INSIGHT: Why can’t I talk about weight?

‘At the dinner table I’m the outsider’: Rochelle Dean. Photo: Terrel W. Carey/Tribune Staff

‘At the dinner table I’m the outsider’: Rochelle Dean. Photo: Terrel W. Carey/Tribune Staff

By Rochelle Dean

I am a 5’9 129lb well proportioned woman in my 30s but how is a woman who is considered the ‘normal’ body weight has become an outsider in a society where obesity has become the norm?

It’s very difficult to bring up the discussion of weight when you see a loved one or a friend’s weight headed in the wrong direction.

If you are like me, naturally you will want to help; but it’s hard to know how to help because weight, for most people, is such a touchy subject, especially in a society where obesity is what it is believed every Bahamian male finds appealing.

Whenever the discussion of weight comes up somehow body image is what is discussed as opposed to being healthy. Telling someone they are too skinny is just as hurtful as telling someone they are too fat.

We are conditioned to not talk about obesity but revel in our obsession of what is socially acceptable.

Along with maintaining a healthy weight is the idea of self-worth; so automatically it’s a given that some obese people will want to flip the script and then somehow being thin makes one the subject of mockery.

Whenever, I try to discuss weight with my friends it becomes an unspoken taboo, especially around the lunch table or dinner table when they insist that, ‘meat is for man and bones are for dogs.’

This gives Bahamian women a sense of pride as they engulf themselves in fast food and unhealthy eating habits which support the notion that ‘fluffy girls’ are every man’s dream.

I can’t say I have ever seen Precious or Rebel Wilson on any Bahamian male’s wall as their poster child of lust. They are still infatuated and intrigued with Angelina Jolie.

When I want to discuss weight it somehow becomes that it’s me who has the problem, that I’m too skinny for those at the table. It becomes very uncomfortable when you can’t express world views of body image and type, in a country with a soaring amount of its people suffering from obesity. It’s really disheartening even discussing healthy alternatives or exercise regimens which are not welcome by friends or family.

At the dinner table I’m the outsider, treated as though there is something wrong with me for being healthy. The focus is always on me for being skinny and their argument is just because I’m skinny doesn’t mean that I am healthy. As they’re saying this they stuff themselves with hamburgers while I opt for the Brussel sprouts

The emotional roller coaster of the topic then becomes too much and we wonder why living healthy lives no longer has a significant place in our discussions?

Perhaps it’s because thin or well-proportioned women now rarely discuss weight and shy away from mentioning it; out of a sense of fear. They have become targets who are punished for maintaining a healthy body.

It’s like they are asking, ‘How dare the skinny chick even mention anything about weight loss, after all she could not possibly understand what an obese person endures? Nor does she understand that her beign skinny is the tool that will be used not to feel bad about myself, but to attack her. She doesn’t need to be concerned about my weight, she should be concerned that I will make her not wanted.’

I want to discuss weight because I want healthy friends, family, colleagues and country. I don’t want to discuss body image; I want to discuss being healthy. Discussing weight comes with encouragement and means I am offering as well as receiving healthy alternatives that help someone to live a balanced life.

I may not be a professional trainer or nutritionist but discussing weight is the beginning of the journey to these people who can build the self-esteem and transform the life of an obese person. The road to being healthy always starts with the initial conversation.

While many of us live our best obese lives in lala land, I live in the real world and in that world the reality is that I am not the outsider and obesity is a killer. It’s the #1 cause of diabetes, high cholesterol and other chronic diseases that lead to death.

As a skinny person when I discuss weight I am seen as mean or insensitive while the rest of the world who are chronically obese get a free pass or a death sentence. No! I will not cat walk across the street when someone calls me boney and stares in anticipation of me falling when wearing heels.

Skinny shaming is very real. I live a life feeling very hurt and offended when someone tells me, “Eat! Food! Now! Please!” When did thin, which is the normative mainstream ideal become less culturally acceptable? When did discussing weight symbolise an attack on the person as opposed to the goal of reducing the results of being overweight? Shaming me for being skinny doesn’t detract from the fact that you are fat.

Those who hurl insults at me must think I am immune. If this isn’t a sign of complete clog of the arteries and one’s sensibility, tell me what is?

The reality is I am the outsider because we don’t want to discuss weight openly and live healthy lifestyles.

It’s a shame but the conversation has to start sometime.


Punky100 6 years, 9 months ago

Hi! I don't know if you will actually see this comment or not, but I had to say something.

The number 1 issue here is that fat does not equal unhealthy, and thin does not equal healthy. There are obese people that live to be 100, and thin people who have heart attacks at 35. We have to get past trying to make people 'healthy'. Whether or not they are is a matter between them and their doctor.

You said in the article about how much it hurts to have people tell you to eat something. Now imagine that is what you are making your friends and family feel when you try to offer them healthy alternatives or try to get them to exercise. They know. They already hear it from the doctor, from the media, from strangers, maybe from other friends. Has the doctor ever brushed something aside, blaming your weight instead of looking into a deeper issue? Have you ever been mocked for being on an airplane or eating in public? These are things that fat people go through every day. We are constantly thinking about our weight and trying to disappear in a world that tells us we are less than human.

If you want to try to help your friends, why not cook for them? Bring them over to your house and make turkey burgers with grilled veggies. Why not take them on a hike or a walk on the beach? The second you frame it into 'you should do this instead of that', the defensive walls go up and everything from then on is a fight. Frame it in a different way.

You said yourself that you are not a nutritionist or professional trainer. If you want to help, why not become one? Then you will have the tools to help the people who want to be helped. You may even find ideas to sneak some healthy things into your friend's lives.

To summarize, we hear it enough. We hear it at all times, from everyone. If you are worried about your friends, tell them one time that if they would like some help, you are there for them, then LET IT GO. They are independent adults who are making their own choices. Just like you don't like to be told how to eat, neither do they.

If you do read this and would like to talk more, I would be very open to it. I do like discussing this with people and not in a way that creates a huge fight. Thanks.

Cas0072 6 years, 9 months ago

The fact that high profile spokespersons for the big girl movement (Star Jones, Monique, Gabourey Sidibe) all got gastric bypass for health and aesthetic reasons, is very telling. Fat is not healthy or attractive no matter how much we try to convince ourselves otherwise.

Economist 6 years, 9 months ago

A very good article. Look at the pictures of the people who die before the age of 65 they are mostly fat or obese.

Don't worry about Punky. Punky must be fat and has not read the recent report.


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