Thursday, 28 October 2010


I have a confession to make, and it may leave you slightly disgusted. Read on, if you have the guts. I will be kind of rumbling. It’s about ‘fatties’.

Some background: my sister and I were talking on the phone last week and as usual I asked her about ‘my daughter’ i.e. my niece. After the regular updates, she told me that I seem to have given my niece the idea that fat people are not good-looking. I was a little surprised, even shocked. I actually have no idea when I ever did this. I guess I may have talked about how I don’t want to gain weight in her presence and all, having gained 4-5 kgs (and probably growing-matooke on the regular, but more importantly an increased intake of sausage and milk) since landing here about 2 years ago. Some of the weight gain for good reason. And it’s not like I mind it that much, though I won’t lie and say I would want it to go unchecked. I think some of her ‘learning’ may have come from hearing me and my mum comment about weight, me saying I don’t want to be ‘fat’. To which my mum’s (and sister’s) response is almost always ,”wi mukiigu muno!” (you’re very stupid!). Maybe it even stemmed from some comment I made while watching some sports updates at some point and commented on the sports-reporters size and how it was ‘inappropriate’ for his profession. Like, a sports-reporter should look ‘sporty’, not fat. I don’t know. But am surprised that a 5-year old is able to listen to odd statements and come to a conclusion. And start making comments which would be considered offensive when she sees ‘fat’ people. Fat people, in my opinion, are not even that common in Kenya, our main problem being, well, food security. Except maybe in middle-class urban people who I understand are starting to be affected by ‘lifestyle diseases’.

Recently there was an article on Marie Claire where the writer expressed disgust for ‘fatties’ . The article resulted in an uproar on the internet, with people writing tens of thousands of emails to Marie Claire, some calling for the author's firing. I found this paragraph particularly disturbing: “So anyway, yes, I think I'd be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other ... because I'd be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I'd find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.” I thought it was a little harsh, even misplaced given the fact that I think majority of women in America are large. And that’s self-desribed “...publication that women turn to for information on fashion, style, beauty, women's issues, careers, health...”. Way to inform the women, eh?

The article got me thinking about my own weight biases. While maybe 4-5 years ago I would rarely notice, let alone care that someone was overweight, perhaps due to my rural upbringing, something seems to have happened, and I kinda notice, though I don’t dwell much on it and have never commented on someone’s weight to them or to someone else. I’ve mentioned my own weight gain on twitter, facebook and blogger often. So much so that when Kellie and I met me in September, she said that she was expecting to see a ‘larger person’. I must have been exaggerating. I think any large person or one who has been or is concerned about their own weight would consider it mockery to talk about my weight often, considering that I’m 55kgs, well close to 56 now. So what am I thinking? That I don’t know what it means to struggle with weight I shouldn’t be too judgemental. The term 'Eating Disorders' is something I learned in my Physical Education class in campus, and I must confess I found all the eating disorders ‘funny’ at the time. As in how you refuse to eat? Eat, then puke???. That it’s easy to blame fat people for their weight issues, or even make it sound like there’s a quick fix to weight matters, like diet and exercise. Especialy when I have never tried the former and can’t myself be disciplined enough to practice the latter regularly (remember my skipping rope? It’s been unused for like 2 months, and I haven’t ran/exercised much in as in as long a time). More importantly, that weight is itself a ‘diversity’ matter much like sex/gender/sexual orientation, race, religion tribe, age, name them. And of course, my favourite, marital status. Am learning that you can be as sizist as any other bigot can be tribalist, racist, agist, and in my opinion, maritalist. How, for instance, would you feel if someone said that they find it disgusting to watch people with too much melanin (black people) walk across a room or a street, or do anything at all? Or two a Luhya and a Kamba? Trust me, we would be having a different discussion, possibly with a lawsuit to boot (in America that is!)

Much as I believe that it is within my power to be slimmer if I want to be, I know it’s not the same for many other people. I once had a room-mate who was kind of large, and believe you me, I ate more than she did. She had been above-average size-wise since she was young. I think also that ‘thin’, single, non-parent people should always consider the possibility of having larger kids and think how they would treat them.

What’s your take on this weighty issue? Will you complain next time you are on a 12-hour busride next to someone taking like a third of your space?

I found some fat people out there with blogs that I found interesting. I didn’t even know you could be wrecking mental havoc on someone by regularly talking about your diet. There’s Unapologetically Fat, The Rotund, and Fatties United! Fatties United! tend to bring a bit of humour in their take on fat, like this blog post here. Take a read.

