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Hygeine and obesity, does fat = smelly

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Old 06-21-2008, 05:01 PM   #1
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Default Hygeine and obesity, does fat = smelly

In a recent thread, a comment was made that implied that unpleasant body odor and poor hygeine are an inevitable consequences of obesity. It got me wondering whether this is a common stereotype and whether a lot of people are having hygeine issues they don't know how to address.

My belief is that there are some hygeine issues that need to be addressed differently at 400 lbs than at 110, but most people are able to work around this with minor adaptations. There are products on the market as well as many simple tips that make this easier. I thought that if there are people out there who think that smelling good isn't an option, that discussing some of that here might be helpful. So, here are a few of my "tips" and if anyone else has any (and they don't have to be tips specific to "fat" people), please chime in.

BATHING Bathe as frequently as you need to. My brother (very skinny) went through a very stinky body odor phase as an adolescent. He sometimes showered three times a day. A friend with a sweat gland disorder (also not fat) went home on her lunch hour every day and showered and changed her clothing, or at least her blouse. She told everyone she went to the gym every day. She did go to the gym two to three days a week, but sometimes she just went home to change).

A shower chair and a handheld attachment/hose for the shower head are absolutely essential if you have balance and pain issues that make standing and maneuvering in the shower difficult.

SOAP Use it. Seriously though, all soaps are not equal. Experiment to find one that works for you. You may find you feel fresh longer with a deodorant or antibacterial soap. I have read of many very obese people using betadine
or other "surgical" soap to stay clean smelling longer, but there are warnings on the bottles, so I would talk to my doctor before using one of those. At 400 lbs, I had great luck with Dial antibacterial, but last year, I was having a problem with seborrheic dermatitis (which causes dandruff and skin irritation, it can happen anywhere on the body, not just the head), and the dermatologist recommended I use Head & Shoulders as a face and body wash as well as a shampoo. It's now the only soap/shampoo I use, and I've noticed than in addition to clearing up the dandruff and skin rash of the seb derm, it also has cleared up my rosacea, skin breakouts including back acne and cysts and heat or yeast rashes in skin folds. I've also noticed that I smell cleaner longer (if you've seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Head and Shoulders is my Windex).

POLYESTER and other synthetic fabrics - avoid them. They trap moisture and body heat. Heat + moisture allows smelly bacteria and yeasts multiply. Natural fibers "breathe" allowing moisture to evaporate.

ANTIPERSPERANT - experiment with commerical brands. You might need a stronger product, and a deodorant without an antipersperant ingredient my not be sufficient. I have quite a problem with sweating under and between the breasts, so I use a stick antipersperant under the breasts. On very hot days, I would also use it behind my knees (I hate back of the knee sweat).

PANTYHOSE - avoid if you can (or make sure they have a cotton crotch, or ideally full cotton panty). Wear cotton underwear underneath. Knee high nylons aren't sexy, but they are comfortable with skirts. Though it may take a bit of experimenting to find a brand that is comfortable and yet stay up, and you do have to make sure your skirt is long enough to hide your secret.

COTTON BRAS & UNDERWEAR - nylon doesn't breath as well as cotton. See polyester, above. Changing underwear mid-day can be very helpful, especially in the summer.

COTTON BIKING SHORTS - not a hygeine issue, but a comfort one. When wearing a skirt or dress, biking shorts, especially under pantyhose prevents chafing. Without them, I would actually blister where my thighs rubbed. This tip actually came from a very skinny friend who just happens to have full thighs.

SCARVES - I always seem to get a drip of soup or something on me when I eat at a restaurant (especially if I'm wearing white). A pretty scarf makes an inconspicuous "bib."

COLOGNES, and other scented perfumes and powders - don't use too much, and never use it to "cover" b.o. It doesn't work and you just end up smelling like flowers and b.o. However, a pleasant scent applied with a gentle touch can help you stay fresh smelling longer.

