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]

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