This is what it’s like for me

15 minutes ago. I’m walking down the street. I’m in a fairly good mood. A woman is on the sidewalk in front of me and next to her is a parked ambulance with the driver’s side window rolled down. As she walks past, she says “Hey, so am I eating too much?” She presses one hand to the curve of her back, the other to her belly and turns sideways; the typical “before” pose. She’s laughing, enjoying the joke of asking for free advice from a professional. I brace myself, because I’m about to pass them, and I know it’s coming. The ambulance driver says “No, no. You’re fine.” and then he spots me. I can tell because he goes silent for just a beat or two. I get a few steps ahead, enough to give him confidence that I can’t hear. He says “There, there. Look at her. See? You’re fine. I’ll be seeing her soon, though.” They laugh knowingly. Even expecting it, I’m shocked to hear it. It’s grim. Some part of me, the old part I haven’t healed yet, believes him. The other part wants to swing around and force my humanity on him. Make him see me. Spit in his face. But I keep walking. I don’t even miss a step. I never do.

  1. Ignorant dickheads. Good for you for walking on.

  2. W.T.F.? I give you snaps for not giving them the satisfaction of getting riled up. What is wrong with people, tho? Here is a “professional” judging the health of someone just by seeing them walking down the street.

    You stay strong!

    • Thanks Jean. I thought the same thing. So worried for any fat patient that guy comes in contact with!

  3. Stay strong rad fatty! You’re awesome. My first response to a story like this is heartache, but then I remember that I know the secret to better health and self acceptance…and those jerks clearly don’t.

  4. Just last week I visited a family doc for a health physical that I have to do to keep my health insurance premium at a low. This doctor took one look at me and told me I needed to stop eating processed foods and stop eating fast food even though ALL of my numbers were good. My blood pressure was ideal at 110/63 and my HDL, LDL and triglycerides were all at recommended levels. Yet she told me I needed to lose weight. I informed her that I do not like fast food and I eat mostly fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains and lean meats. In fact, I actually cut off the fat from my steaks (I know, I know it’s a sin right?), I don’t do this necessarily because it is bad for me…I just don’t like the texture of it. Anyway, I also informed her I have a Bachelor’s degree in Dietetics. I left it at that, but I really wanted to go into a rant about how she was being unprofessional by stereotyping me just because I am fat, and how irresponsible it was of her to recommend dieting when dieting has a slew of risk associated with it.

    • Ugh, Amanda. That’s terrible. I’m so sorry you had to go through that. Have you thought about writing a letter? It’s understandable (more than) in situations like that where you’re automatically feeling disempowered/vulnerable as a patient to not have the energy or feel safe enough to counteract that kind of stigmatizing. But perhaps it’d do you some good to send a letter in the aftermath telling her how her behavior made you feel?

  5. Stacy, I was just going to suggest maybe you might consider writing the ambulance company a letter, if you remember the company name. Letters! We write letters!

    • Ha. Touche. You know, I actually don’t remember. But I’ll definitely keep that in mind for next time!

  6. It’s just heartbreaking, if it weren’t so tragic we would be laughing… I mean the human condition, not you, you are just fine :)

  7. Unspeakable, cruel, unprofessional, immature… Hell, I’M getting riled up. I don’t think anyone should be treated like that. How appalling that such a lowlife is in a healthcare profession. I’m sorry for everyone who has to depend on him for emergency healthcare. I hope that somehow whoever supervises him or influences his ability to practice his profession finds out what a disgrace he is to whoever employs and licenses him finds out and cares enough to threaten him into adjusting his attitude.

    I agree, yes, you’re fine, just fine.

  8. We should write letters to the hospitals in your area, describing what happened to you and registering our opinions on paramedics who offer random strangers nutrition advice and vociferously use the bodies of female passersby to illustrate their points. You don’t happen to remember what this paramedic looked like, where he was parked, and the precise time of day, do you?

  9. :( I am speechless. I know I shouldn’t be, I know that La La Land only exists in my head, but I just don’t understand people and their judging thoughts. Does it really take so much to be kind? I’m so sorry you had to go through this~and then LIVE with it in the recesses of your mind. :(

    • Thanks for your kind words, Sandi. I’m actually doing a lot better since this entry. Had a bit of an epiphany. See my latest post for more info on it if you’re interested!

  10. I have a similar, but happier story. I found myself in an argument over a parking space recently. The woman who got out of her car to try to intimidate me into leaving the space was unable to eject me with the simple force of her angry demands. Her eyes flickered up and and down my body and I knew what was coming. Sure enough, “You’re fat! You’re the fattest thing I’ve ever seen!” or words to that effect. Here’s the fun part: I’ve been researching and studying weight issues for years and I’m pretty confident about them, especially the part about fat not being an endemic health hazard, and the part about the irrationality of fat hatred. To me, this woman sounded like a raging 4 year old and her comment didn’t hurt me. It was hard work to get to the point where I don’t feel ashamed of myself, and truth be told, sometimes I do anyway, but in that moment I felt strong. Her “insult” felt like a joke, like she was insulting me for being female. It was meaningless, except that it was delightful to feel her spite bounce off me. I replied with a choice Anglo-Saxon expression and that was the end of it. It is difficult to have self-esteem around weight in our culture, but if you’re able to break free of the fallacy that being fat is a moral and medical failing, those stupid comments become powerless. And more and more of us are doing it.

