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Thread: Being fat = being a failure as a person?

  1. #1
    Senior Member Geila's Avatar
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    Being fat = being a failure as a person?

    I've been watching the tv show This Is Us on my 30-day free Hulu subscription. I like most of the characters - loooove Jack Pearson! But I've been surprised at how much the Kate character bothers me. She's so whiny. I feel sorry for her poor boyfriend.

    But the thing that's been nagging at the back of my mind is how much her character personifies the effect that obesity (and extra weight in general) has on a person's self-esteem and sense of personal agency. I think this stems from our culture's equation of fatness as a moral and personal failure. There's a real stigma to being fat. A fat person is seen as less-than, and in no time at all, that person sees themselves that way too. And pretty soon Everything in life is viewed as a response to being fat. You can't hide being fat.

    I've struggled with extra weight various times in my life. And during those times I always fantasize about how wonderful my life will be AFTER I lose the weight! As if weigh loss, or being thin, conferred magical powers. And it might, if you're a model or rely on your physical looks for your livelihood. But for most of us? Does being thin really make that much difference in the big scheme of things?

    Now that I'm older, for the most part I don't care what people think about me. As they say, I don't give any F*CKS. Or at least many less than I used to. But watching Kate's life revolve completely around her weight is so depressing (depressing enough that it's making me not want to watch the show anymore). And I don't judge her for it, I think it's how many people feel about being heavy. It's just incredibly sad. The loss of so much life to that one relatively unimportant detail about someone's life.

    I remember my gorgeous young niece calling herself a fat cow because she was till carrying an extra 15-20 lbs after her second child. It was such a harsh judgment against herself and it made me feel sad for her.

    I'd like to hear your thoughts on this.

    p.s. I couldn't think of a clever title.

    p.p.s. Kate is not merely heavy, she's morbidly obese and I realize that does present a whole of problems and challenges in terms of mobility, health, and quality of life. For Her. The question that I'm asking is: why do we equate the condition of obesity with personal failure or lack of worth in a person? After all, we are not the ones who have to suffer the consequences of being fat or obese. Why do we, as a society, feel the right to judge people for it? Enough so, and harshly so, that the condition results in crippling shame for those who suffer from it?

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    Senior Member Williamsmith's Avatar
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    I can only tell you my cynical take on it. The food industry, which I believe is mostly responsible for the chronic obesity in the United States....would rather its customers believe it is their own gluttony that causes it....rather than the toxic products that the food industry sells for profit. Easier to blame you than to sell healthy food. It’s a real shame.

  3. #3
    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    I have been watching junk tv and have seen several of the “My 600lb Life” episodes on Youtube. Their struggle is so hard.

    I go up and down in sizes so I can relate sort of, but then not so much sometimes. It is too bad that reality tv highlights these people. I wonder if they get paid? I always wonder about the source of income for people on this show. Because they dont leave their house, they dont have a job. Although one person DID have a job as a teacher. She earned my respect for getting up every day and doing the little bits of walking that she was able to get through the day. It must have been exhausting for her.

    And then there are the villians who are so very juicy as centeal characters for this exploitive show. The young man Stephen at 700 lbs and his younger brother at 550+ were tv gold. Good Brother and Bad Brother, and Stephen played that to the hilt. But now that his time in the limelight is over, I wonder how he is holding up.

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    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Williamsmith View Post
    I can only tell you my cynical take on it. The food industry, which I believe is mostly responsible for the chronic obesity in the United States....would rather its customers believe it is their own gluttony that causes it....rather than the toxic products that the food industry sells for profit. Easier to blame you than to sell healthy food. It’s a real shame.
    +100
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    Senior Member Rogar's Avatar
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    It seems like I have been on a diet most of my adult life. Mostly I'm in the upper end of my recommended weight range, but have dipped over into heavier categories at times and I can't remember a time when I haven't been concerned about my weight to some degree or another. I don't think it entirely just the food industry's fault, but some of us metabolize foods differently and there are naturally thin and naturally heavy people. There is also a culture of food that we've grown up with or in the region where we live. Then there are people with genuine eating disorders. Point being that for some people and for many reasons loosing weight can be really hard. It's still a worthy goal to keep trying at for health reasons alone.

