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An Upsetting Experience

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Old 11-23-2011, 06:22 AM   #1
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Default An Upsetting Experience

I live ride the bus everywhere here. The bus seats are made for slender people. Even though I am in the normal BMI category, my butt almost spills over into the seat next to me when I sit. If I were 20 lbs heavier, it certainly would.

Today I got on the bus, it was super crowded. There was only one seat open. The seat was a double seat. So, half the seat was taken by a very heavy, yet very pretty younger girl. I really wanted to sit by her, but she took up 3/4 of the double seat and my butt needs a full seat.

Just imagine, a super crowded bus, every seat taken except the one by the very obese young girl. People were even standing right next to it, but no one would sit. She tried to keep a strong face, but it really looked like she was going to break down at any moment.

It is harder to be overweight here in Germany. They still pride themselves on being 'top fit' - fitter than the Brits at least. And the Brits pride themselves on being fitter than the Americans. People look at overweight people with real disdain.

Everyone has advice to give on how to lose weight- it is SO easy! In the meantime, the Germans are getting fat from their overflow of bread, cheese, cream, pastries, and chocolate.

Anyway, I'm not sure why it bothered me so much or why I am writing this. She did look trapped in her body and everyone freely looked at her in a disdainful way. I suppose I found it somewhat disgusting and disheartening.
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Old 11-23-2011, 06:37 AM   #2
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How sad for the girl, and embarassing. I'd have been tempted to squeeze myself into the remaining space, just to make her feel less conspicuous.

My mom's side of the family are all German (my mom was born there and moved to Canada in her 20's). I went to visit my Grandmother in Bavaria when I was in my early 20's. She always prided herself on her tiny size, weight was very important to her, even in her 80's at the time. So when I arrived, (around 50 pounds overweight for my height), she was visibly horrified. I remember her looking me up and down and tut-tutting, she actually mumbled 'vie ein baum' (like a tree) under her breath. I still remember it. And then there was the excruciating trip to the local clothing boutique, where she often shopped. She herded me into the change room, made me strip to my skivvies...then had loud conversations with the staff (that I could understand) as they assessed how large a size I must need. All this because I didn't have nice enough clothes along (backpacking trip) in her estimation, to go on her afternoon strolls through the town and out for coffee and cake.

So yes, I completely understand what it must be like to be an overweight person living in Germany... I'd hate it!
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Old 11-23-2011, 06:43 AM   #3
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kirsteng: I can totally picture your Grandma. Yes, you explained things quite well.

Thing is, they are all getting big here too.

I wish I could go back in time and squeeze myself into that seat. Maybe that is why I am upset - I'm a bit upset with myself.

I know from firsthand experience how it feels to be her.
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Old 11-23-2011, 07:06 AM   #4
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I can only imagine what people thought of me when I went to Germany! I guess I was honestly having too much fun with my friends to really give it a second thought.

When I was studying abroad in Italy I really noticed how differently I was treated. I was my starting weight and roughly a US size 16. I was ignored outright for my thinner friends by a lot of people. However, my friend who was much heavier than me was actually harassed! It didn't get that far for me, but I guess there was a size threshold or something I was at the size where people just wanted me to go away while people think it's ok to outright harass someone larger.

It's interesting to go from Obese to "Normal" and see how differently people treat me even here in the US. Other than my weight loss and eating less food, I didn't change who I am, yet for some reason being at a healthy weight means I'm somehow better than I was before. It really bothers me. Why did I have to reduce my weight to get treated better?

I guess now people wouldn't mind sitting next to me. I have hips just under 36" (I lost around 10" off my hips I believe) so I doubt I would take up much space at this point. However I remember the stares and sighs when people realized they would have to sit next to me. I remember having to squeeze into places and dreading having to sit next to two other people in tiny seats.

It's really depressing being obese and living in a world made for thin people.
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Old 11-23-2011, 08:59 AM   #5
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I totally get this! I am living in Korea where the average size of most people is tiny!

I have students who like to poke and grab my belly and I get called fat every other day.

