Things you never say to an overweight person

Published: April 18, 2012

Never ask us if we have lost weight, unless it’s an honest compliment and not an actual inquiry. PHOTO: AFP

We’re everywhere. Your odds of having to interact with us are increasing with every fast food “temple” that is erected in your city. A conversation with an overweight person can be a faux pas minefield, so here are a few tips to help you out.

Have you lost weight?

Never say that unless it’s an honest compliment and not an actual inquiry. Remember, someone who is overweight knows very well whether his physical dimensions have changed recently. If he hasn’t lost any weight, your statement will come off sounding shamelessly specious. Nobody likes a boot-licker, especially one lying so transparently that it feels like he’s mocking. You’ll end up making the plus-sized individual hate you almost as much as he hates his metabolism.

You should do something about your weight problem

Oh, I didn’t realise I had a weight problem. You see, my mirror is of poor quality, a Chinese knock-off of the original thing, so it doesn’t reflect light as well as the others. Also, my family and friends have repeatedly assured me that I’m Ryan Gosling’s doppelgänger, so your observation comes as quite a shock. A veritable lol-fest, if I may!

Thank you random shopkeeper that I just bought oranges from – it never occurred to me that I have to do something about my weight problem… until now.

I used to be just like you

Really? You used to be just like me, with my exact work schedule, metabolism, social environment, financial and time constraints, and inherited precisely the same set of genes from your parents as I did from mine? Uncanny! Are you sure you weren’t separated from me at the Lucky Irani circus 1996, and raised in a family just like mine?

No. I don’t think you were ever “just like me”. You may have weighed roughly the same as I do, but that’s not all that matters.

I tried routine X and lost Y pounds. You can too!

If we want condescending advice, we’ll ask for it. I can notice a few rectifiable physical and behavioural flaws in you too (47 and counting), but I’m just trying not to overstep my boundaries. Perhaps you shouldn’t either.

You must be hungry. Let’s go get you some pizza

I would electrocute a baby seal for some pizza right now, but that’s not the point. I’m still slightly offended by your assumption that all adipose-redundant individuals (I’m seriously running out of euphemisms for “fat” at this point) are always lazy, hungry, and looking for junk food to devour. Of course, if your reasoning is based on something other than my appearance, that’s fine.

How much do you weigh?

Why not just ask us our PIN codes, and other bank account information?

Okay, maybe not all guys are as secretive or sensitive about their biometric data as I am, but it’s still personal information. Having been bullied for many years about my waist line, frequently referred to as “equatorial distance”, this information has now been reserved only for my tailor who is contractually bound to take this knowledge to his grave.

I exaggerate, but yes, there has been a verbal agreement.

Read more by Faraz here.

Faraz Talat

Faraz Talat

A medical doctor and bubble-wrap enthusiast from Rawalpindi, who writes mostly about science and social politics (and bubble-wrap). He tweets @FarazTalat (twitter.com/FarazTalat)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Misha

    Hahahahahahaha! Love this! Truer words have never been written!Recommend

  • Zee

    hahahaha so true…as a slightly (and the only) overweight person in my family i get this a lot.Recommend

  • Indi-Pop

    I hate it when people say. “You have such beautiful features. You would look so fabulous if you lose all your “baby fat”. Gross! I am more than my looks, Thanks. I love the quote “I am fat because a tiny body cannot hold that much awesomeness”, Thank God we live in times of Adele! Cheers! Recommend

  • http://twitter.com/#!/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    By the way, as someone who was overweight a few years ago, all of this is true.

    Once you lose weight people will ask you how you performed the miracle. Of course the fact that it only took diet and exercise will never cross their mind. Recommend

  • Sherry

    hahahahahahhahahaha tooooooooooo v good faraz!Recommend

  • Neha

    I love your articles. You should write more often- or get published more often. :)Recommend

  • Atika.rehman

    Faraz Talat, you are hilarious!

    Recommend

  • Ahmed Munir
  • A Riaz

    I have been in a similar situation five years back. Due to lack of exercise and high consumption of junk food I had rightfully put on a lot of weight. I visited an aunt in LHR who looked at me and then my very fit brother (4 years elder to me) and commented after blowing a very fake kiss at me: You look older then Samad. No, i mean you are so much more mature now. If you take care of the pimples, put some braces on to fix your teeth, grow the length of your hair and loose some weight you would just be alright. I kept staring at her dumb-founded and thought to my self: The word is “plastic surgery” aunty jee.

    Needless to say, I don’t visit that aunt very often! Recommend

  • http://syedaabidabokhari.wordpress.com The Only Normal Person Here.

    hahahaha let’s go get you some pizza. hahahahahahhaRecommend

  • Ali T.

    Seems to be the story of my adult life :pRecommend

  • Nandita.

