Dear Maura Kelly: Stop Being Stupid About Fat People!

Weight gain during pregnancy
Me, being fat, and the guy who liked me anyway!

Dear Maura Kelly,

Your Marie Claire article "Should "Fatties" Get a Room? (Even on TV?)" chub-rubbed me the wrong way. You may be echoing what a lot of people think and aren’t brave enough to say (I sure hope you don’t plan on working for NPR!), and yeah, you hurt our feelings, but you’re just plain wrong on some points, and you came across as mean and snarky to boot.

I'm glad to see that you apologized, and after reading a few posts by other bloggers who are also mad at you, I've moved on from my initial anger and crossed over to something closer to feeling sorry for you.


Clearly, your ignorance of the reality of being fat isn't really your fault, and you admitted that suffering through your own eating disorders has clouded your world view on body image.

I wish I could excuse you all the way, but even your apology tells me that you don't understand why people thought you were insensitive, when you didn't mean to be. So let's talk, Maura.

First of all, here's why we're mad: It was mean to say “I'd be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other ... because I'd be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything -- just like I'd find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroin addict slumping in a chair.”

Ouch. That hurt, and here's why: fat people like to kiss, and we like to kiss each other, and we like to kiss thin people too. Fat people get teased a lot, and we’re used to it, but slamming us for being sexual beings?

Come on, Maura! That seems pretty low.

I can’t speak for everyone, but back when I weighed over 200 pounds (at 5’6”, I was definitely in the obese category) I wasn’t always thrilled with my body, but I still enjoyed kissing, and yeah, even sex.

It’s true. And from what I could discern at the time, my skinny husband liked having sex with me, too. Apparently, he actually liked ME, fat or thin. Imagine that!

Oh, wait, I guess you don’t want to. Sorry.

Second: your blanket statement that people can’t be fat and healthy was wrong.

I know your advice paragraph on eating right and exercising was meant to teach all the fat people who obviously don't know any better a bit of quick wisdom to solve their fatness problem, as if obviously, people are fat because they’re ignorant, and if only someone had told them the "how to get skinny" secret a long time ago, goodness! Think of the possibilities! Maybe they could have been thin this whole entire time!

So, it seemed like you suggested most fat people just lack education, willpower and the character trait to just stop eating so much and start losing weight. Otherwise, why would we still be fat like the maintenance man at your gym?

Strike two, Maura.

Fat people are fat, but my gut feeling is that most of us are not more or less stupid than the rest of the population. And we’re not all unhealthy. I will admit I’m not as fat as the people you were talking about in this article, the people who have the audacity to not only walk around in public in their "gross" condition, and, heaven forbid, be actors in a TV show, about fat people, but I have been close.

Here’s my story, Maura. Read it and learn. Or at least think outside the "fat is gross" and ignorant box.

I was a fat kid, always. My parents weren’t, and two of my siblings weren’t. I knew it was a problem, so I asked my mom to send me to Weight Watchers when I was 11, back in 1976, so I could learn how to eat right. She did. It worked; I lost some weight, and ate a mostly balanced, healthy diet from then on.

We found out my dad was diabetic when I was about 13, and we got rid of all the sugary pop and most of the junk food in the house. We had a backyard garden. We ate pretty well.

But I was still chubby, meaning at 5’6” I weighed 155-160, or so, and wore a size 13/14 or 15/16 all through junior high, despite being active in sports and riding my bike everywhere.

When I was 16, 1981 was the year I went through my eating disorder phase and dropped 30 pounds in three months by consuming 300-600 calories a day while still doing daily doubles on the high school volleyball team and riding my bike, a lot. I kept it off for almost a year by continuing my regime, because everyone told me how great I looked and I liked being in control.

But when my hair started falling out, my periods stopped, I was too tired to exercise, and I started fainting, I realized I was ruining my health and my life, and started eating again. Of course, this caused me and the scale to balloon up again, and quickly.