I really feel sad for that poor bus girl!
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Old 11-23-2011, 09:11 AM   #6
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Also Unna don't feel bad because maybe she may have felt worse if you tried and perhaps failed to get on the seat due to most of it being taken up...
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Old 11-23-2011, 09:50 AM   #7
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sontaikle: Your poor friend!

I think most people are growing out of the world made for "thin people."

Whenever people talk about the US being prejudiced towards larger people- I always just think, "Honey, then don't come to Europe!" Sungseng: I could imagine Korea or many other Asian countries are ten times worse than even the Europeans.

Well, in Europe a much larger portion of the population smokes heavily. Maybe that is keeping a few of the pounds at bay for now. Many Germans think one is simply "unlucky" if they get sick from smoking. They believe you can live a long healthy life smoking whenever you please - then they like to talk about their great uncle so-and-so who smoked like a chimney, drank too, and lived to be 99. They are quite similar in France and Spain. (of course not ALL of them, but MANY)

Also, it is normal for the parents to let their teenagers smoke in front of them. I also cringe a tad bit when I see this. The younger you start smoking, the harder it is to quit later.

Anyway - I just find it funny that they look at the obese girl with disdain, but not the smokers. Both are addictions of sorts.

No one tries to tell you how to stop smoking here, but they will be the first to tell you a few dieting tips to get healthy.

I really think traveling across cultures helps you see the absurdity of them all.

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Old 11-23-2011, 10:10 AM   #8
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At my highest weight I was invisible. I was fat enough to not be noticed by the opposite sex but I wasn't fat enough to be looked upon as some sort of circus act. I just....existed. But even that feeling of being invisible was horrific to me. I cannot even imagine what this girl on the bus was going through -- feeling if all eyes were on her in such a negative way. And because you may have once experienced this type of behavior from others it must have cut you to the very core. My heart aches for both of you.

But I probably would have done the same thing you did and not have sat next to her. Not because I wouldn't want to but because I'd be afraid of embarressing her even more by not fitting or not fitting comfortably. I'm sure she already felt like a big enough "burden". *sigh*

I have found myself in a sort of similar situation. There is one girl who works in my building and she sits by herself every single day at lunch. She is obese -- close to 350 maybe -- and she always looks so sad. I saw her in the cafeteria one day and complimented her on a necklace she was wearing. She smiled brightly and we chatted about where she bought it. Now everytime I see her I always wave and smile.

Did I compliment her because I felt bad for her? Yes, I did. But I wave and smile now because she is such a NICE person!
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Old 11-23-2011, 10:21 AM   #9
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OMG...I use to be that girl. I remember being on a crowded bus an only a few people feeling brave enough to squeeze in next too me. I realize that when I see heavier people now I do feel really sad because they look trapped. I use to think people may have stared at me for other reasons...but I wonder if that's the reason why they were looking. Not with disdain but with pity.

And I was trapped. There was always another me that couldn't be seen under all of the extra. I still have a long way to go but I am THANKFUL today for not feeling trapped anymore!
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Old 11-23-2011, 12:26 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sungseng View Post
I totally get this! I am living in Korea where the average size of most people is tiny!

I have students who like to poke and grab my belly and I get called fat every other day.

I really feel sad for that poor bus girl!

I was also a 'sonsangnim' in Korea for a year! My students used to scream when they came around a corner and caught sight of me.. now THAT'S hard on the ego!
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Old 11-23-2011, 05:45 PM   #11
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You sound very compassionate. It might have been a nice gesture to sit next to the girl, but it seems pretty reasonable not to have since it sounds like it would have been physically uncomfortable for both of you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Unna View Post
It is harder to be overweight here in Germany. They still pride themselves on being 'top fit' - fitter than the Brits at least. And the Brits pride themselves on being fitter than the Americans. People look at overweight people with real disdain.
Haha, yeah...that's one of the reasons I didn't bother traveling to the Continent when I lived in the UK - the snide comments and nasty looks I got in a (supposedly "polite") country where only 63% of the population is overweight or obese (and where smoking is slightly more common than in the US and binge drinking is a big problem) were enough.

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Originally Posted by Unna View Post
I really think traveling across cultures helps you see the absurdity of them all.
Yes.
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Old 11-23-2011, 10:02 PM   #12
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Quote:
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I really think traveling across cultures helps you see the absurdity of them all.
This, this, this.

