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Fat Shaming

Paris Sans Obesity

If you have ever suffered from obesity you’ve probably had the experience of laying in bed at night thinking about all the things you would do and how different your life would be if you were not “fat”.

Yes, I said “fat”. Let’s be honest, it is the word we use in our head when we beat ourselves up emotionally for suffering from this disease. I can’t tell you how many times I laid in bed thinking “If I wasn’t fat, I would….”

These “ifs” are the stuff that dreams are made of.

The things we imagine and envision ourselves doing if our ability and mobility were not hindered by obesity. Making these dreams come true, achieving the things we dream of doing in the life we live after weight loss surgery is by far one of the biggest intrinsic motivators there is in your post-surgical life. Or as I like to refer to it, #YourBariLife.

Thanks to the generous folks at BariLife, a company that genuinely cares about the life you live after WLS; I was able to spend the last 13 days in Paris, France making several of these dreams come true.

My first day lead me to Le Jardin du Luxembourg.

I walked the entire gardens. These gardens hold over 190 statues. I saw the amazing Luxembourg Palace – constructed in 1612 by Marie de’ Medici, the window of King Henry IV and that was just the beginning of my day.

From there I walked up the hilly streets of Paris to the Pantheon; a building in the Latin Quarter of Paris. The Pantheon was originally a church dedicated to St. Genevieve but now serves as a secular mausoleum containing the remains of distinguished French citizens like Voltaire and Victor Hugo. I walked all around the Pantheon taking in an outdoor exhibit that paid homage to Simone Veil – a Holocaust concentration camp survivor who is most well-known for pushing forward the law that legalized abortion in France in 1975. She is one of only 5 women to have been buried in the Pantheon.

After that I walked the streets of Paris at night, dinned by the lights of Notre Dame and took in this amazing cathedral in the late-night hours when it was brilliantly lit. Standing at the base of Notre Dame looking up at this amazing medieval Catholic cathedral that I had read about in Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame as a young adult, left me in absolute awe.

In this one day, I climbed 24 floors and walked over 8 miles taking in the glorious sights of Paris. I never would have been able to do this back when I weighed 420 lb. and could hardly walk from my front door to where my car was parked without experiencing pain and being short of breath.

The next day I ventured out the Louvre – the world’s largest museum.

I walked around this 12th to 13th century castle constructed under the reign of Phillip II which was the resident of many Kings after him until 1682 when King Louis XIV decided to make the Palace of Versailles his home. Interesting little fact you may not have known. During his reign Napoleon renamed the historic Louvre the “Musee Napoleon”. After his fall in 1814 it once again became known as the famous Louvre. I spent several hours walking around taking in the sights of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, the Ancient Greek statue Winged Victory of Samothrace, Michelangelo’s Dying Slave, the infamous Greek statue Venus de Milo and the Egyptian Great Sphinx of Tanis. Standing in front of some of the most notorious pieces of art in the world is a humbling experience to say the least.

After leaving the Louvre through the gardens and taking in the Arc de Triomphe, my boyfriend and I grabbed some tasty Parisian treats to carry around with us and found a quite little bench to eat lunch on. We spent the later part of the afternoon perusing comic book stores, the Le Petite Prince store, and had one of the most miraculous dinners of our trip at a little nearby café.

A slower paced day for us, I ended up climbing about 34 floors and walking just shy of 7 miles total in the day. 8 years ago, before weight loss surgery, I doubt I would have even made it through the walking audio tour adventure at the Louvre without having to stop and rest between each exhibit point.

My third day in Paris was by far the most profound.

This was the day that made me most realize how much my life has changed since winning my battle with obesity.

This wasn’t my first time in Paris you know; I was there sightseeing once before at the age of 15 with my AP French class. The moment I most distinctly remember from that trip was when the group had to leave me behind while climbing the 300 plus steps to the top of Sacre Coeur. I met up with them later in Montmartre, feeling embarrassed and humiliated as several of my fellow classmates teased me about being too “fat” to handle the stairs.

