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The Last Acceptable Prejudice

“Many women with PCOS eat a healthy diet and exercise religiously, but still have a problem with weight. Obviously, this is not a simple issue of caloric intake and lack of adequate activity. There is something about the way that their bodies process the food and calories that they consume which makes it difficult for them to maintain a healthy weight. This is incredibly frustrating. Some researchers have theorized that this phenomenon is a result of insulin resistance, which is very common in women with PCOS.”

I had to emphasize this quote, because it embodies exactly how I feel on a day-to-day basis.

My doctor stated a year or two ago that I most likely have PCOS, which explained a lot of the symptoms I was having at the time, as well as my elevated fasting blood sugar, and, to a certain extent, my trouble reaching a healthy weight.

I have always felt that there was something wrong with the way my body reacted to calories. I have always felt like there was something fundamentally unfair about the fact that some women can cut out their daily soda and drop 30 pounds, where if I overeat a little bit, it translates into a huge gain.

I’m not trying to make excuses, but I am trying to make two crucial points:

First, if you’re overweight, it isn’t 100% your fault. There are lots of factors that could be working against you to make it hard to lose or maintain. Once you recognize that, you can start working to account for those factors and work with your body. Learn to love who you are, and realize that you are already who you want to be– you already have that capacity to be that lean, fit, toned person you’ve dreamed of your whole life. You are already that person. Keep working at it and realize that although progress may be slow, any progress is a success. Every single pound– every tenth of a pound, for that matter, is a huge success, especially if you’re a person whose body is working against them.

Second, when the average person (and I include myself here) sees an overweight person, they automatically think, “lazy, slob, eats too much, doesn’t care about him/herself, dirty, selfish…” the list goes on and on.  A lot of people have called obesity the “last acceptable prejudice.”

I don’t have a lot of arguments with that phrase. Harriet Brown discusses the stigma in a 2010 New York Times Articlehere.

Is it a problem? Absolutely. I honestly believe that I have been turned down for a job on more than one occasion because of my weight. I honestly believe this. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I was turned down for every job I didn’t get because I was overweight, but I do have one or two particular examples in my mind.

I know I’ve been turned down in love because of it, too, which is a shame, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. Because now I have a husband now who loves me, who supports and encourages me, who runs and walks with me and eats healthy meals with me and NEVER EVER EVER calls me fat. Never. Not once. He tells me how great I look now that I’ve lost some weight. He tells me I’m beautiful. He’s always told me I was beautiful, even when I was at my biggest. And I know he honestly believes it.

So I am going to say this, very clearly, right now:  OVERWEIGHT PEOPLE ARE NOT LAZY SIMPLY BY VIRTUE OF BEING OVERWEIGHT. If you want to try to argue to my face that I’m lazy, I’ll point you to the orienteering competitions I’ve been in this past year. I’ll point you to my running schedule, my boot camp, I’ll point you to my registration for a half marathon in October. I’ll show you examples of the many healthy meals I’ve cooked. I’ll point you to my meticulous grocery lists and menus. I’ll out-lift you, out last you, and I’ll try all day long to outrun you. And then I’ll probably slap you. Because everyday is a struggle. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. is an exhausting fight to try to avoid temptation, to stop eating mindlessly, to eat deliberately and healthily and in moderation. Some days it’s a struggle to do the activity I know I should, but every day is a struggle to eat right.

If you are overweight and you’ve got this attitude, stop defeating yourself. Get rid of the attitude that you and other overweight people a’re lazy, useless, stupid, or bound to be unsuccessful. Realize that your weight is–honestly– only a part of who you are. If you want to change it, it is entirely within your power. It may be harder–or a lot harder– for you to do it than someone else. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It doesn’t mean you’re alone. And it doesn’t mean that you’re worth less than someone else.

If you’re at a healthy weight and have never known the struggle that goes on every day in an overweight person’s mind, the self-hate, the loathing, the depression, anxiety, thoughts of suicide and self harm, the guilt, and the cravings that at time can seem overwhelming, GET OVER YOURSELF. You are not better than someone else simply by virtue of being a smaller size. You are not more ambitious, or more active, smarter, more savvy, or even– not necessarily– more healthy  than overweight people. Looking down your nose at them and treating them like something distasteful will only make the problem worse.

Is obesity the last “acceptable” prejudice? I don’t know. But in our society, it is clearly a prejudice, and it is clearly acceptable to most people– including many, many overweight people.

I’ll leave you with this thought. When you see someone whose hair has fallen out from Chemotherapy, who is weak and tired and struggling to fight every day to survive, you wouldn’t ask what they had done to make themselves get cancer. It isn’t done.

Why, then, when you see someone who is obese, who struggles every day to make good choices, to remain positive, to be active, in the face of a society that tells them they’re worth less than thin people, would you ever, ever look down at them? Why make it worse when you can be supportive?

One response »

  1. So many of my friends have PCOS and I really don’t understand why there isn’t more knowledge about it! I think posts like this really help raise awareness, so keep doing what you’re doing!

    Reply

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