The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

For the next time you see the finger being pointed at the fat person

“If you want to lose weight, you just have to stop eating as much.”

Wow. How simple. Wish I’d thought of that. So it’s a bit like saying if I don’t want to burn my flesh I shouldn’t stick my hand in the fire?

“Exactly”

But what if I have to keep sticking my hand in the fire?

“What?”

What if I feel compelled to stick my hand in the fire, again and again, over and over?

“Why on earth would you do that?”

Suppose it was habit, or suppose I enjoyed it, or suppose every time I did it, it released endorphins that made me feel good, or suppose it was addictive, or suppose I hated myself so much I felt I deserved to be disfigured, or suppose by looking disfigured people would have less expectations of me, or suppose by looking disfigured people would leave me alone. Suppose at different times I stuck my hand in the fire for each of these different reasons, or any combination and it changed every time.

Do you think just saying “well don’t do it then” is going to make the slightest bit of difference?

“Er, probably not.”

Do you think that telling me I’m stupid for doing it is going to make me stop?

“Well, it might… tough love and all that…”

If my response to feeling bad is to stick my hand in the fire, what do you think calling me stupid is likely to make me do?

“Er… stick your hand in the fire again?”

And calling me lazy, useless, ugly and a drain on the health services?

“…stick your hand in the fire again.”

You know, I do believe we’re starting to get somewhere.

“But you don’t stick your hand in the fire.”

No, I overeat instead.

“Well, if you want to lose weight, you just have to stop eating as much.”

Slap, slap, slap, slap, slap, slap, slap, slap...

26 comments

C in DC said...

Exactly. Brilliant!

angie said...

my roommate is overweight. she got in a good place for a while and then went back to her old ways . . . how to encourage her? support her? any suggesttions? (i even made changes to the entire FAMILY'S overall diet . . .)

Anonymous said...

Funny and effective.
Jeff Rhodes

Zazzy said...

Most people just aren't going to get it. It's like they hear you talking without understanding a word. "But you were doing so well," they'll say. "I was so proud of you." Those who really care will offer to encourage you, to eat the same food you're eating. And they'll never understand that's not what it's about.

I keep telling myself that one of the keys is finding a different way to comfort myself. A new way of dealing with stress and fear and sadness. But believe me, I've tried.

Amy said...

Yes, yes, yes! And what about the people who keep telling me that I should take more time out for myself to exercise? Okay, when exactly? I really should take better care of myself.

Julie said...

Thank you, Kim.

Andraste said...

I love how people think they're telling you something new.

Whenever someone learns I don't eat meat and they start in with that 'wiser than thou' chant...you know the one..."You KNOW, you HAVE to be CARE-ful to get your
PRO-tein..." I go absolutely ballistic.

Morg said...

"Just stop eating then.."
"Well duh! I never thought of that"
Ive always noticed that 9 out of 10 of the people who give such advice have no apparent experience with overeating themselves. They all seem thin, successful, and full of answers to questions they themselves have never grappled with. I have gained and lost the equivalent of a person in the years since I started battling against my own eating habits. I currently weigh well over 300 pounds.
Moreover, saying "lose weight" seems a lot like saying "build a house" to someone who doesn't know how to use a hammer. It's easy to say. It's damn complicated to do.

SafeTinspector said...

The frustrating thing is that sometimes you love the overweight person and want to help, but honestly have no idea how to do it. As you say, you can't tell them to eat less, and you can't force them to exercise. But you hate to see them abuse themselves like that.

My mother is very overweight, and whenever we are together I notice that she is a bit...gluttonous. If I am hosting, I will carefully attempt to serve her modest to normal portion sizes. She will ask for seconds, I know she will. If I refuse she will be resentful and defensive.

If we are at a restaurant or if I am visiting her then under no circumstances is it acceptable for me to suggest that she eat less.

What to do? She does need help, but I don't know how to help her. She has many health problems that are weight related.

