"Look at that fat lady, Mommy." I turned to look at whom 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 cattle waiting for its food. I wanted to sink into the floor in embarrassment, but couldn't. 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. I could joke about my weight with John and my friends, but they weren't allowed to say anything. I'd tell the fat people jolly jokes, laugh at other fat jokes and pretend my weight didn't bother me, but it did. I hated walking into a room feeling like I was waddling like a third trimester pregnant woman. I abhorred doctor visits, and completely avoided the dentist. Sitting in chairs could be embarrassing, and restaurant booths were just too small. But other people should have been quiet about all that.
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. Whereas 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 use that opportunity right then, and 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, 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.
Now, when I see overweight people I feel extreme empathy and the desire to help. I can't help someone without their motivation to get healthy, but sometimes I wish I could. As you travel through your own personal 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 healthier path.