That said, fat people should also be sensitive when talking weight with thin people. It's rude to indicate that someone has an eating disorder simply because they are thin.


Anonymous said...

I was once described as being a FATTIST!... One who doesnt like fat people. Now, I am far from that. I just dont see myself dating a fat person. And by FAT, I dont mean that good African weight. More of that huge lazy European look resultant of idling around and eating fatty foods...

And I cant believe you are such bad company.. Negatively influencingyoung minds!... :)

Mrembo said...

First the word "fatties" just makes me want to giggle it sounds so wrong.

On a serious note.
I have issues with fat on me and only me alone. For a long as I can remember I have always excersised or done something active. If I had not I would be like 120 kgs by now.

All the working out was from akina mum and my aunt who lived with us until she married. She was very sporty. Mum used to run or workout and I remember me and sis being part of that until I moved to Ug when I was 13. Thereafter even in highschool I used to wake up in the morning and run and was rather sporty.

I do not like being fat. Me being fat is not an option and I am ruthless about it. I cannot diet. Have never really tried. Usually lasts like a few hours before I start eating as I like.. therefore I work out. Working out comes easy to me it's not something I struggle with.

PArt of my not wanting to be fat is from my dad who is totally anti fat. Always commenting about how unattractive fat is etc. So yeah that played a role in me not wanting to be fat ever!

As far as other people being fat. None of my business. Like with most things, if it is not affecting my life, I could not careless. Though I will admit I am fascinated by those documentaries about obese people.

Do I stare at obese people .. not really. (I do not think we have obese people in Kenya and Ug the style of America and Europe.) I do stare when they are dressed outrageously.. ala what I saw in the US. I am not one of those people who sees fat people eating say ice cream and think.. they should not be eating it. That kind of think is just upuzi in my opinion.

How fat is fat before it gets too much. you know. Most mothers I know are a comfy "mummy size" as my cousin once put it.

Then there is the cultural aspect of fat. My hubby's niece is only 5 and no where near chubby.. but eats constantly and her mum is already worried and trying to curb her eating.

Personally I think that is wrong. In my opinion if you start messing with how much a child is eating at that age, you are setting them up for a life time of body insecurities. Basically fucking up the child's self/body image.

In conclusion.. (yes nimeandika essay nzima on your comments page) Being fat is not an option for me. I am not a fat person hater. I have only love for all God's children (till they start messing with me then it's game over!)

Mrembo said...

I hope my essay aka comment was saved. I wrote a long comment, clicked on publish, then my screen flashed many colors and lost the site.. sijui what.. so hopefully it is there awaiting your moderation

Kellie said...

I think to be clear, there's a difference between big people and fat people. Big people are healthy, but have a bigger body build than the norm. Those I'm cool with.

Fat people on the other hand, have rolls and rolls of fat (If I may use the Marie Claire description), that got there mostly due to bad eating habits.

Sure some genetic factors come into play e.g slower metabolic rate, but every once of fat in our bodies is as a result of something we put in our mouth. I'm saying this as someone who is naturally slim,but has a high body fat percentage than most.

Do I hate Fat people? Not really, but to me, fat represents a level of indiscipline in what you eat and the way you live your life, and that I have a problem with, same way I have a problem with substance abusers.

@Mrembo I think it matters what you teach your child to eat at an early age, it does shape their future eating habits. I first ate french fries when I was abut 7 years old, to this date, I don't favour fast food. I have a niece who first tasted a sweet at 8 years. Mothers shouldn't starve their kids, but should ensure that the healthy appetite is being satisfied by the right stuff.

And then, you madam, talking of your need to lose weight is an abuse to those that actually need to lose weight. You look great!

yellasoul said...

I'm with mrembo on this should only be bothered about the fat that's on you...forcing your body shape preference on others is just's their business what they do with their body and how they feel about why anyone would feel repulsed by watching a fat person walk across a room is beyond you just let go??'s their issue not yours..besides you cant judge what you dont know...

That aside...fat/thin extremes should also not walk around reading too much into every word uttered...cos sometimes its like walking on eggshells around them...anything you say sets off an alarm.eish.if you're that edgy about your appearance...go do something about it...owise live with it!

Maua said...

PKW, stop feeding that 5 yr old with that stuff, no wonder she's gaining that Fatty issue.

Maua said...

You madam are tagged. See mine. 60 seconds with PKW, very needed.

Maua said...

What happened there? Anyways, you are tagged. See mine. Create a 60 secs with PKW.