People of Size, and Their Voices

In the 1960s, there were writers who shook things up by describing what it was like to belong to a non-majority, non-white race. Similarly, our most recent decade has seen some audacious writing about body size — and not just in discussion threads and forums buried in some obscure corner of the Internet.

One of the most eloquent and prolific voices is that of Your Fat Friend, who describes herself as “just shy of 350 pounds,” and looks back on a lifetime of being excluded, underserved, and made to feel inferior. She feels empathy for the people who describe themselves as normal or average, because they face the same struggle, different only in degree. Even for them,

[…] thinness is an ideal, some shining idol forever out of reach, a horizon with no point of arrival. Thinness is always distant, unattainable, a punishing standard that few feel they can meet — and those who can still avoid the term, for fear of seeming arrogant.

For someone who grows up obese, the moments that mark life transitions are not bright. The summer camp memories do not include the first jump from the knotted rope into the river, or the first two-piece bathing suit. To think about lumbering across the graduation stage like a tank is more likely to cause dismay than delight. And prom? Forget it.

Instead, this writer reveals, you remember the day when the clerk at the “plus-size” store just shook her head. You remember…

[…] the moment when strangers begin to shout at you on the street, throwing trash or mooing as you pass.

Then again, not all recollections are toxic. Kasandra Brabaw has a different take:

I remember very clearly the moment I finally understood that being fat doesn’t make me ugly or unworthy. Suddenly, it dawned on me that I could be both. I could be fat and beautiful, fat and successful, fat and smart, and fat and worthy of love.

Among celebrities, some, like Oprah, will talk about their weight journeys exhaustively. Others, like the zaftig Christina Hendriks, rule out discussion of their physical selves.

At the age of six, LaNiyah Bailey published a book about being shamed and name-called not only by other kids, but even by a professional adult child-care worker. A Chicago Tribune article by Dawn Turner Trice described her difficulties and how the family coped, and how the little girl insisted on the validity of her subjective experience. The reporter quotes LaNiyah’s assistant, her mom:

I showed what I had to the editor… and she said that we had to make it more fun to appeal to kids. But when I read it to my daughter, she said, ‘I don’t want it to be fun. It’s not funny.’

LaNiyah’s mother, LaToya White, used to be a professional singer who was hounded by management to slim down. This is her 5-foot, 6-inch point of view:

They make you feel like you have to be stick-thin. At my thinnest, I was 120 pounds. I’ve learned to accept myself the way I am, and I want LaNiyah to accept herself, too, no matter her size.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Way We Talk About Our Bodies Is Deeply Flawed,” Medium.com, 04/23/19
Source: “What Happened When I Told My Girlfriend She Was Fat,” Medium.com, 11/25/19
Source: “Even Mindy Kaling Can’t Win the Body-Image Wars’,” TIME.com, 04/14/14
Source: “Girl, 6, gives frank talk about being fat,” ChicagoTribune,com, 04/04/11
Image by LaNiyah

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

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The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:

Presentations

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources