Tag Archives: smoking

“You look great! Have you lost weight?” And other phrases on “What NOT to Say!”

HaveYouLostWeight.001-001

Want to start out with a trigger warning.  I’m going to be talking about illness-induced weight loss and our society’s often idiotic response to it.

Part of my recent health journey includes a little bit of illness-induced weight loss.  Some of it is explained by the fact that the pain and the pain killers made me not want to eat, and part of it as a result of some anemia that I’m facing.  Which has led a few nice, and well-intentioned people to remark and then ask, “You look great!  Have you lost weight?  How did you lose in?”  Now I know that they are trying to be kind, but it’s honestly kind of hard to keep the sarcastimonster in check.  Because the sarcastimonster wants to shout, “I do not look great, I look terrible.  I am a little thinner because I’m in excruciating pain and because my body is not processing food properly right now.  But thanks for the compliment.  If you’d like to try out my ‘Excruciating Pain Weight Loss Program’ (patent pending) I can arrange it for you.  Just come a LEETLE bit closer while I grab this hammer.”

Yup, the sarcastibeast gets a little, um, TESTY when I don’t feel so well.  But the sarcastibeast is right about one thing.  It’s always risky complementing somebody on their weight loss.  First of all, “You look great.” coupled with “Have you lost weight?” implies that before the person lost the weight, they didn’t look as great.  In fact, you’re saying before they probably didn’t look great at all.  Which is decidedly not cool.  Secondly, unless the person you’re talking to has been talking ad nauseum about their latest weight loss program you never know why they are losing weight.  If they have lost weight through deliberate weight loss, they are most likely going to gain that weight back again in the future.  And you just told them that the weight loss made them look great.  If they haven’t lost weight through deliberate means, they may have started smoking again or they may be grieving or they may have cancer.  And you’ve just told them that when they get better, they won’t look as great.  And their weight loss may not have been healthy at all.  I got a lot of compliments the last time I went through a major crazy weight loss program.  I was living on less than 1,000 calories a day.  My bowels no longer moved and my hair was falling out.  My menstrual cycle had stopped completely.  I was cold all the time.  I was very sick, and truth be told, I didn’t look that well at all.  Yet people complemented me all the time about how healthy I looked.

Complimenting somebody on weight loss may cause somebody who is already coping with something that is kinda a big deal to have to cope with something else.  They make come to see their illness-induced weight loss as a silver lining.  Think I’m kidding?  Joan Lunden has been battling a particularly aggressive form of cancer.  She even appeared, bald and smiling, on the cover of Time magazine.  (I’ll bet nobody said to her, “You look great!  Have you lost hair?”)  Last week, during a wonderful interview on the Today show about the challenges and lessons she’s experienced while coping with cancer, Joan started talking about the hidden “benefits” of cancer.  She mentioned how contemplating your own mortality tends to focus your life and help you see what’s important.  And then she leaned over to Hoda (who also has battled cancer) and smiled knowingly as she mentioned that since she started battling with cancer, she’s lost weight.  (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.)  This reminds me of a friend of mine who admitted she has a whole closet full of clothes that don’t fit her.  She bought a whole bunch of clothes when she lost weight during chemotherapy.  And now that she’s well again, those clothes don’t fit.  But she doesn’t give those clothes away, because when she was wearing those clothes, during chemotherapy, people said, “You look great!  Have you lost weight?”  Which leads me to another point.

Saying “You look great!  Have you lost weight?” gives somebody who may be sick something else to worry about.  And something else to worry about is the last thing somebody needs when they are sick.  Because the sick person begins to wonder, what will happen when they get better and regain the weight?  What happens when they stop smoking for good or recover from the eating disorder?  What happens when they stop chemo and recover from cancer?  What happens when their red blood cells multiply and their body starts getting oxygen again?  What happens when they are no longer in pain and they start eating again?  What if all this wonderful stuff happens to their body and they start gaining weight?  Will they no longer look great?  It may even make the person wonder if getting better is such a good thing.

Which is patently ridiculous and extremely unhelpful.

On today’s episode of my new show, “What NOT to Say!” I’d like to make a suggestion.  As a society, we’ve learned that unless she’s wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the words “baby on board” we’re never to ask a woman if she’s pregnant.  I’d like to suggest that commenting on a person’s weight loss should be in the same category.  It’s invasive.  It’s potentially risky.  It’s potentially rude.  And we just shouldn’t do it any more.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie, AKA The Fat Chick

P.S. Want me to speak about “What NOT to say about Weight Loss” to your group or organization?  Click here to BOOK ME.

