In recent social media posts, I may have made mention a time or two that I’m fat.
Old and fat…slow and fat… old slow and fat… I’ve used many variations, but they are mostly humorous descriptions, possibly bordering on self deprecating, but not meant to be insulting to myself or anyone else.
But every time I do this, it seems that many people….mostly friends… have replied to my posts insisting that I stop referring to myself in such an ugly manner. They say things like
“You’re not fat!”, “Stop saying that!”,
“You’re not fat, as far as you know”
Or “I don’t think your fat, but you know some of those Jenny Craig dinners are pretty tasty… just sayin’.”
Okay, I may have made that last one up.
I love that there are so many kind people in the world who don’t like watching me put myself down, but honestly I’m really not berating myself, I’m trying to motivate myself.
Let me try to explain.
It’s common knowledge that Fat is a word mean people use to pick on others about their weight. This is a real shitty thing to do, and why mean people suck. So in order to avoid being a mean person, we use words like “overweight”, “heavy set”, “stocky” “plus sized” and my personal favorite, “big boned” instead. Don’t get me wrong, this is entirely the right thing to do. I’m totally on board with the “I’m okay – You’re okay” mentality, and no one should ever say anything with the intention of hurting another’s feelings.
Today using the word fat is as bad as using any other F Word in the English language. In fact you hear so much today about body shaming and online bullying that simply saying the word “Fat” can bring more anger in your direction than farting in church (I found this out the hard way, but I’ll save that story for my other blog). The word fat has been deemed mean and cruel and is never to be spoken, not even if you are describing barnyard animals or bacon , which ironically comes from fat pigs. Go figure.
You’re not even supposed to use it on yourself. There is some truth to this, as putting yourself down does nothing to improve your situation. Self deprecation isn’t healthy because you will start to believe the negativity. But I’m not calling myself fat to put myself down.
I use the word fat to describe my current condition, not as a description of how I look. It’s no different than when I work in the yard and say I’m dirty or I stay up too late and say I’m tired. Using the word fat it’s just another word to describe my current situation. I’m not beating myself up when I call myself fat, I’m motivating myself to change.
I don’t care about looking fat, in fact that’s the last thing on my mind. I’m pushing 53, and when a man gets to be this age, concern about his appearance is definitely not where it was 30 years ago. I have a beautiful wife and for some reason she still digs me, so she is the only other person I worry about looking good for. She tells me I’m still tolerable, so a guy like me can’t ask for more than that.
My concern is all about my health. At my height and weight, I am technically rated as obese. Having lost so many friends and family to weight and heart related issues, I don’t have time to mess around and try to make myself feel better by telling myself I’m “heavy Set” or “Big Boned”. What the hell does big boned mean anyway? As the old saying goes, I’ve never seen a fat skeleton.
When you recognize an emergency, you can’t worry about hurt feelings or waste time trying to find the proper words to say. Let’s say you were out to eat with your friends, and you smelled smoke. Realizing something was wrong, you wouldn’t say, “It seems to me that there is some type of unregulated combustion somewhere in the building, and we may want to consider removing ourselves from this establishment before the temperature rises to a point that is intolerable and the toxic air becomes impossible to inhale”
Hell no, you would say ” Fire! We gotta get the hell out of here! Now!
Well in the same context for the last 15 years I’ve been saying things like “I’m putting on a little weight, or “I’m getting a little heavy, I need to consider dropping a few pounds. ‘Now, it’s time to cut through the bullshit. by calling myself fat I’m emphasizing the urgency of my current situation. Just like the restaurant analogy, if I don’t do something quick I’m going to die.
I come from a family history of high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I can’t use words like heavyset, overweight, big boned or stocky anymore. I have to call it for what it is. I’m fat goddamnit, and if I don’t do something I’m in deep shit.
So don’t worry about me being hard on myself, I’m just being honest, and trying to get my ass in gear. The time for going easy on myself is over.
Mark, I find that you are down to earth and very real, and I appreciate your honesty and your continued willingness to keep up this battle on your weight. I find you completely inspiring for your commitment to eventually losing weight and getting healthy. Here are the reasons I relate to you, follow you, and admire you:
I am also in my 50’s and I have struggled with my weight most of my adult life. So, having admitted my age and weight, as something we have in common, I go onto the next step and say that we also have in common the desire to change that, make an effort to do so, maybe even have some amount of success, but eventually lose the motivation to stay with it, begin to slide back into our old ways, and regain the weight. Then we eventually begin that cycle all over again. And though this process is discouraging, and needs to be taken seriously, I do appreciate the fact that you can laugh at yourself.
