Why I’m angry at Maura Kelly
By Lisa Spodak (ResultsNotTypical@worldnow.com)
Provided by WorldNow
I had some trouble staying on track this week, but managed to maintain my weight in the end. I’m trying to keep from being disappointed and just move on and focus on the new week which starts today.
I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about this week and then I saw this: http://www.marieclaire.com/sex-love/dating-blog/overweight-couples-on-television
It’s called “Should “Fatties” Get a Room? (Even on TV)” and appeared on a Sex & Relationships blog on Marie Claire’s website.
The gist of the entry is that the writer, Maura Kelly, would be “grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other … because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room.”
Kelly continues to write that “I think obesity is something that most people have a ton of control over. It’s something they can change, if only they put their minds to it.” She then goes on to give advice along the lines of eat “more fresh food” and “stand up more.” She even plays cheerleader and asserts “YOU CAN DO IT!”
But of course, it’s not that simple. If it were, everybody who wanted to be thin would be.
I think the reason I’ve been unable to get this blog out of my head for days now is that it re-affirmed for me how in so many people’s minds it seems to come down to thin people are good and fat people are bad. And if they would just “put their minds to it,” all fat people could be thin people.
One of the most offensive parts of the blog was her glib advice on how to lose weight — with the implication that if we would just listen to her simple recommendations, the weight would come off and we’d be happy. This especially bothered me when I learned that she has a history of anorexia and, in my opinion, should have a bit more understanding about the difficulties many people have in dealing with food and related control issues.
I can’t imagine someone giving an anorexic advice along the lines of “just drink high-calorie protein shakes” and “eat three meals a day of at least 500 calories each” to help them gain weight and get healthy.
I’m obviously not happy with my weight. Many of you have been reading my articles in this space for more than two years and know that I’ve struggled with the ups and downs of weight loss. The battle with my weight existed before I started writing. In fact, my feeling that there is something wrong with me that I have to try to change, has gone back about 30 years.
But my weight problem doesn’t make me a bad person. It doesn’t make me lazy or unmotivated (in fact, I think those are two words people who know me would never use to describe me). And it doesn’t make it right for people who don’t know me, like Maura Kelly, to look at me and think they do.
It’s fine for Kelly to be turned off by fat people. Everybody has things that turn them on or off. But to write about it in such a thoughtless way in a public space doesn’t do anything except make people feel bad. And that doesn’t accomplish anything.
I promise you, fat people are aware that they are fat. Some are fine with it and some aren’t. Some are a little fat and some are very fat. In my case, being overweight is the thing that I am most aware of about myself. I think about my weight every minute of every day – as I try to find something in my closet that will look good on me, as I navigate spaces throughout my day trying not to brush up against people, as I ponder if I’ll fit in a subway seat or between chairs in a restaurant. It’s never out of my mind. And I’m always trying to change it.
I don’t need to be reminded that I’m fat. And being told I’m “aesthetically displeasing” (especially by someone with a dangerous “life-long obsession with being thin”) isn’t going to suddenly motivate me to make changes. That assumes there was no motivation before. In fact, I’ve spent plenty of time trying to figure out why motivation isn’t enough to conquer my issues with food.
It’s impossible to know what’s going on inside a person’s body and mind by simply looking at them. I know people who are fat because they’re lazy. I also know people who are thin even though they’re lazy. I also know both fat and thin people who exercise every week and make a combination of “good” and “bad” food choices. Some people are fat. Some people are thin. Some people are in between.
How have we gotten to a point where body size and shape are such overwhelming factors in determining a person’s worth? It doesn’t matter that I have a good job and pay my bills. Or that I walk in multiple marathons every year and raise money for charity. Or that I’m a good friend and daughter and sister. All that matters to someone like Maura Kelly, who might be subjected to seeing me walk across a room, is that I’m “aesthetically displeasing.”
I’d encourage people who don’t struggle with their weight to consider this: Think about something you don’t like about yourself (everybody’s got something). Something you feel like you can’t control, that you’re embarrassed about, that you know other people would judge you about. And imagine having to wear a bright pink sweatshirt with big letters proclaiming that shortcoming. All day. Every day. No matter what.
That’s what it feels like for me to be fat. And if all it took to not feel that way was making a few healthy choices and moving more, I’d be thin.
(Note: Maura Kelly has added an apology to her original post. And while she acknowledges that her comments were insensitive, the apology does not erase them or eliminate their effect and I still think it’s valid to react to them.)