Labrat of the Atomic Nerds has written an excellent article about obesity and attitudes towards it. I was reading it tonight, and was struck by one of her points:
... being fat is regarded as not just undesirable but essentially sinful ... Being fat is like extending a blanket invitation to the world to remind you that you are, and usually accompanied by either a lecture on self-control ... or instructions that seem to assume that you were raised by wolves and have absolutely no idea that cake is fattening or that you should move around some. Befriending or being family to someone who is noticeably fat is like having a permanent ticket to a movie consisting solely of the world’s rudest people offering the most gratuitous abuse or obvious advice.
There's much more at the link. The whole article is well worth reading.
I've experienced such attitudes all too often, and I'm very tired of them - because I'm clinically obese, and it's not because of over-eating. Back in 2004, I suffered a serious injury that left me reliant on a combination of pain-killing medications. They worked fine for five years until, in late 2009, I suffered a heart attack and underwent coronary bypass surgery. I ended up taking a total of nine prescription medications each day, three for continual pain from my 2004 injury and six as part of my recovery from my heart attack. Unfortunately, six out of the nine had the documented side-effect of weight gain . . . and some combination of them ganged up on me. I put on more than 100 pounds over the next couple of years, to my intense alarm and self-disgust. I watched my diet, joined a gym and exercised, the whole nine yards. Nothing worked.
It took a well-informed doctor to analyze the medications I was taking and point out the obvious connection. I eventually cut down to no more than three prescription medications each day, including getting rid of all the high-powered pain control medications I was using. That escalated my pain level considerably, but it also got rid of the weird drug interaction that had caused my weight gain. I've tried and am trying to lose the weight, but my metabolism is still pretty messed up from prolonged exposure to the medications concerned, so it's a slow process. I count myself blessed to have Miss D.'s help and encouragement as I 'fight the good fight'.
There are setbacks, too. A short while ago I went through a very bad pain episode indeed (I wrote about it here). For four days I had to put myself back onto the high-powered pain medications I'd used before, in addition to my heart meds. Guess what? My metabolism seized up again - digestive functions messed up, solid and liquid retention, the works. This week, I found that I'd gained eight pounds since I last weighed myself. It's not because of pigging out on food, either. It's that old drug interaction, come back to haunt me. It took me 3-4 weeks to drop those eight pounds before . . . and now I've got to do it all over again. (Fortunately, I stopped taking the pain meds after four days, or I'd probably have gained even more!)
I know full well what my problem is, and it's not over-eating. I watch my calories pretty carefully, and seldom exceed 1,500 per day - some days I'm below 1,000 - unless I'm cutting myself some slack on special occasions. To overhear judgmental comments from others about my weight is both hurtful and frustrating. I'd love to tell them a few things to their advantage, but there wouldn't be any point to it. They wouldn't believe me, anyway.
Another blogger who's suffered from out-of-control weight gain is Chris Byrne over at The AnarchAngel, who's presently recovering from a thyroidectomy. Before they diagnosed his condition and made plans to control it, his weight also ballooned, until he weighed a lot more than I did at my worst. Fortunately, they were able to find a way to stop the weight gain for him, too, but like me, he's having a hell of a time getting it off again. It's not easy, and it's no fun - and I'm sure he's heard at least as many negative comments about his weight as I have, if not more so. Still, like me, he perseveres.
So, next time you see an obese person, try not to be too judgmental. You might want to send a positive thought their way, or say a prayer for them if you're so inclined. They may simply be gluttons reaping the just rewards of their over-indulgence . . . but there may be other, more complex reasons for their size. I'm sure Chris and myself aren't the only people facing that problem.