Hearing Someone Call You Fat: It Always Hurts

Overweight People Have Feelings

The year was 1995 or so and we lived in Florida at the time. Unlike where I live now, there was no fall and it was always hot.

One October, I was shopping and I heard, “Look at that fat lady, Mommy.” I turned to look at who the child was referring to, and realized with much horror that it was me. I was standing in line at Wal-Mart, getting ready to check out when I heard the excited exclamation of the young girl. Once I realized it was me to whom she was referring, I quickly turned back around and pretended I didn’t hear her.

I listened carefully to see what her mother’s response would be, and to my surprise she just said, “Yes, I see her, but you must speak more quietly in the store.” Okay, now the Mom was calling me fat too. I didn’t know what to do, or where to look, so I just stood like a statue.  I wanted to sink into the floor in embarrassment, but couldn’t without losing my place in the pretty long line.

And so, I remained standing there, trying not to cry.

I knew I was heavy, and if pressed I would have admitted to being fat. But other people shouldn’t say it, just me. (And honestly, I shouldn’t have called myself fat either, but that’s a post for another day.) I could joke about my weight with John and my friends, but they weren’t allowed to say anything. I’d tell the big people “jolly” jokes, laugh at fat jokes other people told, and pretend my weight didn’t bother me, but it always did.

After all, I knew that I had trouble walking and that people watched me get in and out of my car with sympathy and sometimes disgust. I overheard two people say, “She can hardly walk, she’s so big,” as I walked through our local mall one day.

I dreaded doctor visits where I would have to stand on the scale because I could only imagine what the nurse was thinking, and I completely avoided the dentist when I was obese. (To the tune of eight cavities when I finally went after losing weight.) Sitting in chairs could be embarrassing, and restaurant booths were just too small.

But other people should not point out my faults to my face, in remarks loud enough to be heard, or by sending me anonymous notes telling me I’d be so much prettier if I would lose weight. (Which happened more than once.)

Unless you’ve dealt with obvious obesity you might find it hard to believe how insensitive people can be towards those who suffer from a public problem. We wouldn’t dare comment on a physical deformity, or mental handicap, fat comments are allowed and laughed at.

That mother could have used her daughter’s innocent exclamation as a teachable moment, where she explained to her about what was and wasn’t appropriate to say out loud. She didn’t right then, and because of her own comment, I’m doubtful if she did later. She may have even told her friends what happened and laughed about it.

I should have been used to comments like that by then, because I had been obese for years. But, every time I heard one it was as hurtful as the first. I developed a thick skin, and learned to shrink into my own shell when it happened.

Comments kids make can be excused, but comments from other adults aren’t so easily excused. It is my hope that as time goes by, we will be more understanding of people with weight problems, while at the same time offering support when asked.

When I see overweight people now, I feel extreme empathy and the desire to help. I can’t help someone without their initiation, but sometimes I wish I could. As you travel through your own personal weight loss journey, I hope that you will continue to feel empathy for those that struggle with weight, while at the same time encouraging them to walk a more healthy path.

Why do you think it is still “okay” to make fun of the overweight? Diane

25 thoughts on “Hearing Someone Call You Fat: It Always Hurts

  1. Tanvee says:

    Hi Diane, Sometimes people can be so hurtful they don’t even realise it, I always knew I was fat I used to admit it to my friends and family but if anybody would call me fat it would really hurt me…I have had people (this was somebody very close to me) telling me I look like a sack of potatos when I dance, since then I actually stopped dancing. My doctor told me not to bother about my weight or size because he would increase the size of his door (rude), this was when I was around 15 yrs old, ever since I am horrified of doctors. People who have never felt fat just don’t understand for them it’s just a joke…

  2. Hope K says:

    That mother should have taught her kid some manners that day. It’s inexcusable to let that go on. Unfortunately, there is a lot of stigma in this society for being overweight, even though over half of the nation is overweight. The hypocrisy! I don’t think people should be shamed for their weight problems, but we do need to change our views and habits about food. I use this as an example a lot, and I’m going to use it again. In the 50s and 60s, people smoked like chimneys. Then when we learned as a society that smoking slowly kills people. Nowadays, there are almost no cigarette ads and you can get free help from your local health department to quit smoking. That’s how it should be for the weight problem. Take pizza ads off the TV and make diet and exercise classes free and widely available. Put a tax on junk food and use that tax money to drop the prices for vegetables, lean meats, and fruits, in order to make healthy foods more affordable to poor people.

