Are Fat People Expected to Die Unexpectedly?

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Remember when Amy Whinehouse died and we all assumed Overdose? I’m starting to realized that when overweight people die everyone assumes Fat.

Saturday afternoon, I took an intense boot camp class at my gym. The teacher was a kind of gruff woman with eight pack abs and tattoos on her stomach. She worked us really hard and by the end of the class we were drenched in sweat. The last 15 minutes of the class were dedicated to abs and stretching.

As we lay on our mats doing crunches in all sorts of crazy positions, she began to update the class on her search for online colleges, then she began to talk about current events.

“Can you believe Heavy D. died?” she said as she raised her knee to meet her elbow.

“I know… its crazy, he was only 44…” someone said from the back of the room.

“He was a big dude, but he was light on his feet,” the instructor continued.  “Anybody know how he died?”

A chorus of replies rand out from around the room.

“Pneumonia?”

“Diabetes?”

“I heard a heart attack!”

The instructor switched positions and we all followed suit. “Yeah, I heard it was a heart attack. What’s crazy is that he had just lost all that weight– it’s not fair!”

Another woman chimed in, “Yeah I’ve heard that sometimes people lose weight and THEN they die. It doesn’t make any sense!”

“That’s what happened to Big Pun, right?”

“Oh yeah!”

“Dying after you lose weight… so sad.”

Then a voice from the far corner of the room spoke out in a calm, but firm voice:

“Skinny people have heart attacks too!”

There was a long pause, then the instructor sat up and laughed “You know… you’re right. You’re right about that.”

Listening to the conversation swirling around me, there was a clear implication that overweight are expected to die unexpectedly and if/when that happens its more or less their fault. To my gym instructor and the women in the room, the early deaths of Heavy D. and Big Pun were sad, but those men dying after they’d lost weight was the biggest tragedy of all.

Of course we have it drilled into our minds that obesity puts you at a greater risk for diabetes, heart attack, stroke, etc. and yes that’s true, but does that mean that if two 44-year-old men die from a heart attack and one happens to be thin, we should feel more sympathy for the thin guy?

I have an acquaintance who is easily 400 pounds. He’s successful, makes lots of money but looking at him I worry. When we go for drinks, he can’t stand for very long, his arms swing precariously as he walks and his back arches to stabilize his large stomach. I am a big girl with a clean bill of health, I understand that the number on the scale doesn’t automatically mean that a person is healthy… or unhealthy. But even as I write this post I can’t help but wonder how I would react if (God forbid) something should happen to him. Would my first that be of his size? I hope not, but… I don’t know.

Every single article I’ve seen about Heavy D.’s death mentions that he weight 344 pounds, just like every article on Amy Whinehouse mentioned her battled with addiction. In both cases, I feel like that is the medias subtle way of saying “they had it coming” and I don’t think that’s fair.

Thoughts?

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  • http://singlemuchny.com single much

    This is a great Cece! I think it’s an extremely interesting topic. Everybody assumes that losing weight is the best thing that could possibly happen to a person. Thinner doesn’t always equal happier.
    I wonder if all the hubbub about his weight seems like another scare tactic. Don’t be fat, people, you will die! It is almost odd how many articles mention his weight. As if we didn’t know ‘Heavy D’ was a heavy man. So far it doesn’t sound like his death was related to his weight so why keep mentioning it?
    I guess I don’t have any great insight on the matter. I am sensitive to it as a plus size gal though. I hate that people assume everyone wants to be skinny. I would love to be more fit & healthy however skinny is something I have never had much interest in. It’s irritating that people think it’s even more tragic that people die after losing weight. Like, ‘aw, they didn’t get a chance to appreciate the happiness being think can bring you’. –okay, done ranting. :)

  • Christine

    There are greater health risks associated with obesity, it’s just a fact. Alcoholics have greater health risks as well. Heavy D and Amy Winehouse wore their health problems on their sleeves, so to speak, so it’s easy to point the blame on these issues.

    Thin people who are not active or eat unhealthy foods are also at greater risk, but these health characteristics are less obvious to see. If Megan Fox had a heart attack in 10 years I wouldn’t be shocked either, since she’s bragged that she never, ever works out. But it’s assumed that thin people take care of themselves unless they announce otherwise, whether it’s fair or not.

    Obesity and health problems run in my family, and it doesn’t benefit anyone to pretend the two aren’t tied together. Unfortunately, my wake up call was after my cousin died at 500 pounds. It’s in my genes to gain weight very easily, so I keep that in check and have lowered my blood pressure to a healthy level. America is an unhealthy nation, and we must all strive to do better.

  • Tonia

    How insightful…I never even looked at it from that angle. Thanks for giving me something to think about.

  • Dena

    People do assume that fat means unhealthy. Sure, but skinny doesn’t mean you ARE healthy. I know plenty of stick skinny people that eat far worse than I ever have, and they are thoroughly convinced that they are still healthy because they are skinny, and I am not. It is definitely something to think about.

  • LoveLiveNiecey

    I really enjoyed this article. But Heavy D died of Pneumonia and the flu. His lab reports said he had both which lead to his death. I am a big girl & yes the number on the scale frighten me and the doctors causing them to want to run numerous test to make sure I am healthy. But when they run those test they realize I AM HEALTHY!!!! But the funny part is I have a friend who is like a size 4 and a year ago she found out she got type 2 diabetes. Like I find the world so funny they always see the bigger people as unhealthy and 2 steps away from death but they need to view ALL people in that light. Cause skinny or fat you can be unhealthy & risk getting a heart attack or diabetes.

