Why do some people think it’s okay to say you’re fat?

Yesterday I was munching on a wasabi cracker when a colleague glanced at me and muttered, “snacking will make you fat.”

She said it so softly that no one but the both of us heard it. She was obviously directing that comment at me as it was the fourth time she has said something along those lines. Why I’ve let her gotten to line number 4 I have no idea, but every time she said it, I’m too shocked to reply. Shock not just at the fact that she thinks I’m getting fat, I know I’m putting on some weight. But shocked that she thought it was okay to say something like that, particularly to a person she barely knew.

At least I barely know her. We’ve worked on 1 project together and she probably thought that we are now BFFs and that gives her every right to share her frank opinion of me. I can’t remember the first time she said those words to me but it was one of those times where everyone was gather for a quick tea break as we were at that time where the work day was coming to an end and people were getting out from their desks to gather at a common spot to chat and snack on whatever is available. Usually a box of cakes or a can of crackers were being passed round as we wait for the “witching hour” to end; the time where lunch is almost digested and people were getting restless and hungry.

You should stop snacking. Just because you’re married already doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch your weight.

Those were the very words she said. I gaped at her, while the offending cracker was floating outside the O of my mouth. What did she say? Did she really say that to me? My brain couldn’t comprehend. Every time a person with zero EQ says something to me, my brain freezes like the Blue Screen of Death. Every bone in my body finds it impossible that someone could possibly say something like that. Someone who works in the same environment as you (as oppose to a caveman beating his chest in his cave), living in the same era as you.

That cake will make you fat.

A number of hostile words ran through my mind but I didn’t say a single one of them. I’m not sure which civility gene was it that made me quash my words and smile benignly, but I was boiling with anger inside. She thought that by saying these things only within my earshot that no one would know? Straight away I shot out a mass email to the rest of the girls practically screaming the words, DO YOU KNOW WHAT THAT WOMAN SAID TO ME???

The girls, bless their hearts, were immediately supportive. Shock and rage at her insensitivity and lack of manners. They all rallied around me and came up with lines I should say to the offender. Tell her, “well do you want me to remind you that you’re getting uglier every day?” or “I’m comfortable with who I am, why should it bother you?” I felt immediately better with their support, but that feeling only lasted as far as the next time the offending colleague slug me with another one.

Snacking will make you fat, you know?

One of the other girls was really sweet. She was frankly puzzled that since she was fatter than I am, why didn’t the offender make those comments at her instead. But she was no stranger to such comments either. In her office, there was a group of women who were firm believers of slimming teas. They decided to rope her into the group by encouraging her to drink the tea to lose some of the weight. Now this girl is no Kate Moss but she has lovely curves that would turn Don Draper’s head anytime. Luckily the girl has a good head on her shoulders where she politely declined, saying these teas were nutrient suppressors and in the long term weren’t good for the body. However this didn’t stop them from persisting, and the persistence took on an ugly slant when they turned personal. “You should really start losing those extra pounds… You should watch what you eat… You’re putting on a bit of weight… TRY SOME OF THE SLIMMING TEA.”

Even the most unexpected people put in their two cents about her weight. I overheard one colleague told her that maybe she should watch what she eats and start exercising. Furious, I leapt to her defense. “She is perfectly fine the way she is. If she doesn’t have a problem with her weight, which she doesn’t, then you shouldn’t too. Who are you to put such thoughts in her head and make her insecure about herself when she wasn’t in the first place?” The offending person backed down, tried to justify his actions by saying he was merely showing concern for her. Well if you had her interests at heart, then you should ACCEPT HER FOR WHAT SHE IS and NOT PUT HER DOWN.

You will get fat, you know.

Funnily I’m quick to defend others but when it happens to me, I turn into a clam. I thought of all the things I could have said in rebuttal but none of them sounded any less bitchy than the next line. I was tired of having to put up with unnecessary criticism which I thought was plain rude. So I picked the most non-confrontational method by texting her on mobile and telling her simply, “Hi. I’d appreciate if you stop telling me that I’m getting fat. I think it is rude and not a very nice thing to say. Thanks.”

Even then I’m thanking her, for being rude to me in the first place? For not being rude to me from now on, when it’s the most basic courtesy one should show another? Whatever it is my convoluted brain is trying to do, I’m glad that I can finally put this behind me.

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4 comments

  1. It’s something I’ve noticed happen a lot in Singapore. People (but not everybody) have a tendency to make comments about other peoples’ weight ALL THE TIME. It’s very bizarre. Some people make comments everytime I get back “oh you’ve put on weight” or “oh wow how do you stay so slim” (sometimes from the same person, same trip back, different day). Jeff gets a lot of comments as well. I really don’t understand it. Is it supposed to make me feel bad about myself? Make them feel good about themselves? Make people feel like they’re always inadequate in some way?

    1. Frankly I have no idea about people’s obsession with weight here. I first rationlised it as putting on weight = eating good = good life, but the ugly undertones didn’t make it sound like a positive thing. Maybe there is a worldwide obsession but it’s only the people here who have no idea how rude it is to stereotype a person by the size and shape of his body. Maybe the government should start a courtesy campaign such as “It’s rude to call people fat!”

  2. You know, as someone who had a weight problem growing up, I’m particularly scared of comments about weight. There are people I avoid simply because I dread them telling me I’ve put on weight. Your colleague is just rude though. Perhaps she feels in competition with you in some way?

    1. I’m not sure how she would think she could possibly be in competition with me about. I’m 9 years older than her, i’ve been there longer, I’m her mentor in some of the projects she’s in. the girls think it’s because I didn’t invite her to the wedding.
      but she’s apologised and i’ve accepted it so we’re now pretending it all didn’t happen. except now I can eat my cake without having to listen to her 🙂

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