    It works both ways. Skinny people get bullied too !

    The worst thing I’ve been told is ” Why are you thin? You will give birth to unhealthy children”
    That was the only time I cried in public. I just couldn’t believe people could say such hurtful things.I feel for you Faraz, but you’re still better off than me ! At least you’ve never been told you’re going to give birth to unhealthy children. :)

    Another comment i’ve received – ” Thin people die young. Fat people live longer. ”

    I am often asked ” Are you under stress or some pressure ? Why else would you still be thin; you’re almost 30 ! ”
    For most people, fat = happy/joyous and thin = miserable/stressed out/pessimist etc etc

    Then there are the comments from bitchy women ” Do you want to be a size zero ?That’s unhealthy and I thought you were wiser than that.Have you been reading too many magazines ? ”
    So in one statement I am called unwise and I am accused of following unhealthy diets which is not true. I eat well; my body type is hereditary.In South India being fat is okay. But being skinny, esp when you’re about to enter you’re 30’s, attracts attention. Recommend

  • http://twitter.com/#!/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    This is Faraz’s third piece on physical appearances, which seems to be deeply personal. Faraz, are you trying to achieve some sort of catharsis through these blogs? Just wondering if finding some way to become more physically fit will make you happier? Recommend

  • http:[email protected] Munawar Ali Shah

    Go check out bb.com ppl who have lost 40 – 50 lbs in a year come cheap around there. And i have immense respect for them. Recommend

  • Omair Mohyuddin

    @Indi-Pop:

    “Thank God we live in times of Adele! ”

    lolzz…WIN!! :DRecommend

  • PK Expat

    Funny article, but seriously man, stop justifying being fat. There is no rocket science behind it. There are less than 1% of fat people who have a genuine metabolic disorder that leads to the unchecked accumulation of adipose. For a whopping majority, it is just a really poor combination of diet and exercise. There is no miracle because the right ratio of exercise and diet will vary from person to person, as you eloquently pointed out, based on their genes and what not, but the fact of the matter is, if most fat people just looked after themselves better, they wouldn’t be so fat! Time to stop being so overly sensitive about something that most people bring upon themselves. Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat

    Losing weight is much trickier than most people think. If the answer had been as simple as “diet and exercise”, there wouldn’t have been a massive body of scientists dedicated to studying the obesity pandemic.

    It is easier to lose weight which you have recently gained. People who boast about how they’ve dropped 10 kg, are the ones who have usually gained that weight in only a year or two. For people who’ve been overweight for 10-20 years, it’s much harder.

    This is because the adipose (fat) cells initially swell when a person consumes more calories than required, a process which is easily reversible. But as excessive indulgence continues, the body generates new adipose cells, making it much easier for a person to gain weight, and much harder to get rid of it.

    Other factors too play a direct role – like genetics, psychological health, line of work, social environment etc.Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat

    Noman,

    My personal experience with obesity has bestowed me with a cornucopia of fat jokes, weight loss tips and bariatric knowledge.

    I don’t write about physical appearances because I’m sentimental about it (although I do consider it a significant issue). I write about it because I just have a lot to say in this area.

    We all play the cards we’re dealt by fate – my card was a fat joker, and I intend to make the best of it!Recommend

  • Parvez

    You missed out on : Aaaah, you’re looking prosperous.
    Really enjoyed reading this and had a good laugh as well.Recommend

  • http://twitter.com/#!/Pugnate Noman Ansari

    @Faraz Talat:

    I shed excess weight I had for over 16 years. It was as simple as diet and exercise. I was really overweight. Eating less calories than what you burn every day is pretty much it. It isn’t a simple discipline to follow but yea, it happened. :P

    Gonna PM you on facebook. ;)

    Life didn’t deal you the fat joker buddy. Recommend

  • Ayesha Pervez

    Im curious: Do people actually suggest that “YOu should do something about your weight problem?” If true, thats sooo rude and bizzarre!Recommend

  • Nadia

    I am lecturer and today I was invigilating students who had not taken the original test (due to almost all stupid reasons) and were taking the re-test and I noticed one of them extremely obese. I was thinking to myself, perhaps he is not performing well in his academic and he is stuffing himself with food instead. Anyways, as you said I will never tell him any of my concerns, but thankfully I came across your article, so here is my take on it.
    1. Fat people often find excuses on why they are fat. They train themselves to think that they are not doing anything wrong (i.e. eating a lot and not excercising) but it is their genes that is the culprit. It is in the family. Funnily enough if you analyse the family you will see a shared system of eating unhealthy oil laden food. So yes, it is in the family but not in the genes but in the habit.
    2. The second problem is that they make fun of thin people to make themselves feel better i.e. hum khatay peetay log hain, tum log teili marka. This perhaps gives them an ego boost which bites them in return.
    3. They want instantanous results and do not understant that if they ate and ate for years to accumulate all that fat, it will take atleast half of that time to remove that fat. So if you were eating recklessly for 4 years, and you expect to be slim and trim in 4 months, then sorry this is a totally wrong assumption.