AMPLESTUFF, I love this catalog. They sell products for obesity and reach -related needs. Things things like comfy wide socks, a little gadget to allow you to latch a bracelet clasp, extra-wide hangers, bra liners (to absorb boob perspiration).
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Last edited by kaplods : 06-21-2008 at 08:06 PM.
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Old 06-21-2008, 05:55 PM   #2
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Thanks for the tips. I have skin issues (tendency to get infected sweat glands, did a doctor tell me they can be hereditary?), so on doctor's suggestion I bathe or shower twice a day, or more if time permits (which for me it rarely does). I don't know if it was you or somebody else, but on the suggestion of someone on this site (thank you whoever!) I got Head & Shoulders and use it as a body wash when I get flare-ups.

I like boy-leg panties because they give a little more coverage to chafe-prone areas: my favorites were available from the Lane Bryant (now Woman Within) and Roaman's logs, but they haven't had them for a while. Just My Size has some, but I'm not sure I like them quite as well. Best of all would be *if* Decent Exposures made them (I swear by their bras): they make boxer shorts but not boylegs for women, they do make men's briefs (you can order them in their full range of colors, and yes that includes pink and lavender) but I'm not sure how to translate men's sizes into women-ese.

Another good catalog is Living XL, they have a lot of the same stuff that Amplestuff has

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Old 06-21-2008, 06:04 PM   #3
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Thanks, Kaplods. Dispelling negative stereotypes is a good thing indeed.
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Old 06-21-2008, 07:19 PM   #4
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Gah I hate that stereotype. I only smell when I work out hard core or when I walk to school in 110 degree weather. I do not fret after walking because I know everyone is going to have some body odor after being outside in 100% humidity and 110 heat index.

I do though freshen up at my school after I have walked. I usually take papertowels and shove them under the arms to dry up and take my travel size deoderant and reput it on. Bam! No problemo anymore .

I do agree with the everything cotton! Thank goodness I do not like satin for undies.
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Old 06-21-2008, 07:25 PM   #5
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Hi Kaplods,

A question for you about your rosacea. How bad was it? It is interesting that Head & Shoulders helped to clear it up. I have rosacea myself, although I am quite lucky in the sense that it is mostly very dormant and most people would never guess that I have it. I am actually getting comments on my "pretty skin" (I guess because of the "natural" blush that I have - if they only knew!!! LOL)

Although my highest weight was 208 lbs, I had a REALLY bad problem with yeast rash under by boobs last summer. It was just awful. Went to a walk-in clinic, the doc looked at me and said it's very common, prescribed some ointment and old stupid Tomato faithfully used it twice a day as ordered and the yeast got quickly about 10x worse. I had blisters under my boobs that would break open and keep oozing, and to wear a bra was a torture.
Then I ditched the ointment and used baby powder several times a day. It dried it out and eventually everything healed, but it took a long time.
I feared summer this year but so far [knock on wood] everything is good. I make sure I shower immediately after a workout, etc. - so far so good.
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Old 06-21-2008, 07:35 PM   #6
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I rarely recall smelling bad but I shower twice a day, though. A good suggestion as well. Smell your t-shirts or shirts before wearing them again (I smell both t-shirts and bra hyself). Sometimes when people get slightly overworked they tend to leave a very faint odor at their clothes. Coming from Cyprus, a very hot place during the summer, I have noticed this phenomenon. Slight odor + next sweat (however small) equals serious reeking.

Plus if your clothes does not smell fresh, there is no way you will feel clean anyway.
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Old 06-21-2008, 08:45 PM   #7
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Whenever I have encountered a person who smelled bad, very, very very few were fat. In fact, I'd say a much smaller percentage of fat people than exists in the population as a whole (probably because fat people may be more concerned about smelling bad), and yet the stereotype persists. Perhaps because the perception of "fat" in itself is so negative, it leaves twice the impression when a smelly fat person is encountered. Or maybe, just like any stereotype, the "truth" of it is assumed regardless of how rarely it is encountred.

Personally, I think it's the latter. If a bigotted person knows 100 fat people, if one of them smells, it may reinforce "fat people smell" in their minds. Stereotypes are insidious that way, as one incident reinforces the stereotype, even in the face of dozens of experiences to the contrary (this is unfortunately supported by research).


