How Not to Talk to a Fat Person

Picnic

I’m fat.

I think that’s pretty obvious the moment you meet me. (Although it’s not always so easy to tell online. I’m a whiz at Photoshop.) What’s not so obvious is that underneath these copious folds of Fatty Daddy flesh is someone grossly unhappy with and sensitive about his weight. Unfortunately, all this corpulence doesn’t buffer me from the insane ways people have of talking to me about my weight.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the easiest person with whom to broach the topic of weight. When you’re obese, you’re defensive. At least I am. And the heavier I get, the more defensive I become. But when The One jiggles my stomach and says he’s rubbing the Buddha belly for good luck, I mean, come on, people! If you prick us, do we not bleed?

So when you talk to someone who’s overweight, especially at this time of year, may I make a few delicate suggestions?

1. Don’t ask, “What are your New Year’s resolutions?” We fatties know that’s a pathetically veiled way of asking, “Are you going to try to lose some weight this year?”

2. Never ask us, “Are you going to eat all that?” It may simply be an innocent question indicating you’re covetous of our meal and hoping we’ll share. But all we hear is, “You have the appetite of an American pygmy shrew!” (That’s an animal that literally must eat three times its weight every day or it will die. Why can’t I be so fortunate?) Keep your fork on your own plate.

3. If you’re a parent or significant other, nix the guilt, for cripes’ sake. It always backfires. (I think every time Mama Leite has guilted me about my weight, I’ve gained five pounds in rebound fat. It’s not out of spite, anger, or revenge. My response to guilt is to feel shame. Shame is an unpleasant emotion. I’m an emotional eater. So guilt = shame = eating. Second-grade math, folks.)

4. Don’t say to your adipose husband, “Hey, Hank! I’ll give you five dollars for each pound you lose.” Please. Bribery begins at $50 a pound.

5. Don’t buy one of those fat little pigs that you place in the fridge that oinks every time you open the door. We’ll hurl that thing at your head wicked hard.

6. Under no circumstances should you strike a deal with We Round Ones. No matter how well-intentioned you are, don’t say something like,”If you lose weight, I’ll stop nagging you about being such a rotten daughter-in-law.” That, too, will backfire. (Although I did strike a very shrewd bargain with Mama Leite during the holidays. We agreed that if I lose weight, she won’t hound me about my memoir. See, she’s paranoid about what I’m going to say about her and our family. It’s not the reason I’m losing weight, but it certainly took a lot of pressure off.)

7. At a dinner party, don’t say, “Here, why don’t you take this chair?” pointing toward the overstuffed club chair you dragged into the dining room. Do like my friend Carlotta does and sweetly say, “David, I’d love for you to sit at the head of the table.” And, of course, the only chairs that happen to fit at the head and foot of her table are her sturdiest ones. Not only do I get to preside over the evening, but it saves us both face.

8. Never ask, “Do you know how many Weight Watchers points are in that?” Because while you’re asking that, I’m plotting your murder. My Blubbery Brethren and I know the exact number of points, calories, and grams of carbs and fat in every food known to man. We can calculate to within .0001 percent accuracy the number of calories in a chicken-and-waffles all-you-can-eat buffet. A Turing machine has nothing on us.

9. Please don’t ask us to stand in the front row for a family photograph. We like the background. It hides our girth, and we can prop our chins on the heads of our shorter relatives to camouflage our onerous wattles.

10. And if you don’t know the answer when your beloved asks,”Honey, does this make me look fat?” then, my friend, I feel sorry for you.

Of course, this begs the question: What can you say? Well, that’s different for each person. When my friend Kate Jackson saw on social media that I was eating—wait for it, wait for it—quinoa, she texted me, “So proud of you.” Short, simple, and very encouraging. She even sent along a recipe. That is support.

In the end, it’s not what you say but rather what you don’t say that can help us. We know we’re heavy. We curse every time we have to wrestle with the seat belt. We know the relief that only sweatpants and Lycra can bring. In 2015, some of us will want to lose weight, while some of us will be content with the way we are. Me, I’m gunning to be 100 pounds lighter by Christmas. I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again. I’d love your help, encouragement, and support. But if you come around saying, “It’s just a matter of portion control,” I swear I’ll sit on you.

[UPDATE: If you’re interested in joining The Fatty Daddy Challenge on Facebook–a support page for whatever way you want to lose weight–you can request an invitation here.–David]

David Leite's signature

Comments

  1. You are a handsome man David, and when you lose weight you will still be a handsome man, not more handsome, only a smaller good looking man.

  2. 2015 will be a great year David. You have two amazing projects ahead of you and somehow I believe you will be helping others in the midst of it.

    Quinoa, and other ingredients some people may make fun of, are delicious as long as well cooked and cannot imagine you not doing your magic.

    You know you can do it. As you yourself said, you’ve done it before. We are all here to support you and care very much for great results. Please keep on sharing via social media what you are cooking and eating as you will influence others as well.

