Before I gained 150 pounds in my 20’s, I honestly thought that people who were morbidly obese were probably lazy and spent a lot of their time sitting or laying on the couch. I feel bad that I assumed that and have learned a lot about making assumptions about people as I have gotten older.
The truth is, we as a society often make assumptions about people based solely on their appearance. When I was morbidly obese I feel like a lot of people assumed I was lazy. In fact, I know they did. There is a stigma associated with weight that is not associated with other types of health problems. In all fairness, that stigma could be because being overweight is usually due to overeating and not as a result of a disease. (Although there are definitely some health problems and medications that cause weight gain.) Add to it the fact that being overweight is a very public, very visible problem that no amount of makeup or “big hair” can hide, and you have an equation for negative assumptions and sometimes rude comments.
My two girls were very young when I was 300 pounds, and I belonged to a mom’s group at our church. Over and over again I was passed by for heading up committees, taking on responsibilities, and of course I was never asked to be the greeter at the door. I often felt bad when I could see my “friend’s” eyes search the room for someone to ask to take on a task and their eyes barely acknowledged that I was there.
Perhaps part of their reluctance to ask me to take part was due to the assumption that obese people were lazy and part could be due to my own poor self image. After all, weighing about 300 pounds did nothing good to my self-esteem.
Every time I tried to volunteer for a task, but was pushed out of the way, I felt demoralized. And each time people made side comments about my energy level, I shrank further inside myself. I remember one time when we were organizing a field day for the children, that a friend said, “Diane, you probably don’t want to handle any of the games, so why don’t you just bake 3 dozen cookies?” I looked at her, smiled and said, “Sure, that sounds great.” But inside I was thinking, “I can handle ”drop the clothespin in a bucket.” I know I can.” But instead I baked 3 dozen cookies, ate 18 of them, and had to bake 3 dozen more in order to have enough to bring to the children’s field day.
I don’t think I was lazy. I worked hard at home taking care of my house and my children. I was successful at selling Pampered Chef, and I worked at keeping my few friendships healthy.
I even knew what types of clothing were in style at the time, even though I certainly could not wear any of them. No one could see what I got done during the day. Instead many of them likely assumed I sat down all day long eating chips and ice cream. In fairness to them, they often saw my 300 pound self trying to catch her breath after climbing up the gymnasium stairs or walking to the far reaches of a parking lot.
I guess I can’t completely blame them for their likely assumptions. I wasn’t lazy, I just wasn’t energetic. I was often tired, but I did work hard.
Once I finally was successful at losing weight I was astonished at the difference in how people reacted to me. Sometimes I just could not believe the difference. I was previously regulated to the “backroom” jobs, all of a sudden I was being asked to lead committees, be on the advisory council, introduce the speaker, and make announcements.
What changed? Only my appearance. I was the same person I had always been, just smaller. Undoubtedly, my self confidence level improved, but I would have probably done most of those things even as a heavy person, it was just that no one asked.
I learned something through all this. I learned never to judge people based on their outward appearance. It’s something I just don’t do anymore because I know how it feels to be on the judged side.
Do you think that there is a perception that overweight people are lazy? Diane