So, I was busy watching (aka bingeing) on Friends episodes a few of weeks ago (thank you sick time) when I had an epiphany of sorts. Most of us are familiar with the popular sitcom and know that one of the main characters, Monica was “fat” in her younger years. In flashback episodes you get a glimpse of young Monica (in a fat suit).
The thing that got to me was the way her character was portrayed when she was fat; a person who lacked self-control and binge ate her feelings. It also poked fun at her in the scenes and showed her as the goofy “fat friend” who comically danced about and got stuck in bean bag chairs because she was too large to get up. Later in the series you learn that the reason she lost weight was because of a cruel comment she had overheard Chandler make on Thanksgiving.
A year later, her character was then transformed into who we see on the show now, a thin and beautiful woman. Overly competitive, meticulously clean, and well-disciplined (she’s a chef who doesn’t overindulge in her fare), she’s a completely different person. Yet, they do have moments when they sneak in some lingerings of “Fat Monica” and her insecurities show (i.e. the episode where she learns Chandler dumped a girl because she got too fat).
This is not the first and likely not the last time we’ll see something like this. Another favorite show of mine is New Girl. They too have a main character, Schmidt, who used to be fat and the flashbacks more often than not poke fun at his “fat person” status.
His character is now portrayed as a narcissistic ladies’ man who continually comes off as douchey. There are even a few episodes where he begins (secretly) dating his college girlfriend (from his fat days). BUT he feels like he needs to hide it and is ashamed of his feelings for her because he has his trophy of an ex to compare her to.
I could go on and on spitting out examples of how being fat is portrayed in the media. In the majority of cases it’s the butt of a bad joke or something portrayed in a shameful manner. I guess that’s part of the deal though, we’ve conditioned to laugh at it or look at it in disgust.
Is being fat (or shall I say having fat) truly a laughing matter? And why are these “ex-fat” people always written to turn into these type-A over achievers?
Is it all just for show?
I say yes and no. Many studies suggest that someone who used to obsess over food in an indulgent manner is also likely to do a complete 180 and flip the switch with an obsession of “the healthy life”. There is even a new eating disorder called orthorexia nervosa, which literally means “fixation on righteous eating.”
It can become a psychological game and ultimately end in disaster. This is why so many people struggle on the maintenance side of things or with disordered eating after they strive for a healthier lifestyle.
It’s finding that sweet spot that can be tricky, but there are ways to check yourself before you literally wreck yourself.
1) You weigh yourself multiple times a day
2) You count every calorie
3) You feel yourself up
4) You believe thinness will solve your problems
5) You see food in black and white
6) You’re adding more and more foods to your forbidden list
7) You’re skipping social functions
8) You have to cut your food into bite-sized pieces
9) Your workout is always your top priority
10) You’re always up on the newest diet craze
11) You check everybody out
12) You fetishize skinny pics
13) You have tricks to avoid eating
14) You’re a slave to Fitbit
15) You eat only 100% organic, 100% of the time
16) You beat yourself up for bad behavior
17) You love your selfie more than yourself
18) You feel more lovable when you’re thin
19) You bring your own salad dressing
20) You’ve lost your other passions
Where do you fall on the spectrum? I’ll admit, I have faced my moments of obsession when it comes to weight loss and body image, but I’ve become aware of these instances and things that trigger that mentality.
I’m a firm believer in finding the balance so that healthier habits can be maintained in the long run. Knowing that a five-pound fluctuation on the scale is normal and not acting like it’s the end of the world is healthy. But why is it still so hard to accept the triumphs without going overboard?
For one, we live in a society of smoke and mirrors. Social media has made it so easy for people to only share the highlight reels of their lives. It all looks so easy for them, they’re thin, they eat all of the foods, and never workout, but are also sporting abs.
Truth be told, those are just the snippets. I’m sure not every meal is a heap of fries with a 1 pound burger and I’m sure they are in fact spending some time in the gym (despite what they say). And, guess what? They probably have their fat days too and battle that same stubborn 5-10lbs like you. When they sit down they have a roll in those perfectly sculpted abs.
Smoke and mirrors.
What are your thoughts? Do you notice these “ex-fat” characters as well? Do you recognize yourself in them? Does it offend you?