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Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

I'd hate to give you the impression my mates are a pack of yobbo loudmouths because, they're not - honest - but, carrying on from yesterday's post about political correctness, I'd like to tell you another story involving my friends and the things they scream when drunk ...

Like yesterday's post, we were watching football, we were drinking beer and someone yelled at the TV screen, exhorting our team to "smash the fat c---" who played for the opposition.

Unlike yesterday's story involving race (where there were thankfully no Aborigines present to hear the shouted slur) this time there was an overweight person in the room.

He's a big guy, pretty reserved, and when the comment was made he was the only person to laugh. It was kind of high-pitched and sounded involuntary, like someone saying "ouch" when they hurt themself.

Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but for a moment I reckon this guy was hurt or, at best, made to feel painfully self-conscious. I'd never met him before, so it was just the vibe I got.

Now, if I made a check-list of all the things I want to do on a night out, none of them would be "hurt a friend or stranger".

I know all about self-loathing and it's something I can pretty much achieve without outside help. So, if I could have snatched those words out of the air and saved this bloke that moment of discomfort, I would have.

Fat people are an easy target - one I have previously taken aim at - but more because I find the idea of "fat acceptance" an unhealthy cop out.

That said, I find it extremely discomfiting to see or hear overweight people mocked or bullied, yet culturally it's still pretty much open season on the avoirdupois.

Last night, I was watching the terrific new Julia Louis-Dreyfus HBO series Veep, in which she plays the Vice President of the USA, Selina Meyers, and she's given an obesity taskforce to chair.

"The President knows how uncomfortable I am made by fat people," says Meyer to her chief-of-staff.

"You wanna know the secret to keeping weight off? Shut your f---ing pie-hole. How about that? It's not rocket science. I'm not a nutritionist, am I? But I do know one thing, you gotta put the corndog down, get up off your dead one, you gotta get moving."

"It's weakness, that's really all it is, it's about self control. You don't masturbate on the subway do you? You don't shit in the street? Of course not, because you've gotten a hold of yourself."

To which Meyer's chief-of-staff asks: "Have you ever had a weight-problem" and the Veep replies "Yeah, I have".

It's certainly not the funniest moment in the show, however, Veep is an equal-opportunity offender and says ridiculously offensive things about race, gender, disablility, sexual assault, animals - it doesn't seem to have a bottom line, which makes for great comedy.

However, it's a TV show, not reality and if you or I made off-colour jokes about race, gender, disablility or sexual assault in our workplaces, we'd probably be disciplined or, perhaps, lose our jobs.

But a fat joke? No one's getting sacked for a fat joke.

I know when I was overweight, it was partly the jibes I received from friends that spurred me to get fit again and lose 10kgs but, then, being fat was new to me, it wasn't something I associated with myself, so it was almost like they were mocking a stranger, not me.

With the guy I mentioned above, I have a feeling that being fat was something he was used to, yet at the same time, keenly selfconscious about. When he heard "fat", he heard "me", so when "fat" was mocked, so was he.

I know the bloke who yelled "fat c---" wouldn't have dreamed of hurting his mate, but it may well have ended up being the case.

It also made me realise, once again, that we all have the power to make the lives of those around us better or worse just with the words we choose to say.

Someone commented on yesterday's post, offering the quote, "a world without humiliation dignifies us all."

I like that.

Sam de Brito's latest novel Hello Darkness is in bookstores now. You can follow him on Twitter here. His email address is here.

125 comments so far

  • The problem with fat people is that nobody in the medical fraternity knows the cure for obesity and why people get fat to begin with. Yes it is caused by eating too much and not exercising enough but what is not explained is how the body allows this to occur.

    Weight like anything else is regulated by homoeostasis. Height, breath, heart beat and body temperature all occur around a body's set point. Weight is no different. Telling a fat person to eat less is like telling someone who has been in the Sahara Desert for 4 hours to use "WillPower" and not have a sip of water. Appetite is not regulated by willpower there are hormonal and biological drivers that feed an appetite. Going against it will lead to problems.

    If losing weight was just about showing restraint, eating less and exercising more diets would not have a 90% failure rate and the obesity rate would be 0. Most people on a diet will not keep weight off long term. Exercise actually increases appetite as your body requires more energy to build and repair tissue and muscles so they ultimately strengthen and improve fitness.

    Questions that need to be asked are what determines a person's set point and how is this altered? Also why when the body induces a dangerous substance (arsenic etc) a violent illness occurs and the body cleanses itself. Shouldn't a fat person lose their appetite until their adipose tissue is used up? Instead their body continues to store excessive fat. Why?

