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“. . . if she would just lose the weight.”

That’s a snippet of a conversation between a husband and wife, speaking about one of the wife’s colleagues, in a book I recently read, Silent Child by Sarah A. Denzil. The author is British and the novel is set in a small town in England, so it would appear that Americans aren’t the only ones into fat shaming.

Oh, “if she would just lose the weight.”

A simple solution

It kind of reminds me of the days when my children were babies and I wanted so badly to stay home with them, but we couldn’t afford for me not to work. More than one person suggested to me, “Why don’t you just babysit?”

Just babysit? As if babysitting other people’s children was pretty much the same thing as allowing people to park their cars in your yard and collecting money from them at the end of the week.

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People who make statements like the one in Denzil’s book have no earthly idea what’s involved in losing weight. Several years ago, there was a local morning drive-time radio duo. One of them was heavy, the other pretty skinny. One morning the skinny one started making remarks about someone’s weight, whereupon the heavy one said to him, “I don’t see you drinking Slim-Fast,” meaning the skinny one likely had to make little, if any, effort to stay slim. He was born with a different set of genes than his heavier colleague.

It’s complicated

As an illustration of the complicated relationship with food some people have — such as myself — I remember as a child spending a week with my cousins one summer. They lived in a subdivision with a pool, so one day we all piled into the station wagon and were dropped off for an afternoon of swimming. It was a special event for me. I rarely got to go swimming. But you know what I remember most about that day? The hot dog stand. I remember being so excited to have a dollar or two in my pocket to buy a hot dog and a Coke.

I have a friend who frequently remembers what she was wearing on a certain occasion, even if the occasion was nothing special. I frequently remember what I was eating. And often, I can remember what I was eating and not remember who I was with. Like millions of others, my relationship with food is complex and not one that can be solved by telling me to “just” do anything.

How hard could it be?

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For people who have had a lifelong struggle with their weight, the words “Just lose the weight” have about as much meaning as “Just build a rocket and fly to the moon.” I mean, seriously, if I could just lose the weight, don’t you think I would? Do people think you don’t realize you’re fat, so maybe that’s why you haven’t done anything about it? Or perhaps they truly believe that restricting yourself to a celery stick and a saltine at lunchtime can’t really be that hard?

The weight loss industry takes in well over $60 billion annually. And contrary to popular belief, most people aren’t looking for a quick fix. Most people are looking for a solution. “Just lose the weight” is not a solution. It’s fat shaming.

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