    So as I was looking at the student, I was thinking what would I recommend him to do (if I were to, which I wont). My idea is to go on 4 apple diet. Before every meal you have to eat an apple. You cannot start your breakfast, lunch, tea or dinner until you finish one big apple. Then you eat small portion based on what you consider small as compared to before (and not based on diet charts that are designed to frustrate you). I assure you, you will get results as apple makes you feel full as it is full of fiber and water and it makes sure that you cannot eat as much as you would. If you benefit from this (losing weight) well and good and if you dont, I am sure you would still have benefited in getting better nutrition.

    PS: It is not in your genes!Recommend

  • http://www.insaf.pk Antebellum

    There is a saying: Don’t feed the troll.

    We can rephrase it: Don’t feed the fattie!Recommend

  • Yuri Kondratyuk

    I reduced 2.5 inches of my waist in 4 months and my body fat percentage by 4% in three months. All I did was a mix of weight-training, HIIT and SIT in the gym and proper nutrition at office and home along with proper sleep(for recuperation).

    I was a over-weight since from childhood so don’t give me the “fat accumulated since 15 years” nonsense. And my doctor tells me that the variation of BMI is generally about 20% in a population and hence, don’t simply blame your genes.

    Following are the only resources I have referred for weight-loss

    http://www.exrx.net/ —————–for exercise info
    http://nutritiondata.self.com/ —————-for nutrition infoRecommend

  • Yuri Kondratyuk

    BTW, pizza is much healthier than rest of the junk food and would be even better if the crust were made of whole wheat bread.Recommend

  • http://lonepkliberal.wordpress.com Loneliberal PK

    Nadia,

    You believe you have obesity all figured out, but I assure you, you haven’t.

    It’s a complex problem, which is still being studied by scientists across the globe. Saying that all overweight people are just too lazy and are looking for instant results, is presumptuous to the point of being offensive.

    It is also a myth that just because a few have managed to lose significant weight, then it should be equally simple for everybody else. Weight reduction is largely subjective, because of varying hormonal influences (in particular leptin, thyroxine and cortisol), unequal functionality of the hunger/satiety centre of the brain, basal metabolic rate, fat “reinforcement” from chronic weight gain…

    Just yelling “go on a diet, you fatty!” is no longer acceptable. The pandemic’s much more complicated than that. Recommend

  • Alishba

    nice and funny blog to read !
    But the fact is you can only lose your weight by eating nutritious food, diet control n exercise…i was over weight by 10 kg 2 years ago and in a year i have lost 6 kg …. it’s easy to gain the weight but very hard to lose, cause once you are addicted to spicy n tasty food like qorma biryani n all that fast food junk, it’s very difficult to change the taste of your tongue.It really takes time. To look fit n feel healthy is also a blessing. Moreover, Obesity is the root of many diseases. So i think you shouldn’t promote over weight people to remain same…Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat

    I think the point of article seems to be getting lost amid the academic discussion. It was simply meant to entertain, not to absolve overweight people of all blame for their own condition.

    It is, however, imperative that people recognize their boundaries, and for the sake of civility, don’t go around giving condescending advice about things that are none of their business. I can lecture people too about their acne, smoking, scientific illiteracy, abrasive behaviour and a plethora of bad social habits, but I don’t unless I’m specifically asked for advice.

    If you can give me unprompted advice on how to lose weight, I can just as easily suggest you to try decaf and visit a therapist to do something about that ugly disposition of yours. If the latter is inappropriate, so is the former.Recommend

  • Usman Ahmad

    The blog was genuinly funny. I liked it. Thanks.Recommend

  • Benish

    My fiance is also on fatter side but I have no problem with this. However, ppl remind me of this fact on costant basis, as I myself am very slim. I have been told by many to motivate him to shedd his extra pounds when I dont feel the need to do so.. C’mmon ppl, wake up there is much more to a person than fats :).. btw hillarious article, love it :)Recommend

  • farhan

    BesT EST article !! love it …;)Recommend

  • same

    I think you have telepathy powers, you’ve totally read my mind dude..
    I wouldn’t be able to express all these feelings in words. Its this social torture that accounts for low confidence in many, i mean people should understand its who we are we are not alien or some unearthly person..we know they want us to have healthy life ahead so does ourselves….but atleast don’t make us feel like a delinquent.Recommend

