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Overweight Men Need Your Empathy, Not Your Jokes

Obesity is a medical condition, not an opportunity for comic relief. But when I express this emotion, the response is “chup be rondhu, yeh le samosa kha”.

STR / AFP / Getty Images / Via Twitter: @DeShobhaa

Yesterday, Shobhaa De tweeted a picture of a cop, fat-shaming pun et all in place. She didn’t bother to crop the man’s face. She didn’t even bother to make an original joke (turns out, she'd ripped off a tweet from last year).

Within hours, she got a response from Mumbai Police’s official twitter handle, clarifying that neither was the cop from their force, nor was her joke appreciated.

Quality wise, De's tweet was a shitty fucking joke.

Well, speaking as someone who is a comedian himself, I’ll say that quality wise, it was a shitty fucking joke anyway.

But unfunny and unoriginal jokes aren't unusual on Twitter. In this case, though, there were other, deeper issues at play.

That cop wasn’t just mildly overweight, he was obese. And obesity is a medical condition, not an opportunity for comic relief. It needs attention and empathy, not bad puns.

I’ve been over 50% body fat for most of my adult life and I’ll tell you something no one seems to be talking about – sometimes, obesity is a direct result of food addiction.

And no, food addiction isn’t a joke either. In my experience, it can be much worse than drug addiction. It can decide your life expectancy, it can kill you, it can make you vulnerable, and it’s bloody difficult to kick.

Obesity is not an opportunity for comic relief.

It can also be very easy to maintain. After all, it takes some effort to acquire drugs. Food however is something your own mother would feed you in excess. It’s entirely legal. In fact, it’s even advertised. It's finger lickin' good, y'all.

You know how they tell you, after you watch an ad pushing you to get life insurance, that you need to evaluate the risks involved before investing? When it comes to food, you can just go eat it.

Food is something your own mother would feed you in excess.

Yes, it’s that easy. And yes, I’m aware that my body is the only thing in this world I own that is entirely mine – 100% mine. I know it isn’t a car under some HDFC loan; it’s not a house to be divided between me and my sibling. It’s not laptop that I can replace when it crashes.

So I’m aware that how I take care of my body is only my responsibility, and I’m also aware that I should take care of it.

I even know how to. I’ve been to every dietician in the city and tried every form of exercise by now. I’ve even attended Zumba classes where the instructor has mocked me for my weight.

Despite everything, managing my food addiction has been the biggest struggle of my life.

Have you ever been so vulnerable that you would think a teleshopping product will solve the biggest problem of your life?

Managing my food addiction has been the biggest struggle of my life.

Have you ever noted down that number, called and ordered a sauna slim belt? And before it even arrives at your house, have you been so sure it won't work that you’ve gone ahead and ordered the ab-crunch pro too?

Any sort of addiction comes from and feeds on emotional needs and vulnerability.

I don’t remember a single downward emotional spiral that I survived without reaching for something fried or sweet.

I’ve eaten meals so messy that I’ve had to wash my hands mid-way just so I could come back and keep eating.

I've mastered carrying armfuls of snacks from the kitchen to my bedroom at 3 a.m. without waking anyone up.

Food addiction makes you forget to taste and enjoy your food. It conditions you to just keep gulping it down.

You forget to taste and enjoy your food.

So now that you somewhat understand my condition, what do you think it needs?

More jokes about my weight, when it’s always on my mind?

I’m the only guy in a t-shirt at a pool party. I’m the one who always calls shotgun in the car, and not for the reasons you do. I’m the one who doesn’t have the courage to walk into a shopping mall and shop for clothes. When I sit next to someone on a flight, they shoot me a look that seems to say I only got fat to fuck with them.

Men get used to being body shamed. We’re supposed to take it lightly.

Men get used to being body shamed. We’re supposed to take it lightly. It shows that we are “men”, and men can’t be too emotional or sensitive about “jokes”. It’s one of those fucked up things we have begun to think normal, when it is actually a pretty big problem. And when it picks on someone suffering from a medical condition, it’s potentially dangerous.

As an overweight man, when I express this emotion, the response is “chup be rondhu, yeh le samosa kha”. That's me, not being taken seriously. That's someone with food addiction, being told to eat.

For a lot of us, the struggle with our body is never ending, and body shaming doesn’t help at all.

The struggle with our body is never-ending, and body shaming doesn’t help at all.

A conversation, though, does. I recently lost fifty kgs because a friend took initiative and invited me to work out with him. He also decided to have a chat with me about my weight issue.

A chat, and some practical advice. Not fat jokes at the dinner table.

Those only make me want to go home, call a 24-hour chemist shop and get some chocolates delivered.

As would a “funny” tweet with a photo of someone too obese to fit in a chair designed for the average human.

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