  • http://www.myinnercheerleader.blogspot.com Myinnercheerleader

    The media is always looking for a story. Everywhere we turn there are messages to lose weight for your health and half of it is a business. Not that I don’t think we could all use some veggies and work outs, but come on already.

  • B

    There are a lot of studies that show losing a large amount of weight is more unhealthy than carrying it around – in the short term. No matter how you slice it, your body does not react well to extremes. If you look more closely at the studies on overweight people (except those that are EXTREMELY overweight, like your 400 lbs friend), while they are more likely to develop certain conditions (like hypertension), they are less likely to have complications as a result. Contrast that with underweight people – if they get hypertension, diabetes, have a stroke, etc – generally, they’re screwed. But, at least they’re hot, right?

  • HP

    Athletes have been known to literally drop dead as well, because they pushed their bodies too hard and they are considered to be in “perfect health”. Yes being overweight can lead to health problems for some, but I feel the media makes a bigger deal of it than it is in some cases. I’m not talking about the 300+ people. But those who are considered overweight to slightly obese aren’t necessarily going to drop dead walking up the stairs as much as someone who is thinner. If you’ve been overweight since youth, your body has already been adjusted to maintaining/carrying your weight around. Where as the yo-yo dieters and those who drop massive amounts of weight are putting their bodies through literal shock.

    I was reading an article in Woman’s Health about the growing number of cases of Type 2 Diabetes developing in moderately healthy women. Basically the ones who may hit a pilates class twice a week but don’t necessarily watch the scale and eat normal, reasonable amounts. A huge part of it is genetics but another large part I’m sure is the utter crap we’re putting in our bodies, and no I don’t mean McDonalds or stuff like that. The majority of our food is modified and made in a lab. We weren’t meant to eat produce that grows out of season, but because we can ship foods, we can eat strawberries, tomatoes and bananas everyday of the year. How do you think that stuff stays so ripe during shipment and then sitting on your shelf? It’s all chemically altered to create super foods. Organic is a meaningless term nowadays, there is no real regulation for what we the public think organic means. A local farmer will not be labeled as organic simply because he doesn’t follow certain guidelines and yet his food will be healthier for you in the long run. Look at factory farming, that lean piece of chicken is not nearly as healthy as you think.

  • Kenya

    I have been heavy for majority of my like….been a diabetic since the age of 12 and I’m 31 now. (I have been on the pills and only had 3 insulin shots in my life) I have lose weight and gain it back (which I know is not healthy) Currently I’m up again in my weight and just started to get back on track with losing it again. I don’t want to be skinney but I do want to be smaller. A size 10 – 14 is fine for my height (5’11) and build. I don’t want to lose all this weight and die. 2009 I was so happy in my life, I had a good job (it had its stressful times)but I was happy doing it, 9-5 hrs I would leave work and come home no matter how much I did not want to work out but I did. No sodas, juices nothing but water and no candy mostly salads. My diabetic numbers were great my doctor asked me what i was doing and wanted to take me off my mdiabetic meds. Then I was “Promotoed” to this new mess my job created and everything went downhill. My hours changes the stress increased greatly, I hated it and then I was injuried n the job – knee. So I balloned up again. I have not had a the motivation to get back out there and push myself like I did before to dropp the weigth. My diabetic numbers are out of control and now I’m scared to lose weigth because it may kill me. It too funny but not really

  • Vanessa

    I am 5’7″ and 240 lbs. I’m currently losing weight, but doing it really slowly because I don’t feel a rush about it and want to make sure that I’m maintaining it, as I’m comfortable like that, and most of all, I’m in perfect health. I went to a doctor because people kept talking about obeses dying really young, etc. The doctor of course agreed that I should lose weight, and made me run a complete check-up, and he had to admit that my Arterial pressure, diabetes, etc etc are all within the Optimal range, and my heart is healthier than some really skinny girls. He still advised me to lose some weight, but after mesuring my body fat percentage, he came to the conclusion that I wasn’t really 100 lbs overweight like the BMI scale would suggest, but more like 60lbs, because I have larges bones.
    I know that my health is mostly due to the fact that I’m still young, and this is why I intend to lose weight (10 lbs so far!) but I hate when people act like as long as you’re big, you better be prepared to die at 40 of a heart attack. Heavy weight has an influence on poor health, but it does not necessarily cause it, not all the time, not on everyone.

  • http://PlusSizeInnerPeace.com Stephanie Rainbow Bell

    I’m thrilled to see this blog post and your blog! As CEO/Founder of http://ThePlusSizeInnerPeaceNetwork.com I am on a mission for women to feel good about themselves AT ANY SIZE and to help change the perceptions about large-sized people that you have described in this article so well!

    We are just people — with limitations — like EVERYONE. Skinny people can’t do somethings — short people can’t do somethings — etc. Let’s just look at each individual and see them from one heart to another!

    Thanks again for bringing this to the light!

    Rainbow Blessings!

  • http://fatkatfitkat.wordpress.com/ Karen W

    I recently gained a lot a weight after a lifetime of struggling to be “normal.” I weighed very close to 400lbs for a few months and my mother, who has nagged, berated and shamed me about my weight since I was eight years old, became obsessed with the notion that one day I would just keel over. I am prone to anxiety and fighting depression dealing with my mother’s distorted vision of my future only made me feel more hopeless about my situation. It’s not fair that every health situation faced by a larger person is attributed to their weight. Heavy D died from a pulmonary embolism. A blood clot traveled to his lung. He did have heart disease but he didn’t die from a heart attack.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashleychante Ashley Chante’ Gaulden

    Great article!

  • http://aislynnsworld.com/ Ais

    Interesting read.