What Do You Wish People Knew About Being Overweight?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  110 comments   :  18,423 Views

If you've never been overweight, it's impossible to know what day-to-day life is really like. And it's easy to assume that an obese person has made poor choices that led to their situation—they must eat a lot of unhealthy food and never exercise, right? And beyond the more obvious issues, like low self-esteem and ill-fitting clothes, a slimmer person likely has no concept of the daily challenges of obesity.

If you're the one who's overweight or obese, it can sometimes be a very lonely feeling, as well. It may feel like you're living under a microscope, surrounded by thin people who are judging everything from the food on your plate to your clothing choices. They may not understand why you don't want to engage in certain activities, or why a simple phrase or sideways glance can be so upsetting.  
SparkPeople coach Jen Mueller points out the importance of maintaining a positive mindset, even through the most challenging parts of a weight-loss journey. "I see so many people beating themselves up about gaining weight, whether it’s five pounds from a vacation or 100 pounds over the past 10 years," she says. "Although it’s good to learn from mistakes of the past, it’s important to remember that you have total control over what happens from this moment forward. If you let others' judgements about your decisions or appearance determine your own self-worth, it’s difficult to see the power you have inside to change. You have that power; we all do. You are so much more than a number on the scale, so don’t let that define the person you are or the life you lead."

Real People’s Experiences with Being Overweight

To help bridge what can seem like a very large gap, we asked a few people to share real-world experiences from their weight-loss journeys. Our hope is that these anecdotes will help illustrate what it's really like to live as an overweight person while encouraging others to be more sensitive to their struggle.
"Even sleeping is a challenge. You have to find ways to get comfortable—you can't sleep this way because you can't breathe, can't sleep that way because your chest pushes up on your throat and blocks it. I had to sit up half the night because of the sleep apnea, the hurting back, the edema…" GPALMER29
"I have had someone—a complete stranger—assume that I'm pregnant when I was not. That's pretty embarrassing and humiliating. Unless you emphatically know someone is pregnant, do not comment! Don't even ask!" Rebecca Scheerer, Cincinnati, Ohio
"I was in McDonald's once—for the first time in over five years—and while I was perusing the menu, the manager behind me said in Spanish (with me being Italian, I was able to pick up some of the words) to the girl behind the register, 'Take this fat lady's order.' I haven't gone inside a McDonald's since. I do the drive-thru because there is no one there to address your weight." BEVIEG41
“There's so much people don't understand....from going to amusement parks and worrying about fitting in the roller coaster seats to the looks you get just walking around. I remember going on a business trip many years ago when I was at my heaviest. It was a sales presentation and I was the subject matter expert. Our salesperson, who had never met me in person before that day, said (in no uncertain terms) that I didn't present well physically and wouldn't be asked to go on more sales presentations no matter how great of a job I did.” GAILIEBEE69
“It seems like being around people, your jokes revolve around your size [...] I would joke about myself all the time, about my size, to make people laugh. I was the ‘fat, funny guy,’ and it was actually depressing. I put on a good front and a happy face, but inside it was a heavy burden.” GPALMER29
"I'd see the looks. I was afraid to eat in front of people. It was isolating. A person who is overweight […] should not be shamed or ridiculed or endure snickers and whispers. If you don't feel comfortable snickering toward a person in a wheelchair, you should not feel comfortable doing the same toward someone overweight, no matter their size." Cathy*, Cincinnati, Ohio
"I think that it's tough to know that some people assume I'm totally unhealthy. I really eat pretty well (although I do have a wicked sweet tooth), but I also have a thyroid disorder and I think it makes it tough for me to lose and keep weight off. I typically have to stay under 1,100 calories a day to lose or maintain. I would give—I don't know what—to figure out how to be thin, enjoy food and maintain a more ideal weight without so much work and counting every calorie that goes in. It's exhausting, both physically and mentally, for me." Rebecca Scheerer, Cincinnati, Ohio
"The most disturbing [reality] for me has been feeling unhealthy. Before I started working out again, my heart felt weak and strained, which was an alarming wake-up call that I could not keep putting off taking my health seriously." Wellness expert Gabrielle Loehr
"When buying clothes, you have to go to the big and tall stores [...] and you walk up to the counter with size 64 pants and deal with a retailer who is average size, and you get that look, everybody knows the one [...] it's the one that says, ‘Man, could you get any bigger?'" GPALMER29
"I hate how your stomach skin flops down in front of you and you get this icky moisture, which chafes in the hot weather and smells if you don't keep up with it. Not pretty." GABY1948
"I have girlfriends of many sizes. The thinner ones love to shop. When you're overweight, that is not fun. I enjoy it a little more now, but am still apprehensive. I wear a size 12 now and still find myself gravitating toward the plus-size clothes, as I cannot believe/accept the smaller me." Cathy*, Cincinnati, Ohio
"At work, I'd look around for a sturdy chair and one not too close to others. I always went to staff meetings early so I'd get a chair appropriate for me. I never broke a chair, but my sister who was a little heavier than I did. At restaurants, booths usually didn't work for me. Even if I could squeeze in, I felt squashed and trapped. Sometimes we'd wait longer for a table." SLENDERELLA61
"Just taking a shower was a challenge. I washed off in the sink most of the time because I couldn't move around inside the shower. Even driving was a chore [...] when you have this massive [stomach] in your way, it was difficult to steer a vehicle." GPALMER29 