I know I tend to plump if I don't exercise, and I actively ask my wife to help me by not bringing crappy food in the house (I can't resist junk food in the cabinet, but I can resist it in the store). Sometimes I reach for seconds and Heather says, "Maybe you had enough" and I will stop and thank her. Am I strange that way?

Sayre said...

Have you been talking to my uncle again???? Slap him once for me.

fatmammycat said...

No safeT, you're not strange, nearly all of us gain weight if we're not careful.
Kim, I think what you've done is terrific and I believe I"ve told you often over the year, but I'm going to go against the grain and disagree with some of what I'm reading.
A whole lot of us 'naturally' thin people work really hard to be thin-actually scrap that, we work hard to be fit. We take care with what we eat, we notice and adjust our diets if we gain a few pounds, and we make time to exercise, even when the last thing we feel like doing is putting on our trainers and heading out into the filthy Irish summer.
This doesn't mean we don't uderstand how hard it is to lose weight, and it's insulting to think that because we work hard to maintain our bodies, we CAN'T understand how hard it is to lose weight.
As you know my mother is fat, and her health is suffering because of it. I've listened for any number of years to her complain about her weight. But what I have NOT seen her do is to actually DO something about it (fads don't count)
I've done supportive, I've done badgering, I've offered to go with her on walks, to go to the gym with her. I've printed out diets, I've directed her to your other site...nothing.
LIke SafeT's mum, the answer to her continued weight rise is squarely her own hands. I know it, she knows it, but knowing and doing are two different things.
it takes a commitment to be fit, it takes hours of dedicated work and perseverance. The same can be said for weight loss. You can't just up and run a marathon overnight, neither can you lose a large amount of weight overnight.
I guess what I'm trying to say is nothing worthwhile si every easy, and we, as people are all in the same boat, even if it doesn't look like it at the time.

Carole said...

I really enjoy this post because it doesn't seem to be about weight at all. It seems to me to be about arrogance. I have yet to meet a human being who doesn't struggle with something. One who completely understands their own dilemna, while automatically assuming that if they've resolved a different situation in their life, everyone should have resolved that same issue.

Again, all of us have issues. Why is acceptable for anyone to point a finger at anyone for anything? And I don't think its okay to say, "Well I am concerned about their health,"

And my thought is, nice sentiment, but no you just want to avoid looking at your inner self and seeing what you struggle with that you find difficult if not impossible to change.

michael greenwell said...

nicely put kim

i need to stop smoking, thats my problem. not easy.

PI said...

Kim you are beautiful - in every single way.
I'm actually singing this - hope you can hear it!
What i am certain of is that only the person concerned can decide whether or not to try to lose weight so everybody else should just butt out - in the nicest possible way.

Mary Witzl said...

I enjoyed this post too, and I find myself agreeing with you AND safetinspector and fatmammycat.

You have done what so many people need to learn how to do -- namely losing weight by tackling the issue of addictive behavior rather than simply the issue of losing weight. By grappling with the issue of why it is you give in to addictive behavior, you learn how to control it. That is far better than just losing weight. So many people take the weight off only to put it back on again because they have not tackled the problem of their addictive behavior.

I think there is a difference between being so out of touch that you imagine fat people just don't know any better, that no one has ever told them they ought to lose weight and that is why they are still overweight -- and going through what safetinspector has been through with his mother in his efforts to help her get her weight under control. I have a number of relatives who are massively overweight, and I too despair of being able to help them with this. In your case, you worked out that you needed to lose weight and took it from there. The sad thing is that there are people who cannot seem to do this. And the people who love them have no idea how to help them.

Dr Maroon said...

Remember that American comedian? It wasn't John Candy it was the other one, anyway people used to ask him if he ate too much and he would say
' No, I've got a valve fitted to my chest and every night I pump all this compressed air into my body...'
Oh how we laughed.
Perhaps we have forgotton how to be hungry through the day. Any urge must be satisfied toot sweet.
mmm, toot sweets, arrgghhh

Eryl Shields said...

