Fat people love to sugarcoat being fat. They refer to themselves as “chubby”, others “cute”, and some overwork the thesaurus for a term that transforms a common sighting in Oslob to a Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie.
Before fat people connive to crush me between Teletubby bellies, I put on record: I am fat. Not even overweight. By BMI (body mass index), I am worse: obese. Do I accept that? Not really. It’s all in the mind, as they say. But you can’t escape reality – although you can always manage it to your advantage. Reason why I have skipped whale shark watching in Oslob this summer. They don’t only remind me of the brutal killing of whales by the Japanese in Antarctica for the name of “science”; they bring to mind what I see in the mirror every morning!
Seriously, being overweight (fine: obese) is more a confidence issue than a disease. It is a state of mind that feeds on how people adjust to certain circumstances in life. To many, it is their way of battling stress – not adding on weight per se but the process that aids in it: overeating. It brings instantaneous gratification. It whets that kind of appetite that justifies the act, making it outweigh real consequences. For the weight-conscious, this struggle among fat people is something that they can relate with. For the self-righteous Stick-Os who look down on fat people, it is a struggle that puts them in a high chair.
There is no other time in the year like summer when the issue of weight-loss precedes the national concern of poverty. Almost everybody in the Philippines thinks of hitting the beach from March to May. These are months when sales of swimwear shoot up. These are months when clothing companies become uber creative in hiding the flabs. And the months leading to summer see an influx in the number of people hitting the gym, running the oval, and doing Zumba. Everybody just wants to display their six-pack or flat tummies during summer. (For some fat people like me, we try to keep our six-pack to ourselves during summer. Until we figure out how to transfer them from the sides to the center, we observe summer-long Holy Week conservatism.)
Quite recently, circulating in social media is a video of Elaynne Peddy, a London-based Black woman who turned emotional as she was recalling her experience in El Nido, Palawan, known for its pristine beaches. She is obviously big and tall. While she considers the Philippines a “paradise”, she said she experienced the worst time of her life in El Nido. The discrimination that people threw at her made her cringe at the thought of even leaving her hotel room. The local people were calling her names, including “fat ugly monkey” and “big black fat girl”. She would be charged double for rides, and would be stared and laughed at. She felt ridiculed to the bones.
As she was recalling this in her video blog, I could sense her pain and trauma. The “shitty” experience continues to haunt her that as she was narrating her story, no matter how she held herself back, she would break down to tears. She said the El Nido experience made her feel ugly. It broke to pieces her self-confidence. Coming from London where there is high cultural diversity, she felt so secured about herself before she went to El Nido. But after El Nido, she lost her self-confidence. She needed to be infused with the same zest for life and bubbly spirit that once shielded her from doubts about how she was beautiful with a heart.
Her experience is what many fat people struggle with every day. The physical attack could heal but the emotional and psychological damage can be irreparable – it can either build up or cause you to lose your sense of self. In the case of Elaynne, it changed her perspective of life and herself quite considerably. She’s no longer as comfortable as she was in her own skin. In the case of other fat people, they look to food for comfort than be in public and hangout with people who could magnify to them their inherent fears and inferiorities. A lucky few translate it to a challenge to be in good shape.
But whatever the weighing scale shows, we use our own thesaurus in defining the kind of life we want. We live it as how we please, not as how others brand it to be. After all, thin or otherwise, we all have to keep a fat disposition in life.