"[When I weighed] over 300 pounds 30 or 40 years ago, an orthopedic doctor told me that if I did not lose weight, I would lose my weight-bearing joints and be in pain. Here I am at 69 years old with a knee replacement and another one needed. I have also been diagnosed with sciatica. I didn't do what I needed to do until four years ago when I lost 240 pounds. [My advice is to] lose weight before damage is done in so many areas of your body." SINGINGLADY_JLN

"Inexpensive clothing for the short and overweight woman is still virtually non-existent. It is hard to be overweight and feel attractive." SUNNYCALIGIRL
"When I was thin, overweight women often seemed angry with me, as though my thinness was directly responsible for their weight. Now, I have noticed that I am not taken as seriously as I was when I was thin, and that thin women look at me as though I am their motivation to work out, which is both hurtful and misplaced. My brain works just as well as it did before I gained weight, and life is not a beauty contest. There is no prize for being the thinnest." Wellness expert Gabrielle Loehr
“When eating out [at a restaurant], trying to sit in a booth that's made for small people, knowing you have to find a table with pull-out chairs [...] and people are looking at you like, ‘We better hurry up and get up to the buffet before they do!” GPALMER29

"Being overweight [when flying on a plane] means you have to ask the stewardess for the extended seat belt. Some are discreet and some love to announce it." BEVIEG41
“When I was in fifth grade, we moved to a new school and I was terribly embarrassed about my size. I was teased, called ‘moo cow’ and ‘marshmallow.’ I refused to run in [gym class] because I didn't want anyone to see my fat jiggle. Besides being overweight, I was awkward. Would I have been more graceful if I had been a normal weight? Maybe. I tended to walk into things like counters and I tripped a lot. A gym teacher told my father that I was a ‘motor moron.’ I heard it. It hurt.” SLENDERELLA61

If you've ever struggled with being overweight or obese, what experiences might be surprising to people who have never faced this challenge?