The emotional struggle with my weight and body image fallout from that time went on for years, but through it all I kept exercising and eating mostly healthy foods (a bit too much at times, obviously!) and gained 50 pounds during my first pregnancy at age 27, weighing in at over 200 lbs and staying there for a couple of years after my daughter was born, 16 years ago, and then yo-yo-ing up and down the scale, back and forth between two more pregnancies.

Then, through sheer force of will, at 37, after my 3rd baby was five years old, I started eating about 1,200 balanced calories a day, and running 25 miles a week. I lost 50 pounds over a year (uh, yeah, there's that willpower thing again) and kept if off until my age and stress and caloric intake increased, while my metabolism decreased, bit by bit after 40.

So the thing is, Maura, I know how to eat right, and I do. I know how to exercise, and I do. I eat about 1,800-2,000 calories of good, healthy, balanced food a day, I've worked with sports nutritionist and trainers, and read countless books and articles over the years about healthy diet and exercise. I even worked at a weight loss clinic.

I drink mostly water, and moderate amounts of coffee and alcohol. I avoid sugar most of the time (Ahem. Ignore recent posts about Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups!) I exercise regularly, and I’m training for a mini-triathlon.

I’m about 25 pounds overweight at the moment, which means I need to step up the exercise and weight training to get back to where I want to be, but my recent blood tests confirm the truth about me and many people like me:

My blood sugar levels are stellar, my cholesterol levels are just fine, my blood pressure is great, and after watching me swim and run last week, my Ironman coach told me my fitness level was quite good, and she was sure I could do a mini-tri tomorrow if I wanted to, and she wants to push me to a new level -- eventually a marathon or even a real triathlon.

And here’s the interesting thing, Maura: All my tests were this good back when I weighed 200 pounds, too!

Imagine that!

There are other people like me, who are still healthy even when they’re not thin. In fact, there are several studies that show chubby people, the people who genetically do well in a famine, are maybe, just maybe, medically okay, whether you think we’re gross or not.

This study about healthy obese people, from Albert Einstein College of Medicine released a couple of years ago, may explain us:

In the study, about 51 percent of overweight adults, or roughly 36 million people nationwide, had mostly normal levels of blood pressure, cholesterol, blood fats called triglycerides and blood sugar. Almost one-third of obese adults, or nearly 20 million people, also were in this healthy range, meaning that none or only one of those measures was abnormal.

But, the truth is, despite being healthy, I still have those dreaded rolls of fat that hang over my running tights, and the icky middle-aged mom jiggly fat under my arms. I may be able to willpower them away with my new training regime, or I may not. It doesn't define me, or make me less sexy.

I’m sorry if this disgusts you, Maura, and it’s okay that you’re honest, but please, don’t patronize me with your quick and easy dieting tips after you’ve just told me, and the brave and smart fat people out there who are battling themselves and society everyday simply to be accepted, no matter where they are on their journey towards health, that we’re "as distressing as heroin addicts and drunks."

Because we're not, Maura.

We’re men and women, moms and dads, married and single, with regular jobs and nice kids who happen to be fat. And we fall in love and kiss each other.

We also watch TV, like makeup and care about our hair. We shop for cute clothes and shoe, and we read magazines.

So maybe I should stick to Vogue and Glamour from now on? I know they usually always feature thin people, and I really don't mind, as long as they don't tell me I'm gross and ignorant for not being thin.

I'm not stupid, Maura. I've been fat, and thin and in between, but I'm not ignorant. And I'm not lazy. And I try really hard not to be mean or snarky to people based on how they look. Because I don't want to hurt their feelings. It doesn't really help anyone, does it?

Here's a post I wrote years ago, over on my blog, Chubby Mommy Running Club, about accepting myself while I'm getting in shape, called "Skipping Up Pilot Butte."

Julie Skipping Up Pilot Butte
Me, Skipping up Pilot Butte! Image via Jen Floyd, fiveforefun/flickr

It's a message to all the women like me, and I guess to the rest of the world too: I really am chubby. And I'm fine with it. You don't have to be, Maura, but please, don't be mean to me in public.


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