Tomato, My rosacea ranged from mild to moderate. It would flare after spicy food (but I am NOT giving up spicy food) and in hot weather, especially. Usually it was mostly just red and maybe a bit bumpy, but sometimes it would flare with more bumps. Especially where my glasses touched my face during hot weather. I'm not sure if this was actually the rosacea, or whether it was a heat rash on top of the rosacea.

I love the boy cut panties too. I wear the Just My Size I get from Walmart and they're great, except I wish the legs were a little longer. They're prone (this is embarassing) to "bunch" - sometimes just a twist, others a ful wedgie. I can't sleep in them or I actually can get caught up in my underwear (although maybe that's a sign that I finally actually need a smaller size).

I remember in High School our German teacher in preparing a class for a trip to Germany explained that deodorant was not as popular in Germany and pointed out that in many countries people are not as afraid as North Americans to "smell like people." That gave me something to think about, also. How often do we think someone "smells bad," when they actually just "have a smell."

When I worked in cubicle land, the gal that sat next to me (super-bigot, I called her in my head) complained about the way coworkers from India smelled, and that they shouldn't be allowed to bring their lunches because they "smelled up" the breakroom with the same "stink." I realized that she was talking about the spices in indian food, and told her she was nuts, and that I loved that smell (I do).

It's very common for one culture to find people from another culture "smelly." It isn't that one smells more than another, it's that they smell "different."

I think "unclean" is a very characteristic smell, and it takes alot more than just one day without a bath (no matter how large you are) to get "that smell." When I worked as a probation officer and encountered quite a few homeless and nearly homeless people, I got to know that smell very well. It's like the smell of rotting meat. Not literally, but in that once you smell it, you don't forget it.
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Old 06-21-2008, 09:29 PM   #8
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As far as chafing goes, I can't say enough about Monistat chafing relief powder gel. I can walk for miles in a skirt on a hot day and my thighs feel amazing. My best friend Sarah calls it "chub rub." Totally takes care of chafing!

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Old 06-21-2008, 09:37 PM   #9
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I remember in High School our German teacher in preparing a class for a trip to Germany explained that deodorant was not as popular in Germany and pointed out that in many countries people are not as afraid as North Americans to "smell like people." That gave me something to think about, also. How often do we think someone "smells bad," when they actually just "have a smell."

When I worked in cubicle land, the gal that sat next to me (super-bigot, I called her in my head) complained about the way coworkers from India smelled, and that they shouldn't be allowed to bring their lunches because they "smelled up" the breakroom with the same "stink." I realized that she was talking about the spices in indian food, and told her she was nuts, and that I loved that smell (I do).

It's very common for one culture to find people from another culture "smelly." It isn't that one smells more than another, it's that they smell "different."

I think "unclean" is a very characteristic smell, and it takes alot more than just one day without a bath (no matter how large you are) to get "that smell." When I worked as a probation officer and encountered quite a few homeless and nearly homeless people, I got to know that smell very well. It's like the smell of rotting meat. Not literally, but in that once you smell it, you don't forget it.
So funny you mentioned Germany. Our former foreign exchange student from Germany could not use our deoderant from America because she would break out in a rash. She never wore deoderant that much in Germany.

My relatives in Canada do not bathe as much as we do down South. They do not wear deoderant.

