Why Would an Attractive Woman like that Become SO Fat?

I recently started watching the new series of Black Mirror on Netflix. Watching the first episode “Nosedive”, I found myself enjoying the lead actress Bryce Dallas Howard immensely and wanted to know more of her work. I took to IMDB to find out more about her.

“Why would an attractive woman like that become so fat?”

Wait, what was that? Oh, just the first comment I came across when clicking on her IMDB message board. Scrolling on …

“What a weird body”

“What’s with the no boobs thing?”

“Huge Weight Gain in Pete’s Dragon”

“What happened? Is she pregnant?”

Okay … now, call me naïve, but somehow I think these comments are not about her acting work at all.

“It was quite disgusting seeing that roly-poly abomination waddling along the road. No wonder everyone was giving her low ratings. The thing is, genetically speaking she was a rather attractive woman. Very strange given that fat people are usually hideous to look at.”

And on that note, I was out of there. I sat there staring balefully at the screen for a while just shocked, not for the first time. The sheer cruelty people think they can get away with these days!

Bryce Dallas Howard isn’t fat, not by a long mile. She has an amazing pin-up like body and the cutest, most adorable face. She is a funny, talented bright and sparkly actress but apparently, that doesn’t matter if your body is not “Hollywood” thin.

In recent years fat oppression, more commonly known as “fat shaming”, has become accepted as the “done thing”. Magazines, TV shows and public figures like Katie Hopkins in the UK and Donald Trump, have made “pointing out a person is fat” acceptable.

When clicking on a comment section or message board where people are discussing other people, more often than not the first things discussed are a person’s looks and weight; their personality or accomplishments are only an afterthought.

We are living in a shallow world. Anyone not possessing what is considered the “body ideal” or that looks different in any way is in for scrutiny.

Being bigger than others has never been easy, except maybe when living in Rubenesque times.

I can testify to this: even in the 1990’s growing up as a “big kid” was hell at school. I was bullied brutally every day. In high school, people flashed lighters in my face, tried to drive into me with a motorbike and even tried to throw acid in my face.

And guess what?  The teacher blamed ME for this! Why?

 “She’s just so different from the others and that’s provoking.”

When I was finally free of school, I hoped that things would change. I always thought that when people grow up, they start to know better. I was wrong. Grown-ups can be just as bad, if not worse. Especially this strange generation: adults gleefully approach other adults in the street, asking; “when is it due?”, even when they know the other person isn’t pregnant. They think nothing of saying: “should you be doing that” if they see what they consider to be a “fat person” eating something while walking down the street. This used to be taboo, but not anymore, the filter has gone and what has been unleashed ain’t pretty.

Many people claim they think that pointing out a person is fat helps the “fat person” in some twisted way. Well, no it doesn’t: usually they are aware of the problem, thank you. Pointing it out only works for demotivating the person.

Of course, not everyone is like this; there are people out there who don’t care about the way someone looks. (In fact, there are even self-proclaimed “chubby chasers” out there, folks only falling for those that have “something to grab hold off”. Then again a lot of these people are rather extreme. Being fetishized isn’t an ideal thing to be either.) Good to know, of course. But when you are feeling insecure about your weight and have suffered several upsetting altercations with people that hurt you to the core, knowing this won’t help. You reach a stage where you are sure the entire world is against you, and these people are just lying to be kind.

Nobody chooses to be fat and often it has little to do with food intake.

My weight gain was sudden. When I was about seven years old, my weight suddenly changed, almost overnight. I had not changed my eating habits, I was a dancer, I was always exercising. Still, I grew bigger and bigger, as a result, people begun to treat me differently. “I’m not sure you should” added when cake and candies were handed out at birthdays, judgemental looks were included with my chips.

I was never a binge eater. I was hardly able to empty my plate at the best of times.

My mum schlepped me around from clinic to clinic to find what was wrong with me. Nothing could be found. At around age twelve, I was virtually anorexic, dancing to Michael Jackson most of the day and still, I did not lose any weight.Over the years I tried diet after diet, miracle cure after miracle cure and guess what: I still have nothing to show for it. This is true for many people.