It was a very upsetting day for me. I ended up leaving the group going back to the hotel and spending the rest of the day walking along the Seine River shopping for gifts to take home for my parents.

But this time, unhindered by obesity, I bound those 300 plus steps only taking a short break about half way through to give my boyfriends aching legs a break. Once we reached the top we took in the amazing site of the Sacre Coeur Basilica, the sacred heart of Paris and the panoramic view of the city from the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city. After that we took our time venturing through the beautiful city of Montmartre.

From there we made our way to the red-light district of Paris, Pigalle, to see the infamous windmill of the Moulin Rouge; birthplace of the can-can and cabaret! Being a big fan of the musical, this was a neat moment for me. I got to have a drink and a cheese platter at the infamous Le Chat Noir, thought to be the first modern cabaret and known far and wide by its iconic poster art by Theophile Steinlen.

A little pop culture trivia information for you; If you’ve ever watched old Frank Sinatra movies, Le Chat Noir is the name of the night club where Frank Sinatra and Natalie Woods rekindled their relationship in the 1958 movie Kings Go Forth.

My fellow North Carolinians might also recognize the poster from the infamous murder scene photos of Kathleen Peterson. She was murdered by her husband, Mike Peterson, a novelist who ran for mayor of Durham, NC in 2002. The Le Chat Noir poster was the framed art piece at the bottom of the blood-soaked staircase.

My trip to Paris was about finding my love of running again.

I wanted to go back to where I felt I had lost my love of the run and do it over again. I wanted to find that internal passion for running in one of the most romantic places in the world.

I didn’t realize that by the third day of this trip I would be laying in my bed recalling my teenage years of struggling with obesity and remembering the sting of the teasing and weight bias I experienced from my fellow classmates when the overweight teenage me couldn’t keep up with my peers. But that is what I did that night. I recalled a night in Paris as a young teenager where I thought to myself “If I wasn’t fat, I’d be able to do all of this and they wouldn’t tease me and pick on me.”

That day, I climbed 32 floors and walked nearly 8 miles around the city of Paris without every feeling like I had to stop or like I was missing out on something.

With this Paris adventure, I have no regrets. I have no “If I wasn’t fat” moments to look back on with disappointment. I have nothing but amazing memories of the things that I can do now that I have conquered obesity.

Thanks to the folks over at BariLife, I got the opportunity to redo another day that should have been an amazing experience for me. I got to lay in bed thinking, “Wow, I did that! I’m living the best life I can after weight loss surgery, this is #MyBariLife, and I am turning it into everything it should be.”

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Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer and Cooper Institute Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies. Her training and coaching services are offered exclusively through GoGirl Fitness Studio.

Make #YourBariLife the best it can be.

Visit the BariLife Website for all your Protein and Vitamin Needs!

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Nicole Arbour’s Perfect Example of Fat-Shaming

A new video entitled “Dear Fat People” hit YouTube a few days ago. This video features Nicole Arbour, a Canadian comedian, recording artist, actor, writer, choreographer and producer displaying very prominent views of weight bias and fat-shaming.

NicoleArbourDearFatPeople

Well Miss Arbour, you’re right about one thing, some people are already offended and I’m one of them.

Fat-Shaming is very much a thing. It’s an unproductive and emotionally damaging thing.

The saddest part of fat-shaming is that ridiculously cruel people like yourself think that it’s okay.

Your video makes it very clear that you believe that being affected by obesity simply means that you should eat less and move more. While taking in fewer calories and getting in more movement is definitely two of the key ingredients to weight loss, that formula doesn’t work for everyone.

I never sat in my doctor’s office and accused him of fat shaming when he told me that as a woman affected by morbid obesity I was at a higher risk of illnesses like heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, sleep apnea, severe edema, chronic depression and some forms of cancer. I took those things pretty seriously actually. In fact since my struggle with obesity lead me to all of those conditions if anything I was scared to death that I was going to be dead before I turned forty.

