Let’s talk. We’re all friends here, right? Good.
I was talking with a couple of my best girlfriends over brunch several weeks ago. One of my friends was training for a firefighter’s tryout run/physical — this is someone who is average height, average build — you wouldn’t think she was fat, but she’s not a twig, she’s average. In fact, let’s refer to her as “AV” for “average.” AV said something like, “The training is hard because I’m so fat,” to which I replied, “Whatever!” and our other friend said, “Yes, you are.” Stunned and unsure what parallel universe I’d entered (is it ever OK to say that?!), I looked at our friend and picked up my jaw from the table. She went on to say, “All of us are fat! We need to be talking while jogging instead of downing pumpkin-cream-cheese rolls and kolaches.” AV nodded and smiled, “YES!” I thought about this exchange for a long time after that. It went against all my southern belle training — we are supposed to lie, be cordial and then stab you in your back later…
I know this because when heavy people (self included) gripe about their unhealthy weight, it makes other people uncomfortable. They come up with a bushel of compliments besides the standard “no you’re not,” and “be quiet,” — I’ve gotten, “you’re big boned” (which I’m not), “you wear it well,” “you’re completely proportional,” “it’s all in your boobs, lucky,” “but you are super healthy,” “it’s not about the number [on the scale, on the tag], it’s how you feel/look in your clothes.”
This kind of thinking allowed me to gradually gain over 100 pounds since high school (I’m about 80 lbs. over my high school weight now). As I creeped up one size every 2-3 years, it was far from alarming. But I am not healthy today. You cannot be 80 lbs. overweight and still be “healthy.” And I’ve come to the conclusion that the honesty our friend showed over breakfast is actually the best policy. My fat is not who I am, it’s something I’ve done. It is an unattractive explanation I show the world some of the poor decisions I’ve made over a lifetime. I don't want to hear these excuses anymore. If I am trying to talk to you about it, I don't want you to blow it off because you're uncomfortable. You're my friend. If I told you I had an addiction problem would you brush it off and then offer me a beer? No, of course not. But the problems I could encounter by eating crap can be just as bad or worse than alcohol or drug abuse. Food is a substance, and we are abusing it.
The next time one of your friends wants to talk to you about his or her weight, listen, don’t scramble for a rebuttal. When they say, “God, I’m so fat,” or “I am really unhappy with my unhealthy weight,” why not try, “I am worried about your health too. Are you ready to make some changes? What can I do to help? ‘Cause I want you in my life for a long, long time!” You can look up recipes together, start a workout plan to hold each other accountable, go to the park, go for a walk, cook for each other on alternate days or go to a natural market or café and try new things together. Any of these things are more productive and will enrich your lives more than hoovering an order of chips and queso.
And please, for the love of tacos, stop calling yourself fat for the purposes of fishing for a compliment, because you’re not going to get one from me. I am done making people feel better about their unhealthy lifestyles and I expect the same from my friends. This is getting real. This is what friends are for. Thank you, B.