Thursday, June 17, 2010


I am generally a black or white guy, not too much nuance, and at times pretty rough around the edges. Not to mention, I am terrifically judgmental of people, places, and things. Some people have even thought me a jerk at times. Imagine?! I make snap judgments about people, and I think I was only wrong 14 times.

But when it comes to the obese, I feel a certain pain for them - been feeling it all my life too, whether I was in the best shape of my life, or the worse, or as a kid.

My first memory was in 1977. I was a 9 year-old kid playing Little League baseball. The coach was pitching to us and we lined up to take our turns at bat. The catcher was our teammate, Steve Carney. I was sort of in a trance standing in the queue to take my swings with an oversized helmet bobbling on my skinny neck. I could have been nervous about how fast Mr. Tanis was pitching, or maybe I was watching some lady walk her dog, either way I was not aware of the conversation others were having as they waited their turn to bat. Then I sort of became aware what was going on. Some of the kids were making fun of Steve. Back in the 70's (and 60's, 50's, 40's, etc) when you were a kid there was only one, maybe two fat kids in your entire class (unlike the atrociously high percentage today). Steve was one of them, but he was also a terrific athlete. And, true to stereotypical form (see: Engelberg, character, The Bad News Bears, 1976) he was our catcher. It was just a week or so into the season, and I really didn't know anyone. About 3 or 4 of the kids were joking about Steve's weight, "He doesn't even need a chest protector he's so fat!" I am quite sure I made a comment like, "Cut it out you guys," immediately scared that I would be disliked by my new teammates. But they kept it up, and when I stepped into the batter's box my heart melted. Steve, not saying a word to all the taunts was squatting behind the plate, and through the catcher's mask I saw silent tears streaming down his face. It absolutely killed me, and I made an effort to be friends with him on subsequent Little League teams through the years. That image is seared into my mind. I even remember what he was wearing. I wonder what ever happened to him?

Another time I was having lunch with my boss before a huge meeting with NASDAQ. We were there early, and decided to duck into a fast food joint in Northern Virginia. As my boss was going over our strategy for the meeting, I saw this terribly obese women walking towards us with her finished tray of food. Her little daughter was trailing behind. The tables and chairs were haphazardly strewn about and I saw her start to try to pass between two tables, thought better of it and backed off. She then motioned towards the other side of the table but that was too close to another table with people eating. She then started back towards her original route, stopped, and then looked back at the second route. She stood there looking at the two easiest ways out of the restaurant and they both looked too small for her to squeeze through (even at 300 lbs I could have passed either route easily). The look on her face was gut wrenching for me. She looked so sad, and depressed and resigned to her fate as an obese woman with a young active child asking, "What's taking so long?" She turned around and walked back the length of the restaurant so she could leave unhindered. That broke my heart, it really did. Of course, she has no one to blame - not genetics, not a glandular problem - but herself. But it is clear that it is a vicious cycle. Not happy with your life, eating food that tastes great makes you happy - unfortunately her body is conditioned so that the best tasting foods are hamburgers, pizza, and ice cream.

There have been many times I have felt terribly sorry for people who are obese (not always, since sometimes I am repulsed), and usually, it is the look of sadness in their faces.
Finally, today I saw two women crossing the street, both about 30, but one was heavy and one was not. Both had that early morning--going to work--trying to shut out the crazy noise--dodge slow moving tourists-- scowl you see everyday in the city. But what differentiated the two was the effort the heavy girl was using to scurry across the street. Both had that soft scowl, but the heavier woman had that extra look of unhappiness - forced to speed up her gate so as to not be run down by a taxi. The thin girl hopped across the street and the heavy girl lumbered, and her face appeared to redden.  I really felt bad for her.

Extra physical weight adds extra emotional weight to your day, and your life. Trust me, I know! Now we all know the fat jolly person, I get it. But in the day in and day out of life's struggles, huffing and puffing up steps, or trying to squeeze into your favorite clothes adds that extra psychological sack of brinks on your back that makes you yearn for immediate happiness -- often found in drinking, or eating.

The look on that woman's face today made me think of many I have seen, and were touched by, in the past -- including the one in the mirror. That is why I felt like writing about this today.


Vegan Epicurean said...

What a thoughtful post. Thanks for sharing it with us. :-)


blessedmama said...

Pretty thoughtful piece for someone who started the post knocking himself down. Glad you wrote this. I hope it reaches some people who find that they too are quick to judge. We are all people and have the same kinds of feelings, whether we're fit or obese. And, one thing that I think slim people forget, is that the chubby person doesn't need anyone pointing out to them that they're overweight, as if they didn't know it. Good job.

Terrence said...

thanks Ali. And thanks blessedmama -- those stories have stayed with me forever, and I am constantly reminded that many people who are over weight do sometimes suffer in silence while putting on a brave, or humorous front. There has been piles of rocks at my feet over the years, and my house is always a beautiful pane glass structure. Leaving the rocks alone, and cheering on those who want to be cheered on is the best feeling.

tt in nyc said...

Hiii! I'm right here with you in nyc trying to figure out how to be vegan and take care of myself in the midst of staying social and not calling too much attention to myself so I totally relate!! It looks like the last few weeks have been pretty rough but at the same time I'm also so proud of you! It sounds like you haven't gained and have been keeping on track as much as possible. I wanted to offer a few thoughts not related to this specific post- I think that maybe vegan isn't the right answer for you......(Omg did I just say that out loud?!?) If you are vegan only to lose weight, well, once you lose weight you're going to have a realllyyy hard time staying vegan. It sounds like you are pretty committed, but I worry that without a moral conviction that this could be too extreme for you to sustain. Maybe vegetarian is the right answer for you, or a hybrid veggie/vegan? Another strong suggestion is to meet with a nutritionist, even if its just a few times, someone who specializes in veg, not one of the "weight loss" quacks- I suspect that you are not getting enough calories (whaaaatttt?!?!) And that's why your weight has stalled. I know, another insane comment, but if u don't get enough calories and complex carbs your body goes into starvation mode and your metabolism slows waaayyy down, the extra calories fire it back up and keep you burning more calories more constantly. Also, a nutritionist will help you balance drinking/socializing within your mealplan. A few really simple things I learned are to eat every 3-4hours, that a snack for me needs to be protein/carb to sustain energy, and that I need 3 food groups in a meal.(Your edamame/miso/salad meal would have left anyone hungry!! You needed a veg avocado roll to get some carbs and fat to stay satisfied!) She really helped me figure out how to stay energized, satisfied, and healthy in ways I couldn't do on my own- and I've been veg for 20 years!! And last of all, candle cafe is my most favorite place ever!!!! Other favs of mine include chickpea, hangawi (veg korean fancy), and of course angelicas kitchen-you can do this and reach your goals, I'm so glad you didn't give up after memorial day, keep up the good work! And good luck with the cute nurse!! ;)

blessedmama said...

I'm not picking up any rocks in your glass house either! :-)

Anonymous said...

Sweet post TerrY

Terrence said...

Fascinating observations T, but I will say I am fine eating just breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I do, however, get a craving for a snack - usually sweets - around 3:30 every day. Just need to keep more fruit at my desk

Vegan Epicurean said...


I get that same sweet craving in the afternoon. I like to have a medjool date stuffed with nut butter. It satisfies my sweet craving and provides a little protein.