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. Oh man, I, too, am working on re-losing weight–and somehow this Northeast winter realllly took a huge gander on me. I also have a traditional family that can really comment harshly. (Asian! And if there is a natural skinny gene, it skipped on me!) I just wanted to add one more thing to the list of what you said: I always hear the argument (in addition to the “it’s just portion!! control”) of the “3 bite rule” Eat something rich and delicious, and you will only want 3 bites. Is this a joke because that would go against my fatty nature. I’ll eat 3 bites of a bad salad and several bites of cake, please!

    I read a lot about healthy and balanced diets and in my years of observation (based on what women’s and fitness mags recommend). Most people who follow them without much effort are people who don’t have huge appetites. Maybe they like food but in small quantities or aren’t that interested at all. The people I know who really love to EAT and maintain their figures mix up their bigger eating days with less delicious days of watching out. It’s just how it is. If I didn’t pull back and watch out, and instead just followed my natural inclination, I’d be a good 100 lbs heavier. I just tell myself that we all have our struggles. Personally, I don’t react to alcohol or cigarettes, just Nutella, and that only means that I have to consciously try a bit harder than some people in terms of weight.

    1. Jamie, you said a mouthful. (Pun intended.) Oh, that three-bite rule. The only way that would work for me is if I could jam my mouth as full as possible three times with über delicious food. And I agree with you about those folks who can eat moderately: I think they have less interest in food. I have a friend who would much rather buy a Hermes scarf that go to an exquisite dinner. Imagine that!

  2. So here I am, visiting your site for the very first time.

    You take me gently by the hand and you walk me casually past your playful, leafy liaisons, whetting my appetite and piquing my perspicacity. As your grip tightens–a gesture of comfort or persuasion, I’m not sure–you usher me through your soft, moist, fleshy offerings, luring me ever deeper into your realm.

    The surging tempo matched only by the beat of my heart, we dance past the sablée, the pastéis de nata, the flan. Tom Collins in hand, the brulée beckons, the fig tart tempts …I can almost feel the blood orange sorbet washing my palate like the first drops of dew …

    Then BAM!

    “Hey, fatboy, step away from the cookie jar …”

    Suddenly I picture my physician talking to my cardiologist, pausing, pointing at me and saying into his stethoscope:

    “You know he’s thinking about the cheese course now. How dair-y …”

    “I don’t know about Triglycerides, but he could certainly Try-salads instead …”

    Yeah, hilarious, completely makes me forget about the fact my fasting glucose readings suggest my blood is 97.4% Gatorade. God damnit.

    Anyway, from one fat fella to another, keep fighting the good fight. If I may be so bold as to offer two suggestions of advice:

    – Surround yourself with those who love and support you. Weight loss is tough, as we all know, but doing it alone is nigh impossible. Share your victories and your struggles as Team David deserve to share and want to help.

    – When you fall off the wagon, and you will fall off the wagon, that isn’t failure. Don’t give up and don’t punish yourself unduly. It’s just a bump on the road to a slimmer, healthier, happier you. Reset and go again, you’ll get there …

    And one final word, David, one last thing i must say to you.

    You bastard! I was so close to those portuguese custard tarts, I could taste ’em …

    Yeah, that’s the message I really want you to take from this. Grrrr …

    1. Bruce, so sorry for the delayed response. I was in the middle of the Atlantic of a ship, and it was nigh unto impossible to get a response out.

      All I can say is…wow! I was laughing all the way through. I think this might very well be my favorite comment of all time.

      Thank you for your concern and suggestions. I’ve done well; I’ve lost about 40 pounds. According to the scale, though, out little jaunty through the Azores, Madeira, Cádiz, Seville, and Madrid put back on a goodly number of pounds, but, frankly, I don’t believe it. I was walking four miles a day on average. I’ve gone back to my routine, and I think in a week or two, I should be back on track.

      Again, thanks for your encouragement, it means a lot.

  3. hi david, i’m a fatty too…also have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, asthma…and a whopping case of depression. so yeah, just go ahead and agree w me when i say, “i am a hot hot mess.”

    i read your post on corning beef, miiiiiight just try that, but for the mo, gotta stick w the store-bought chunk, which i happen to be cooking this very afternoon. (also, fyi, if you are ever near or IN Clarksville tn, i would LUV to make MY cb&c for you, i think it’s pretty damn good…)

    anyway, that led me to check out a few more posts, including this’n, and i can only say, thanks and i luv you lots. it’s easy for people to talk and wonder why i eat the way i do, they aren’t dealing w my head space. my sister is the worst. “i’m not like you, i don’t think about food all day.” i luv my sister, but i don’t much like her.

    her daughter, my 6 yr old niece, whom i call the “village herald,” and repeats EVERYTHING constantly, actually says to me as she wags her finger at me, “don’t eat all our food, aunt shelley!” knowing that she is just repeating what she heard her mother saying does NOT detract from the urge to punch a 6 yr old kid in the face, btw…so that’s what *i* get to deal with, ooh, yay me.

    wow, off on quite the tangent, there.

    anywho, your words above are very inspiring, and i will follow along more as you post… and also, if you weren’t already, 1) in a relationship and, 2) gay (damn you, david!!), i would soooo be on that like ants on ANYTHING edible!

    so, in short–i’m a mess, i’d luv to cook for you, my sister’s an asshole, her kid isn’t too far behind (luckily, she’s cute), and you rock…
    got all that?? cool. i need a nap.

    snk

    1. Shelley, who isn’t a hot mess these days? The good thing is you have a sense of humor about it, which will always go a long way in my book. Hang in there and take care of yourself the best you can. Now go nap.

  4. David:

    I have been on Leite’s Culinaria.

    Congratulations that you are on the right track to right eating. The thing is to keep healthy. Remember God loves us for who we are!

    Have a Joyful Day :~D

    Charlie

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