In the United States, certain body types are classified as “acceptable” over others. Frankly put, anyone struggling with obesity is seen as sick, weak, and abnormal compared to those that are considered “fit.” As fat bodies have been present for centuries, it does seem that obesity has taken on more negative synonyms as time has progressed.

So what do you see when you witness someone who is obese? Do you see someone struggling with a disease? Do you perceive them as weak for failing to get their weight “under control”? Or do you see them like anyone else, just another ordinary human being who happens to have some extra love handles?

Personally, I’ve held mixed emotions toward those battling obesity. One, I know that food addiction is real, and something that countless people struggle with in this country. It’s not easy for anyone, obese or not, to change their diet, particularly when their bodies have become adjusted to consuming unhealthy food.

I do pity obese people, not necessarily because of their size, but because I know that shedding all of that weight is not an easy feat. As obesity has been linked to all sorts of chronic diseases, it seems like the battle is not longer a choice, but rather a requirement for living. I also believe that running, tying shoes, and being mobile are wonderful parts of the human experience. Thus, too much weight can inhibit those activities and present numerous challenges.

On the other hand, obese people are free to accept their weight and do nothing to change it. I’m definitely an advocate for self-love regardless of size or circumstance, but there is something to say about those who choose to accept their body type unconditionally.

Should we deem them crazy for choosing a life with physical challenges? Should we applaud them for going against the social body norm? Or maybe it’s not our place to comment at all.

The majority of people in the United States are struggling with some sort of medical affliction or unhealthy habit. Just because obese people wear their problems on their sleeve doesn’t mean that they’re exclusively the only ones with health problems.

How do you perceive obese people? Or if you are someone struggling with this amount of weight, how do you feel people look at you? Should we work to change social perceptions of obesity from sickness and weakness? Or are people simply calling what they see? Weigh in.

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33 Comments

  1. I also agree that food addiction is real! In my opinion, obesity in the US seems normal due to the overconsumption of processed food. There is so much misinformation about food that many believe they can’t afford to eat healthy or feel cooking at home is time consuming.
    Like you said, changing your diet is hard; especially when companies spend millions of dollars trying to convince you that they know what’s best.
    Great post!

  2. There also needs to be an understanding that certain diseases cause weight-gain and lead to obesity. Take PCOS for example; it causes extreme weight gain in the mid-section and due to an insulin resistance, it’s impossible to lose that weight. Are those people considered lazy? No. So you have to look at it as a case-by-case scenario and stop categorizing people. Just my thoughts on the situation.

    • @Addy-A: It’s not impossible for PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) patients to lose weight, but it is very difficult. I speak as a woman who has PCOS and struggles with obesity. I have lost weight and kept it off, and gained it back. I am now losing again. But it requires a very strict diet to keept the weight off if you have PCOS-related obesity.

      • @anon: I also struggle with PCOS, being on the proper meds help. I think I am the only person where birth control pills makes them lose weight. Other hormone imbalances and certain medications can also cause weight gain. We never know what a person’s struggles are, but I do kinda feel sorry for those that are severily overweight because of the health implications.

  3. As someone who went from a size 24 to a 10/12, I look at obese people, just as people.
    I don’t know their story. Sometimes it’s genetic, sometimes it’s depression driven, some obese people have weight issues due to anti-depressants, some just don’t care, and some just like to eat and don’t has a problem with it.
    That’s it.

  4. Obesity is definitely a problem. But obese people shouldn’t bee seen as weaker, less capable, or sicker than the average person in America. The average person in America eats a horrible diet whether they are obese or not. Food addiction is real, but not all food addicts are obese. Many obese people consider their weight just another life challenge or struggle, like anything else. We all have them. We (obese people) should accept the struggle and continue the fight, but don’t worry too much about the outcome, because life is too short for that.

  5. There is a veritable army of apologists and enablers for fat/obese people (particularly if it’s fat/obese black women) within the black community. These first three comments here put that on display without a doubt.

    It’s a disease, it’s the fault of processed food, it’s due to a medical condition (less than 2% of all overweight people owe their extra weight to a medical condition beyond the individual’s control, according to the AMA), it’s because they’re poor, it’s because they can’t exercise due to concerns about messing up their hair, it’s a cultural thing, our frames are bigger and our bones are heavier, blah, blah, blah.

