Acceptable Bullying?

Our culture has been rightly speaking out against bullying, but I would suggest there is still an area in our society where bullying is alive and well: against overweight people.

People who would never say anything about any other problem someone had, think nothing of going up to someone with a weight problem and tell them they are “fat” and that they need to lose weight, and that its unhealthy.  They then proceed to tell them to not be such a fat pig and assume the person is a glutton who needs to eat normal portions.

As a formerly fat person, I find this behavior to be unacceptable at best, and reprehensible at worst.  Do people really think an overweight person chooses to be overweight?  Nobody chooses it.  Most of the people who are overweight struggle greatly, and its beyond their control.  It is not a matter of finding the right diet, or simply controlling themselves.  Sometimes your body tends to put weight on no matter how you eat.  A person in this situation already feels trapped.  You are not helping them by pointing out the obvious and making them feel worse.

Its bad enough to be overweight without the horrible things people say to you.  You have to shop for clothing at the big and tall store, which is humiliating in and of itself, as you are faced with the reality that you can not buy clothes off the rack at a normal store.  If you go to a restaurant with friends, you have to ask to sit at a table because you can’t fit in a booth comfortably, and if you sit on a plane, you have to ask for a seat belt extension.  All these things take away from your sense of self-worth.  It makes you feel awkward, but you have no choice.  Then to have so-called well-meaning people “help” you with their suggestions, only adds to the humiliation you feel.

It makes you wonder why people go out of their way to bully the overweight.  One of the reasons is that they feel they can get away with it.  When they say they are only doing it for the overweight person’s own good, I have a hard time believing it.  The reality is, they don’t like people being overweight, probably because they don’t like looking at them, so they feel they are making America beautiful.  If someone who has been thin all their life tries to give advice to an overweight person, I want to tell them to shut up.  They never struggled with it.    Sometimes people have found a diet that worked for them and they try to push it on everyone else.  The problem is, diets don’t work for everyone.  That’s why dieting is a multi-billion dollar industry.  There is no magic pill, and no magic diet.  As soon as you stop the diet, or stop the pills, the weight comes right back, and the poor diet victim is branded as someone who didn’t have enough self-control, making them feel even worse.

Exercise is not necessarily the answer either.  People watch the Biggest Loser on TV, and think all you have to do is put fat people in boot camp, and they will lose the weight.  I’ve seen countless stories of former biggest loser contestants gain it all back. Excercise can be dangerous if your health has been compromised by excessive weight.

The best thing someone can do for an overweight person, if they really care about them, is to love them as they are, and keep their mouths shut.  Realize you don’t have the wisdom you think you have, because if you did, you’d be making millions from people who are struggling and in pain.

I can tell people I have lost weight, but that won’t help them if they can’t have the surgery I had.  If you care about someone struggling with excess weight, instead of telling them to close their mouth’s, close yours, and just let them know you love them.  Period.


One thought on “Acceptable Bullying?

  1. I’d LOVE to be a “formerly fat person.” Currently, I’m a fat person (My doctor calls it “obese.”)wishing to be “formerly.” It is great, though, to hear the problem described by one who actually does understand it. Thank you, Rabbi.

    The subject here, though, is bullying. Because I was fat, I had the bullying problem all through my childhood, and it caused all manner of distortion and disruption in my early psychological development. I watch the current efforts by the PC Police to stop bullying, and all I can do is laugh. Society has absolutely NO CLUE how to stop it. Bullying is done when there are no witnesses, and in the rare event a bully should be called to account, he will wreak his vengeance on the victim at some future time. The poor victim knows this, so he lives in constant fear. The things bullies do are SO degrading to the victims. I have gone from just being beaten up, to having my lunch and allowance taken, to being taunted in public, to being “pantsed” in front of 6 or 8 other kids, including girls. Let your mind just run with that last one.

    Many, including my father, think the solution would be for the victim to beat the s–t out of the bully, but all that would do is cause the bully to bring friends next time. In short, even having gone through it myself I still have no Idea how to stop it. For the fat kid, I doubt even losing the weight would work, because once a victim is identified, being a victim becomes part of his identity.

    I absolutely DO NOT believe for a moment that society is ever going to teach potential bullies not to do it. Put a potential victim near a potential bully, remove the witnesses for the victim, and it WILL happen.


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