    The content of food matters but from my observations skinny people eat just as much junk as fat people. Unless skinny people on here are seriously going to claim they don't touch chocolate, alcohol or takeaway. This is an area of medicine requiring research.

    Date and time
    June 21, 2012, 8:44PM
    • Your imbecilic brain is what requires investigation. You eat too much, you get fat.
      You might see thin people eating chocolate or french fries, but they are not eating as much of them, as you are.

      Date and time
      June 22, 2012, 12:17AM
    • Not really, I eat junk, I love my burgers and so on, but if I eat a lot I'll usually go a long time before my next meal. From my experience fat people have never skipped a meal in their life. Breakfast, morning tea, lunch, arvo tea, dinner. More or less 5 meals a day.

      I agree Sam, people know they're fat, we don't need to rub their noses in it, although it's tempting because often they like to through their weight around and act like napoleans and make the rest of us miserable.

      Date and time
      June 22, 2012, 6:34AM
    • I disagree somewhat Dale. Will power is a massive part of it. How many times do you see sportsmen blow when they retire? Did something inside there bodies suddenly change? No, their discipline changed. They started eating to much bad food and stopped exercising. So often you see this happen then a few years later they get back to eating well and a bit of training and look good again.

      Date and time
      June 22, 2012, 8:25AM
    • Eat Less Calories Than You Burn. It's the perfect diet and it's backed by the laws of physics.

      Date and time
      June 22, 2012, 8:54AM
    • I imagine there is an evolutionary component. Before we had supermarkets, you ate what you could find when you found it and hoped it was enough to get you through to your next meal. So it would seem sensible that any time any human sees food they want to eat it. It is not just humans, all animals get fat if overfed. However I have not seen too many fat animals in the wild?

      Thus I struggle to see how being fat is generally a medical issue. It is basically a first world problem. There are no doubt some extreme cases, but in general there needs to be a desire to not eat as much given the ease with which we can access food.

      Date and time
      June 22, 2012, 9:05AM
    • I find to hard to believe most cases of fatness are caused by genetics or crap like that. If so, why were people less fat in the past? Why is obesity growing? If genetics is the main cause, shouldn't obesity levels have remained similar throughout history?

      Isn't it interesting that the obesity epidemic of recent decades have coincided with the popularity of fast/processed food in the same time period? The connection is rather obvious...

      Date and time
      June 22, 2012, 9:17AM
    • While I am not particularly fat and have never been obese I have been very skinny and I am currently at my regular size which is around 80kg and about a size 14. The women in my family are the same shape and are various sizes depending on their age, their family status and their stress levels.
      I put on weight when I am stressed over a sustained period of time and it has nothing to do with my diet. I lose weight when I am happy and comfortable. My weight band is from 70kgs to 88kgs in peaks and troughs over a period of about 5 years. My skinniest I was 65kgs and I missed my arse so much I made an effort to put some of the weight back on.
      I have never been on the receiving end of "fat jokes" and I would be very cranky if I heard that happening to someone regardless of whether I knew them or not.
      There is some research that has found cortisol makes people put on weight regardless of what they eat or do physically. Who knows what role genetics and hormone imbalances do to the body.

      Date and time
      June 22, 2012, 9:25AM
    • @enno Your imbecilic brain is the one in need of work. Point out where I said I ate French Fries or chocolate or implied I was fat. Of course you eat too much you get fat. But why? Appetitie is regulated by hormones such as ghrelin and leptin as well as biology. These mechanisms combine to ensure a person stays at a set weight. Someone's drive to eat revolves around this.

      @mh In the case of elite athletes it is interesting. Not all blow out but a lot do, some with in even a few months. Stick anyone in a gym for 4 hours a day and feed them nothing and they will lose weight. Is this sustainable long term thou? In the case of athletes my guess is their extreme training regime alters their appetite and upon retirement it doesn't shift back.

      Also does your body use will power to determine your height, eye colour, respiration rate etc? Why then does everyone suddenly need a great heap of will power to stay thin? Shouldn't weight be regulated like everything else in the human body? What is responsible for determining a person's set weight and can this actually be changed? I guess these questions would be important.

      Kind of irrelevant on this blog as everybody clearly looks like elite athletes, uses extreme will power to keep constant hunger at bay every hour and meausres their food portions.

      Date and time
      June 22, 2012, 9:30AM
    • Humans have evolved to gorge in the brief good times so they could make it through the long bad times. Now, for at least a portion of humanity, the good times are 24/7 365.

      Central Coast NSW
      Date and time
      June 22, 2012, 9:57AM

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