Oh you’re not talking to me? That’s great. Thanks for excluding me from your negative body image campaign. But wait, you are talking to me because I too was once affected by the disease of obesity.

Let me define obesity for you. Obesity is a condition that is associated with having excess body fat, defined by genetic and environmental causes that are difficult to control while dieting. Individuals affected by obesity should not be defined as being their disease. You don’t tell someone with cancer that they are cancer. You don’t tell someone with depression that they are depression. You don’t tell someone with AIDS that they are AIDS. Miss Arbour, human beings are not defined by diseases and illnesses they suffer from diseases and illnesses and making light of people’s suffering is a really unkind and inhumane action.

People that suffer from obesity wear it externally. The can’t hide it.

You can tell by just looking at them that they suffer from the disease. Unfortunately for them people like you seem to think that because they wear their disease in a physical way that it’s alright to make fun of them, belittle them and sadly, try shame them into fighting their disease in the manner that you see fit.

The problem with that is that you can not tell by looking at someone what actions they are taking to fight their disease. You can not tell if they suffer from some other illness that caused them to gain weight. You can not distinguish whether they have been so emotionally and physically abused that they used food as a coping mechanism. You can not tell whether they went to the gym this morning. You can not tell whether they suffer from depression. You can not tell if they are eating 900 calories a day or eating 3500 calories a day. But because they wear their disease in a way you can see it you assume it’s okay to attack them and tell them that they should be making better choices.

Most people who suffer from obesity are not sitting there intentionally making choices that cause them to gain weight. As someone who once weighed over four hundred pounds I can honestly say that I never consciously sat there going “Oh let me see what I can do to gain more weight today.”  

Most people who suffer from obesity would love guidance and help with weight loss. That’s where the theory of eat less and move more fails. Because for most of us that have suffered from obesity the problems go much deeper than simple calories in and calories out. Most of us have tried that method to recovery from obesity and failed over and over again.

The comparison of being a shop-a-holic to obesity as a disease is asinine. While some people who suffer from obesity do in fact also suffer from food addictions comparing a disease to an addiction is like comparing people to dinosaurs. Some people who suffer from cancer do so because of an addiction to cigarettes and nicotine. Last time I checked though the only damage anyone has ever done through a shopping addiction was to their bank account and possibly their emotional well-being.

You’ve done a really good job at showing the world what fat-shaming, weight bias and weight discrimination is all about.

Your story about being at the airport and your experience with the “Fat Family” and “Jabba the Son” is classic example of these things. You assumed that because the boy you are talking about suffered from obesity that he wasn’t suffering from any other illness. You made this assumption based on his physical appearance and nothing more.  You decided that because “he was fine, he was just fat,”  it was alright to be rude, inconsiderate and mean. You decided that nothing else about that boy and his life mattered and that he should be making better choices based on absolutely nothing but his physical appearance.

What if that family’s son suffered from Prader-Willi syndrome? What if he suffered from Cushing’s syndrome? What if he suffered from a thyroid disorder? What if that family was on their way to a specialist to try to get their son help and treatment for his obesity? You have no clue what that family was going through or why that boy was considered disabled. But here you are showing your lack of education and empathy by expressing your disgust for the overweight boy sitting next to you on a plane and trying to brand it as caring.

“Shame people who have bad habits until they fucking stop.”

“If we offend you so much that you lose weight, I’m okay with that.”

“I don’t feel bad for you because you’re taking your body for granted.”

These comments are not caring. These comments are cruel and malicious. But somehow you think these comments  are okay because you put a disclaimer on them.

“I’m not saying all of this to be an asshole. I’m saying this because your friends should be saying it to you.”

Nobody’s friends should be saying these things to them.

As someone who once suffered from obesity I can say that nobody belittling me, making fun of me, making jokes about me, expressing disgust about me or trying to shame me into losing weight ever helped me.

