Friday, December 14, 2007

Is Fat Discrimination Real?

An interesting topic came up among friends the other day on a weight loss board. Someone mentioned that this year, they had lots of guys offering to help them shovel their driveway, whereas in years prior NO ONE ever stopped and offered to help. The difference? She is at a "normal" weight now and was fat back then. Do you think that the guys stopped to help because she looked good? I do.

I mentioned that when I got up past about 250 pounds, I felt I was treated differently. Strangers were not as friendly. People didn't strike up as many conversations with me. Men didn't hold the door for me as often. I felt I was not taken as seriously when I was 278 pounds.

I'd like to take a little informal poll. What do you think? Are you treated differently at different weights? Some folks said no. They said that people treat them the same at every weight, and they still get friendly smiles and doors held for them just as much as when they were lighter. It was offered that perhaps the difference is not in how strangers perceive US, but how we perceive OURSELVES. When we are fat, do we withdraw? Not smile as much? Maybe look at the floor instead of into people's eyes, or EXPECT to be treated differently and so we are? Or are we treated differently just because of our weight? What has been your experience? I'd love to hear your experience and thoughts in the comments section.

Personally, I felt that at a higher weight I still tried to make eye contact with people but strangers were more likely to look away. As a thin person, people smiled and said hi as I passed. As a fat person, often I look at their faces to say hello and they are looking the other way. Is it because our mothers taught us not to stare? Are they not looking because I am so fat that they might stare? Hmmm. I don't know. I do know this. I have been taking my toddler to Storytime at the library once a week for over a year now. All this time, most of the same parents and kids come each week. I have tried to be friendly. Even when it was utterly painful for me to sit down on the floor with my child, I smiled and said hi. But no one ever really seemed to want to chat. I saw other moms getting to know each other but for some reason I felt left out. For a year I have thought, I would like to make some friends at story time. Why do I feel ignored? I was definitely, by far, the fattest mom in the room every week. I missed the last 2 weeks. This week I showed up. I have lost 37 pounds from when I started going. And today, I sat down and not one, but TWO mothers started chatting me up, talking about our kids. And at the end of the storytime I had two new playmates for my child, with future plans to do things together. A coincidence? Why for a year... nothing... and now I am easily making friends? I didn't do anything differently. I am just not morbidly obese anymore.

All comments and insights welcome! What do you think? What's your experience?


Anonymous said...

have you ever missed before? i was just wondering if the fact that you were gone for two weeks and then back made some difference?

tksheikh said...

I feel like people do treat you different. One year ago, I was close to 200 pounds and when I dropped 40 lbs, men and women started treating me much more different. I have been with the same guy for 5 years because he has been with me through thick and thin, but I do notice a difference with how other people treat me.

However, I do feel like the difference also comes from myself. Before, I was bothered with hanging out with my skinny friends, and now I kind of just dont care. Maybe the fact that my "I really dont give a F anymore" attitude shines out, more people are willing to get to know me.

ps-Thanks for your Mac-N-Cheese Recipe. It was a hit at my house!

Heather said...

this is interesting because I have thought about this recently as I have lost weight. I was a psychology major so of course this intersts me and I would love to write a paper on this.

But yes, it is real. I was a skinny little thing most of my life and let me tell you, I got so much attention from guys. I loved it and had I know that I would become fat, I wold have enjoyed it more. Since becoming fat, I noticed that I got hit on a lot less, doors held open less, smiles less, guy friends of my boyfriend didnt talk to me as much or were less friendly, etc. Now, I am noticing that all these cute guys are looking at me and holding doors open, and I am getting that attention again. in one way its nice, but another its like, you didnt look at me when I was over 200 pounds!

I also think another variable needs to be added and that is self confidence. I think that attracts people and I know at 200 something pounds, I did not have much of it so I probably did not exude what I do now and people didnt pay attention to me. so its both really.

great post, I will have to write on this topic as well some time.

Twix said...

My experience is sort of divided.

I still get lots of males interested in me even though I weigh over 300lbs. And what I mean in interested, is that they actually flirt. It amazes me how many guys are actually still interested. I know I have heard other women say this isn't true, that guys aren't around when you're fat. So I am not sure why it is true in my case. However with that said. I don't have nearly as much male attention as I did when I was say under 200. And as far as guys I don't have many experiences with them that they just want to be pals. And the few that I have had that experience with are pretty much still my friends, I can count those guys on one hand.