    Uh-huh.

    Put down the pan pizza, put down the Popeye’s, put down the sodas, put down the french fries and the quarter-pounders, and get up off your azz!

    You ain’t “thick”. You ain’t “BBW”. You’re not “curvy”. You’re not “jes big”. You are fat. Period. And many of the people that are fat are not merely fat, but obese. And many of the people that are obese are not merely obese, but morbidly obese. Their weight is putting them in danger of some sort of early death.

    I feel sorry for these people, but I simultaneously see them as weak-willed, lazy and lacking discipline. I feel sorry for them on both counts; that they are so weak, and that that weakness has manifested itself as being grossly overweight.

    Call me an unfeeling, insensitive jerk. Go ahead. It’s okay, I know what I’m saying will provoke fury among the obese and their apologists and enablers. And that’s because they know it’s the truth…

    • @Dean: @Dean

      You don’t state your qualifications to make such a judgement as to people being weak willed lazy and lacking discipline. I pity you for being such an @$$h0le. You can’t judge anyone without knowing anything about them. The same could be said for anyone with any sort of addiction, in fact superficial judgements like yours can be (and often are) used to justify negative stereotypes.

    • @Dean: Thank you! Co-sign 100% News flash, everyone: Food tastes just as great to thin people as it does to the obese! The only difference is that we eat to live rather than live to eat! Stuffing your face and not moving more than a hundred steps a day is a recipe for obesity, that’s just common sense! I don’t look down on the fat, but there is a world of difference between fat and obese/morbidly obese. I see obese people as weak, lazy, lacking self-love/respect and discipline and just plain pathetic. Yes, some diseases do cause weight gain, but nothing causes obesity other than poor diet and little/no exercise. In fact, it is obesity that causes illness and not vice versa. I’m tired of all these damn enablers. Crack and meth addiction are real, too! Are we gonna support junkies next? Seriously, I’m tried of grown adults making excuse for other grown adults not taking care of themselves.

      • @Truth:

        “In fact, it is obesity that causes illness and not vice versa.”

        Where is the scientific evidence for this? All of the articles I’ve read only state a correlation, which cannot be inferred as fact.

    • @Dean:

      You fail to realize that although obesity is often seen as a consequence of individual behavior there are a lot of other factors that contribute to people being obese such as their environment and the policies that are set up which inevitably lead to obesity. The problem that people such as yourself fail to realize is that obesity isn’t an individual health behavior problem but is one based on the socioecological factors in life. In all honesty people like you make me sick, with your self righteous talk.

      I say these things not as an enabler of the epidemic but a student of public health studying the factors that influence our daily behaviors having an impact on our overall health and hoping to find a solution to the obesity epidemic.

  6. Is this article really implying to you should judge others before you know ANYthing about them?

    • @TeeHee: The post inquired as to how we see people that are fat, obese, overweight, etc. I responded in kind. That’s how I view those people.

      I know some tiny percentage owe their obesity to some medical condition, but I also know the overwhelming majority of overweight/obese/morbidly obese peope simply eat far too much and far too little exercise.

      There’s nothing more for me to add. And I’m out.

      • @Dean:

        I wasn’t replying to you in particular, just taken aback at the idea that the answer is anything other than “a person” as, no matter how you try, you cannot judge someones health based on their appearance. Even if we COULD do that, we have NO right to police other people’s bodies. They have the right to do what they want with their health, just like everyone else. We don’t go and condemn other people for “putting their health at risk” such as stressed out businesswomen or men or people (like myself) who get a rush from skydiving or bungee jumping. People do have the choice to not have their health as a priority, and many (obese and otherwise) do that.

  7. I don’t get it. Why do people feel compelled to judge a person’s health based on appearance. Sheesh. I generally do not eat processed foods (a couple times a month). My cholesterol and triglycerides are super low. My insulin and blood pressure are normal. Unfortunately I am hypothyroid ans wear a size 18. Am I a horrible person? Do I need random people accusing me of not having healthy habits?