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  • 110
    No one gets up and says I want to be humiliated and in pain all day. Obesity is a medical issue with a big emotional component that must be dealt with. It is not easy. - 8/23/2017   8:05:51 AM
  • 109
    Thanks - 8/22/2017   10:37:21 PM
  • 108
    I wish people knew that we didn't just get up one morning and say, "Gee, I'm going to gain a bunch of weight. Being fat must be so much fun!" People (esp naturally thin people) seem to think it's a matter of pure laziness or just a whim. They don't understand that there are reasons we are fat; many, highly varied reasons. For many of us, it was illness that started it and it is illness that continues to be the biggest battle to lose weight. Rant over. - 8/19/2017   12:40:30 PM
    I just love the people who act like I could just lose the weight if I "just tried harder". - 8/16/2017   1:27:05 AM
    Good article! - 8/14/2017   9:51:08 PM
  • 105
    Good article. - 8/14/2017   9:18:35 PM
  • 104
    Great Article. - 8/14/2017   5:31:32 PM
  • 103
    I know the feeling - 8/14/2017   11:36:24 AM
  • ZRIE014
    thanks. - 8/14/2017   12:17:33 AM
  • 101
    I relate and more its hard when you are a child - 8/13/2017   10:10:16 PM
  • 100
    People truly don't realize that overweight people beat themselves up enough. We should all learn to not stare- point - judge someone that we do not know just because they look different from the way we expect people to look. - 8/13/2017   4:14:02 PM
  • 99
    Many parts of our society is unnecessarily difficult and we can be cruel to each other for some of the most unusual reasons - 8/13/2017   11:45:15 AM
  • 98
    Great article! - 8/13/2017   7:35:56 AM
  • ZRIE014
    helpful - 8/13/2017   12:19:50 AM
  • 96
    I appreciated the analogy of what person would do or say to a person in a wheelchair. It really is about respecting the same regardless of the persons difference to oneself. - 8/12/2017   11:00:25 AM
  • 95
    Good read. More people should have this awareness. - 8/12/2017   10:12:53 AM
  • 94
    Thanks for sharing this...tender - 8/11/2017   1:20:12 PM
  • 93
    This is eye opening and touching. So much fat shaming and prejudice. - 8/11/2017   8:10:10 AM
  • 92
    This is a good article. I gained weight due to school bullying and a eating disorder. I would basically only eat once a day, and never allow people to watch me eat. Now i'm 30, going to the gym and trying to get strong and healthy. I would love for the weight to come off, but I will be happy if I am just stronger, and healthier than I have been. I think the weight will come off, but the struggle is so real. - 8/11/2017   6:21:08 AM
  • 91
    This is a great article. I have always been asked to talk about what it was like to be overweight. I just refuse to talk about it now. - 8/11/2017   12:41:29 AM
  • 90
    nice - 8/10/2017   11:41:15 PM
  • 89
    Someone below asked if cashiers and other customer service workers ignore you... YES. I refuse to go into a Dick's sporting goods because of it. I was trying on running shoes and had more than one employee literally step over me while ignoring me. They lost any money I would have ever given them. - 8/10/2017   1:09:11 PM
    My story is a little different. I hit puberty and gained a lot of weight seems to be a genetic thing. Naturally awkward so of course was bullied. By the time I got into my 20s I was a size 18 or XL to 1X. And the XL was tight. I had loat weight, gained it and just reached a point this is my body and learned to love it. Over the past couple years I started losing weight by making two small changes in my day to day life. I got very confused as I watched my body melt away. But still saw me as my bigger self,then there was a mourning process as I really wasn't trying to lose weight and as I did I actually felt like I was losing a part of myself. At first when my jeans we're getting loose my thoughts were 'these are really stretchy jeans.' (I was a little clueless.) I am still losing weight and sometimes gain I am just going with the flow and trying to enjoy the changes. Like being able to balance in the shower to shave or climbing a step ladder a little easier. It definitely helps...and I learned no matter what certain body parts I probably will always despise but also learned despite my feelings to tock it anyway cause there is someone else who thinks opposit...though other peoples opinions are not my focus in a way it still helps,if that makes sense. - 8/10/2017   11:25:04 AM
  • 87
    Thanks again! - 8/10/2017   8:38:20 AM
  • 86
    Thanks for sharing ! - 8/10/2017   2:36:56 AM
  • 85
    When I lost 50 pounds to my goal of 145 many years ago I went from a tight size 22 to a comfy size 13. Unfortunately through the years I gained many pounds until I had 100 pounds to lose. Since my highest weight I have lost 25 pounds and have only gone from a tight size 3X to a loose size 3X. As you get closer to your goal the size will dimish more. Also age plays a part. - 8/9/2017   9:56:11 PM
  • 84
    thanks. - 8/9/2017   12:24:24 PM
  • 83
    Great article!! - 8/9/2017   3:28:09 AM
  • 82
