I got a series of questions from reader Shayna, who’s writing a research report on obesity for a class she’s taking. I thought maybe some of you might be interested, so I’m posting her questions and my answers (with her permission) here. I told her I’d be keeping my answers brief, as I could write a novel on each of these topics, but these answers summarize the gist of my feelings on the topics.
1. Did you have any health problems caused by obesity? What were they?
Not particularly, however I did have achy joints (particularly my knees and hips) from carrying so much weight.
2. Did being obese affect how people treated you? Any examples?
Absolutely. Well…I perceived that I was treated poorly because of my size, I thought that people treated me as if I was less intelligent, and I DEFINITELY was treated poorly by men and males due to not living up to the “feminine ideal” of beauty. Of course, all of that is filtered through my own perception, as I perceived everything through an assumption that nobody liked me and everybody hated me or judged me because I was fat. So some of that may have been my own bias…
3. How did you become obese? Was it through the way you ate, the foods you ate, your lifestyle, etc.? All of the above?
There was never a time in my life when I wasn’t overweight – I was born “chubby” at almost 10 pounds and was always teased about my size. It was because of the foods I ate – I ate to soothe myself, I ate because it was one of the very few pleasures I had available to me (I had a rough childhood), and I ate very badly because nobody taught me about nutrition.
4. Was there anything you wanted to do when you were obese, but couldn’t because of your size?
Yes. Ride on an airplane without embarrassment and discomfort. Fit in a movie theater seat. Shop at a regular clothing store. Date normal men, not losers who dated me because they couldn’t do any better. Walk down the street without drawing mockery and derision.
5. How did you lose the weight? What changes did you make?
Diet and exercise. I had to completely change my life, my relationship to food, and start making exercise a regular part of my routine. If you looked at my life before I changed it and after, you would find a completely different set of habits, built around knowing what I am eating and making time for exercise.
6. Why do you believe so many people are obese now?
Lack of education in nutrition, extremely toxic food environment (food industry pushes and pushes – food is ubiquitous, you can’t go anywhere without junk food being shoved in your face for purchase or free – everything is cheap and high in corn syrup but no nutritional value).
7. In your opinion, how can America cure, or at least slow, the obesity epidemic?
If I were in charge… I wouldn’t be in charge for long! Fast food should be outlawed. Convenience foods are killing this country. People need to go back to making their own food, from real ingredients, not a box. The food industry needs to be barred from advertising AT ALL (not just to children – to anyone!). We need to have a massive re-alignment of our relationship to food in this country. People need to understand that they’re NOT too busy to make food at home, and if it’s important to them (as the things you put in your body should be!) then they can make time. All of this needs to come with a lot of education on a large scale, to teach people how to put together healthy meals quickly and cheaply, but it can be done. Our ancestors, our grandparents – they all knew how to do this but we’ve all forgotten. We need to relearn.