All those things ever did was make the situation worse for me. Those very things drove me deeper into depression. They made me feel unworthy. They made me feel hopeless. They made me feel like I didn’t matter. As someone who suffered from a food addiction and had a relationship with food to try to compensate for the relationships that I couldn’t have with people it drove me deeper into the darkness.

When people like you talked to me like this I turned to food to make me feel better. People like you making me feel like I was repulsive, implying that I smelled bad and making me feel like my mere presence was an intrusion in their world made me feel like I didn’t deserve to be a part of it.

That Miss Arbour is assisted suicide.

Let me tell you what DID help me…

Support helped me. Kindness helped me. Someone talking to me in a way that expressed care and concern without making me feel ashamed of myself helped me. Education helped me. Access to treatment for the disease of obesity helped me.

You end this video by trying to redeem yourself with “The Truth”

“The truth is I will actually love you no matter what, but I really really hope this bomb of truth exploding into your face will act as shrapnel that seeps into your soul, makes you want to be healthier so that we can enjoy you as human beings longer on this planet.”

Miss Arbour the truth is, I don’t believe you. I don’t believe you care one small iota about those that struggle in the battle against obesity. What I believe is that you just used your fame and celebrity status to attempt to send a message and thought that the tough love and humor approach you chose to take would convey that message. You failed. What you did was make fun of a group of individuals that are already highly stigmatized.  I think you sought a laugh at the expense of others because you like many others in the world today believe that weight bias and fat shaming is acceptable because it is a commonly tolerated form of discrimination and hate.

“Think of me as one of your ride or dies.”

To all of those out there that suffer from obesity please hear me when I say this. Weight Bias, Weight Discrimination and Fat-Shaming are NOT okay.

Luckily for us though, there are some true ride or dies out there trying to make the world a better place and trying to raise awareness of this sort of behavior. I’m one of them.

After overcoming my own battle with obesity I changed my entire career path and went on to become a professional weight loss and wellness coach. I went on to gain an education in how to help others through coaching healthy behaviors and helping others with behavior modifications that would arm them with the tools they need to achieve weight loss and live happier and healthier lives.

After losing over 250 lb. I went on to become a fitness instructor in order to help inspire and motivate others to find the fun in fitness. I went on to try to teach others to use exercise as an emotional outlet to battle the sort of emotions of unworthiness, shame and hopelessness that people like Miss Arbour perpetuate in the world.

OAC-Member-BadgeAfter receiving access to care and treatment for obesity I went on to become a proud member and supporter of the Obesity Action Coalition, an organization that is dedicated to giving a voice to individuals affected by the disease of obesity and helping them along their journey towards better health through education, advocacy and support.

There are people out there like myself and over 50,000 other members of the OAC who are determined to fight to eliminate weight bias and weight discrimination and offer a community of support for the those affected by obesity.

Miss Arbour’s method and message are all wrong. We will never win the fight against obesity through shaming or making fun of the people affected by it. Obesity is not a joke. It is not something to be ashamed of. Obesity is a disease that comes with very serious health ramifications and many of us need more than “eat less and move more,” as a method of treatment.

But thankfully, like many of my fellow members and supporters of the OAC I will stand up and fight for that treatment and stand up and fight for you when someone like Miss Arbour tries to minimize and depreciate the complexity of this disease.

For anyone out there that saw this video or heard this message and felt ashamed of where you are in your battle with obesity, I am here to tell you that you are not the one that should be ashamed of your behavior. Miss Arbour and the people who sign her paychecks are the ones that should be ashamed of their behavior right now, not you.

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Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is a  Cooper Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies, a Motivational Speaker and Exercise Instructor at a women’s only fitness facility in Wilmington North Carolina.
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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

This is #MyBariLife

BariLife has decided to send me back to Paris to represent the WLS Community as I attempt to find my love of running again.
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