The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

Less Weight, Harsher Judgements

I have just staggered about 250 yards up the road from the hardware shop with a 20kg (about 44lbs) bag of coal and only just made it. The bit that I find really hard to fully get my head around, is not that I’m so unfit that carrying 20kg causes me problems, but that 9 months ago I was 30kg (about 66lbs) heavier than I am now.

I have serious doubts that I would have made it up the road, without having to stop several times on the way, if I’d tried carrying 30kg of coal, yet I used to carry that amount extra with me every where I went. And, if I am ever to approach that mystical realm of the ‘ideal weight’, I still need to shed another 20kg.

So why then, when I am 30kg lighter than I used to be, do I sometimes feel like I’ve never been so fat?

For a while I thought it was just because I’m so much more focused on my weight these days: being more careful about my eating habits and weighing myself once a week. But I’m beginning to suspect there might be another factor in this equation, which is I’ve shifted into a different category of person.

These days I can look in the mirror, or catch sight of myself in a shop window and I look like an overweight, middle-aged guy who’s let himself go and could seriously do with losing some weight. But when I was 30kg heavier, I was so outside the realms of “normality” that the idea that I could actually do something didn’t really come into it.

When you look at someone like Johnny Vegas (British comedian – star of “Sex Lives of the Potato Men” and Channel 4’s “18 stone of Idiot”), part of his act, and who he is, is defined in the sheer size of him. It does not occur to you that he could ever be slim, or have a well-sculpted body.

The fat man and the bearded lady of the circus freak show were firmly in the realm of “other”. They were curiosities to be stared at, ridiculed, or even pitied, but they were not anything we might become. As such, we could dismiss them and move on to the next novelty item.

But when someone is like us, but a bit fatter, or a woman’s moustache starts to get slightly darker and she finds a hair or two growing on her chin, then we freak out about it a great deal more. Suddenly we will be full of well-meaning, and probably very patronising, advice. We will whisper to our friends about how they are not making an effort. We will bitch and snipe out of fear, because that person could be us, if we aren’t vigilant enough. This attitude that, if you could be normal but don’t try to be, then you deserve every bit of harsh criticism you get, is extremely common.

So it seems I have now moved into these realms of judgement. When I was buying clothes with a number of ‘X’s on the label, then I was in ‘outsize’ clothing, i.e., outside the sizes of normality. As such, I was more easily dismissed. Now that my clothing sizes are ‘Large’, I’m into that range that says I could be normal if I just tried a bit harder.

Clearly I am not fatter than I have ever been, but the irony of it is that by losing enough weight to move out of the realm of “other”, I am now in a position where I can be judged more harshly by a greater number of people.

Bizarre really.


Asher Hunter said...

A lot of what tires us when carrying a weight is not the weight itself, but the strain it puts on our muscles.

Fat on your body is distributed all over, and therefore doesn't put as much weight on any one muscle group as carrying the same amount of weight would.

BStrong said...

What you just said unfortunately holds a lot of truth. Being over weight isn't such a bad thing, being significantly overweight is an issue only because of health reasons.
Sometimes when I see a person that is significantly overweight the feeling of pity never enters my mind, usually I think to myself "boy, if he/she lost some weight they would look absolutely amazing" Weird ha?

Kim Ayres said...

Asher - back in the days when I belonged to a Dark Ages reenactment society, I made myself a chain mail shirt which weighed abut 20 lbs, but only felt like 7 or 8 whenI was wearing it, so I do know it's to do with the muscles. But part of the point I was making was that because we carry that amount of extra weight around with us, we stop being aware of just how much extra strain we are puttin on our hearts. Suddenly carrying a 20kg bag of coal can give you a bit of a shock when it makes you realise you were carrying more than that around with you all the time.

bstrong - part of the problem is that society has become fascist when it comes to thinness. There is a demand, not that we should be healthy, but that we should be thin. And yet, to be underweight is more unhealthy for you than to be overweight.

Because we are fed a constant stream of "thin is good" in television, films and advertising, culturally we have come to regard it as true, and so think that thinner people look better.

Of course, being 50kg overweight was not good for me, and I am addressing that. But the problem I am now facing is the cultural expectation, not just that I should be healthy, but that I should be thin.

Ramana Siddharth said...

as my house was badly flooded last week i have done a fair share of carrying things both before and after the floods..

so how have u managed 2 lose this much weight other than dieting.gym?hey u dont look fat on ur pic.honestly!

BStrong said...

I find it interesting that when I go with my wife to the mall every store has mannequins in their windows, each of them with different body dimensions. Big ladies, little ladies, big breasts, medium breasts, and small breasts. For some reason all the male mannequins are the same size. I think society's pressure of being perfect (meaning thin) is primarily focused towards women.

I'm not sure about Scotland, but in the US, mainly on our coasts, looks is everything. Good looks may even get you a job that you aren’t qualified to do, while the unattractive qualified guy gets stuck at McDonalds. Every other commercial saturating our airwaves is about some new cosmetic remedy that will suck the pounds off of you, nip here, tuck there. Again, the focus is on the woman. The only cosmetic commercials you see for men are for hair restoration.

The problems going to keep getting worse. We are inundated with messages telling us how ugly we are. All these ads play to a very powerful feeling, HOPE.

Kim Ayres said...

Siddharth - really sorry to hear about the floods. Hope you managed to rescue the important stuff.

The weight loss (which is much less important than coping with being flooded) is down to eating healthily and getting rid of processed foods. There's muchmore info available on my other blog, Losing a Hundredweight:

bstrong - what the ads do is create a society that is uncertain and unhappy with itself, and then offer false promises as solutions.

For example, 98% of diets fail - within 2 years, 98% of people who go on a diet will be back to their original weight, and most of them will be even heavier. And yet western culture is obsessed about dieting. And these diets are not about eating healthily, they are all about losing weight regardless of health. Not only is it dangerous, it doesn't work.

But the diet industry is not blamed, we are. We are constantly sold the concept that if we look right and are thin enough, then our lives will be happy.

Hey, it keeps the economy going right?

And all the mannequins in the UK are thin

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