While in recent years the body-positive movement has grown stronger, the truth still remains: It isn’t and never has been, easy being a bigger person. This includes physical, emotional, and general daily struggles that come not from the weight of your body, but that of people’s judgments. At restaurants, at the doctor’s office, online – everywhere. This overweight challenge is not one that many people talk about. Angel Madison decided to write a blog post to talk more about the difficulties of being an overweight person in a world that praises being small. (1)
The Overweight Challenges That No One Talks About
Angel Madison crossed the 300-pound mark in the middle of last year. This is not something that she ever expected for herself, but then again, when has life ever gone how anyone expects it to? While she has done a lot of personal work to accept herself for who she is and be happy, she admits that there are still plenty of struggles. She decided to share them with the world, to hopefully make people a bit more conscious of their words, actions, and inherent biases.
“It’s not a size I wanted to ever really be, but after years of yo-yo diets, extreme exercise, and being prescribed weight-loss drugs instead of being counseled on my actual injuries, I’ve ended up here,” she wrote. “I’m happy in my life and have done a lot of mental work to accept how I look no matter what the scale says, but that doesn’t mean a day in my life is all sunshine and roses—even when I post a picture of myself smiling and wearing a bikini. Here’s what I’ve learned at this size.”
1. Putting Up With Comments On Social Media
The number 1 overweight challenge? Social media. Naturally, she gets a lot of “input” whenever she posts anything on social media. While, of course, there is the unsolicited diet advice and people messaging her because they are “concerned”. One of the most common and difficult, however, are those who comment saying how “brave” she is for whatever it is that she posted.
“Every happy post I put up on social media in a cute outfit, or (gasp!) a bathing suit inevitably gets comments about being “brave” about showing so much skin.”
Many naively think that this kind of comment is supportive or body-positive. In reality, however, it is not. The underlying statement is that she is brave because they, themselves, wouldn’t feel comfortable posting photos at her size. Likely, it’s because they don’t feel comfortable enough in their own bodies. This comment is weight-bias. No one comments on smaller women’s posts telling them they’re brave for showing skin. It’s only considered brave if you’re big. Why? Because society doesn’t like “big”.
2. Most Doctors Aren’t Actually Supportive
Fat bias is highly apparent in the medical field. Angel talks about how her concerns are often ignored, saying if she lost weight the problem wouldn’t exist. She says few doctors actually take the time to talk to overweight people. They take one look, pass a judgment based on their size, and then leave.
“It’s also frustrating to go to a doctor with a neck injury from swinging a heavy kettlebell to be told “if you lost some weight you might feel better,” or having them presume you are diabetic on sight (…I’m not). A perfect example? I saw more than a dozen doctors and specialists over six years to be misdiagnosed for a grapefruit-sized teratoma. The doctor who finally figured it out was—surprise, surprise—the one who took the time to actually talk to me instead of just telling me to change my diet.”
Weight bias in healthcare negatively affects the patient in many ways. They are less likely to follow the doctor’s instructions when they are treated poorly because of their appearance. In many cases, people will avoid seeking medical care for fear of judgment and disparaging comments. What’s worse, issues can easily be missed simply because a doctor immediately assumes that the person’s weight is the problem. (2)
3. Life Requires Extra Planning
Most of us go to dinner, the movies, or hop on a plane without so much as a second thought. For overweight and obese people, these situations can be very anxiety-inducing and uncomfortable. To top it off, there’s the added psychological stress of worrying if your size bothers the person next to you.
“Trains, buses, and airplanes aren’t comfortable. I force myself to sit with an arm rest painfully poking into my hip so I don’t encroach on the seat next to me,” said Angel. “I have to squeeze myself in like a sausage and cut off circulation to my legs in order to enjoy Hamilton, or deal with the stress of fitting into a booth at a restaurant. I combat this by over-planning, trying to score aisle seats, and calling hostesses ahead of arrival and requesting table-seating instead.”
4. The Unkindness and Judgments Of Others
When Angel goes out to eat, she is always aware of what her dining partners are ordering. If no one else is ordering something with a carb in it, for example, neither will she. She knows that people will judge her based on her size and what she orders. Small girls can treat themselves out in public when they want to. Big girls can’t without people judging them – even if they eat very healthy 90% of the time.
Sometimes people – friends, family, and complete strangers – can be really unkind. Whether intentional or not, they don’t realize that these kinds of words and actions can be really hurtful.
“Last summer, a woman at a farm told me I couldn’t go horseback riding with my family because I might break her horse’s back. This alone wouldn’t be so bad, but she said it loudly…in front of a group of people…..and my family. It was totally embarrassing and that is far from the only story I have like this.”
5. Clothes Shopping Is Hard
Most of the cheaper, fast-fashion stores that smaller women can shop in without issues, women like Angel can’t. Even the plus sizes often are more mid-sized than actually made to fit very large women. She spends a lot of time tailoring clothing so that it will both fit her size and her stature.
“When you see those Facebook ads for clothes that say they offer size 2XL, the measurements chart will show you what’s overwhelmingly considered a size 14 at most instead of a size 20 or 22. Companies are offering mid-sized clothing and labeling it plus-size.”
6. People Assume You’re Lazy Or Not Trying
Angel spent years fighting her body. She ran half marathons, triathlons, and tough mudders. She watched every calorie closely, worked out twice daily, and was hungry and injury-ridden. Despite all of her efforts, the doctor would still tell her she need to be smaller.
“while I showed my kid determination in finishing races, I also talked about food and weight so much that I worry it made her think being thin was the most important value in life,” Angel explained. “Now, when I look at my host of race medals and think of the stress and pain at that time, I’m glad I did them, but I am even more glad I was tough enough mentally to get to a place where I can show my teenaged daughter what being truly happy looks like, even when I can’t get up off the ground unassisted after attempting some yoga.”
Being Overweight has Challenges: Be Kind To Everyone
Angel did not write this article to ask for pity from anyone. Rather, she wanted people to be more aware of the daily challenges that overweight and obese people go through in an effort to participate in society. Her words are an excellent reminder to us all to be more mindful of the things we do and say to larger people, both in real life and online.
If they wanted diet or health advice, they would ask. Of course, they are concerned for their health and the future of their children, just as any parent would be. It is not your place to remind them of that. If a bigger person posts a photo of themselves on Instagram or Facebook and you want to be supportive, try things like “You look great!” or “You look so happy here!” instead of telling them they are brave simply for existing the way they are. Think about how you would feel in that situation and act accordingly.