#FatLivesMatter

I saw something else on Facebook that made me pause and write stuff. It was this:

Before I begin, I should let you guys know how much I hate, hate, HATE writing about softball topics, even ones that directly benefit me, such as cops not getting away with shooting people who look like me in the face. It’s boring, doesn’t require much creativity or nuanced research, and is often deep rooted in paternalism and/or self-indulgence. I could stand on metaphorical soapboxes and write about how terrible ______ is when most normal, healthy humans already know how terrible it is and be a wildly successful blogger/internet personality/gasbag. And I’d never run out of material because clearly and obviously terrible things occur every single day! That’s way too easy. It’s like patting yourself on the back for beating the computer on Rookie: it’s a great start, but you won’t truly improve until you start playing on All-Pro and All-Madden.

With that said, society needs to start treating fat people better. That doesn’t mean that obesity should be encouraged, since it drastically lessens quality of life and life in general. It just means that people shouldn’t be solely defined by their obesity and subsequently judged/shamed/discouraged for their disability.

I think that people misunderstand the nuances of dietary disorders (whether they involve over or under eating) the same way they misunderstand people who become addicted to drugs. It’s really easy for people who are fortunate enough to not have gone through those issues to look down on them, saying stuff like, “if he really wanted to lose weight, he’d just do it like (insert totally different human with different circumstances). He’s just lazy.”

Many people see these addictions as the actual root of the problem instead of merely a symptom of a larger, deeply psychological issue. And guess what? The “tough love,” “real,” and “in your face” approach that I suspect the young lady is trying to use in that video (and many, many do this) is the absolute opposite approach someone should take if they’re actually trying to help and not compensating for their own unique insecurities by making someone else feel small.

The more society condemns overweight people, the more entrenched they become in their own “identity”. There’s a reason many overweight people attract each other the same way a group of drug addicts on Skid Row would hang out together: they feel like they’re the only ones who truly understand each other. It’s a unique brand of tribalism. It’s their way of saying, “No matter what the world thinks of me, these people are down for me and the only thing that matters.” If the world thinks that they should be marginalized because they’re overweight, they might as well double down, embrace their disability and indulge in it further as a middle finger to society at large. And that’s bad because, you know, obesity is bad, since it kills people before their time and prevents them from living fully during their time here.

Would you like to know the best way to approach people who are overweight if you’d like to actually help them? Treat them like people! Not some sort of sideshow or freak of nature. Actual, real life humans. Because that’s what they are. Humans. Talk to them nicely and respectfully, you know, the same way you would talk to any other human. You let them know that you love them for themselves and that obesity is what they have, not what they are.

After you gain their trust and they’re confident enough in the belief that you actually see them as a human, try to figure out what the real problem is. Chances are, those real problems have absolutely nothing to do with food. Once you figure out what the real issue is, whether it’s depression, insecurity, fear of failure or another deep-seeded issue that we compensate for in various ways, figure out the best way to solve it. It might require a shrink. But, it could also be as simple as someone finally caring for him enough to talk through the issue. Once they solve that issue, they’ll realize that they no longer need to overeat to compensate for said issue and they’ll slowly change their lifestyle accordingly. Simple stuff. Easy? No. But simple.

In an earlier post, I made a passing reference about having no idea how I finally quit smoking cold turkey after smoking for all of my 20s (I’m 29). That was a lie. I know exactly how it happened. I stopped caring about failing. Smoking for so long had nothing to do with the physical effects. It was just much easier to continue smoking than it was to potentially fail at quitting again. That stifling fear of failure manifested itself in many ways, and smoking was just one of them. I failed at my first attempt at college and didn’t try again until 8 years later because the thought of failing at it again terrified me. I didn’t stick to writing my original basketball blog, and it took me a solid three years to write anything for anyone because I was scared of failing at it again. I’ve scared myself out of God knows how many positive relationships and opportunities due to not wanting to repeat an interaction that didn’t go how I envisioned.

My friends meant well when they tried to get me to stop smoking, but they often went about it the wrong way, and it made me smoke even more. My wife was the first person who looked at all my shortcomings and basically said, “I love you regardless. It’s ok if you try and fail. I’ll be there either way.” It seems like a pretty simple statement that most people would say to someone they love, but it was the first time I’d ever heard it, and without it, I wouldn’t be writing this post right now. I’d be outside, sucking down my third straight cigarette, saying that I’d just quit tomorrow. Again.

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