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By Margot Kitchener
Richard and I had been very happy. We met in the Glee Club and I was immediately taken with his startling blue eyes and his rakish grin. He said he chased me until I caught him. Richard always had a great sense of humour.
We married just after he finished college and I worked at the Burger King to support us while he went through medical school. In the meantime we produced six beautiful children in seven years.
Unfortunately the combination of Whoppers and pregnancy took a toll on my waistline and before you could say "BK Broiler" I was 20 pounds overweight.
I had been too busy looking after six children and holding down a full time job to worry about my weight as much as I should have but before long Richard stopped sleeping with me and I started to notice I was getting dirty looks from strangers.
One day a caring friend did something for me that changed my life. She arranged for Richard to take the kids to his parents and we had a "girl's night."
She rented six videos and much to my surprise she took out a pencil and a pad of paper. She turned to me and said. "Ellen watch these movies. When you see a fat person, make a note of what they are doing."
Puzzled I did so and here is what I found. Fat people in movies were:
What I did not find them doing:
I was dumbfounded. I had an idea of how society viewed me but it really hadn't hit home. Celia kindly explained what a normal person feels when faced with a fat person.
"We are trained from an early age to spot things that are different. All of us can remember that song "one of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn't belong...
"How many times can you remark that a person is very kind or has a wonderful personality without starting to sound a little foolish?"
I had always secretly resented strangers coming up to me and giving me diet advice. I wondered why they wouldn't just mind their own business, but Celia set me straight.
"It's all about concern. Normal people have been quite noble but they are growing resentful. They are angry at having to worry about strangers and their increased risk for diabetes and heart disease."
I had noticed an article in one of Richard's medical journals and in my defense I brought it out to show Celia it said in part:
"Obesity likely results from a genetically predetermined body mass set-point that exerts control of body weight through alterations in basal metabolic rate." Hacker DC, Deitel M University of Toronto, Canada;
Celia was furious. She saw my attempt for what it was: an attempt to defend the undefendable.
"Just when we think we are making progress, when we are at a stage where young women and pre-teens are realizing the necessity of an ultra lean body some irresponsible doctor will come up with a stupid theory like that.
"We all know it's a matter of will power."Celia fumed" I am so sick of worrying about people I don't know. Besides: Fat people sweat and steal things."
I had to agree. I did sweat and just the week before I took my neighbours free sample of Pert shampoo off her porch.
Celia thought I had probably been desensitized that somewhere along the way I had stopped feeling shame.
After Celia left, I thought long and hard about what she had said. Was it true? Was I so completely selfish that I didn't even realize what I was putting other people through having to look at me? When had I started to feel that it was o.k. to walk around with extra weight as if it was my God-give right?
She was absolutely right It was time for a change.
I decided to lose weight by playing a game my husbandI devised called The Shame Game. I enlisted my family's help and they participated with zeal.
Before long I was once again normal. I could walk down the street without anyone even glancing at me.
Now I realize the worry my friends experienced as I see an overweight person diving into a burger. I make it my duty to go up to them and explain why everyone dislikes and mistrusts them.
My story ends on a bittersweet note.
Sadly, my marriage to Richard didn't survive. Once the weight was off my wrinkles were more evident and he married his 23 year old receptionist.
On the positive side however, I stand chance of meeting someone as long as I do it in the next two years.
I am honestly not happier than I was before. I'm still working at the Burger King. I don't get child support because Richard claims the children aren't his and he changed the locks, but at the very least I can buy clothes off the rack and eat an ice-cream in the mall.