Being overweight = object of your ridicule?

In simple words, ‘NO’.  Then why do they become the object of your ridicule or mockery? We’ve all heard the jokes and wisecracks. There is no place that is safe from the cruel and taunting words. If you happen to be one of those who carry extra weight, then you know how horrible people can be.

Did you ever stop and think about how often we are told to change our appearance?  Magazines and Newspapers constantly offer tips about how to lose weight “in days,” appear slimmer “instantly,” and hide our “imperfections”… without actually knowing anything about us, much less our appearance.

The stigma and discrimination against overweight people cause major psychological harm.  When we think of prejudice and discrimination, most of us tend to think of overt attacks, harassment, or discriminatory behaviour.  However, a verbal attack or body-shaming of fat people is a blatant example of prejudice that occur with depressing frequency everywhere. Right from school onwards to college, in public places, in workplaces, on the playground and outside, with well-meaning friends and family.  Discrimination against fat people is so endemic, most of us don’t even realise it is happening.

The negative effects of discrimination can be multifold; first is the physical part – which is relatively easier to manage.  Second, is more psychological – consequences of which could leave a deep emotional scar.  Body shaming is fun but not if you are on the receiving end.   For those 5 mins of fun and laugh, you leave behind a person struggling with years of emotional trauma.

The difference between fit and fat might be a difference of just one syllable but the impact of the psychological trauma could be far-reaching and more damaging.  I am not sure people realise that psychological trauma can leave you struggling with upsetting emotions, memories, and anxiety that won’t go away. It can also leave you feeling numb, disconnected, and unable to trust other people and it can take a while to get over the pain. Once people get into their shell, it makes it really hard for them to get out of it.

It is usually said that ‘overweight people are funny people’.  Yes I think so too, maybe because they know how to live life kingsize… but for some, they embrace this personality because it is the only way to hide their pain, anger, emotional and psychological trauma.

It is really hard to cope when your friends and social acquaintances make unpleasant and adverse comments on your physical appearance.  From my childhood, I used to be an avid sportsperson and pretty good at that.   Sports were passion and life for me.   I used to pursue it fervently until 10 years back when I had my first knee injury.  Subsequent injuries and 3 surgeries later… I put on 30 kgs of weight.   The consequences of being overweight led to lowered self-esteem and anxiety, and more serious disorders such as depression and eating disorders. The reasons for this aren’t hard to fathom. Modern culture is singular in the way that it worships youthful, slim, and toned bodies. With rare exceptions, only thin, proportional bodies are considered sexy.

I tried to lose weight for a long time and then after a point, I lost interest.  Those who struggle with weight know how difficult it is to lose pounds.  The one thing that remained constant during this period was the relentless taunt and jibes you get from people around.  This fear of being judged or rejected, made me shy away from people.

After recovering from my last surgery, I slowly mustered the courage to play again; it was tough, both physically and mentally to get back the confidence.  I want to share an episode that happened to me.  During one of the friendly soccer games at our residential complex, an acquaintance started body-shaming me in front of 200-odd residents who were there to witness the game.  Most of the men, women, and children laughed and enjoyed, and participated in the fun.

What amazed me is the thought that these people sitting there really found the bullying “funny”… That very moment, I could feel the confidence inside me shatter.  It really hurt…. hurt a lot, but then what could I do?   This unfortunate disparaging humour completely, made me weak at the knees… not sure if it was because of shame or guilt or embarrassment.  The lack of empathy and compassion for those dealing with a weight problem has become frightening. Yes, it is frightening that people think it is fine to harass, insult, and bully. 

In the last many years of suffering, I lost my self-confidence. This had a domino effect on me; leading to stage fright, fear of taking risks, questioning my own ability, impacted my oratory skills amongst others.  I always get this strange feeling that all eyes are judging me on my appearance.  Tormenting overweight people is one of the last acceptable forms of bigotry.  

How often one attempts to pick up the pieces and put them back together, you have such unapologetic and shameless people who cross your path and crush your entire confidence and self-esteem repeatedly.  The fact is that you won’t make your light shine any brighter by blowing out someone else’s light.

I took this liberty to share my experience with the hope that even if I can dissuade one person from passing such unscrupulous comments then I would have succeeded.  Many of us go through this trauma on a daily basis; some take it in their stride and laugh it off and some suffer and cry silently.  I hope people understand that some of these emotional scars are impossible to heal.