    Good info. - 8/8/2017   10:33:19 PM
  • 81
    THank you! - 8/8/2017   9:41:32 PM
  • 80
    Thanks - 8/8/2017   8:51:02 PM
  • 79
    I always had compassion of people who are overweight. I never was until I was in my 30's and medication caused me to gain weight. I am active even though I am overweight. My biggest struggle is with depression due to being overweight now. - 8/8/2017   2:28:18 PM
  • 78
    A favorite line in a movie for me, isnt about obesity or out of control eaters, but about alcoholics, but it hits home for me and I always think about it whenever I feel myself slipping up.
    It is from the movie, Where the Heart is...I cant say it word for word, but basically someone asks the lady if anyone from her AA meetings might want to hurt her or get revenge on her.
    And she answers....We are alcoholics, we are generally happy just hurting ourselves.
    I think of this line sometimes when I feel myself wanting to binge eat or eat foods that arent healthy for me, or even when I feel bad towards myself that I am not successful as I think I should be.
    We just hurt ourselves.
    So, we have to fix ourselves, ourselves.
    Everyone is different, but we all have the same struggle.
    keep working and do your best. - 8/8/2017   1:07:51 PM
  • 77
    I am always mystified about people who lose x number of lbs and lose so many sizes. For example, a friend recently lost about 50lbs and said she went from size 20 to size 12.
    I on the other hand, lost 65 lbs and went from size 24 to size 20.
    And, I only lost 1 bra size.
    I carry almost all of my weight in my stomach and breasts.
    I rarely lose weight in those areas and when I do its miniscule change.
    One big problem for me is sitting in restaurant boothes. I almost always ask for a table, unless I know for sure the booth tables arent bolted and can be moved.
    Going thru turnstiles is embarrasing, when you have to turn sideways and stand on your tippy toes so your stomach clears.
    I gave up all soda and started walking an hour a day. I lost weight, and a lot of it.
    But it didnt make much difference in my physical appearance, and now I am dealing with turkey waddle neck.
    But my body is solid, my stomach and breasts are dense and while heavy, they arent saggy and loose hanging skin. I think part of me secretley sabotages my hard work so I dont lose so much weight that I get there, with the panel stomach and sagging loose skin. But I do want to lose this stomach.
    If only I could find a surgeon who would take my insurance and do the reconstructive surgery on me and consider it a medical procedure and not cosmetic!!
    I still walk and try to add steps daily. People walk past me on the track and I feel angry that I am the slowest.
    But I remind myself that I am still carrying 40 to 50 extra lbs yet to lose.
    So, I keep on walking.
    My advice, if you are young and having weight issues, start now, work harder than ever, and start losing the weight now.
    Once you reach your upper 40s, and if you are female, menopause, you will find out how really hard it is to lose.
    - 8/8/2017   1:01:34 PM
  • 76
    Someone close to me is VERY judgemental. I struggle with accepting myself. I dont like to eat aroubd this person. It is so hard to explain the manipulation I feel by this person. - 8/8/2017   10:06:42 AM
  • SKK12345
    Your shape and size does not dictate your overall health. My favorite example of this is a former coworker of mine. She weighs around 95 pounds. She is one of the most unhealthy people I know. She never eats nutritious meals, barely drinks water, it's almost always pop and doritos for her. Compare her to someone who is still overweight but exercises daily and tries to eat healthier meals. It's ignorant to assume anything by personal appearance, since you have no idea what they do each day - 8/8/2017   8:51:20 AM
  • 74
    Fat shaming, obesity abuse, mindless/thoughtless comments...WHATEVER all simply need to end. Ten years ago, over 70 additional pounds were weighing me down. I know how hard it is for me to lose weight, how daunting it is to even think about working out when walking up a flight of stairs leaves you gasping for air. Yep, the struggle is real and oh so very personal. When I see an obese person now, I silently send strengthening thoughts and vibes their way. I cannot begin to understand their individual journey, nor do I know where they are in their journey. Have they just begun, lost 100 pounds, just joined Spark? It is not for me to know or judge. I just spent hours waiting in an airport over the weekend. It saddens me to see how poorly people are moving, obesity was the common thread. I have walked in their shoes, nooooo I barely walked in their shoes. Thank you to all who contributed to this article, powerful to read your struggles...I so clearly remember, may I never forget. - 8/8/2017   7:30:17 AM
  • 73
    I found that they were thinking about me a lot less than I thought they were. Most people think of themselves, not others. - 8/8/2017   7:01:35 AM
  • 72
    An excellent article. Yes, life is easier without extra pounds literally dragging us down. But lonely?

