An open letter to Bill Maher

Today I woke up to find at comedian and sometimes progressive talk show host Bill Maher had hosted a segment on his HBO show on fat shaming. Hoping that he would present a sound defense of those of use who have struggled with weight issues most of our lives, I tuned in. I was devastated by what I heard.

Maher spoke about how fat shaming should make a comeback in our nation (not that it ever ended). He called fat people disgusting, slobs and gluttonous. He goes on to say that fat people are doomed to all kinds of health issues, don’t poop right, and will remain life long virgins. He says that we are the reason for the Amazon fires, climate change and all the economic issues in the world. His audience and the panel laughed and clapped about it the whole time. His panel was comprised of Rep. Joe Walsh, Christina Hoff Sommers, Rep. John Delaney, Maria Teresa Kumar, and Matt Welch. And they loved his fat shaming of people who struggle everyday.

Why am I fat? A lot of reasons. I eat less than everyone around me, even those who are thin and trim. Ask all the people at our National Church Synod in August. Many of them are thin and health looking and I ate less than they did! I struggle to eat 2,000 calories and day and still weigh 367. I go to the gym now 5 days a week and work out harder and longer than police offices built like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Ask anyone who knows me and they will attest to all this. Ask my doctor!

And yet, I get shamed all the time. People pass me in the store and make oinking noises. One lady a few months ago walked up to my table at a Resturant and told me to, “Back away from the table, piggy.” I had ordered a salad with no meats or cheeses and a fat free dressing. But who cares! Fat shaming should make a comeback according to Bill Maher.

So why am I fat? I was never really fat until I injured my back working at a tire company. I was 18 years old at the time. I was 5’10” and weighed 200 lbs. My co-workers thought it would be a great hazing for the new guy to have me work on a rear tractor tire (liquid filled) and not to help me get it back on the tractor. I had to try to lift (only a few inches) a tire taller than me onto an axle. I managed to do it, but damaged my back in the process. I had to be helped to the car because I could not stand up straight. And they all thought it was funny. They laughed and laughed. I spent the next week barely able to walk and mostly laying around crying in pain. The doctors at the time said it was just a pulled muscle. Years later, orthopedic surgeons determined I had damaged my back and now had arthritis and several bulging and slipped discs.

After my injury, I could not get around as well I once did. So I started to gain weight. I was horrified. I tried not eating as much. I tried diets. I ended up in the hospital suffering from malnutrition because I was starving myself. And yet, I continued to gain weight. The heart issues started. Then the diabetes came. High blood pressure followed. And the shaming continued to increase. First from my mom, who was larger than me, and then from the friends who would eventually decide they did not want to be seen around someone who looked like Shamu (their actually words). My girlfriend stood by me and eventually became my wife. I struggled for years with the feeling that I had saddled her with a broken and worthless husband. The pain got so bad that for several years I was walking with a cane and stooped over like a 90 year old man.

People felt so emboldened that they would comment about my weight in public and quite loudly. They wanted me and everyone around me to hear it. And most people laughed with them. Even some of those who were also weight challenged would laugh. It was painful and started to cause me to have Social Anxiety Disorder. It was not bad enough I had been raped and molested by a family member as a child. It was not bad enough that my mom had abused me and my siblings physically, mentally and emotionally. I had managed to stay rather fit despite the depression and PTSD. And now I was fat. I was made to feel ugly, unlovable, disgusting, and worthless.

It has taken years of therapy to overcome these issues. I tried to kill myself twice. I have spent years on diets. Many of them for a year or two each. And I would loose 20 or 30 lbs and then nothing for months on end. I am finally starting to loose more weight by going to the gym. I record everything I eat and still struggle to get to 2000 calories a day. Folks, I am not fat because of what I eat or how much I eat. There is far more to being fat than food.

Study after study has shown this. However, no one cares. They only want to get rid of fat people. A few years ago a republican lawmaker in California wanted all fat people to be castrated so that they could not make more fat people. Bill Maher and his laughing guest and panel want to make people feel more shame. I guess they are hoping we will kill ourselves so that they don’t have to look at “gluttonous slobs” all the time.

Bill Maher, his panel, and his audience should be ashamed of themselves. Fat shaming should be ended. And no, Bill, I don’t tell fit people to eat something. I honor their body struggles just like I want them to honor mine. But I guess you can never understand that.

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