Revenge of the Obese Inner Child

Mother and Daughter (cartoon)

Like many professional comedians, Marc Maron might be called an equal-opportunity offender. The laugh is more important than anybody’s feelings. When accused of insensitivity by a fan, Maron first reflected on how, culturally, “there seems to be a license to make fun of the obese.” But then, he says, he “had to track it down in my own heart.”

Yesterday, Childhood Obesity News considered how people who engage in fat-shaming are probably coming from a place of fear. Whether or not they ever articulate it to themselves, at the sight of a seriously overweight stranger, they experience a deeply ingrained terror, a gut-level reaction that translates as “That could happen to me.” Maron, on his WTF podcast, confirms this.

‘I have an obese inner child’

A former “chunky kid” himself, the comic was brought up by a mother who had been obese in her childhood. She reacted by developing anorexia, and later on, he theorizes, the daily presence of a chubby son triggered her fears of returning to an obese condition. When she looked at him, he felt that she saw not a young human being but her own lost fat cells that had somehow reassembled themselves into a blob with legs and come back to haunt her.

It seemed like all the family conversation centered around eating too much, or not eating, and young Marc was reading diet books and counting calories at the age of 8. At the dinner table, one of his mother’s favorite sayings was “Do you really need that?” Many experts believe that home-cooked meals, enjoyed by parents and children together, are vital to the prevention of childhood obesity. The operative word there is “enjoy.” Surely no one would recommend constant nagging or verbal abuse as seasoning for any meal.

Today, despite his fit physique, Maron says he still feels like a fat person and, because of it, experiences a certain amount of self-contempt. Of his mom, he says:

Her biggest fear in the world was being fat…. If an obese person or a fat person was walking by, she would grab my hand hard and go, ‘Oh my God, look at that.’ 

Toxic thoughts

I also knew a woman who would invariably spot and make rude remarks about morbidly obese people, to the point where her rampant fat-phobia became a joke among her friends. When anyone asked how her daughter was doing, she would inevitably ignore every other aspect of health and life, and report on the number of fat rolls currently encircling the child’s waist.

Some fear that children’s early experiences of school can be damaged by the preference of teachers for thinner children. While there is the occasional verified report of weight bias from an elementary teacher, the problem does not appear to be widespread — or at least not in Great Britain. The brief notes on research conducted there last year read:

The aim of this study was to investigate whether teachers’ judgements of pupils’ ability are influenced by the body shape of the child…. There is little evidence that teachers’ judgements of pupils’ ability are influenced by obesity.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Episode 59 – Robert Hawkins/Ryan Singer,” WTFpod.Libsyn.com, 03/29/10
Source: “Are teachers’ judgments of pupils’ ability influenced by obesity?” Nature.com, 11/15/13
Image by Miss Maisy

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