“Big as Life” and Depressed

Fat woman in a bikiniI just finished watching a program on TLC called “Big as Life: Obesity in America.” It first aired in 2002 but not much has changed.

Frankly, I couldn’t believe I was watching a program about being fat because, let’s face it, I already am fat and I know about it and don’t really need to watch a whole program about it. It made me squirrely and squirmy and I was so glad that no one was here in the room with me to look at me to see how I reacted to various statements and images.

Here’s a program description:

Since the 1960s, the number of Americans with body mass indexes above 40 has more than tripled. This program investigates the causes and health implications of obesity in America while seeking to destigmatize adiposity. Interviews with doctors and scientists and with adults and children dealing with weight control shed light on issues including size acceptance, body image bias, and weight discrimination while considering health risks, genetic influences, and surgical interventions. The program also features innovative research being done and model programs being put into practice by Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center. A Discovery Channel Production. (51 minutes)

The program covered a lot of territory and wasn’t all doctors telling the world that fat was evil and people who were fat were intrinsically bad people. There were interviews with BBWs and Supersized women who were comfortable in their size while being realistic about the limitations they experienced. They had jobs, went to dances, had active social lives, were fun people – not depressed or sad to be fat. Other people were failed dieters who had had success and then regained all their weight and more. They also featured someone who had had gastric bypass surgery, as well as several doctors who highlighted medical issues.

But it was extremely uncomfortable for me to watch. It doesn’t matter when I see something like this – whether working hard on my food issues or ignoring them completely – it just makes me squirm to hear people talk about being fat in public. I can do it here in writing but in person? The defensive hackles rise while my internal self-protective mode kicks in and I shut down, like a turtle, because I almost expect to be assaulted as a fat person by the people on TV.

I want to argue with them. To tell the fat ones who are saying there is nothing wrong with being so big the scales in the doctor’s office can’t weigh them that yes, there are medical things they need to pay attention to, even if they don’t get down to a model size. To tell the failed dieters not to give up, that some exercise will make them feel better, even if it’s small steps and not running a marathon. To tell the kind doctor who actually listens to his fat patients and doesn’t assume that whatever is wrong with them is always due to weight, that his humanity is saving the life of some of his patients. To tell the gastric bypass patient that substituting an exercise compulsion for his eating compulsion is a good trade.

But what I did do was sit and eat bread. Programs about weight and fat always prompt me to do that, like Pavlov’s dog. I get depressed and feel personally assaulted, expecting people who watch the show to ask me to explain myself. I can’t watch “Biggest Loser” or really any TV show about fat/obesity/weight loss because I just as though I’m a failure from the get go. This is one reason I try not to watch any of them; I get squirrely enough without the prompting.

I didn’t even get to the gym today as I had planned. My body started having a major coughing attack about 4pm and my nose turned on again like a faucet. I think the afternoon meds kicked in and I couldn’t imagine trying to do weights with my hands full of Puffs. I’m still expecting to go to T’ai Chi tomorrow but if I don’t get there, I got a “Yoga for the Rest of Us” DVD that I can do at home with easy access to tissues and chairs. But maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow and be healthy. It would be a nice change.

4 thoughts on ““Big as Life” and Depressed

  1. LA Librarian

    I watched it too–I seem to have this weird compulsion to watch it every time it’s on, even though I feel the same sort of ookiness (although the woman’s photo essay of her weight gain is brilliant and fascinating–her expressions as she eats the powdered donuts are terribly, frightfully, horrifyingly familiar) . And I found myself eating pbjs and chocolate last night, which I haven’t done in a really long time. But unlike you (duuuuh) I didn’t put two and two together. I should have known. I should have predicted. I wonder if I’ve done that every time I’ve watched it? I better not watch it again. I wonder why I feel so compelled to watch it? Ugh.

  2. I hope your cold is finally going away. It has been a while. It sounds like you got some good insights from your experience last night, so I hope you’ll chalk it up to a learning experience and not be too hard on yourself about it.

  3. Lori

    A lot of this fits with what we’ve been discussing over at Angry Fat Girlz only this time, it’s an internalizing process between the warring parts of our brain.

    It’s also like a train wreck in motion. We want to believe someone can beat these odds which seem so against us in losing and keeping the weight off.

    It’s also easier to write about all of this rather than go out in public and take a chance on what people might say to us.

    I hope you are feeling better and kinder to yourself. You are a good person and kind to me and others so I hate to see you be so hard on yourself.

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