biologically superior and it was unnatural to treat a black man as an equal. to look at a person of color with disgust seemed as “natural” then as looking at a fat person with disgust seems to you now.
    you don’t have to like the comparison, but i’m not taking it back. our culture is what teaches us what’s disgusting and what’s normal. it’s not something we’re born knowing.

  17. Heidi says:

    This is by far my favorite entry on this site. It made me cry. Thank you so much MamaV for teaching your child not to tease fat/overweight people. We have feelings and we get hurt when we are made fun of. It lasts inside our minds forever and knocks down our self-esteem. My name is Heidi and I have posted a few comments on your site before. I have BED (binge eating disorder). I feel like the odd ball in the eating disorder world. But we are a lot alike inside our heads and hearts. I wish everyone had a heart for us though. Maybe if they knew I started to stuff my face because my grandfather choose to rape me and tear me apart “down there” when I was 7. Maybe if every person that teased me knew that, do you think maybe they would shut their mouth and and think before calling me names? I am in therapy and I have had a lot of help with nutrtion. But it takes a long time to change and get below 418 lbs. It took 27 yrs to put the weight on. Anyhow, thanks for being you and thanks for raising a daughter that thinks before speaking. I hope everyone that reads this can teach there kids to maybe be nicer. Cause I am trying. I don’t like being fat/overweight. :( -Heidi

  18. sannanina says:

    Heidi – Even if you were not trying nobody would have the right to judge you. And independent of if you like your body size or your size defines a very small piece of who you are. I also think that working through a major trauma – independent of if you lose weight in the process or not – is something you can be proud of; it requires more strength than many people can imagine. I was fortunate enough to never experience anything as traumatic as what you describe and I admire your courage to work on it. Living my life in a society that constantly reinforces the message how disgusting my body is and as an extension of that how disgusting I am is already quite difficult for me.

  19. Rossi says:

    rac⋅ism   [rey-siz-uhm]
    1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
    2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
    3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.
    I’m all for fair discussion and educated debate, but neither is possible if one side syndicates its arguments. It makes no sense for an internet stranger’s ill-informed opinion to make me “uncomfortable.” Nor do you have a very good grasp of the words you are using as accusations.
    A “racist” would judge a person on only one trait. A “racist” would let that single trait eliminate any other possible qualities/abilities of a person. A “racist” would declare all people of that race to share that trait. Absolutely NONE of that “logic” was used in my post, which is the only thing you have to judge me by.
    I think that there is only one person in charge of your adult body. Unless you work as a professional taste-tester, no job or busy schedule will select your food for you. I’ve known average-sized people with stressful jobs, busy lives, and emotional trauma. That happens to people of ALL body sizes. In fact, there are people who attribute anorexia/bulimia to the same things. It may influence the way you choose to live, but that doesn’t mean the choice has been taken from you. That means that something in your coping skills has linked that stress to your food choice. YOUR coping skills. Not the coping skills of your job/schedule/etc.
    I’ve never once assigned a single trait to overweight people, ESPECIALLY one I wouldn’t assign to literally ALL people. The only thing I have attributed to people of a larger size I would say about EVERYONE: your body is your responsibility. I advocate taking responsibility for it, and not placing the blame elsewhere. You can’t fix a problem by attributing it to sources you can’t change. A second thing I would also say about EVERYONE: having an opinion isn’t a “sin” even if there are some who dislike it. If I don’t enjoy tattoos, it doesn’t mean I treat people with tattoos any differently or owe them an apology. It just means that I don’t find that attractive–not that I instantly “hate” everyone who’s ever been inked. If I dislike foul language, and hear someone swearing, I can dislike their diction without it being a crime. If you don’t like classical music, it doesn’t mean you’ve wronged every orchestra in existence. It just means you don’t like one type of music. There is a HUGE difference between disliking a trait, and disliking a people. There is also a huge difference between disliking a trait, and disliking anything/any one ever linked to it. I’ve said nothing hateful towards overweight people. If anything, I’ve expressed dislike of people unwilling to accept responsibility for their choices–no matter their size, shape, color, or creed.
    Your culture effects you as much as you will let it. My culture says that Paris Hilton should have a regular TV program and that we should buy each other unnecessary gifts for holidays. By no means does that obligate me to think Paris Hilton is of any value to my life, nor am I required to purchase a singing fish for my dad’s wall. You have the choice of thinking whatever you like about what society puts out there. Also, your “society,” should you live in America, contains 2 overweight people for every single person of average weight. TWICE AS MANY OVERWEIGHT PEOPLE. The vast majority of your culture is obviously on “your” side, so I fail to see how you can blame that culture. There’s a difference between what one claims to value and how one lives; the latter is the true manifestation of the former. If you really believe in something, you will live by it without even having to think about it.
    When people started getting larger, stadium seats were built larger. A lot of planes have adjusted seats, though that’s not fiscally possible for all of them. Where I work, roller coaster seats have been specially added for larger people. That’s a huge undertaking. Yet the same culture bans pro-ana/mia sites for being “unhealthy.” One extreme is accommodated, and the other is censored. Who does the true victim of culture appear to be now? They are both abuses to the body of various extremes. Yet one is forced to accept responsibility and the other demands special consideration. That sounds far less fair that someone saying they don’t find a certain body-type attractive.