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    Senior Member rosarugosa's Avatar
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    I am so fortunate to have only looked at this issue from the other side since I have been pretty lean my entire life (and I agree with Roger that this was due to genetics or metabolism or something hard-wired in me).
    I used to have a young female employee who was very obese, and didn't have a first boyfriend until she was in her thirties. I found it depressing that even though she was pretty, smart, funny, kind, and talented, none of that apparently was enough to offset the obesity. If she had been evil incarnate in a sexy body, she would have had plenty of boyfriends.
    Our society does really devalue people who struggle with their weight, especially women.
    There is a book of short stories by Elizabeth Berg, "The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted: And Other Small Acts of Liberation." There is one short story in there about the point in time when a little girl's sense of self is irrevocably changed by realizing that she is perceived as fat, rather than the somewhat magical being of infinite possibilities she had always perceived herself to be. I found it to be a powerful story when I read it many years ago.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rosarugosa View Post
    Our society does really devalue people who struggle with their weight, especially women..
    I agree! I think the thread title is accurate assessment of our society, at least for women. Unfortunately.

  8. #8
    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    I'm a Project Runway fan and I was pleased to see that this year they had all size models. A size 14 can be just as fashionable and beautiful as a size 2--I think they did a good job this season proving that. Dove has also embraced the "all-size" culture.

    At the same time, I would hate to minimize the potential health risks of poor eating choices leading to metabolic syndrome and obesity. There's a difference between being a healthy endomorph and being unhealthy because of lack of exercise or overconsumption of processed foods and carbohydrates, causing insulin spikes and inflammation.

    But to Williamsmith's point, I think bad food policy, corporate marketing of "bad" foods, and lack of attention & time to eat properly has sabotaged us and changed us. I believe we take responsibility for our choices, but the deck has been stacked against us for a few decades now. It's like asking an alcoholic to live inside a liquor store. So "failure" isn't the right word.
    "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?" Emily Webb, Our Town
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    Senior Member SteveinMN's Avatar
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    Fat = failure? I think a lot of people see it that way, the same way they see poverty as a moral failure and not as the result of an environment that all too easily reinforces it. "Well, if you just ate less and exercised more..." is right up there with "Well, if you just worked harder and spent less..." And it's hard to hide either condition.

    A couple of other posters mentioned the quality of food in the U.S. as a cause of obesity; it's worth noting that more people than ever are overweight despite the ready availability of artificial sweeteners and "100-calorie packs" of food, and that heavily-processed grain-sourced food is far cheaper and available in so many more places than whole fresh produce and protein. More of us work at desk jobs and engage in hobbies that don't require much physical work in places that don't encourage people to walk or play/exercise outside. And I think our scientific understanding of our own bodies is evolving; look at the failure (and persistence) of expert-recommended low-fat high-carbohydrate diets in improving our collective health because we don't yet know enough about cellular nutrition.

    I also believe that we're just scratching the surface of how much our individual medical histories are tied to nature versus nurture. There are reasons why some people are more prone to chronic conditions, like heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and cancer, that go way beyond simplistic observations like "you eat too much fat" or "my aunt and grandmother had this illness". Millions of people are overweight or obese; they're not all diabetic or even pre-diabetic. Billions of people get old but don't suffer from dementia. It surprises no one that some conditions run in families or certain ethnic groups, but we really don't know what triggers it in some members of those groups and not others.

    In the meantime I think fat people endure a form of discrimination that is not illegal but still exists. Someday, after all of us are gone from here, that kind of discrimination will look like racial discrimination looks these days. And we'll have a much better idea about why obesity happens and what may be done to avoid it.

    I will say, however, that, IMHO, Kate's story in This Is Us is not being told well. Randall's life seems to get a fuller treatment, with the flashbacks showing the events in his childhood that helped make him who he is now. Neither Kevin nor Kate seem to get that kind of introspective screen time and their flashbacks don't seem to go beyond their childhood insecurity and angst to illustrate why they are who they are now. It's a great show but that's my frustration with it.
    If Americans expended even a fraction of the energy on civic engagement that we spend on consumer ideology, our democracy would be much healthier. Can you imagine people camping out to vote? -- Charles Roberts, Amherst, Mass., Nov. 25, 2006

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    I would be interested in understanding what triggers a person to feel weight is the basis of happiness. At a young age I would look at Twiggy type models and my mind would equal that to beauty. This was not caused by the magazines or advertisements, I just looked at the super thin as beautiful period. Why would I think that at a young age? My family were all of average weight, there was no focus on weight. Yet when I got to the teen years comments flew all the time Your too thin eat something. Actually that fueled my fire to thinner instead of the outcome they wanted.

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