There is nothing more humiliating than being essentially told you are too fat to sit next to someone while on a plane 30,000 feet in the air. “You’re too big for your seat on this airplane,” a passenger said to me during a flight from Los Angeles to Chicago recently.
One is simultaneously filled with rage and anger to stick to up for himself, yet total embarrassment that someone had the nerve to say such a thing.
Suddenly you envision the entire plane studying and analyzing your physique and appearance while thoughts of immediately putting into effect that sky diving excursion you always wanted to do rush to your brain.
“Am I really that big?” I pondered. “Should I be scarfing down cheeseburgers with Quasimodo in the bell towers?” I thought to myself.
In today’s 21st century era of tolerance and acceptance, some in society missed the memo in regards to the stigma of being ‘fat’. It’s hard to argue that the attitudes about overweight people have never been more judgmental. Pillorying the obese is not only acceptable but, in some places, actively encouraged. In situations where one wouldn’t think of disparaging anyone’s gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or economic status, bafflingly body physique and weight are fair game.
Look no further than our current presidential campaign where former Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie was constantly ridiculed about his corpulence. People have been taught to show tolerance on many things for fear of offending, yet feel free to remark scornfully on a person’s weight. Furthermore, this insensitivity seems to target the male demographic more than anyone else.
“For hygiene and athletic activities, overweight men get stereotyped as lazy, sloppy, and undesirable,” says student Danielle Robinson.
Many crusades are in place to prevent bullying of people of different races, sexual orientations, and things like women’s bodies but men’s physiques are constantly ignored. Recently, toymaker Mattel made a new version of Barbie dolls in different shapes to appease women of a larger body build. Also, Sports Illustrated had one of their recent swimsuit cover models be a curvy woman for the same reason. This sensitivity is not shared with men of the same type of physique. “Society is harsher on overweight men than overweight women,” says student Kia Leonard.
The overweight are susceptible to undesirable stereotypes in various areas of living stemming from places of educational facilities, employment, social settings, and interpersonal relationships. In addition to ridicule, teasing, insults, or derogatory names, humiliation can come from other barriers such as, chairs or seats in public venues unfitting for larger people or stores which do not sell clothing in large sizes. Sadly, research has found that stigma can also result in kinds of discrimination, such as employment discrimination where an obese employee is denied a position or promotion due to his or her appearance, despite being appropriately qualified. Other research shows that overweight people are attributed various unflattering stereotypes including being sloppy, lacking in self-discipline, and poor role models. Furthermore, overweight people may be paid less for the same jobs, likely to have lower paying jobs, and are less likely for career advancement compared to those not considered overweight with equal merit.
Additionally, research shows that as a result of these stigmas, overweight individuals have higher rates of depression, anxiety, social isolation, and poorer psychological adjustment. Some obese adults may react to weight stigma by assuming and accepting negative attitudes against them, which may in turn increase their vulnerability to low self-regard. This embarrassment may contribute to adverse consequences of dietary behaviors by disrupting weight loss endeavors and triggering some adults to consume more food in response to stigmatizing encounters.
This is not to say people should not live healthy lifestyles. Some of the stereotypes may be justified. A lot of the reasons why people are overweight are personal choices. Many times I have chosen the pizza over the chicken breast, candy over vegetables and the soda over water. A lot of the blame falls on me. And honestly, to say it is easier for some than others might be a cop out and enabling this behavior. That being said, people who are overweight face different challenges from their svelte counterparts and definitely should not suffer discrimination or ridicule. However, no one ever said life was fair.
While no one will have ever confused my physique with that of the latest Hollywood heartthrob, I have been on both sides of this spectrum. I was an all-league wrestler and a championship winning quarterback. I have successfully participated in 5k runs, half-marathons, athletic competitions and endurance runs such as Spartan Races within the past year. Yet, to this passenger sitting next to me, I was just an overweight slob.
I decided to take a stand and do a social experiment.
I have put on sixty-five pounds in the last six months. I will attempt to change my diet and lifestyle by eating healthy and participating in a regular exercise regimen. My goal will hopefully culminate with a significant weight loss and body transformation and running Philadelphia’s Broad Street Run. I will be chronicling my journey and sharing my progress in hopes to educate and inspire those facing the same ridicule and challenges I have faced, to shed those nasty stereotypes and, in turn, go from heavy to healthy.
Waist: 50.5 in.
1 mile: 13:12
3 mile: 44:17