P.S.S.  Want to join my mailing list and get FREE STUFF?  Click HERE.

Advertisements

New Zealand Tells South African Chef, “You’re Too Fat to Live Here!”

I know I am not the first and I certainly hope I’m not to write about this story.  Because you know what?  This scares me right out of my sparkly, yet sensible shoes.  Last week, New Zealand immigration officials told South African chef Albert Buitenhuis that due to his weight of 286 pounds he has an “unacceptable standard of health” and faces expulsion from the country.  Despite the fact that Buitenhuis has actually lost weight since he was originally admitted to the country in 2007, he has lost his work visa because he failed to lose weight.

He needed to stop working immediately.  And because Albert was the primary applicant on the original work visa, his wife needed to stop working as well.

An immigration spokesperson has stated that Mr Buitenhuis’s application had been rejected because his obesity put him at “significant risk” of complications including diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.  The spokesman reportedly said:

“Unless it is in the extreme, obesity will not in itself cause an applicant to fail health screening requirements, but INZ’s medical assessors have to consider to what extent there might be indications of future high-cost and high-need demand for health services,”

It should be noted that Albert may also need a knee replacement which could cost the health system over $20,000.  However, it has also been reported that the fact that Mr. Buitenhuis’ BMI was over 35, originally triggered the rejection of his work visa renewal.

This story has hit international news outlets including the Daily Mail and the BBC.  So I am hopeful this won’t just slip into obscurity in the next day or two, and I am eager to hear how Albert’s appeal process proceeds.  Because I have to admit, I find this story terrifying and frustrating in the extreme.

Here are just a few points:

1.  Immigration officials arbitrarily choose to apply or not apply BMI statistics in regards to work visa renewal.  If the irrational or irregular application of body size regulations are enough to leave people traveling on a jet plane in the lurch, think of the effect it can have on people moving their entire lives from one country to another.  And as we’ve seen in regards to flying on airplanes, if fat people are unable to ascertain exactly how these regulations will apply to them they are more likely to avoid the situation altogether.

2.  It appears that the rules changed after Albert moved to New Zealand.  Albert and his wife set down roots, made friends, built a career and a life, and then the rug got pulled out from under them.  This should be a chilling tale for everyone interested in ever immigrating anywhere.

3.  It appears the New Zealand Immigration ministry are using BMI and health interchangeably.  There is ample evidence that as a health metric BMI is extremely problematic and unreliable.  There is significant evidence that people who have a BMI in the “ideal range” actually live shorter lives than those in the “overweight” range.  Furthermore, I have heard no indication that New Zealand’s Immigration ministry are using other, far more reliable health metrics in determining visa renewal status.  Are they taking into account issues like: stress level, sedentary lifestyle, tobacco use, levels of discrimination, lack of sleep, working third shift or driving a motorcycle, being older, or being male?  There’s also evidence that bald men are more likely to have heart disease and taller women are more likely to get cancer.  Why are they taking this one extremely unreliable metric (BMI) out of context and using it to determine immigration status?

4.  Is BMI used because it is a “cheap shot” both figuratively and literally?  Despite the many, many questions about the effectiveness of BMI as a health metric, there is no question that it is extremely easy to measure and verify.  And I wonder whether discrimination based on body size is cheap politically as well?  Immigration necessarily needs to limit the number of people who can enter and stay in a country.  And they need to make sure the limitations that are used are politically tenable.  Are fat people singled out and discriminated against simply because politically, they are easy targets?

I admit that I can’t claim to know everything that is going on in this case.  I will be watching with interest to see how it plays out.  But, in any case, I think this is further proof that we need to be ever vigilant of new ways that discrimination is heaped upon people of size.

Love,

The Fat Chick

UPDATE: Don’t miss this amazing post by Angela Meadows in Huff Po!  And don’t forget to like the story and comment if you have the sanity points to spare!

Like my posts?  You’ll love my stuff!

Buy my book: The Fat Chick Works Out! (Fitness that is Fun and Feasible for Folks of All Ages, Shapes Sizes and Abilities)–available in softcover and e-book versions

Buy my DVD: The Fat Chick Works Out! (A Safe, Easy and Fun Workout for Klutzes, Wimps and Absolute Beginners!)

Buy a book or a DVD for a friend and save $5!  Just enter FRIENDBLFT in the discount code box!

Check out my Training Programs–both in person and via Skype (Starting at just $25!)

or

Book me to speak at your special event!