    "If you're the one who's overweight or obese, it can sometimes be a very lonely feeling, as well"

    With 2/3 of society overweight, obese or worse those within the recommended BMI range are the minority. - 8/8/2017   7:01:34 AM
    Anyone have a cashier, waitress, store attendant, etc., ignore you or flat out refuse to serve you? I don't discriminate against you because you're thin; why does my body shape make me less than you? For the life of me I can't wrap my head around it. - 8/8/2017   5:30:46 AM
  • 70
    I wish they knew the pain I deal with on a daily - 8/8/2017   3:37:29 AM
  • 69
    What power there is in our service when our actions
    line up with our mission, skills and joy.
    - Mary Anne Radmacher - 8/8/2017   2:54:51 AM
  • 68
    These few were so brave to share! Great to read! - 8/7/2017   9:46:21 PM
  • 67
    I could relate to too many of these - 8/7/2017   9:22:20 PM
  • 66
    I actually gained 30 lbs. during chemotherapy. We suspect that it was from the high levels of steroids that I took prior to and during my weekly treatments. Imagine telling someone you have cancer, but do not "look" like you do-- sans the hair and eybrows. Thank you for sharing these stories in this safe environment. Unfortunately, even if the "outside world" read them, they would still find a reason why obesity is "your" fault. - 8/7/2017   8:58:54 PM
    This article provides great insight to being overweight and it's challenges. - 8/7/2017   8:24:16 PM
    I agree with the article people are cruel - 8/7/2017   7:21:16 PM
  • 63
    That was such a helpful article. I saw my judgmental self in some of the anecdotes, and remember back to the time when it was so difficult to buy plus-size clothes for my short frame. I saw myself in so many of the stories. Thank you, everyone, for being so willing to share your experiences. - 8/7/2017   6:43:29 PM
  • 62
    Most people can be jerks.They only want to judge you on the outside. - 8/7/2017   6:31:09 PM
    I am the reason I believe allowing your child to become extremely obese should be considered a type of child abuse. I actually remember distinctly the moment i realized i was a fat child that was sad and i would throw up because i was allowed to eat so much and no one told me to stop. Before the parental split i was a happy healthy 6 year old. At 8 i had become extremely obese and stayed there until i was sixteen. Please understand that some obesity responsibility rests in the poor parenting of permissive parenting and having lived it i am allowed to say so. I lost 60 lbs at 16 after giving my heart to jesus. I gained alot of that weight with the self abuse i endured at 19. Then i lost the weight again i went up to 160 and i then lost 30 lbs through unhealthy eating and exercise. I struggle to eat the calories i am allowed to eat afraid to be fat. But i am getting to the point that i just want to be healthy not to heavy not to skinny just a good steward of the body god gave me. I forgive my parents recognizing my children will have things to forgive me for i love you guys and hope the best for you - 8/7/2017   6:19:11 PM

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