    Obesity should be thought of as a health problem, rather than a character flaw. Shaming people doesn’t help, but being honest that we have a problem here and doing things to fix it is what we need to do.

  3. Susan says:

    Because it’s something that we supposedly can contrl, and we haven’t. A woman in a bible study put it beautifully in an off-handed remark one day: It’s embarrassing to be overweight because it’s the one sin (gluttony) that is with you every minute of every day, for all to see.

    People are also insensitive toward those with mental illness because THEY too should be able to control themselves.

  4. Kim says:

    I don’t think it’s ok for adults or kids to make comments like that. So sorry that you ever had to hear things like that – especially the fact that the mom basically just agreed instead of correcting her child.

  5. Barb says:

    I still remember about 25 years ago, I was getting out of a car at Target. Two teenagers drove by me from a distance. I had a royal blue winter coat on. The teenagers yelled, “Look at the blue whale!” I about died. Cried all the way home. You never forget something like that.

  6. Lori says:

    I think that people are cruel to other people regarding weight and whatever obvious flaw they can see. Yes, it is so very hurtful. I would have probably dropped my things and ran to the bathroom to cry. It is possible she did not know how to respond and corrected her later. I have done the same thing.

    I try to remember Wayne Dyer’s words. That what other people think is their business.

  7. Tracy L says:

    Comments like these break my heart. I think when we struggle with an issue (weight or other) it’s already a sore spot and when people comment negatively on it, it just makes it worse. I understand when children make such comments, they are still learning, but adults who are so heartless, there is no reason for it.

  8. Vickie says:

    The mother might have known her child well. She might have thought it was best to just acknowledge the comment and then talk, in private, later. The mother might have known the child would get louder and more explicit if she had tried to explain further at that moment. There are kids who do not get subtle easily or do not sush easily. She might have actually saved you more embarrassment.

  9. Caron says:

    Agree with Hope about teaching our kids manners. It appears that is not important in our culture today.

    I had teacher call me “fatty” in fourth grade. I wish I could forget that but I haven’t. 🙁

  10. Lisa says:

    Yep it always hurts. I remember being in elementary school and I wasn’t even overweight, yet a kid called me fat and it stuck with me pretty much the rest of my childhood. It was the beginning of my body hate issues which DID lead to weight gain. I also overheard my parents talking about my weight when I was in my early 20’s. That was really hard to hear. 🙁

  11. Samiyah says:

    I don’t think its o.k to make fun of anyone really. I remember a time growing up I was waiting for a bus to go to school and this guy said hey chunkerella. I often think of that for two reasons. One it was funny I did make me laugh I hadn’t heard that before and two he was actually hitting on me and his spirit was so light and fun it couldn’t really be mad, he was calling it like he saw it. I’m from the Caribbean and we’re very excitable. But as an actor its very difficult i remember beign on a commercial shoot and the director is talking to the AD about me saying. Yeah this hsot doesn’t work because Samiyah’s so big and the other actor is so small. And on and on. I actually got cut out of the commercial! I mean you knew what size I was when you hired me! And I was a size only 10 So I’ve learned to develop a thick skin and also to be more sensitive to others as well.

  12. Jeremy says:

    I remember several occasions where I would pass people in the street or in the halls and they would make ugly comments out loud after they passed me. One time on the way to class, I passed two girls on the sidewalk. I stepped off the sidewalk to give them room (first because I knew I took up a lot of space, and second because of chivalry and all that). When they were a few steps past me one of them said to the other “What was that?!” I’ll never be able to un-hear that.

  13. PlumPetals says:

    It’s definitely NOT ok to make fun of anyone who is overweight — or anyone at all. Snide, rude comments are difficult to forget. Children are known to be brutally honest and call it like they see it — even then, it hurts. That was definitely a lost teachable moment.

  14. Kyra says:

    No, it’s never OK. It’s not OK to say “You’d be so pretty if…” either. It’s no one else’s place to tell us what we already know VERY well. I think all of that is about public shaming, and I’ve heard more than once people encouraging others to say something because they’re “providing a service” by “motivating” the person to then lose weight.

    I think it’s just one more example of how much empathy we have lost as a society.

  15. Madijo says:

    Its sad how we treat others.

