Too fat to fit in!

Published: October 24, 2012

The truth is that fat jokes are not a problem, as long as they linger in a rhetorical realm of comedy, and don’t come out as applied comedy. PHOTO: REUTERS

It’s a curious state to be at constant war with your own anatomy.  To perceive your body, as an unsightly prison, confining a thinner, much prettier person, struggling to burst out like an alien spawn. Obesity has a tendency to precipitate a sense of self-loathing which is so profound, that it begins to exact a toll on more than just one’s physical health.

Despite the boundaries of political correctness ceaselessly contracting, most people still feel comfortable developing low opinions of people based simply on their weight. This is because in an average person’s mind, obesity is a condition that a person brings upon himself. In other words, the fat person is just ‘asking for it’.

 Fat prejudice is often portrayed as something benign, or even charitable, because it acts as a deterrent for obesity.  In fact, the term ‘fat prejudice’ itself sounds like a fictitious crisis invented by grouchy, fat people who simply can’t take a joke.

The truth is that fat jokes are not a problem, as long as they linger in a rhetorical realm of comedy, and don’t come out as applied comedy. They mustn’t be used to encourage prejudice against the overweight, by equatingobesity with laziness or incompetency.

There are studies emerging from around the world confirming discrimination against overweight individuals in job interviews and workplace. Harassment is increasingly becoming a problem.

Your ostensibly harmless comment to a fat person about her weight may not come off as the kind of motivation you hope it’d be. It may instead leave the recipient of this unsolicited advice utterly devastated. Perhaps it did not occur to you that this person spent half an hour in front of a mirror, surveying every inch of her body, trying to assure herself that she does not look ‘too fat’. She musters a great deal of courage to step out in public, just to hear you tell her the one thing she absolutely does not want to hear.

While it appears to be more common among women, guys too are often quite sensitive about the way their look.

It has become somewhat obsolete to think of this conundrum in such simplistic terms as overeating minus exercise equals obesity. Science has identified a plethora of conditions that cause a person to gain weight, some of which may be beyond his or her control.

Certain prescription drugs, like the tricyclic antidepressants, are notorious for causing weight gain. This reminds me of a young suicide survivor I’d known back when I was receiving my medical training at the psychiatry unit. She had been receiving such medication for months. Upon her discharge, she was greeted by a horde of relatives, one of whom yelled:

“Aray, wah! Tum itni moti ho gayi!”

(Oh wow! You’ve become so fat!)

I buried my face into my palms, understanding well that this was merely the first of a series of unflattering comments and judgemental looks she was about to receive. I thanked the Almighty that the antidepressants hadn’t worn off yet.

Hormonal imbalances have long been known to contribute to the same problem. A constellation of genetic factors has been implicated as well.

Some people have jobs requiring less physical exertion than others. Students are often, if not always, observed to gain weight before examinations. It makes sense since it’s significantly harder to concentrate on one’s studies while being in a hypoglycaemic state. When you’re hungry enough, then ‘not eating’ becomes a full-time activity.

While these conditions may not be enough to cause obesity on their own, they most certainly can complicate the process of losing weight.

This should not serve as an excuse for overweight people to slump back in their cushy chairs. One mustn’t be left with the notion that his weight problem is entirely beyond his capacity to remediate.  The role of will power and determination here cannot possibly be depreciated.

It is, however, imperative to acknowledge that losing weight is variably difficult for different individuals. Just because you have managed to maintain your weight within a healthy range, does not mean that the task should be equally uncomplicated for everybody else.

Read more by Faraz here or follow him on Twitter @FarazTalat

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.

  • Parvez

    Great subject just wished you had not treated it so pedantically.Recommend

  • Munawar

    Yes we are all dealt a hand when it comes to being fat or thin. But at the end of the day nobody can get fat unless they treat their body like a dumpster.

    “But oh she has a thyroid problem”, you say. SO what? That just means she has a huge appetite. Doesn’t mean she wont lose weight if she eats like a normal person instead of following her instincts. Limited portions won’t kill anyone. And don’t tell me you get fat by not eating. You are not Agha Waqar’s water kit where something comes out of nothing. For every pound of fat on your body, you consumed 2500 calories over your requirement.

    Now you are telling me i should tell a fat person they look beatiful and lovely? just to be politically correct? I got some bad news bruva. If someones a fat tub of lard i’d tell them that and also show them workout / eating plans they can make use of. So they can base their body image not on their fantasies but on how they actually look. So they don’t have to convince themselves they aren’t fat.

    I have seen countless inspiring stories of people (both men and women) who have lost over 100s of pounds of weight to become fit and healthy. Its people like that that i admire. Not these fatties who start having babies whenever someones rude to them. Perhaps they should just spend more time hanging around bodybuilding forums rather than around their favourite icecream joint.Recommend

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

    Munawar,

    Since the invention of the mirror, no fat person has ever depended on other people rudely informing him that he’s fat. He’s well aware of his weight problem, and you insulting him will not make him any more or less aware of the problem than he already is.

    No, you don’t have to lie to a person about him or her being “beautiful” (that is a subjective matter anyway). You just have to realize that there are a plethora of genetic or inescapable environmental factors that could complicate the process of losing weight.

    I alluded to only some on them in the article, and I’ve included an NCBI link to how genetics contribute to weight gain. As I said, if you’ve managed to not be obese, does not mean it’s equally easy for everybody else.Recommend

  • Ayesha Pervez

    I really do feel for overweight people its a cruel world out there… Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/908/erum-naqvi/ Erum

    I totally agree with u.. having been there, i can relate to the vicious comments part that one has to face. Having said that, losing weight has thousands of benefits and i can safely say that all the efforts of losing wgt are totally worth the patience, once u manage to do it :)Recommend

  • Bunny

    My fourteen-year-old brother is a bit chubby, after reading this , I swear I won’t call him fat ever again! ShitRecommend

  • http://yousufbawany.wordpress.com Yousuf Bawany

    Fat dudes rock! I would’ve gladly posed for the title photo, Faraz! ;)Recommend

  • http://lonepkliberal.wordpress.com Faraz Talat

    Yousuf,

    Fat dudes don’t rock, they jiggle. :pRecommend