    • Jennifer, I’m wondering if you’re aware of how shaming your comment is? While I’m glad that you’ve come to a place in your life where you’re able to shrug off the hatefulness of others, it’s no failing on the part of the victim of such hatred if they are impacted by being at the butt of it. I have been a fat activist for over a decade, I have organized events for 800+ people to celebrate their bodies, I have spent thousands of my own dollars traveling across the USA to talk to fat women about their experiences and I have moved across the world to study in order to be a more effective activist. I am no stranger to the irrationality of fat hatred, nor the HAES philosophy. I fully understand the fallacy. And sometimes, the sheer volume and frequency of hatred directed at my body gets me down. And that is not MY problem. It’s not that I just haven’t understood something. It’s not that I am somehow too sensitive or not strong enough. It’s that no one should be subjected to the level of vitriol many fat women are subjected to and because I have a good heart and a complicated relationship with the human race, I remain vulnerable, I remain shocked at the indecency of it. And while I hope my reflex to internalize this shifts over time, I hope I never stop being impacted because it’s that awareness that spurns me to continued action.

      • Sophie, thank you for the thoughtful response. I absolutely agree with you that it’s natural and normal to be hurt by hate, and I’m sorry that my comment appeared shaming. That’s the last thing I want to do! You’re right; the problem is not with you or anyone else who is the object of hate feeling bad about it. Being accused of being oversensitive or too weak is a common additional problem, adding insult to injury. My hope was that my experience would be seen as a victory against hatred, but I fully appreciate that it could be read as “I did it—why don’t you?” I don’t believe that everyone can or should toughen up against hateful remarks, and I don’t think that’s a sign of failure. I don’t blame the victim for being hurt by victimization. The world needs to change and I’m cautiously optimistic that it is beginning to happen, as more and more people become aware of how wrong fat hatred is, the science is there to back us up, and more people like you (and me) are out there, drawing attention to the wrongness of it. Nor, by the way, am I so callous myself, on the whole. I shared this story because it was an exciting moment for me, in a lifetime of having been crushed by active and passive fat antipathy. I have no idea whether I will be able to refrain from internalizing the hostility the next time it happens or not.

  11. Hi Jennifer – Thanks for your response. I do understand the excitement of being able to move past a moment like that unharmed. I’ve had many moments like that myself and I know how exhilarating it can be. I understand more what you were saying now. The Internet is hard – things can be read in so many ways. Thank you for clarifying.

  12. Damnit! I’m trying to explain that I empathize and mean no harm, and I call you the wrong name! I’m sorry, STACY! BTW, I love your handle! Is it a pseudonym?

  13. No worries. Happens all the time. I think the simpler names are easier to forget. Plus, Sophie’s a lot nicer. ;) As for my handle – I’m not sure what you’re referring to. If you’re asking about my name, Stacy BIas, then no, that’s my given name. It honestly didn’t occur to me how funny it was until I was at a conference a few years back giving a talk and someone came up to me after and said: “Is Bias your real last name?” and I said yes, and she said “That is SO PUNK ROCK.” and walked away. Took me a minute to figure out what she meant. People have always asked me “are you biased?” when the hear my last name (ha ha, gets funnier every time I hear it) but somehow I never made the association that my last name was a boon for me as an activist until then. Now I kinda like it. :)

    • Sorry for the detour into colloquialism. Yes, “handle” means name, as in a long-haul trucker with his CB radio handle, like “Big Daddy.” It’s true that it’s a perfect name for a prejudice-fighting activist. :) I also thought of Beth Ditto and Miranda July, artists whose names you may know, who, coincidentally, live in Portland. I think your name IS punk rock, ESPECIALLY because you were gifted with it at birth. But I know what you mean about the “play” (irony quotes) on one’s name: I’ve gone through “Frankenstein,” “Frankenfurter” “Frankenberry” (kid’s cereal), and “well, FRANKLY…” That’s the only one that still sticks around– most of my cohort has outgrown the grade-school versions. I guess that’s the price we pay for having a verb and a noun for our surnames!

  14. I have lived in Asia for over 11 years where there is the term “chopsticks” to describe the vast majority of the local women, although thanks to an influx of western restaurants and grocery stores and families using convenient foods more often, there is a growing number of people who are overweight or obese. But it is still uncommon to see, and I get the triple whammy of being fat, foreign, and black which means I get a lot more stares than the average foreigner might. I admit, I used to tease my beautiful sister because she was a little overweight, solely out of jealousy because she was (and still is) such an amazing person (beautiful, artistically talented, and kindhearted) whereas I wasn’t. I still shudder for thinking of how I treated her growing up.

    Most students in the schools where I work are used to it and don’t care, but people, and especially school-aged or older people, are particularly cruel. I used to get upset, but after 11 years, I’ve grown quite a thick skin and have learned to point out how their behavior is hateful as some manners (pointing and laughing) are not culturally appropriate even within this country. My favorite two lines to say (in Chinese) are “You have such a beautiful face, but such an ugly heart” and to little girls, “When I was your age, I used to look like you and laugh at fat people too.”

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