    Things like that have happened to me over the years, but it was my own family that felt they could talk like that.

    *your feet are too small to be carrying so much weight
    * OMG you have gained alot of weight
    *you could be so pretty, if you just lost some weight
    *I am sure if you lost some weight, you could get a boyfriend!

    Seriously?!

    • Kenneth says:

      Just be happy as you are you will find some one that love’s you the way you are.I know this better than most will ever know.I was so lucky to have a wife at all.I have a speech problem my look’s are not like most I have always been made fun of.But when the love of my life showed up all of my problems did not bug her at all.We only knew each other maybe at best 30+ day’s before we got married and it’s up’s and down’s but now that I look at it most if not all was my own fault.I would do anything to let her know this right now but she knew I did love her I just wish I had told her ever day just how lucky I was finding her but I think she knows this up in heaven.I can’t wait until I can be with her again.I wish you all the best life can give you don’t worry what other people say about you.Be happy with your self and pray to god daily it does help.

  16. Kenneth says:

    I don’t like the word fat at all.My wife was a BBW and at first look I knew I loved her.We was married for 17 years and now she is in heaven.I am a very small guy and she was bigger than me so what.We got looked at a lot.I just told my wife don’t worry you are with me and I am with you that’s all that matters to me.I so miss my wife and I can never date another woman at all she was my one and only.She was 59 years young.I’ll be 59 this year too.She went to heaven on 1-19-2014

  17. Sara says:

    I can not believe how cruel some people can be. I recently had a woman say to me” You’ve got skinny legs and a big stomach like me. I know how hard it is to buy clothes.” Granted, our figures were similar, but I couldn’t believe her insensitivity. I felt crushed and ashamed. As someone who has suffered from anorexia and bulimia, gained weight, and lost weight, in a drastic amount of time, I feel horrified. The first thing on my mind was to stop eating altogether again.

  18. Hanna says:

    I get called fat all the time and I’m only 11. Some kid (don’t want to name names) said to me you are a brunt hotdog and I didn’t really understand that and then he said I need a bun and he said it has to be extra, extra, extra large and he said you can go to the store and get buns for $2.99 since their on sale and he said my “bun” would cost $17 and my best friend said he was making fun of my weight an that didn’t make me feel good. ??????

  19. Becky says:

    The sad thing is my own mom calls me fat and tells me not to sit on her dining chair. It might break. I am supposed to sit on an old stool. I am overweight but not obese.

    And she wonders why I don’t visit her often.?

  20. Dinah says:

    Being called fat is cruel so cruel.
    I remember last week I was actually feeling good about myself and someone saw me and said.”Hey Dinah where are u taking your fatness to?you are going to burst one day”
    I cried the whole day.

  21. Kassandra says:

    When people judge over every little calorie you eat. When people who have a fast metabolism make you feel bad for even eating a little ice cream, not knowing that you bust your butt at the gym every week but can’t help being human and enjoying yourself once in a while. Because some people do have to work harder than others to lose weight and making comments like “You’re eating that?” when they eat that way all the time because they can but you always eat healthy and only have a little sometimes. Not knowing you’re slowly reaching your goals. Sometimes you fall but you try to pick yourself up again and reach your goals because you wanna be happy with yourself. And that maybe saying stuff like that will hurt deep and make you feel very bad when you keep trying to think positive. Not knowing that at the moment you might blow it off when you really wanna cry. So you stay quiet now, and let it out later. It’s just not right. Some people really do try; because the only way that they can get where they wanna be is by working hard. So just stop judging them because you really don’t know unless you’ve been there yourself.

  22. Carl says:

    My philosophy is there are idiots in the world and no matter how much you try not to you will occasionally be unfortunate to meet them. I have comments made by teenagers (male and female) in groups. If it wasn’t my weight it’s my balding head and if it isn’t that it’s something else. With children it’s more curiosity as to how their parents react (I suspect mum had been programming said child) but with adults it’s because they’ve got a self-conscious thing going on whereby they need to show off how good they are in comparison to you. I have quite muscular legs and a few summers ago went about in shorts for a while and about four people (including a man) driving by shouted out ‘look at those legs!’. One woman sat in a car in a traffic jam screaming out loud ‘legs! legs! Oh my God, those legs!’. As I say, there are idiots in the world and sometimes you will meet them.

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