As for women I have had one main reaction and it didn't matter what weight I was. They either were intimidated by me or just plain hated me for whatever reason they thought was valid. When I was under 200 I didn't have as many in that catergory and now that I am over 300 I have plenty. I have had a rough go to get to know most women, mainly because they stear away from me.

So that leaves us with basic social experiences door holding, being polite, etc. For the most part I would say that things are relatively the same. I find that for the most part if I continually be consistent on how I treat others they treat me as well in kind. Older people seem more understanding. And younger folks 30 and under seem to be more rude.I get more stares now and I wish they wouldn't stare. But heck they stare for many more reasons now too. My husband is a skinny stick, so they stare at our differences. I have 5 kids, 3 of them are triplets. So they stare at that fact too. And now that my children are going into the preteen stage when we are out and about we look like a really big crowd. Lol, so they stare and count! When I am out by myself, which is rare,people pretty much leave me alone and I do likewise.

I'm not sure I answered your question or I answered in a way that makes sense and answered your question appropriately. Just throwing in my two cents, ;)

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Ms Ingrid said...

I have gone through over 100 lbs and my experience with men so far. At 318 lbs no guy ever flirted with me, which I completely understand. At about 250 lbs quite a few guys started flirting and tried to ask me out. And now - at 212 lbs (BMI 28 - not obese, just "prone to health risks"), guys just stare at me and nobody, I mean NOBODY even tries to talk to me anymore. I would love to see someone at least ask me out for a coffee or something. How do you explain that?

Of course women treat me pretty much the same, nice and friendly.

Liz said...

People MOST CERTAINLY DO treat you differently at different weights. When I was 120-140-160... (many moons ago) there was a neverending stream of doors held open & friendly conversation. Now, at 200+ that is a rare occurance. I cannot speak for everyone, but in my case, it is not due to a lack of trying. I still TRY to make eye contact & I am very friendly, however, I have a hard time getting others to respond to me in any way, shape or form. It is a very painful thing for me, especially since I love to interact with people. Being this heavy causes people to shun you & it is hurtful.... I just try to "keep on truckin'" & not let it bother me. I am, as always, on a diet, but it should not matter if I am 100, 200 or 300 pounds on the outside, I am good on the inside & people don't even look.

FatGirl said...

I'll tell you when I lose a bunch of weight and see how people treat me.

I do know that I get random offers of rides when I'm walking home or waiting for my fiance, but I think it's because I must look so pathetic that people feel bad for me. I don't know for sure.

If I feel or act different when I get thin I'll see how it goes, but I'm pretty sure it won't be a huge difference.. I'm pretty outgoing as it is.

Anonymous said...

I know I have been treated differently for having a weight problem in a whole heap of things, from medical treatment, to jobs to job interviews…

… the worse being trying to get help for having a mental health problem here in UK, I swear all the professionals where willing to look at was my FAT!

honib1 said...

I totally agree the more weight I lose the better I am treated and I hate to say that but it is what I have seen so far..

Teale said...

As someone who has never had a time in her life where she was thin, I can't really say. I've developed a certain personality that makes me stand out...I don't know that I have necessarily developed it because of my weight, but I digress. I'm outgoing, loud, funny, friendly, and confident around others. I don't feel like I'm usually ever snubbed because of my weight, nor do I feel like now that I'm almost 40 pounds less that I receive more positive attention. I'm the only one in control of my attitude, and if I'm confident, people are more likely to regard me positively than if I let my weight batter down my personality. I guess the bottom line for me is that I don't let others treat me differently because of my weight. If I feel like someone is snubbing me, I'll speak up about it, ask them if there's a problem... sometimes I think people are too quick to assume "oh, they didn't smile at me b/c I'm fat". I don't know, I'm kind of rambling here... lol

Anonymous said...

Let's say I'm waiting for the bus at the bus stop, and a thin girl is always waiting for the bus either a few feet ahead of me or behind me in relation to the street. The bus driver will ALWAYS stop in front of the thin girl, and then I have to walk over.

Also, when I was around 190, I got attention from guys, maybe not a ton, but some. I even had a bf (thin sized guy, and it lasted about a year). But as I started going in the 200's, I receive no attention. I'm actually at the point where if a guy holds a door for me I am taken aback a bit because it usually never happens.

I'm also pretty sure I got passed up for an internship because I ws fat. The girl who got it was in the same school and program as me, but I was graduating earlier than her and knew her a bit and had more experience. :(