Did You Know That When You Look Up ”Fat” on, ”Butterball” Is a Result?

todayApril 26, 2023 44 1

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By Sam Burzinski
Blog Content Contributor

 “Hey Fred, saw your fat *ss on the six o’ clock news last night.” -Jim Gaffigan

“Remember: if you’re not sure about eating something, rub it against a piece of paper. If the paper turns clear, it’s your window to weight gain!” -Dr. Nick Riviera

I make no avoidances when it comes to discussing the fact that I am a bigger guy than most. I can joke about it, say I’m rotund around the middle and I imitate the Poppin’ Fresh laugh whenever somebody bumps me in the midsection. I tend to be pretty jovial in conversation, holding the weight of the “jolly fat dude” trope like Atlas bearing the load of the world on his shoulders. I can recognize that, however depressing this truth is, it really was my fault.

I will not shy away from the plain and simple fact that I was rather lax and generally against the idea of exercise as a child–regardless of the amount of youth sports I engaged in–and eating was a very common practice to be doing casually around the house. It’s odd to see people my age talk about how much they’re eating while staying trim and, appearing at least visually, “normal.”

Even odder are those older than me who long for the halcyon days when they seemed to burn calories with the same rapidity with which I walk to a buffet, never getting enough to balloon to obesity. I almost exclusively drink water, walk everywhere whenever I can and get a somewhat reasonable amount of sleep every night. And yet, here I am, hovering around 255 pounds for the past few years. Where’s my perfect metabolism? Where’s my teenage leanness?

I have a word for myself that, while I would never use to describe another person, I throw around so casually about my own body that you’d think that my mouth was formed by the gods for that word alone. And it’s Fat. I’m a Fat dude, throwing my weight around regardless of the danger it holds. However, if somebody else were to use Fat to describe me, I’d be furious. It’s my word to use for myself exclusively, not yours to use to denigrate me further than I already have. I’m able to be disgusted by my side profile, but if somebody else came up to me and told me the same thing I already think about myself, I’d be incensed. Maybe that’s indicative of something deeper psychologically about myself, but for now I’ll give it a shrug and a passing glance.

Depictions in the media weren’t always ideal. It isn’t anywhere near what racial minorities and those in the LGBTQ+ community go through throughout their childhoods, but it’s something I feel is unique to me. Fat people are always shown in TV and movies as the dumb ones, the ones who provide the comic relief, the serial pratfallers. Your Homers, your Patrick Stars, your extended Klump families and your every-character-that-Kevin-James-has-ever-played. This depiction of Fat people in popular culture is undoubtedly one of the reasons I am who I am today. I’ve pursued being the “funny one” because that was the only real positive mold that I had seen around me.

Monochromatic photo of Chris Farley waving. He is wearing a suit jacket and a tie. To the right of him is his signature, below which is the date 2/97.
Chris Farley, by all accounts an incredibly sweet and intelligent man, and one of the funniest fat guys in history to boot. Photo credit: Mike Steele from Flickr and licensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

That’s not to say there aren’t legitimately funny comedians and actors who are on the larger side. Chris Farley and John Candy spring to mind as immediate examples of some big, funny guys. However, that box that many tend to be placed into when coming onto the scene as a Fat person is far-reaching and often far too impactful to shake off. Is it too much to ask for a little more positive exposure for Fat men in the media? At the very least, a more complex character than the typical archetypes of The Dope, The Creep, or The Jolly Mentor would be nice.

I’m afforded at least a single positive in my life as a Fat person, and that is the fact that I am a man. You never see figures like Chris Farley, John Candy, John Belushi, Kevin James, or Jack Black accused of “glorifying obesity” just by being who they are. It’s always Amy Schumer, Rebel Wilson, or Lizzo, women who are notable in popular culture who also just so happen to be of a larger size, who are put on trial by the internet and beyond. And for what? Not conforming to what many see as the only acceptable body type for women to have? What a load.

One could definitely say that Amy Schumer or Rebel Wilson aren’t exactly the funniest women around, or that the radios tended to play “Good as H*ll” a bit too much, but is weight really a factor in either of those? On top of all that, this harmful and downright vile double standard is often perpetuated by people I myself know, the ones who, at least to my face, make no such remarks about my BMI being in the upper ranges. The ones you’d think I could trust.

I won’t say there aren’t at least some benefits that stem from being Fat. I have momentum in whatever I do; I can push and pull with the strongest out there and my stamina isn’t that half bad either. Chairs don’t tend to hurt in the way they would if I didn’t have a built-in cushion, and my cold weather insulation is top notch. When my backpack used to weigh 75 pounds, the only harm is to the 45 year old me’s knees and back due to my body’s solidity. To top it all off, I’m an excellent hugger when I feel like it, exuding a warmth rivaling the ever-beckoning tendrils of an early-morning bed.

However, the downsides definitely far outweigh the aforementioned positives. I get tired walking up steps, my sausage fingers are pretty uncoordinated when I’m not typing or playing Guitar Hero. I’m clumsy, and not in a particularly endearing way. My clothes are all massive when compared to the “average” person my age and, honestly, my poor body image issues end up with me perpetually in clothes that drape me like I’m a window.

A small potted plant sits on a windowsill. Surrounding it are a set of flowing white drapes. They obscure much of the window in a rather formless fashion.
Plant by the window. Original public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.

I would never, not in a kajillion years, say that being Fat is a good thing. I’m always on the brink of something awful, my health’s clock tick, tick, ticking away in the back of my mind no matter how much I try to drown it out. But this is the way that I am. I’m striving to change that with every meal I eat and with every bike ride I take. I just wish people recognized me more for the mental and emotional presence I possess rather than the physical.

I’ll leave you with one final thing, a movie scene that I still think about sometimes and gets me somewhere deep no matter what.

Written by: Hannah Walls

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