"I Read Something Really Hurtful Online About 'Fatties'; How Can I Get It Out of My Head?"

Sometimes people who write hurtful things online are like growling dogs—they're spurred on by some fear inside themselves that has nothing whatsoever to do with you or me!

Have you ever read something online, or in the opinion pages of a paper, or seen someone on TV saying something that hurt your feelings or pissed you off? I have, and it was someone who was sounding off about “fat people.” Whenever I’ve written about obesity and binge eating on a larger scale, like for the Huffington Post, there is always a small segment of people who react with self-rightousness and vitriol about the dangers of obesity. So I wasn’t incredibly surprised when I got a note from Trish (you guys know Trish!) saying that she had read a blog post about “fatties” on a major web site that really upset her (I’m not linking to it here—no need to spread the hurt further). Here’s what Trish said:

“I don’t know why I took the article so personally—but I did. Some of the things that were said hurt me to my core. I know what I look like, and I’m okay with it, but I also know a lot of people out there who are overweight or obese or have eating disorders and I know the pain they go through, and its articles like this that perpetuate that problem. How can I get this mess out of my head?”

Well, Trish, let me tell you what went through my mind as I read that post—and what goes through my mind when I encounter anyone who has hurtful things to say about the obese:

1. Consider the source.
When people are mean about size, and when people bully, it’s usually because of something that is within them. They feel less than, they feel not good enough, they feel the need to boost themselves up by pushing others down. And they are likely fighting with their own body-shape demons. Why on earth would someone who is of average size feel so deeply offended by large people, if not for some inner struggle they have themselves?

2. Remind yourself of the way things really are.
Those of us who’ve experienced compulsive overeating or bingeing know all too well that the most seemingly simple of things—the food we put into our bodies—is not always within our control. If you believe as many researchers do that there is a biological, genetic component to binge eating disorder, some of us were even predestined from birth to have this tendency. For many of us (not all, but many) that means we become overweight or obese. (At my heaviest, I weighed 225 pounds and was clinically obese.) In fact, some studies show that 30 to 40 percent of obese people seeking weight loss treatment meet the criteria for binge eating disorder.

Binge eating was not my fault, was not your fault, is not other sufferers’ faults. Just like a person suffering from anorexia or bulimia or alcoholism or drug addiction did not ask for their illness, people with loss-of-control eating don’t either. That said, there comes a time when many of us become aware that we have a problem. We did not choose to be sick, but we can choose to seek help, seek relief, and seek healing.

3. If you’re still upset, try this.
One of my mentors in the binge eating support group I used to go to taught me this tool for letting go of things that were causing me to stew or ruminate. She would write down the issue, question, comment, situation, etc., and put it into a container she called her “God box.” It was a physical way of telling her brain and body that she was letting whatever it was go. She was giving it over to the Universe, the collective consciousness—or for her, to God—and didn’t need or want to be concerned with it anymore. It was a physical action that reminded her that she would be OK, that she wasn’t alone, that she wasn’t at the mercy of the thoughts in her head. That she could choose what to focus on—and by placing whatever the issue or problem was in that “God box” she was shifting it out of her focus so she could move on. It has worked brilliantly for me time and time again.

Now, to the rest of the HealthyGirl.org community: Have you ever been hurt by something somebody said or wrote? How did you get over it? xo…Sunny

13 Responses to "I Read Something Really Hurtful Online About 'Fatties'; How Can I Get It Out of My Head?"

  1. Thanks for this useful and thoughtful response to the article. I recently wrote a post on this and included some research that shows that messages like the ones in MC are often internalized and end up hurting people both pharmacologically and physically: http://www.nourishing-the-soul.com/2010/10/marie-claire-eating-disorders-bias/ Thanks for teaching us how to inoculate ourselves from such hateful messages.

  2. Angela says:

    Great article, Sunny!
    Yes, I have been hurt many times by what someone has said. Most recently, I was dropped from one of my modeling agencies, without them even informing me. I was browsing on their website one day and saw that I was no longer on there. I called them and they told me that no one was ever interested in me and that I needed to put more weight on and if I had had a boob job, I would have had a job. I was speechless…I had no words. I was so hurt, first of all, I felt I had given everything I could to try to get a job, I was testing and really doing my part. But the most hurtful part was how they treated me. At first I cried and was extremely hurt and then I got myself together and I thought about it. I try to live my life the best I can, I try to be the best person I know how and I feel really good about my life, myself and the woman I am. I treat others the way I want to be treated, I love my husband, my children and myself. I think when you are hurt by others, it is okay to feel those feelings, I get hurt, but I do not let the haters get me down. I am confident in the woman I am and the life I live. I don’t know why their always has to be the ones to put us down, especially when we are trying to spread a positive message, but they always seem to appear and like you said Sunny, they must not be happy with the person they are, they must be struggling inside. The great thing about it is that when we learn who is on our team and who isn’t, we can just surround ourselves with the positive people! Thank you for the article, Sunny. I am so happy to have met you…I am on your team girl! xoxo

    • Sunny says:

      I’m on yours, too! It’s just so amazing to me how the world of modeling works at times. I realized when I interviewed Whitney Thompson, too, that there aren’t too many places for “average” sized models. You either need to be quite small and thin to be “straight-sized” or a size 12 and curvy to be “plus.” It’s strange, isn’t it?

  3. WendiG says:

    I truly feel that weight issues are the last tacitly-agreed-to discrimination “allowed” in our society..
    A few decades ago, the most “beautiful” woman in the world was an actress that was 6 feet tall and over 200 pounds, Lily Langtry..and no one had anything but praise for her..Tans were considered “lower-class” because only those who tilled the soil (farmers and their ‘ilk’) didn’t have the pasty -white skin so disliked by Caucasians, and beloved of visible minorituies..
    The insanity of fashion stifles variety and wonderful serendipity in all human eras..
    I spent my whole life as a person who was too tall, too smart, and too fat..not to mention being left-handed..which is another discussion- one that most people would laugh about today.
    I’m only trying to state the obvious..that if you are not a size 0 to 4 in our society at this particular time and place, you will be shunned, judged to be some sort of willpower-less degenerate, and abused verbally or avoided like a leper..my favourite insult is when males (I won’t call them men) look “through” me..now, as an older woman I get to enjoy agism as well..
    Our civilization has become very judgemental, wtih alot of ignorant vitriol about weight being a health issue..as if those who get liver damage from drinking or lung cancer from smoking, skin cancer from too much sun exposure or bulimia from purging aren’t just as ‘guilty’ as we are of being ‘deviants’ in this culture..
    I know only too well that it’s hurtful and unfair, but try and remember that being ‘good’ with your self is the only ‘feeling’ that really matters….

  4. Ginastarke says:

    Definitely consider the source, but don’t let it slide.
    I wasn’t hurt by the article. I know there are many people who share her view but won’t admit to it. I was angry that an editor would let something so juvenile be posted. I just let it fuel my efforts to get healthy – and yes that includes lot of weight loss!

  5. LovesCatsinCA says:

    You know, I read that and thought it was pretty hateful myself. I am a smallboned Asian American woman. 3 years ago, I had super high blood pressure (160/100) and “pre-diabetic” blood sugar–elevated but not yet diagnosable diabetes–at a non-obese weight by American standards. My BMI was 27. I looked “plump” to people and wore a size 10, but didn’t look obese and no one would shoot me excoriating looks like “you’re a burden on society” or “how gross”. But I WAS, with those numbers, looking at having a shorter life with potential complications like a stroke.

    On the other hand, I know people who weigh 200 pounds who are totally healthy. They work out. They play tennis. They’re probably going to live a full, long life. A skinny smoker is probably much more unhealthy. You can’t tell how healthy a person is by looking at appearances.

    You also can’t tell from looking at me in clothes that even though I’m thin, I carry a lot of belly fat (midlife? stress-cortisol? who knows…) and sometimes I look in the mirror and feel like crying. I actually felt better about it when I was heavier because the fat was distributed more all over.

    So I give you the advice I keep giving myself whenever those thoughts run through my head:

    Please feel good again about how you look. If you’re doing your best to be healthy, that’s all that matters.

  6. Amy says:

    Well, I think we can all assume you’re talking about the Marie Claire article. I sort of addressed it in a post on my blog and I’m not posting this here to draw traffic, I promise. I did get several emails from other “fatties” like me who found it comforting and helpful. If you think I’m just drawing traffic, please feel free to delete my comment, I will not be offended.
    http://hamletsmistress.wordpress.com/2010/11/02/a-fatties-point-of-view/

    HM

  7. Kate D says:

    I wonder if this was the same article I read last week. It left me in a funk for most of Thursday, and I didn’t handle it very well. (I misplaced my anger onto my husband, picking fights with him all day until I finally told him what I was so upset about.)

    Not the most mature way to handle what I was feeling , but I think the article brought up similar feelings from when I was in middle/high school and I reacted immaturely.

    Thank you Sunny for your response. Now I know what to do the next time I become upset.

  8. […] help getting over hurtful things you read about weight, you might want to check out this post. from → Advocacy, body image ← “I Quit Dieting, Quit Changing My […]

  9. jennifer says:

    wow. ran into this site via boingboing today and have been pouring through the stories. this was the one that resonated enough that i wanted to comment.

    i have heard people make homophobic jokes and assumed the humor was because of their issues with sexuality, control, forgiveness, etc. when i heard jokes that degraded women, i assumed the teller struggled with jealousy, fear, and more. never once had i considered fat jokes to be a reflection of the comedian’s issues. opening myself to compassion for the source of the words changes my hurt into hope.

    i have struggled when strangers have called out to me about my size. living in a college town, it is not unusual to hear young men yell things about my weight as they drive or walk by afterbar. i also pass a halfway house and a homeless shelter daily – people who seem out of control of their mouths at times. certainly, i open myself to the public by walking to work, making eye contact, saying hello, but i left my therapist when she suggested i was making myself a target and should change those behaviors.

    o.f. c.o.u.r.s.e. a person who needs to yell insults at a complete stranger is not out to ruin my day or confirm my worst fears – they are caught up in their own selfish insecurities.

    somehow realizing that is like a little hug from god. thanks.

    • Sunny says:

      Hi Jennifer,
      I’m so glad you found the site! I have gotten nasty YouTube comments on my book trailer video and the YouTube video where I tell my story, and I know how hard it is to remember in the moment that what those people are saying has nothing to do with you, and EVERYTHING to do with them and their own experience and hangups. But I’m glad this post helped a bit! xo…Sunny

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Sunny Sea Gold

About the Author

Sunny Sea Gold is a media-savvy advocate and commentator specializing in binge eating disorder, cultural obsessions around food and weight, and raising children who have a healthy body image.