  • Nadia

    @LoneLiberalPk: All because of your scientific jargons and justifications, a lot of fat people just dont move their butt and keep on chowing down food on pretext that it is their hormone or some other thing that needs to be blamed. Tell me when fat people are taken as hostages, why dont they just stay fat? why do they lose kilos of weight? I am sure the hormones must be good enough to stop all those fats from burning right?
    Just because there are few cases of people who are medically challenged is not an excuse for majority who are stuffing themselves.
    PS: I was a fat person myself, been fat all since my childhood with my family blaming hormones and khandan, I managed to lose 20 kg in one year purely by proper diet and cardios and it has been 3 years that I have managed to keep that weight off. . Like I said if you persevere you get the result, else there is plenty of research to pacify you.Recommend

  • Indi-Pop

    I don’t understand the mudslinging going on. I think the point of the blog is that everyone who has a weight problem knows that he or she has it. They don’t need random people on the street telling them about it. Even I had a weight problem and i was able to shed it finally when i had both time and inspiration on my side. Being overweight is just not a physical disorder but also in a way a mental “disorder” too. I person could be suffering from a compulsive eating disorder etc. I don’t think losing weight is just about diet and exercise but also about sheer will power which one develops over time. I was put on various diets by caring family members which never worked out and left me ever more humiliated.When i actually lost weight it was my own calling. I took incharge of it on my own and not because of some nasty remarks by any person. Today i maintain a healthy weight but am not still happy. I m neither size zero nor I can eat a whole pizza without blinking an eye. So all people giving free advice, kindly suck it up. Telling a fat person he is fat is just plain mean. Grow up and let them be. They know they have a problem and they will deal with it when they want to and how they want to. Recommend

  • http://lonepkliberal.wordpress.com Loneliberal PK

    Nadia,

    Personal responsibility is very important indeed, and for a lot of people, the lack of it is the main reason for obesity. But it’s not always as simple as that. There many who are unable to lose weight (and more importantly, keep that weight off) despite considerable efforts.

    Ten years earlier, the only question science used to ask was, “Why do people get fat?”, and the answer was always that they don’t practice self-control and eat too much. Science has now evolved, and is instead asking, “Why do people eat too much?”, which is a far more pertinent question.

    The answer to this lies in a in the overlapping regions of biochemistry, neuroanatomy, psychology, genetics and anthropology.Recommend

  • Ehsan Waris

    @Misha: +1Recommend

  • Sabrina

    Alot of people find it offensive if someone advices an overweight person ‘to do something about it’ because everyone assumes that the only reason someone is giving that advice is because he/she thinks they would look better / less ugly if they were thinner. The same people then say that ‘we’ shouldnt be so focussed on looks alone and should care more about the person’s character…….isnt that ironic…
    I wouldnt give such advice if I didnt know the person very well, but if I did I would certainly advice them to lose the weight, only for their own sake, for their health’s sake. It’s like you see someone with a broken leg trying to walk on it and by trying only making their condition worse, in such a scenario it would be ok to advice someone to sit still and not move untill the leg is healed. But when you see a obese person eating away a whole pizza by themselves we say nothing…why is that..Recommend

  • http://uptonogood.tumblr.com/ Red

    Ahem, I’m someone who isn’t even “fat”. I am maybe 8-10 pounds over what my family considers normal and what my family considers “normal” is underweight so technically my weight falls on the lower side of a normal BMI. I was still asked to constantly lose weight by my immediate family as a teenager till I broke down and cried once. They stopped after that. But yes, that means I can related a little and I can understand what fat people go through. I only had my immediate family to content with, imagine every one you come across, friends, extended family, even strangers, giving you advice…nightmare! I’m with you on this Faraz. Good blog! =)Recommend

  • Rogan Josh

    The only appropriate comment is to your spouse, about how fat someone else is. Recommend

  • http://www.scribd.com/asifameer Asif

    “You arent fat. You’re just… horizontally challenged!”Recommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003406042246 Barney

    Apr26Aditya Khanal Sharukh does not need to make it a huge issue. Whoever comes to US must go through the sertciuy process, it is a normal procedure. When anyone is busted into sertciuy stuff, they may be questioned, the question session may go one hour to nine hour, it all depends on how well you cooperate to the sertciuy officials. In the same scenario, john abraham, Salman Khan has also gone through, but they never brought these into media so wildly, Sharukh is a normal passenger only when he goes through the airport, please request to shahrukh not to let his stardom go on top of his head. stardom has nothing to do with sertciuy check. Even US president should go through it. Please donot bring minor issue into media,,, shahrukh. we know you are smart in doing advertisement.Recommend

  • mahvush

    @Faraz Talat:
    it’s a an awesome read, completely hilarious!! any article which does not incorporate politics condemed, will not make you an entertainer, but surely target for unmitigated hate comments and unsolicited advice. virtual space is waste of space? brilliant!
    its hilarious. keep up the good work!Recommend