Fat people have feelings too!

Published: August 24, 2011
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PHOTO: REUTERS

It has been observed that obese individuals are the last people on Earth you can make fun of without a strong legal or social backlash. I concur with that observation.

Having a weight problem myself, I understand what it’s like to be at constant war with one’s own physical form. My day starts with me standing in front of the mirror, and staring at a round face, wearing an expression of sheer disappointment. I suck in my tummy hoping that it improves the way I look. It does not.

On my way to my university, I can sense hundreds of judgmental eyes following me, and dozens of lips whispering less-than-flattering comments about my weight. During the course of my day, I am likely to find a stranger or a mere acquaintance giving me “expert” advice on how to lose weight. And once every week, as I go home, some loose-lipped brat screams out at the top of his voice,

Ammi, dekho! Motu!”

(“Look, mom! Fatso!”)

The remainder of my self-esteem bites the dust. I force the lyrics of a popular Christina Aguilera song to ticker-tape through my head, “Words can’t bring me down…” hoping it boosts my dwindling confidence. It does not.

Before I come off as a wannabe messiah of the plus-sized, I should admit that I’m not entirely opposed to fat jokes. I’ve heard enough of these to write my very own joke book. Understandably, I always feel somewhat perturbed by the fact that I’m being laughed at, but I’ve learned to take these frivolous inconveniences in my stride, and laugh along the rest of the lot.

Hoping not to come off as a traitor to my kin, I confess that social pressure is imperative in keeping obesity at bay. Had it not been for the fat jokes and the relative insensitivity of the world towards large people, obesity may have been much more prevalent than what we see today.

Unfortunately, this gentle teasing often exceeds limits to take the form of harassment, as we endure a barrage of banal fat jokes that are more insulting than funny. We’re all familiar with the myriad of diseases associated with obesity, but the psychological disorders commonly resulting from obesity receive very little attention (which is basically true for all psychological conditions in our country).

Body dysmorphic disorder is routinely diagnosed among disabled individuals and teenage girls who are overly obsessed with their physical appearances, but it is also becoming fairly common among overweight people. Symptoms include social phobia, withdrawal from family, depression, anxiety and avoidant personality. The last one is of particular concern because it initiates a vicious cycle. The more a person remains cooped up in his house, the more likely he is to gain weight, in turn further draining motivation to go out in public.

I won’t deceive the overweight individuals with meretricious statements like, “You’re all fine just the way you are!” Obesity is a serious health risk and mustn’t be taken lightly. However, one shouldn’t let the social pressure get to one’s head either.

Don’t panic about your weight problem, and do not hide in despair. Maintain regular exercise and a low-calorie diet (you don’t need me to tell you that), and join an online support group if possible.  If you suffer from low self-esteem and feel constantly depressed, please do not hesitate to consult a therapist.

And world, please give overweight people a break!

In the meantime, why not find yourself a nice, little geek to make fun of?

Just kidding.

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)

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