  20. Vanessa says:

    look rossi, you’re the one who said that it is instinct to be put off by fat people. that’s the statement i used to make my analogy to racism, and if you think i don’t understand what racism means you’re really not understanding my point. are you standing by that statement, that it is instinct to be put off by fat people?
    the other basic point I think you’re making is that fat people choose to be fat, which makes any negativity towards them ok (at least to a point, i know you’re not saying it’s okay to kill fat people or whatever).
    do you really and truly believe that people make a choice to stay fat? fat people in my experience spend their lives fighting against their weight. it doesn’t make them thin. i don’t have all the answers for why that is, but i know it isn’t the individual fat person choosing to stay fat, because if it was a matter of just trying harder to be thin there wouldn’t be all these overweight people around.
    also, by the way, you’re using the numbers in a dishonst way, conflating morbidly obese people with overweight people. morbidly obese people are not in the majority. slightly overweight people, yes.

  21. sannanina says:

    When people started getting larger, stadium seats were built larger. A lot of planes have adjusted seats, though that’s not fiscally possible for all of them. Where I work, roller coaster seats have been specially added for larger people. That’s a huge undertaking. Yet the same culture bans pro-ana/mia sites for being “unhealthy.” One extreme is accommodated, and the other is censored. Who does the true victim of culture appear to be now? They are both abuses to the body of various extremes.
    You can believe in absolute personal responsibility all you want. (I myself believe in personal responsibility, and I would not want to live in a world were my actions would be completely determinated by an outside source. I also believe in my responsibility to try my best not to diet again despite of the outside forces that tell me I should do just that because I know that dieting worsens my eating disorder.) But the position that fat people are accomodated by western culture is simply not supported by the data. Have a look at studies that investigated prejudice against fat people, a good starting point would be prejudice in health care and how it can negatively affect the health of fat people – the results of these studies pretty much speak for themselves.
    Also, as I stated earlier, being fat is not comparable to being anorexic or bulimic. Having binge-eating disorder is comparable to being anorexic and bulimic, but just as not every “underweight” person is anorexic or bulimic not every “overweight/ obese” person has BED.
    I want to see the accomodation of all kinds of people in society, thin, fat, inbetween, young, old, able-bodied or disabled, rich, poor etc. I have a very good friend who is naturally very thin and always has been. Just like I was teased and bullied because I was fat when I was a kid she was called “skeleton” and “spider-hands” because she was thin. As grown-ups I am the one of that two of us that faces more discrimination, but if it was the opposite it would be just as bad. I don’t want anybody go through what we went through – other than fighting for my own healing, this is why I speak out. I claim the right to speak about how people discriminate against me because I am fat, and how it hurts me. To fight my demons I don’t have to pretend that no outside force has anything to do with their existence.

  22. sannanina says:

    The first paragraph above was supposed to be a quotation. Sorry for that.

  23. sannanina says:

    Adding to what Vanessa said: Not only are “obese” people not in the majority, “overweight” is actually a pretty meaningless BMI category because it has not been consistenly found to be associated with higher morbidity or mortality. In fact, at least one study found that “overweight” (but not “obese”) have a lower mortality risk than people with a “normal” weight.