    Força e bola pra frente. Beijos.

    1. Sofia, I can’t, CAN’T believe I like quinoa. I wouldn’t marry like like i would bacon, I could consider having the occasional bottle call it it.

      And, what exactly are you saying in Portuguese? It looks like, “Strength and balls forward.”

      1. Very well put, David. I’m no stick myself, and totally identify with what you wrote. The Portuguese probably refers to soccer, no?

      2. Well bacon IS BACON… though I no longer buy it. Simply make it at hom,e using your recipe.

        Força e bola pra frente = Strength and keep on kicking that ball towards the goal Do not forget Portugal is a soccer country. Makes sense?

    1. Thanks, KalynsKitchen. Yeah, it’s a bitch. I did go to the gym yesterday. But like I said on Facebook, just as a person who is terrified of flying goes to an airport and watches planes as the first part of his treatment, I went and just looked at the machines. Panic ensued!

      1. Dear David, am caught in the ultimate conundrum – a retired/disabled chef who has lost/gained/lost weight. On one hand, no one trusts a skinny cook (as the saying goes; The other side says morbid obesity and diabetes controls the conscience…and I’ve worked with those who’ve died from both).

        What to do, I ask, of someone who’s recipes I dearly like?

        M

        1. Michael, first, I’m deeply touched that you, a chef, like the recipes I feature. Thank you.

          Now, on to what to do. A friend of mine–a chef at the school of which I’m on the advisory board–was coming to our house for Christmas dinner. I was thrilled because it was a very chef-y dinner: prime rib with an olive-caper coating, potatoes gratin, some fancy greens, and sticky toffee pudding for dessert. He called me a few hours before and said he was sorry to inconvenience me, but he couldn’t make it; he’d had a heart attack. I was floored. It was he who got me into the gym.

          Are your numbers okay? Just because a person is overweight or disabled doesn’t necessarily mean his numbers are bad. Mine were so sky high, that if my investment portfolio matched the upward trajectory of my blood pressure, cholesterol, etc. I’d be a billionaire!

          A few things that are working for me (caveat: at least for now):

          1. Being accountable to people. Starting this Friday, a friend and I will be brutally honest with each other about how much we’ve gained or lost–without judgment. Having others you can trust and be open with I think help.

          2. I’m modifying my diet. Foie gras will never go (sorry, vegan!). I love it too much. I’m not so much taking away things that I adore as adding more things that I never really bothered eating. Hence the infamous quinoa. I made an excellent cod and shrimp stew last night. (I was going for cioppino but didn’t have all the ingredients.) I served it on top of quinoa. Truly, truly it wasn’t bad. The One and I liked it.

          Cod-Shrimp Stew Recipe

          3. Are you able to do any yoga–gentle yoga? That could help in the physical department.

          4. Restaurants are out for now. I’m enjoying playing in the kitchen and trying new ingredients. (Farro is next!) Okay, I did have a Sausage McMuffin with Egg yesterday, and I don’t feel guilty.

          5. I’m thinking of starting a support group on Facebook (maybe here). You might want to join.

          Does anyone else have ideas for Michael?

          1. Michael, if you haven’t tried meditation it may be helpful. I decided to try it to handle stress better (I used to wake up in the middle of the night in a panic about everything I needed to do the next day/week/month) and it worked for me on day 1. I downloaded the free app Headspace – a very calm Australian gentleman walks you through 10 minutes of meditation. That’s it. It has seriously changed my life. Good luck!

          2. Michael,
            Due to always having tendency to gain weight, thyroid problems and diabetes in my family, I decided a few years ago to slowly change my diet. Let me start by saying that I love all that is bad for you (bacon, pig’s feet, oxtail, or any other part of the animals that has a high content in fat). I wanted to make sure I was being followed by the medical field. My nurse practitioner decided to first get me into an elimination process diet. Meaning the first two weeks, all I ate was salad (with just lemon juice and olive oil), a few fruits, lots of water and that is about it (YUCK…the hardest two week of my life). Slowly we started incorporate different types of foods (much as we do with babies, really!). That is when I found out I had gluten and fungi intolerance.

            Since then, I decided to switch to as much a plant-based diet as possible, so that I could splurge on the things I absolutely love such as oxtail, fois gras, and so on. For fat I only use olive oil and vegan butter (make my own). I only eat “real cheese” on special occasions. The rest of the time I also use plant-based “cheese.” To make the switch easier, I fill my plate with grains first (brown rice, quinoa, brown rice pasta…) then add the main dish that is mostly vegetarian and on the top, to trick my mind I use meat as a condiment. I eyes see the meat first, so i feel I am actually eating lots of meat, though truthfully I may only adding 5% to 10% of in in my diet.

            The most important thing is to find what works for you and to see it as a life-style and not a diet. Yoga is great of one’s body and mind. I am not a great fan of gyms, so I prefer yoga and lots of walking. The first year, without even realizing I lost a little over 30 lbs. Hoping this helps.

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