    Being obese can be a health issue, or a lifestyle choice, or something else, but it really doesn’t matter how or why. It is a part of normal just like being short or tall, light or dark, or straight hair or curly hair.

    Individuals have a responsibility for their own health, not the court of public opinion.

  8. I agree with @Dean most people get comfortable by making excuses. I honestly had not been around someone morbidly obese until recently & realized how much it hinders your life. This person was not use to being active at all. We were simple going to a meeting and it happen to be at a cafe that was upstairs and I noticed them struggling up and down. Then my house has stairs she wasn’t use to. Everything also from sitting in a booth versus a table at a restaurant to the fact I was riding her around in my 2006 Honda Accord & didn’t realize until the seat belt safety alarm kept ringing she could not fasten her seat belt in my car. It hurt me to know how much one would have to alter their life because of obesity. This is real and we must do something about it and get active and lose this weight.

  9. Fat is fat! it all can be fixed. If you dont like something about yourself change it! it’s just that simple. No one wants a fattie unless there into that fetish.

    Also it’s not expensive to eat healthy. clearly if your gaining weight you’re spending more money on food and gas instead of walking and getting out the drive through every once in a while.

  10. obesity is not just fat. there is nothing wrong with being fat, but being too fat is wrong. the health repercussions are too numerous to even justify an acceptance of being too fat. Maybe the problem with obese people is that it has become their status quo; the author as a young able woman know the beauty of being able to see his/her feet , but an obese person hasnt seen those feet in so long that it no longer registers anymore. If we tackled the problem of obesity in a medical context as opposed to a social context, it could be the 1st step in trynna find a solution to it.

  11. @ Dean and others,
    Here’s the skinny: There are two driving forces behind obesity–too much eating and not enough exercise. Simple right? But what we don’t know is why some people tend to be overweight while others aren’t. It’s like trying to purport why some people choose to smoke or drink while others don’t. Food is a coping mechanism for many; but unlike other coping tools such as smoking, promiscuity, drugs, shopping, or alcohol, no one can tell you have these vices just by looking at you. If overeating indicates “weakness,” then so does everything else I mentioned. It’s easy to say, “just stop eating,” but you’d have to use this same “reasoning” across the board, and if it were that easy, we wouldn’t be discussing this topic. I don’t condone sweeping issues under the rug, but I think it’s easy to criticize someone for having a vice that you don’t have. Food addition is psychological and exercise and diet are only temporary fixes for the obese. No one truly embraces a fat, unhealthy body.

  12. The author wrote:

    “In the United States, certain body types are classified as “acceptable” over others.”

    I’m not saying this to be flip, but that photo of the actress who played in “Precious” is not only a body type that is NOT acceptable to me, it is a body type that I find repulsive to look at. My nightmare scenario would be waking up after a night of heavy drinking and finding her next to me. I’m sure most men (with the exception of the ones that have a fat fetish kink) would feel the same way.

    I know, I know, she’s probably a great person and all, and I am shallow and cruel and so forth, but, wow, that would be something I would never tell anyone the rest of my life. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is, and almost every man on this earth feels exactly the same way.

    • @Hank: “My nightmare scenario would be waking up after a night of heavy drinking and finding her next to me.”
      – I legitimately just about died of laughter for 5 minutes after reading your post. So hilarious and true- my boyfriend cosigned your statement.

  13. As someone who spent his whole childhood fat but got in shape in law school, what I see in someone who is not merely fat but truly obese is often someone who is in denial and probably has some serious mental health issues. Far too many people outright abuse themselves with food as comfort and/or don’t respect themselves enough to get in shape. It’s sad and until we as a society can have honest and blunt conversations with the afflicted about the dangers of obesity the way we do with smoking and work with one another to get fit together, we are in serious trouble.

  14. Now, that I have put on some excess wight, I now believe, at least for me that weight control is a difficult issue to deal with…I don’t necessarily believe that it is a disease, but it is a difficult situation to deal with.