I love the smell of Indian food! No matter where I move my neighbors are from India and they just spoil me. I just ate some Chicken Korma with chickpeas and brown rice I love spicy food too lol and no way I am going to give it up.
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Old 06-21-2008, 09:38 PM   #10
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As far as chafing goes, I can't say enough about Monistat chafing relief powder gel. I can walk for miles in a skirt on a hot day and my thighs feel amazing. My best friend Sarah calls it "chub rub." Totally takes care of chafing!
That is a great idea. I usually use that underarmour to wear underneath my workout clothes because of the fear of chafing.
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Old 06-22-2008, 01:39 AM   #11
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I love the tips! I thought I was the only one with "boob sweat" , lol! I use deodorant there to. In Houston right now the weather is nearly 100 degrees and humidity is usually above 80%. You could take a shower at 8 in the morinign and have back sweat and pits stains by 8:30.
I have not thought much about the obese=sweaty thing. I' ve had skinny friends that smell, and bigger ones that smell. The only incident that sticks out in my mind is a sweet friend I had in college. She was between 350 and 400 pounds and had an odor. Not BO, but a not great smell. She also had mobility issues, and I just don't think she realized it, or would have known what to do. She's a very sweet girl, and very shy, and it would have mortified her if we had said anything. Some friends and I did get her a neat bath soap set for her birthday and she loved it. She and her elderly parents lived on a farm, and I know they were on a budget. I don't think obese=smelly. I think this girl had some underlying issues (lack of knowledge, decreased mobility, budget). I think thsi thread is an awesome idea. Thanks Kaplods!
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Old 06-22-2008, 06:30 AM   #12
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I love the tips! I thought I was the only one with "boob sweat" , lol! I use deodorant there to. In Houston right now the weather is nearly 100 degrees and humidity is usually above 80%. You could take a shower at 8 in the morinign and have back sweat and pits stains by 8:30.
I have not thought much about the obese=sweaty thing. I' ve had skinny friends that smell, and bigger ones that smell. The only incident that sticks out in my mind is a sweet friend I had in college. She was between 350 and 400 pounds and had an odor. Not BO, but a not great smell. She also had mobility issues, and I just don't think she realized it, or would have known what to do. She's a very sweet girl, and very shy, and it would have mortified her if we had said anything. Some friends and I did get her a neat bath soap set for her birthday and she loved it. She and her elderly parents lived on a farm, and I know they were on a budget. I don't think obese=smelly. I think this girl had some underlying issues (lack of knowledge, decreased mobility, budget). I think this thread is an awesome idea. Thanks Kaplods!
In regard of your friend, maybe the fact that she lived in a farm. No, I am not making fun here. My great-uncle is a farmer and deals with sheep and goats every single day. Every time we meet he has this smell, not overly bad but very uncharacteristic. I can't really point it but I have noticed that he and his wife retain this smell even after showers.
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Old 06-22-2008, 10:07 AM   #13
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In regard of your friend, maybe the fact that she lived in a farm. No, I am not making fun here. My great-uncle is a farmer and deals with sheep and goats every single day. Every time we meet he has this smell, not overly bad but very uncharacteristic. I can't really point it but I have noticed that he and his wife retain this smell even after showers.
When my Ex was an oiler he had the same problem. The grease they use on truly huge equipment is very thick and strong smelling. He could shower at work and at home everyday and it never went away. In fact it could come out of his pours black for days into his 7 days off. I was the same with diesel fuel when I was fueling. It took more than a month after lay off for my clothes, car and house to stop smelling of it.

My family has a strong odor. My mom mentioned it alot and was major into using Mum deodorant. I have bottles of White Shoulders everywhere (car, lunchbag, livingroom, bathroom, bedroom, etc.) and I always put it on before getting on the bus after work along with chewing gum. After 12 hrs on truck, we get on a bus with 15-20 guys and HOLY MOLY. It is my one bow to chickdom out there. I've had some guys ask why they smelled Lilacs and I told them sorry but I didn't care to share my Funkdom at the end of the shift. They often said they loved the scent and would get some for their wives. I think I started a trend too. I've noticed some of the true offenders seem to be taking a little care for themselves while they are cleaning their trucks. Thank you God. It's a long 5 min ride back to the ready room when the guy next to you has BO and bad breath.

Has anyone else noticed that the one with the worst breath is the one who likes to lean in and talk right into your face?
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Old 06-22-2008, 10:44 AM   #14
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Has anyone else noticed that the one with the worst breath is the one who likes to lean in and talk right into your face?
And use "H" words...Hi, How are you holding up on this holiday?
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Old 06-22-2008, 11:00 AM   #15
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And use "H" words...Hi, How are you holding up on this holiday?


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