I think far too often people take life TOO seriously and then slip into unhealthy mental states such as depression, anxiety, and self-deprecation and abuse. I think humor helps to deflect those unhealthy, unproductive states of being, and helps us to connect with reality instead of denial in a more healthy way.
Your assessment of the word “fat” is indeed true. It is a word that has been used by mean people to hurt people like us for eons. And the people who love us hate when we use the word as a real descriptor, because they do love and care about us and do not want to see us hurt. So, I get those same kinds of messages all the time. But, in reality I weight 350 pounds and there simply is no way to deny that I AM fat – indeed VERY fat – unless you are lying in an effort to protect the ones you love.
But, I might have a bit of a different perspective on this whole use of the word “fat.” No well-meaning adult would ever call me fat, but mean adults do. But, children are much more inclined towards making a simple observation of weight – without any judgement involved. I have been told straight up by young children meeting me for the first time “You are fat.” I find it incredibly humorous how parents cringe with horror when they’ve just heard their child say this, and quickly tell their children they are not supposed to say this, and apologize to me with embarrassment. It’s a child for goodness sake. It’s an observation on their part. And when we tell our children not to say a person is fat, we have immediately told those children that it is mean to do so. So, I feel like we are in a way perpetuating this lie around perception and reality. I have often simply told the parent “It’s okay,” then tell the child “You are right; I am fat. It doesn’t do anyone – Including me – any good to pretend that I am not fat, nor for a child to get trained in a deplorable process.
On top of that, there is an unhealthy perception of weight as a rule, that women and girls are particularly subject to, and now even men are getting worked up around their weight too. A little bit of weight is not a bad thing in most cases. In fact, a little bit of extra weight is more healthy than being underweight. So the obsession over weight can be quite damaging to the psyche of many people who are of a perfectly normal or healthy weight. I find it sickening and disheartening when anyone calls themselves fat, when in fact they really aren’t, but rather only thinking they need to lose 5-15 pounds. This is harmful in my opinion. We need to be much more open and honest about what fat really is and accept it as truth when we really are – instead of being ultra sensitive about this. I AM fat. Unless someone is calling me a fat cow, then I am not going to run home and cry about it when someone simply acknowledges that I am fat.
These unhealthy and mixed messages do not help people like us. If our friends and family stopped denying that we were fat, and instead said, “yes you are, and is there anything I can do to help you?” (Without imposing judgement or unsolicited advice). In taking on new attitudes around weight, I think we would be much healthier both mentally and physically.
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I couldn’t agree more with you! I think my main point when I wrote this was I didn’t need anyone to try and make me feel better every time I called myself out. I think I’m fat, but I also think I don’t need to be. I strongly feel that we are the people we decide to be, and we can determine this even when we’re over 50. I may think I’m fat now… but that will change. It’s what I am now, not who I am forever. I think I’m dumb too… but I’m working on that as well!
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Exactly! Fat is not a permanent state of being. We CAN change that! And acknowledging that we’re fat does not have anything to do with resigning ourselves to always being fat. So, when you say “It’s what I am now, not who I am forever” you are recognizing your current reality, and making a statement of your intent to change that. Saying there is a problem in the first place allows you to move into the next step of doing something about it.
I feel like when our family and friends say to us that we’re not fat that it inadvertently sets us up for failure – even though they are really just trying to be nice and keep us from wearing a negative label. But, maybe we just need to reclaim the word “fat” and move past the negativity and abuse that has also kept us stuck. When people judge us for being fat and say horrible things that also keeps us from succeeding – and then we take on those same abusive words and beat ourselves up with them: “what was I thinking? I’m fat and ugly, and this makes me a failure…”
And I do not believe for one minute you are dumb. You are a good writer and express your ideas and thoughts clearly. You also come across very thoughtful, which is definitely a sign of intelligence. I cannot help but sense you are an intelligent person when I read your blog posts. Dumb people do not think; they much prefer to have information handed to them. We may act dumb from time to time, or be less talented in some areas, but that does not make us dumb.
Hey Mark. I just wanted to give you a heads up. This post inspired me to write my own article that I am publishing to another site. I did mention my source of inspiration and have linked it back to you here. I will post a link when I get it so you can see it.
Hey Mark. I just wanted to give you a heads up. This post inspired me to write my own article that I am publishing to another site. I did mention my source of inspiration and have linked it back to you here. This is the link: https://medium.com/@katrubie/to-reclaim-or-not-to-reclaim-this-is-my-question-f56ead9ace41
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