Have you read Irvin D. Yalom's book Love's Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy? In it there is a very interesting case study of an obese woman, why she was compelled to eat and eat and eat and how this was overcome. Her problem was incredibly complex and took about a year to unravel.

I have to admit that I have a tendency to be the 'don't eat so much' sort. Stevie is pretty overweight and I hear myself saying things like 'do you really need that third crumpet?' even knowing that it will not help and may even exacerbate the problem. I've tried telling him he's gorgeous and wonderful; emptying the cupboards and feeding him lentils; taking him on arduous walks in the hills but nothing seems to work. If you discover the secret please let me know.

Shebah said...

I'm with FMC on this one, Kim. I usually put on a few pounds over Christmas through my own greed and self indulgence, so my very short term pleasure usually takes the whole of January to reverse. I'm just too vain to let it get out of hand, but come the invention of a pill that will undo the damage of overeating, I will become a complete glutton. However, I don't believe in pointing the finger and trying to convert the overweight, if they prefer food to looking good, then it's a choice they made for themselves. And I don't agree with Eryl telling somebody fat they look gorgeous, because it's just not true, they know it and you know it.

Kim Ayres said...

I thought I'd got my point across rather well. I felt rather pleased, if not even *smug* with this post. With wit, humour and devestating insight I made it perfectly clear that for many people being fat is not about being greedy, lazy and over indulgent, it is about deep psychological issues.

However I was wrong.

Some of the comments here show people who understood exactly what I meant.

Some were left scratching their heads a bit and saying "yeah, but, how do I begin to help loved ones" and one or 2 missed the point completely.

Shebah - slap, slap, slap, slap, slap, slap, slap, slap, slap, slap, slap, slap, slap, slap, slap, slap. Did you not read the post? If you seriously think that it's only about people prefering to stuff their faces than look good, you have completely and utterly missed the point.

So, for those who are looking for more insight as to what's going on in the minds of loved ones who refuse to take the hint, I have written another, more explicit post.

The Difference Between Habit and Addiction


Oh, and before I forget my manners completely...

Angie, Jeff and Morg - Welcome to my ramblings, and thank you for taking the time to comment

Nikki said...

I admit, because I'm twisted I started giggling when you started slapping....

Very well put.

Gerry said...

I think it's very like the Alan Carr book on stopping smoking. For years I was told to stop, it's killing me etc. Alan Carr told me and a million others that to be a non smoker all we had to do was not smoke. He also though helped examine why we smoked and so many people quit as a result (though after a few beers I tend to forget the good advice and have a cigarette).

I've been overweight for years and yes the answer is just to eat less, but like with the cigarettes I need to look at why I eat too much. I love this post, hit the nail right on the head.

Maybe you should write the new Alan Carr book on diets, I know he did write one but never read it since he was a very difficult read. Your blog on the other hand is much easier to follow.

Kim Ayres said...

Nikki - well, it was supposed to be a bit of light relief - I don't really advocate the use of violence. Not much, anyway...

Gerry - welcome to my ramblings - I think this is the first time you've commented on this blog.

The more I think about it, the more I'm tempted to put together a short book outlining the problems as I see them. I find it astonishing that given the incredible failure rate of dieting (95% or so) that no one ever seems to address WHY people are overeating in the first place. It's just assumed to be weak will and ignorance.

Attila The Mom said...

Really brilliant. You hit the nail on the head.

Kim Ayres said...

Thank you, Attila

CactusFreek said...

Very well said!
I was in a supermarket once and i'd forgotten my glasses. I asked a guy to tell me how much fat was on the label of a certain product coz i couldn't see. He told me, then he said, "Y'know, you should stop eating." I just replied with "Yea like THAT'S constructive!" and kept going with my shopping.
Some people just don't get it and they don't want to!

Kim Ayres said...

CactusFreek - welcome to my ramblings and thank you for taking the time to comment.

One standard comeback is "I might be fat, but you're ugly. At least I can diet"

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