Yes, I know. Of course, some people gain weight because of their food intake, but it is not something they would choose to do either if they could help it. Usually, there is something deeper going on than just “I like to eat” that makes people reach out for comfort foods. Depression, abuse, anxiety. Food can be as intoxicating and addictive, just like a drug to people who feel hurt, empty or lonely.

In the end, it doesn’t matter how you gained your weight; the result is usually the same: insecurity and a constant fear of being judged and hurt by others. This causes stress. Stress often brings on more weight gain.

Diet and exercise are often seen as the answer to all of this. But it isn’t always the case. For me dieting and not losing weight was very depressing. At one point I exercised three to four hours a day and nothing much happened. Later I found other people experienced the same thing. They told me that just like me, they ended up in a vicious self-hating cycle.

You start blaming yourself, feeling you are not pushing hard enough, not training long enough, maybe eating too much between exercising. Soon your life is just an endless worry about weight, exercise and avoiding too much food.

Meanwhile, others who do lose weight, often find they are still not happy on the inside, not even after all that work. This is because after years of feeling less than, being bullied and shunned the transformation feels false and their inside world is unable to relate to their outside world. Years of pain and trauma cannot be exercised away. This is often the moment that people give up and stop their diet and training, lose what they worked so hard for only to start all over again a few months later.

This cycle is something not many people can break, and only a few are aware that counseling is an option that can help break it. It is understandable that a person who has been or at least felt judged all his or her life may find it difficult to seek help. Understandable because some might have met, in the past, with unsympathetic doctors or others in the “care” industry who were not as caring as they could have been. Physicians who blamed everything on weight in a sour-faced dismissive way, gynecologists who gleefully “punished” you with an unnecessary internal examination because they simply could not “reach through all that blubber”. Yes. This abuse happens every day.

The difference here is that a counselor is not there to look at your physical self and will usually never judge you in this way. He or she is there to look at the inner you: this is the part that needs to be taken care of first and foremost.

You have to learn to find self-worth and self-love before you try and change anything about yourself. Once you have made peace with the true you on the inside, you might not even care about the outside anymore. This is what a counselor can bring you: inner peace, self-respect. You will learn that no-one should be able to make you feel bad about yourself, no-one has that power.

The support and advice of a counselor can break years of bad programming you may have internalized. It can help you reclaim your self-esteem, aiding you to either accept yourself as you are, or help you find a way to lose weight on your terms.

But accepting yourself comes first, always. No matter how thin or big you are, only the love you have for yourself can make you look truly beautiful and once you find that, weight no longer matters.

Photo Credit: narghee-la Flickr via Compfight cc

Dr. Dannii Cohen

Dannii Cohen is a former stand-up comedian and comedy writer turned author, psychologist, professional counselor, life coach and self-help expert. She is specialized in LGBT issues, anxiety, women’s issues, female empowerment, and bullying. Dannii is an agony aunt for The Gay UK. Her books; When Clouds Hide The Sun, Christopher The Lonely Bear and 50 Things To Know To Have A Better Life, are all on Amazon.

  1. Avatar

    I Just saw Bryce in “Petes Dragon” and loved her warm personality and beauty! And yes she looks like a regular and healthy woman! I hate that people are fat shaming her but she is gorgeous even when she was heavier.

  2. SA Smith

    I loved this piece. We are women, we are men, we are individuals. We are more than our looks, our sizes, our outward appearances. Our worth should not be connected to our reflection in the mirror. Beauty comes in all sizes, in all forms, in all varieties. Thank you for your article, we need more pieces like this in the world. Our little ones, our teenagers, and even we adults… need to remember we are more than the size of our jeans.

  3. doriowen

    Such an excellent blog. Fat shaming is completely inexcusable and reflects more about the shallowness of the shamer. I really enjoyed reading your well-written piece. ~D.

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