  24. Rossi says:

    “do you really and truly believe that people make a choice to stay fat? fat people in my experience spend their lives fighting against their weight. it doesn’t make them thin. i don’t have all the answers for why that is, but i know it isn’t the individual fat person choosing to stay fat, because if it was a matter of just trying harder to be thin there wouldn’t be all these overweight people around.”
    Actually, yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.
    You get a fresh start with every snack, not just on New Years. It is just as easy to purchase, and consume, carrots as it is Pop-Tarts. The boundaries used to determine healthy weight are quite open. For my height, there is a twenty pound window considered healthy, and even then extraneous factors (such as muscle mass, if I were an athlete or whatnot) can extend those boundaries. Those boundaries weren’t set by doctors. They were set by observing the natural processes of your body when it is treated well. If you treat your body well, it will naturally settle into a healthy zone.
    To be overweight, one must consume not just slightly more than the calories one burns. It has to consume significantly more on a regular basis. Your body is unique, hence a range of healthy weight instead of a single number. For your body to react in an extreme way–exiting this window of natural weight–requires it being treated in an extreme way. You can’t “accidentally” eat twice what you should in a day–especially if your sole, honest desire is to lose weight. Better still, statistically speaking, the more weight one has to lose to reach the body’s natural plateau, the faster the body will burn it. Look it up if you like. Someone who is 200 lbs overweight will lose weight faster than someone 50 lbs overweight, even if the other factors are controlled and equivalent. That means that it takes effort to MAINTAIN the status of being overweight. You have to match not only the calories you need, but the extraneous calories that have turned into the fat on your body.
    That’s a choice. No one says, “Well, you’re fat so you’d better have a whole cake for dinner. No salad for you.” The very idea of maintaining a weight that your body is naturally fighting goes against any claims to “fight” obesity. That would be like an ill person continually dosing themselves with a virus, and wondering why the result is illness instead of improvement.
    And no, I didn’t advocate negativity toward anyone. But I refuse to call honesty a sin. Not feeling attracted to something, even being repulsed by something, is not committing any crime–especially just because those being repulsed don’t like it.

  25. sannanina says:

    “They were set by observing the natural processes of your body when it is treated well. If you treat your body well, it will naturally settle into a healthy zone.”
    Please cite a reference for this – I will happily return the favor by citing references for some of my claims. Also, would you say that this is true for every undeweight person as well? Because as I said above I am pretty sure there a few people who actually naturally have lower weights than what is considered normal. And actually, to maintain my weight I have to eat by definition exactly as much as I burn.
    Also, I have lost weight before, lots of it. I gained back. Losing it was an effort, gaining it back wasn’t. And although I am a binge eater (which means in contrast to other fat people I actually overeat) I don’t eat twice as much as what I “should” eat on a regular basis.
    I also wonder how your theory that fat people are constantly working against the natural their bodies natural tendency fits with the findings that by far the majority of weight loss attempts fail in the long term (i.e., people lose weight and than gain in back – often plus some). It does matter if the failure rate is 95 or 80%, the point is it is incredibly high. Also, what would you tell someone who for example started to gain lots of weight after taking a tricyclic antidepressant? Are they also working against the natural tendency or do you think the medication actual modifies the weight their body tends to settle at?

  26. Vanessa says:

    rossi- if your mind is closed to the possibility that you are wrong about this, there’s nothing I can say to convince you. However, you are wrong. Logically, your belief that fat people want to be fat is totally indefensible. Why would they spend so much money on diet books, weight loss surgery, diet pills, therapy, etc etc etc. The unfortunate truth is that once you’ve gained weight taking it off is hard, and keeping it off is next to impossible. The problem isn’t just a matter of laying off the potato chips. If there was a simple solution the way you seem to think, people would be employing it.
    sannanina seems very well informed about this, so I won’t repeat her points. The thing is, though, that if you want to believe fat people choose to stay fat then there’s not much logical argument can do to dissuade you of your irrational predjudice.

  27. Rossi says:

    Do you honestly think that of the millions of overweight people, most of them are on a tricyclic antidepressant and are experiencing the same side-effects? You’re forgetting that depression is as frequently a symptom as a condition. And what else do you honestly think medical professionals, doctors and scientists, based their calculations on? What they think looks good? What they wish people looked like? Do you think they also recommend eating fruits because the doctors who made the pyramid just happened to love grapes?
    Your body burns calories to stay alive. Constantly. In a comatose state, mine would burn 1550 a day (it’s been tested). That means to gain or not lose weight, I have to eat more than that (3000 extraneous calories per pound gained, roughly). To be obese and maintain it, I have to eat that much more. It’s simple addition and subtraction. Being extremely overweight doesn’t just “happen.” One can’t “catch” obesity like a common disease, and I don’t think being obese makes you a victim. If anything, it makes you a victim of yourself–as you are the one putting much more into your body than you are burning.
    The two points I’ve maintained are: a) that, while there various several influences, the way you treat your body is ultimately your choice, and b) that it’s not a sin to be attracted to or disinterested by a physical trait of another. I never said that a person’s worth is determined by their body shape. For all you know, I could be huge, or in a loving relationship with someone who is. But if these people dislike their bodies enough to “fight” to lose weight as desperately as you say, why would it be “wrong” for me to find the exact same things unattractive? (That’s the international website of the World Health Organization. You’ll see they take even ethnicity and genetics into account, as well.)
    I am done now. I really can’t argue with people who say both that what we are attracted to/repulsed by is a result of our surroundings, yet condemn people for finding some traits unattractive. It doesn’t make sense to condemn someone for that which they are not supposedly responsible; likewise, it’s absurd to blame something else for the self-inflicted. That’s all I’ve been saying. If you think any part of that is absurd, then by all means, continue to do so.

