Fear of Fat People

by Bill Brenner on July 14, 2010

What do you tell someone who says they’re afraid of fat people because they might “catch the disease” if they get too close? Read on and discuss.

Mood music for this post: “Afraid” by Motley Crue:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aU-rtOouPOA&hl=en_US&fs=1]

Someone in program told me that she’s afraid of fat people. Being in the same room with obesity fills her with terror. She’s worried that if she shakes a fat person’s hand, she’ll “catch the disease.” I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried. It’s for real.

Naturally, I was taken aback. For one thing, why is she willing to be in a room with me?True, I’m much lighter than I used to be. But the word “slim” doesn’t exactly fit me.

To me, the whole thing is too far off the sanity charts to comprehend. My first instinct was to tell her she’s an idiot.

Then I remembered something important: When you are trapped in the grip of an addiction or mental illness, logic and sane thinking no longer apply.

I should know. I’ve been in the grip of both. I’ve had fears that were just as whacked. I never felt anxiety around people who are heavier than me. But there have been times when I thought of them as a lower form of life than myself. Since I was thinner, I was better than them. I thought this way even when I was 285 pounds and binge eating multiple times a day.

That’s just as bad as fearing an obese person. It’s probably worse.

Long before I found recover and the 12 steps, I used to be set off by the dumbest things. If a very old woman was sitting behind me in church, I’d be afraid to shake her hand during the part of Mass where we offer each other a sign of peace. Old people spread germs, too — right? That’s what I worried about. Forget that I’m a father of two boys below the age of 10 and kids are the biggest germ factories around.

I was afraid of plastic chairs. I was afraid that if I sat in one, the chair would stay stuck to my behind when I stood up. Actually, right before I entered OA, that very thing did happen.

Crowds used to scare the life out of me, so much so that I chose to stay in my room all the time.

So, all things considered, someone’s fear of fat people doesn’t seem as far removed from reality as I first thought.

Still, it’s a bad obsession and I hope she can free herself of it.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Alan Shimel July 14, 2010 at 5:54 am

Bill – I have to admit as a fat person myself I found this one troubling. In addition to this person’s own personal demons she is fighting, her fears are probably re-enforced by our society’s stereotypes of fat. This is good, fat is bad is the message sent. That only makes her problem worse

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: