Laughing at someone who is obese is a form of bullying and discrimination no different from ostracizing people who are a different color than you, a different gender, a different sexual orientation, a different denomination, or even another species entirely.
While we’ll cover not laughing at an obese person in the moment, we’ll also cover understanding obesity and societal discrimination against these people, which is happening globally.
You are not unique by feeling the urge to laugh. You are doing what everyone else is doing, too. But it can be curbed. Read on.
Part 1 of 3: Curbing your desire to laugh
1. Realize you’re looking at a human being. Humans come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. What’s funny about one that’s just slightly larger? Do you laugh at those that are a different color than you? Taller? In wheelchairs? The ones that have arms that are too long for their bodies? Hair that is too short? This is just one aspect of her entire being and it should hold no significance to you.
Surely you have a friend, mother, sister, aunt, or cousin who struggles with her weight. What if she told you someone was laughing at her. What would you think of that person?
2. Just smile. If you find the situation particularly funny and are having trouble holding it back, stop it at a smile. In your head you may be laughing, but she doesn’t need to know that. This way, she’ll think you’re just being friendly, when really you’re being the exact opposite.
If the smile starts turning into a laugh, either find another reason to be laughing or just walk away. The urge will pass in a different environment.
3. Divert your attention. Just like when you’re in class and your friend tells you a funny joke, to avoid from laughing and getting called on by the teacher, you quickly switch to reading your book, or looking out the window to refocus your mind on something else. When you see someone you want to laugh at, just look away. Out of sight, out of mind.
It doesn’t matter what it is, whether it’s your shoes, the friend you’re with, or just around you surveying your surroundings. All you need is a few seconds to refocus your mind before it’ll start thinking about something else, anyway.
Think how you would have felt, if someone else laughed at you mocking that you are fat! This will definitely help you to control your laughter and understand the other person’s emotions better.
4. Talk to an obese girl you know. If you really can’t see these girls as people, talk to one. Kindly, of course. See that she has thoughts and emotions and is funny and smart. You may be surprised that she’s a rather interesting individual.
If you get to know her, talk to her about how people treat her. She probably has a few stories for you about how terrible others are to her. Do you want to join those low ranks?
Defend her when she needs it. If you see someone else laughing at her, divert your attention to them. Ask them why they’re laughing and what’s so funny about this situation. They’ll likely be speechless, because nothing is.
5. Learn more about the fat acceptance movement. There is no state in the United States that has an obesity rate of less than 20%. That means, in the USA, you’ll be laughing at 1 out of every 5 people you see, if you laugh at obese men, too. Because of this prevalence (it’s global, too), a fat acceptance movement has started. Think what you want, but know that most people are on board with accepting everyone.
Part 2 of 3: Understanding obesity
1. Realize that obesity is the symptom of a larger problem. You are thin for a number of reasons: maybe your parents are thin, you have access to healthy, fresh food, activity is easy to come by in your safe neighborhood, and your mind and body are properly functioning – not just because you eat right and aren’t lazy. Obesity is not the actual problem – in every person you see, it has to do with something else. A struggle you don’t likely have to deal with. Consider the following:
Food addiction is a real issue. The minds of these individuals secrete hormones and neurotransmitters that program them to eat. It’s the same as any drug addict or alcoholic.
Obesity and mental illness are dangerously linked. Both ways, too – if you’re obese, you’re more likely to experience mental illness, and if you experience mental illness, you’re more likely to be obese.
Hypothyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome, and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) all cause obesity, just to name a few. She could eat much healthier than you do – you have no idea.
2. Look at how expensive healthy food is. The wealthier you are, the thinner you’ll likely be. The poorer you are, the fatter you’ll be. Why? Well, largely because healthy food is expensive. It’s possible that you’re not laughing at these girls because they’re obese, you’re laughing at them because they’re poor.
It would make sense that the homeless would be thinner, on average, than the rest of us. Nope – quite the opposite: 66% of homeless people are overweight, and half of them are obese. Processed junk food is incredibly cheaper than healthy food, and keeps for longer. Those two factors are huge when grocery shopping on a non-existent budget.
3. Think about eating as a coping mechanism. When life is stressful, many of us turn to eating. If it’s not an actual mental disorder (that can link to obesity, as discussed above), it’s grief, stress, or anxiety. What you’re seeing on the outside is an inner struggle. Why would you laugh at someone for being unhappy?
This goes for adults and kids, too. If life is bad at home, they may turn to eating as a coping mechanism. To make it worse, recent research has shown that parents subconsciously penalize their kids for being overweight. The more your home life is difficult, the fatter you get, and the less likely you are to get financial assistance from your parents, turning growing up into a vicious cycle of struggle.
4. Look at data on dieting – and how it doesn’t work. In general, diets don’t work. At least for the long-term: the average “successful” diet lasts 5 years, and very few diets are successful. If you’re tempted to tell these girls to diet, you’re not giving them helpful advice. Odds are that they are dieting and it’s just not effective.
Yo-yo dieting is even worse and actually has terrible side effects. It’s possible that these girls have been dieting for years and it’s just backfired on them.
Part 3 of 3: Recognizing discrimination
1. Realize that “fat discrimination” is still discrimination. Let’s say you read a dating profile, and it says, “No fatties.” Not surprised, huh? How about one that said, “No darkies,” or “No handicapped?” It’s all the same thing – it’s all terrible, and it’s all discrimination.
And the fact of the matter is that most people do this in some form or another. The people that do are just as close-minded as those that hate other groups on the basis of their skin color, sex, religion, or sexual orientation.
2. Ask yourself if you want to be one of the many bullies they deal with every day. If you think being a nerd, being funny-looking, or having some sort of disability makes you an easy target for a bully, that’s nothing compared to being fat. It’s been shown that fat children are subject to 65% more bullying than any other group. By laughing, you’re just doing what everyone is already doing.
The trend is only getting worse. Back in the 60s, studies showed that children didn’t view the obese favorably by any means, but there wasn’t that large of a discrepancy between them and their average-weight peers. Now, there’s no contest. Nowadays, kids are 40% more likely to be full of just plain antipathy.
3. Familiarize yourself with how poorly society treats them. A recent study has found that the belief that fat people are lazy has gone global. Every single country (barring Tanzania, which associates thinness with HIV) has a stigma against fat people. It doesn’t stop at bullying, it doesn’t even stop at the government level. Take a look:
Overweight doctors are not as trusted as their thin counterparts. This is just one example where weight affects their success in their career.
Fat people (especially women) are more likely to get a “guilty” verdict from a jury and subsequently endure the consequences.
4. To top it off, know that maybe their doctor won’t even help them. You’d think the one group of people that would want to help them get more healthy would be doctors, wouldn’t you? Well, you’d be wrong, according to recent studies. Even most doctors have biases against their patients, and some even refuse them treatment. How are they supposed to get thinner and healthier?
Medical treatment for those below the poverty line? Don’t even think about it. The UK recently announced they want to cut welfare for fat people who don’t go the gym. When can they catch a break?
5. Think about how society “enables” eating. If you live in the West, and especially America, you need only walk out your front door to see the signs of how obesity is enabled. Portion sizes are getting bigger, eating is getting more convenient, and terrible junk foods are getting more and more prevalent. Don’t blame them – blame society.
Health/illness and weight-products are billion dollar industries. Health is being monetized because obesity means profit, and countries are eating it up. Obese people need new clothes, are constantly on medication, get surgery, and buy products to make themselves feel beautiful. It drives the economy. Because of this, no government is likely to want to put an end to it, as it pays the bills. They’re not just up against themselves, they’re up against all of society.