Wednesday, May 17, 2006

And society will eventually catch up...

Obesity has begun to find its niche in American marketing
At Freedom Paradise on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, the chairs are wider and without arms, to prevent getting stuck; the beds are king size and reinforced, to prevent collapsing; and the beach is private and secluded, to prevent gawking and staring.

"You should not be embarrassed by how big you are," said William Fabrey, whose online business "Amplestuff" offers larger versions of everyday things from umbrellas to footstools.

"You can't just yell at someone and tell them to lose weight. You're already dealing with people who think they have no worth," he said. "They still have to sit down on a chair that doesn't collapse."

Like others in this small but growing group of businesses, Fabrey started his company after discussions with an overweight friend. "She was a big woman, and she said, 'There's got to be an easier way to get through the day.' "

To make living large a little easier, Fabrey sells lotion applicators and sponges attached to handles, enabling the user to reach all parts of the body; handbooks about hygiene with tips about dealing with odor problems, chafing and irritations caused by skin folds. His business provides links to physicians and medical services.

"We don't take any position on whether someone should lose weight," Fabrey said. "That's up to the person."

I once had a family physician who made such comments to me as, "You do a good job of keeping yourself clean," and who literally wouldn't treat my illnesses because I was overweight... as if every single illness stemmed directly from my weight and that I somehow didn't merit treatment. I don't remember now what the final straw was, just that whatever it was, it was shockingly obvious that he had a bias against me because I was overweight, and I never went back. He was our family physician, and I took our whole family somewhere else then and there.

Yeah, I realize that there are going to be issues that do stem directly from being overweight, but it doesn't mean that I shouldn't get an antibiotic for my sinus infection. Nor does it mean that I shouldn't receive treatment for a broken ankle, even if I got that broken ankle because I tripped on something because I'm overweight and have poor balance... or whatever... make sense? Treat people's medical needs or don't. It's fine for my doctor to recommend that I exercise and lose weight, but I know that she'll also treat my immediate need and not expect me to "deserve" it by losing weight beforehand.
Those who are overweight know full well how it feels to be sneered at, laughed at, pitied and scorned, but having a simple tool, such as a sponge on a stick or a sturdy footstool that can bear up to 500 pounds, makes one feel a little more human. And a little less demonized.

Joan Borgos weighed 350 pounds for 28 years, until she had gastric bypass surgery and lost 200 pounds. She began putting out because nothing was available "that didn't look like a muumuu from Lane Bryant," she said.

From her home in Massachusetts, she lists clothing catalogs, bridal shops (for gowns up to size 32), plus-size dating services, counseling services, seat-belt extenders and lingerie. She recently added listings for teens, after desperate mothers told her they couldn't find stylish clothes for their overweight adolescents.

Even toddlers have joined the overweight ranks, with car-seat manufacturers offering the "Husky," 10 pounds heavier and 4 inches wider than the standard size.

"There are all kinds of theories that abound about why people are getting heavier," Borgos said. "People are more sedentary, people eat more junk food and get less exercise.

"It's a constant level of stress to live as an overweight person. You're always scoping out the environment, looking if you're going to be able to fit."

There's a vicious cycle in play here; you're overweight, you can't fit into normal life so you begin to experience the self-loathing and the societal rejection, and you find yourself in emotional paralysis. For some, they're in this state for so long that they're just unable to help themselves break out of it.

Let's at least accept people into the mainstream of society so they can begin to view themselves in a more healthy manner... which will empower them to make whatever changes they need in order to reach health and well-being.
Kelly Bliss, a self-described "chubby chick" in suburban Philadelphia, offers "plus-size fitness and lifestyle coaching."

Which means, she says, encouraging overweight clients to exercise as best they can, to eat more healthfully and not to focus on losing pounds.

"People cannot just stop being fat," she said. "It's prejudice when you say a fat person does not need things to make them comfortable.

"People crumble when you give them even more pressure on top of a life that's already not working."

Hear, hear.

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