  28. Rio says:

    MamaV, I really think it would be good for you to have a look at the fat acceptance blogs out there and see what we’ve been saying. The term “fat” is more neutral than “overweight” for the reasons Vanessa previously mentioned. You might also have a major eye opening experience at what we go through–and be shocked that a huge number of us do NOT have binge eating disorder. In fact, some of us managed to recover from anorexia, to find that our metabolisms had slowed down so much that every bite we eat is hastily stored in case we ever experience “famine” again. Some of us still fight with it, but because we have been relatively healthy for so long, we don’t “look” anorexic.
    Your friend Fran was failed by the medical establishment–failed quite badly, just like MANY fat people, especially fat women. I’m guessing that her doctor simply barked “diet and exercise” at her for years without actually getting at the root of her weight. See, studies have shown that people who don’t have a genetic propensity to become fat have a REALLY hard time getting that way without something else going on. One researcher had his study group of prisoners eating as much as 10,000 calories a DAY without significant weight gain–and once they returned to a more normal calorie intake, they effortlessly shed the weight.
    In another study, fat people were put on severely reduced calorie diets, and their bodies went into a starvation mode that had significant physical and psychological effects–and their metabolisms slowed down to accommodate the reduced intake without having to metabolize body fat.
    In other words, it isn’t as simple as “eat less exercise more”. Fran should have had extensive medical tests run upon her thyroid function (full panel, not just TSH! I am permanently screwed because a doctor kept testing TSH only, and so I became sicker and sicker until they did the full panel!), and been checked for PCOS at the very minimum. Studies show that doctors very often neglect fat patients, and that they admit to being disgusted by them and not wanting to care for them.
    Additionally, even very fat people who end up with weight fluctuations from chronic dieting are MORE likely to suffer heart attacks than people who just remain at a stable weight. Dieting and regaining weight is REALLY stressful on our bodies, yet we are shamed and blackmailed into dieting by often well-meaning doctors, family members, and friends who are concerned for our health.
    Your friend did not “die of fat”. She died of medical neglect, just like many other people of size.
    Suggested reading:

  29. Rio says:

    Regarding your comment about burning calories, you need to understand that metabolism is automatically adjusted by your brain to use what calories you are given, within a certain parameter, without altering the body’s weight. It would rather slow you down a bit to use less energy than have to burn up some body fat to remain at the same level. Metabolism isn’t a set thing that runs at the same level all the time. That’s why so many thin people can eat and eat and eat without gaining weight. Their brain just cranks up the motor to burn it.
    It’s similar to a fuel truck driving down the road. The driver can conserve fuel in two ways: by driving more slowly, or by having a lighter vehicle through shedding of cargo. Obviously, the driver, which operates as the “brain” of the truck, does not want to dump cargo because it’s valuable, so he will drive more slowly. And if his gas tank runs out, he COULD fuel it from his cargo, but that has other consequences, so driving more slowly is the best option.
    Your body wants to hang onto that fat for lots of reasons–and will only start burning it when it has no other choice. It’ll make a person feel lethargic to try and force them to rest rather than use up stored energy.
    Also, if you are about to trot out the “OMG LAWS OF PHYSICS” crap, well, just go here:

  30. Anonymous says:

    Rossi – I never said that the majority of fat people was on tricyclic antidepressants, I just asked you a non-rethorical question which you haven’t answered. What about people who are on tricyclics? (And no I am not one of them – that’s not the point.) And what about “underweight” people who are not eating-disordered? You haven’t answered that one either.
    As for depression… a symptom of what, exactly? Are you hinting at the often repeated “being fat causes depression” (which still wouldn’t make depression a symptom by the way)? Because if this is what you are getting at I still have not found a single person who could explain me how my fat cells influence my brain in a way that it gets depressed. I do however know that bullying and other kinds of social stress raise a person’s chance to get depressed later in life. And fat people experience bullying and social stress more often than thin people (again something that has been shown over and over).
    As for the WHO website – I was more hoping for actual scientific research that supports your point (and the fact sheet on the WHO website does not cite sources). Also, at least the page that I have found about “overweight and obesity” on the WHO website ( does not support your claim that all people will naturally maintain a “normal” weight as defined by BMI if they don’t actively work against their bodies. You might have read a different page, though.
    I also never doubted that people have to “eat more than they burn” to gain weight (or better body fat since weight gain can actually also mean a person’s body stores excessive amounts of water). Although what that means to eat “more than you burn” varies widely from person to person and is not stable over time for a given person. However, the idea that I have to eat twice as much as a “normal” weight person to maintain my “obesity” is absolute non-scientific nonsense (I am sorry if this sounds harsh, it is not a personal attack, but this claim is nonsense).
    Also, please note that I don’t feel as a victim of my “obesity”. As someone who has been treated rather badly because of being fat I do however feel as a victim of societal attitudes – attitudes that make my life a lot harder and which ironically enough also make it harder for me to recover from my eating disorder. Saying this is not the same as saying “I would like to overcome my eating disorder but I can’t because society doesn’t let me”. If I want to overcome my eating disorder I have to work on it regardless of what is in the way of my recovery. (Oh, and as I said before, overcoming my eating disorder is not the same as losing weight.)
    Finally, your last paragraph… I am fighting against my internalized hate of my body every single day. This hate is not a natural consquence of being fat – it stems from growing up and living in a society that has told me over years and years that my body is unacceptable, broken, and disgusting. At this point I don’t know if I will ever overcome my hate of my body, but contrary of your repeated claim that I just want to “blame others” and not take responsibility I will not give up trying. (Note that I also don’t think the individuals that hurt me in the past are fully responsible for what they did – many of them truly believed they were “helping me”, others were still children and therefore probably not fully aware of the possible effects of their actions.)
    I promised some sources, so here we go…
    On the discrimination of fat people:
    Puhl, R., & Brownell K. D. (2001.) Bias, discrimination, and obesity. Obesity Research, 9 (12), 789-805.
    On how stress can negatively influence the health of fat people:
    Muennig, P. (2008.) The body politic: The relationship between stigma and obesity-associated disease. BMC Public Health, 8, 128-137 (?). Available at
    On how “overweight” people migh have lower mortality rates than “normal” weight people:
    Flegal, K. M., Graubard, B. I., Williamson, D. F., & Gail, M. H. (2005). Excess deaths associated with underweight, overweight, and obesity. Journal of the American Medical Association, 293, 1861-1867. Abstract available at:
    And finally a study that supports the idea that weightloss (through dieting) might not be the most effective way to improve fat people’s health:
    Bacon, L., VanLoan, M., Stern, J. S., Keim, N. (2005). Size acceptance and intuitive eating improve health for obese female chronic dieters. Journal of American Dietetic Association, 105, 929-936.
    Have a nice life.

  31. sannanina says:

    Note: I wrote the last reply – I just forgot to fill-in my name.

  32. sannanina says:

    Rio – I more or less agree with everything you said. However, mamaV made it pretty clear that her friend had an eating disorder. Compulsive overeating and binge eating CAN have rather serious health consequences, and there is a difference between fat people who maintain a high but stable weight by eating normally fat people who do binge or eat compulsively (and possibly continuously gain weigth – although this is not true for everyone).

  33. ja says:

    I don’t see why you don’t like the word “fat”. Fat is not the “F” word. People use the word “thin” without much thought. Why make a big deal out of the word “fat”? Why do we make turn “fat” into the F-word but we don’t turn “thin” into “The T-word”? Avoiding the “F” word is saying that fat people are somehow inferior to thin people.

  34. mamaV says:

    Hi Rio: Thanks for the suggestion. I just heard about Harding, and I will pop over to read both of the articles you suggested.
    I am very interesting in discussing this topic, its new to me, and I can see from the lively convo over here many are engaged in this as well.
    I didnt read everything here because I am too tired and should be in bed! But a few comments:
    There is no doubt that metabolism plays a huge role here. I am on the thinner side, and I consider myself lucky because I have a faster metabolism (I assume?), I am tall, but I do eat healthy. Bottomline I see women working out one hell of a lot harder than me and dieting and they will never be as thin.
    Fran was a major over eater, she admitted it. It was her comfort. She didn’t listen to doctors after a while and just kind of gave up, it was too hard for her to bear, and that is ok. She lived her life the best she could.
    We all have alot more in common than we think we do. Acceptance is everything…why do we work against each other??
    Good night!

  35. Anonymous says:

    i have a friend called fran she is fat, she thinks she is skinny but…well we try and tell her, we say things like oi fat bitch lose weight, but she is reluctant to listen to our “constructive” criticism. i dont want to see her put down by thugs…

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