In Japan I see the obsession with a "perfect weight", regardless of height or build. My own perspective has been skewed to the point that healthy, attractive people seem overweight. Insanity!

Then I think about America's obsession with fast food, the need for passengers to buy double seats on planes and other indicators of poor diet and health. Insanity!
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Old 11-23-2011, 10:49 PM   #13
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I have ridden the transit here in Toronto at my heaviest and yes I was the fat person with no one sitting beside me on a crowded subway but you know what I personally like it. I hate sitting close to strangers and I hate having to touch someone I don't know I especially do not want to strike up conversation with a stranger. Anyway usually I try to squish myself up when people get on the subway but once no one has decide to sit beside me I own the space. I relax spread out and enjoy my extra space I stand if there are only seats beside other people.

When I was younger and was bullied I found I was bullied the more I tried to "shrink" away or felt like a burden. Once I became a teenager and found punk rock I found my confidence and my attitude and It only took confronting 1 or 2 bullies directly to stop all the bullying. I refuse to let people make me feel bad for the size of my body or to treat me meanly, I don't do it to others and they can not do it to me!
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Old 11-24-2011, 02:55 AM   #14
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Kahokkuri: I can't imagine the pressure in Japan and the different version of being thin. In America and Europe, one image is slowly changing - the need to be super thin is being replaced with being "fit and healthy" (still thin, but no longer rail thin).

Do you think the image is changing a bit in Japan?

butterflymama: It is interesting that you write that. I noticed here, much more so than in America, the overweight women have much more almost aggressive facial expressions.

Germany, as a whole, has a stoic face in public. The overweight women, in particular, almost have a meaner expression (though not ALL), not as in they are going to hurt you, but as in "don't mess with me" or "I have no time for you". I wonder if they need that wall up or thick skin or confidence.

The only difference that I can see between American culture and European culture that is causing Americans to be larger is the infrastructure of America. You literally cannot walk from here to there (or anywhere important) on sidewalks in America.

I think that little bit of exercise is keeping a large portion of the population here in the overweight - obese category. Morbidly obese is somewhat of an oddity here, but is still becoming more prevalent.

There is also less of a presence of fast food. But, from what I read on here, many Americans are really turning away from fast food.

They are still using tons of cream and cheese in their meals, eating mostly pork, and have a large amount of bread and potatoes in their diet. The older generation (those retired) is actually becoming quite plump. They believe in taking a "cake and coffee break" everyday around 3pm. I think the pieces of cake have become much larger over the years!

In general, the portion sizes are the same as in America. The Germans also have an important eating ethic- you have to eat everything on your plate. They really believe this.

I would guestimate that 7 out of 10 people here are in the overweight BMI category. That means skinny minnies are becoming a rare occurrence and there are many more bulges growing.

Anyway, the western diet and the availability of food breeds weight gain. Soon the Germans will be looking more like the Brits (who are in turn looking more like the Americans).

I hope I don't scare anyone off from traveling here
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Old 11-24-2011, 06:22 AM   #15
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Kahokkuri: I can't imagine the pressure in Japan and the different version of being thin. In America and Europe, one image is slowly changing - the need to be super thin is being replaced with being "fit and healthy" (still thin, but no longer rail thin).

Do you think the image is changing a bit in Japan?
Not that I can see from my somewhat limited scope (I spend most of my time with teachers, elementary and junior high students and expatriates).

I do see some young students being bullied for being bigger than other students, but more often than not they're simply ignored. The elementary teachers at my school also seem like a disproportionately thick bunch.

I'm a member of a gym where the focus is very clearly on getting small as opposed to getting fit. It's all about numbers–pants size, shirt size, weight–but other indicators of health like cholesterol and body fat percentage are not mentioned. The one thing that is very big here is blood pressure testing, which can be done at the gym (and is recorded into a log) or at many workplaces. TV shows still focus very much on weightloss and diet with little mention of fitness.

The ideal body type here is extremely tiny, but not at all toned. A very tiny, weak body is much more ideal than a very slightly larger, stronger body.
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