    With the assistance of my wife, I am now on the path to shedding the excess pounds…

  15. I’ve struggled with my weight off and on for much of my life, but have managed well enough that I’ve been a size 8 for several years. In my case, I gained a bunch of weight after a knee injury so I couldn’t exercise, and depression from being in pain all the time (and being off work, and unable to walk around much) left me sitting on my butt on the couch and eating too much. Once I healed I was able to get back into shape, but it makes me wonder what kind of vicious cycle a lot of people get into and can’t seem to get out of: they gain weight, get depressed about how they look, so they eat to comfort themselves, which makes the self-loathing return, lather-rinse-repeat.

    My sister is on some heavy medication that has made her gain a LOT of weight, but she uses that as an excuse to gorge herself on the worst kind of food imaginable. I’m a vegetarian, and the last time I had dinner at her place, we both had salad, which she then followed up with 4 pork chops, a pile of mashed potatoes slathered in gravy, bread with butter and cheese, and then a soup-bowl full of apple cobbler with 3 scoops of ice cream. When I said something about her diet not being healthy, she just yelled at me to stay out of her business and that she’s happy with how she looks, and food makes her feel better. How can you try to encourage someone to live a more healthy lifestyle when that’s the attitude they come back with?

    • @Willow:

      Yeah, it’s hard. At least you’re having a “conversation” with her. Lol. I laugh, but it’s true, at least there’s some decent discussion going on rather than 100% pure denial. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen obese/morbidly obese people and their friends/family/coworkers talk as if everything is fine and ignore the elephant in the room. Ultimately you/we can never change someone. They have to want to change. I’ve seen that too many times with too many people who won’t listen. But that’s what we’ve got. The right thing to do, all we can do, is be that voice of reason offering a way out. Hopefully one day she wants to hear what you have to say. Best thing going forward, imho, is to just set a good example yourself and continuously invite her to eat better and come along with you for some basic exercise.

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  17. I want to say this… Obesity is the result of eating to much, lack of exercise, lack of will power, lack of discipline and lack of energy. Just LACKING! I am obese, i have lost 10lbs, gained 20, lost 40, gained back 40, lost 50, gained 60. I cry nearly everyday because i have struggled my whole life, I feel like a failure because i am a failure in this area of my life. I wish everyday that Today would be the day I am no longer the person I am. Some of us obese people feel as though it would be easier to give up and just eat ourselves into the grave, but there is no instant cure. Like all major goals, there needs to be committment, hardwork, perserverance and discipline. Without these, there is no hope for a better life:)

  18. I want to say this… Obesity is the result of eating to much, lack of exercise, lack of will power, lack of discipline and lack of energy. Just LACKING! I am obese, i have lost 10lbs, gained 20, lost 40, gained back 40, lost 50, gained 60. I cry nearly everyday because i have struggled my whole life, I feel like a failure because i am a failure in this area of my life. I wish everyday that Today would be the day I am no longer the person I am. Some of us obese people feel as though it would be easier to give up and just eat ourselves into the grave, but there is no instant cure. Like all major goals, there needs to be committment, hardwork, perserverance and discipline. Without these, there is no hope for a better life:)

  19. I think the reasons for being overweight are so numerous that is isn’t possible to make any generalizations about people and their behaviors based on what someone can see. People can have preferences as to what they deem as attractive but to make judgments on someone’s eating behaviors, their lack of motivation, their will power or any other character of a person based on their size…obese or otherwise is crazy. I have never looked at a thin person and thought…”They must have wonderful will power and self control, they must be a happy and well adjusted individual”. to make these character assumptions would be just as faulty as making any comparable assumptions about obese, fat, overweight, fluffy, curvy or otherwise big individuals. Do people who steal, lie, give to charity, abuse animals, or e.c.t. have a specific look attached to them to indicate their characters…perhaps black haired people steal, or maybe women who wear red lipstick are animal abusers…I don’t know sounds absurd doesn’t it? So is critiquing the characters and values of fat people based on their size.

  20. without a second a doubt, weakness , hearing all about “thyroid” issues etc, how come these things don’t seem to exist with people who are starving? I’ve seen more fat women skinny shame thing women than thin women skinny shaming fat women! Most fat people are NOT happy with themselves and their general passive aggressive or sometimes downright aggressive dispositions towards thin women proves it. Face it you fat people … you only have yourself to blame

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