“You’re so fat, you must eat a lot.” Are you cringing? You might be because nobody with a speck of sensitivity would every utter those words. On Friday I read a post on Erica Sara’s blog that got me thinking. Erica wrote about a recent experience that was rather hurtful. Someone said something to her about her eating and her size. This person didn’t know Erica personally. They didn’t know about Erica’s marathon running or her cooking. They didn’t know that she practices yoga. They probably didn’t know how much their words would sting. They might have thought the rules were different because Erica is a thin person. Somehow, “you’re so thin, you must not eat” is acceptable. Why is this?
I see nutrition clients all week long at my NYC office. Oftentimes, in initial sessions with new clients I’ll hear “you don’t have to think about this because you’re thin.” Or “it must be nice you don’t have to workout.” Or my favorite, similar to Erica’s experience “do you eat?” I know full well these clients wouldn’t probe similarly with a doctor or therapist or other professional who was heavy. Over the years, I have grown thick-skinned to these types of questions. I used to feel embarrassed and utter some incoherent, self-deprecating reply. Now, I generally say something like “I practice what I preach” or “I work hard to stay in shape” which generally reassures them. I am less offended by comments about my size than the insinuation that there’s no work involved. I think there’s a way to be curious about someone’s size without being critical. “What do you do for exercise?” Or, “do you watch what you eat?” are better ways of saying the same thing.
It’s unfortunate but we all size people up. We look. We look when someone’s very heavy and we look when they’re too bony and we look at people somewhere in the middle. I know full well from what I do that you can’t judge someone’s success or peace of mind by their weight and that feeling good in your skin doesn’t have a size. I also feel it’s probably harder to walk in an obese person’s shoes than in my shoes. Overweight people are the subject of more ridicule than thinner people. I just don’t think it’s ok to be mean.
Why do you think sizist comments are more acceptable when the recipient is thin? Why do you think people make comments like the one that hurt Erica? Has anyone said anything inappropriate to you about your size? Is it ever appropriate to say anything?
P.S. Not only was Erica the author of our Pot of the Week post, she makes amazing jewelry including my “race bling” marathon necklace.