Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Fat, Thin, Healthy - Which is it?

Society says that thin people are fit people. I'm not talking 'healthy', I'm talking 'fit'. You can argue if you want, but you know it is true. All those health and fitness magazines don't have large size models.

But, many of us DO know that a larger person isn't necessarily an unhealthy person just as being thin doesn't make you healthy or physically fit.

Also, when we observe someone engaging in activity, we assume the thin person is struggling less than the heavier person. Is this true all the time? No...a generalization used for the purpose of this post.

I've been walking the hills near my house for a few months now. In the beginning I struggled, but now? Not so much. I still sweat and breathe heavily, because these are not mole hills...they are significant elevation gaining hills.

Today I made an interesting observation. I parked at the top of the hill so that I could walk to the bottom and then back up. On the way down I passed a group of three women, two of which were on the large side (like me). They commented to me as I passed, remarking how tough the hill was to climb - I agreed, laughed and kept walking. Then I thought, "Why didn't they say that to the thinner woman who passed them just before I did?"

I didn't think too much of it, until I climbed the OTHER hill and passed a couple who smiled and uttered encouragements at me, "Hey, you can do it. Good job." But, again, not to the thinner woman ahead of me. There is OFTEN a thinner person walking ahead of me, this is a popular area to run/walk so someone is usually ahead or behind and passing in the opposite direction.

I'm not one to jump to conclusions, but I think these people made the assumption that walking up these hills was difficult for me because I'm fat. And please, let's not have a discussion over my using the word 'fat'. It's mine, I can use it without any negative connotation - no one ever has an issue with using the word 'thin', so let's just get rid of the negativity around 'fat' (even if it is only right here on my blog).

I could be wrong and I probably am. These people might have engaged with me because I smile at everyone when I pass them and, 99% of the time, I say "good morning" (since I often walk in the morning) or at least "Hi".  It could be that the interaction alone made them chatty. Maybe I was the only one NOT wearing headphones. But, why comment on the difficulty of the hill or offer me encouragement that I can climb it and not just say, "Hello" or "good morning"? Yes, I realize they don't know I've climbed these hills many times, but why assume that I haven't? Why reserve that encouragement for me and not the person they passed prior to me?

There are a lot maybes, maybe my red, puffy, sweaty face betrayed me and they really did think I was struggling. I'm willing to give the benefit of doubt.

To be clear, I'm not angry or annoyed they spoke to me over the thinner person. The fact that they spoke to me at all and in a friendly and encouraging way warms my heart. I just found our interaction, and lack there of with others, to be an interesting tell about society and its misconceptions. I'll be keeping track of my hilly encounters to see how they change as my body changes. And, hopefully, I'll be proven wrong.

Until then, I think I'll shout encouragements at every skinny person I see walking those hills.


  1. Absolutely. The skinnies need encouragement too. Just because a person is "thin" does not mean they are "fit" or strong. I ran myself down to a (now I see) revolting 122 pounds and thought "NOW I'm healthy." NOW I know, at a FIT, STRONG 132, how messed up that was.
    But even looking and feeling the way I do now, I still struggle with a grueling practice and have noticed as well that the larger girls get more, "Great job! You can do it!" I do my best to spread the encouragement across the board; EVERYBODY needs to hear it.

    Oh, and, "Keep going! You CAN do it!"

    1. I must say, again, how awesome you are M! Encouragement across the board, because struggles on the inside are invisible and we all have them.

  2. Very interesting observation. I definitely agree. I recently read a brilliant article (which I can't find now or I'd post the link here) about the perception that skinny or slim women are 'doing it on purpose'. Most people don't really have a lot of control over their natural weight. Not everyone who is thin is thin because they work out or lead active, fit lives just as not everyone who is overweight is lazy or makes poor meal choices. And yet this is the common perception.

    Great post!

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