I was almost done with my shift, and I had returned to the bakery for a few minutes to help finish packing out the few items that remained. Co-worker A was there with Guy B, a floater from the produce section who was helping us out. They were talking about Guy B's recent weight loss efforts, which consisted largely of cutting back on the Cheetos and taking daily walks. It made me uneasy and a little uncomfortable (as any talk of weight loss is wont to do), but it wasn't overtly triggering. So I plastered a grin-and-bear-it smile on my face and just started packing stuff up.

The talk eventually turned to BMI, and the fact that Guy B's BMI was higher than he thought it was. From there, the dialogue went as follows:

Coworker A: I wonder what my BMI is. I should go look it up.
Guy B: It was eye-opening for me.
Coworker A: I wonder what Carrie's BMI is 'cuz she's such a fatass! ::lots of giggling::
Guy B: Carrie isn't fat! She isn't anywhere even near fat!
Coworker A: I know! That's what makes the joke funny!

And in that moment, I killed her in my head. Violently. Instantly. I grabbed a giant flyswatter and then crushed her. Splat.

I'm about 95% sure coworker A was joking. I mean- she said as much. But there's that nagging doubt that has sent my head reeling. Am I a fatass? Was she joking? I still have no idea of what I really look like (in terms of body size), so I almost always think of how I look through the eyes of others. I struggle so much with my current body size, which is larger than I've ever been before. This not-thought-out joke cut right to the core of my strongest anxieties.

Rationally, I'm almost sure A didn't mean anything by it. She's goofy and much younger and she's not the type to think out some sort of deep psychological jibe towards someone. And as much as I know this and can tell myself this, my brain keeps spinning around what if, what if, what if... I wanted to ask A what she meant by the comment, but I realized that there was probably nothing good that would come out of that. If she did mean it, I doubt she would admit it to my face. And if I questioned her, I would look like a neurotic tightass who couldn't take a joke. None of these options seemed much better than the never-ending uncertainty of whether A really was joking, or if there was some deeper meaning.

I don't know what to make of this (other than the fact that A needs to learn how to shut her freaking mouth). I know I'm overthinking this, although that has yet to stop me from actually overthinking this. I'm angry at A and her big mouth, and I'm also angry at myself for taking this so seriously. I'm also angry at myself for getting so fat that someone would even joke that I was a fatass--although the joke was pretty much meant to be an expression of irony.

So short of searching out a person-sized flyswatter, what should I do about this?


Maddi said...

ok so seriously, she is just jealous. When people are uncomfortable about something that is better in someone else, they will dog it. For example, when classmates see my art during art class, they say I suck. its just jealousy. My guess is that she would kill to be as skinny as you. That said, i would just ignore the comment. It was stupid, and really doesnt make a difference in who YOU are as a person. Hope that helps! :)

Carrie Arnold said...

Thanks, Maddi. I try to tell myself that the comment won't change what I need to do in order to stay well, but it's always good to hear it from someone else.


Cat said...

Yeah it sucks when people joke about bodies. I think it's super understandable to be upset. I would be too as much as I hate that fact.

But what I want to know is why is being called fat such an insult? What are you REALLY afraid of when you hear those words in relation to you, even if it is just in jest.

I hope you use this as a chance to analyze your feelings around body size, rather than letting the trigger make you doubt your recovery. Is there a given size where someone magically becomes "unacceptable?"

elizabeth marley said...

This reminds me of the morning my wonderful, caring, supportive-of-my-recovery boyfriend made an offhand comment about how we should join the gym together. At the time, I was at one of my lowest weights since high school and was exercising constantly.

Obviously, I freaked out. I doubled my exercise and cut my calories in half (putting me at basically nothing). A few weeks later I asked him why he thought I was so fat, and he had no idea what I was talking about. According to him, he was joking (I'm not sure he was fully aware of my ed at the time) but it completely fucked me up.

That experience taught me to just shut everyone else out when it comes to calling people fat or skinny. I assume far too much if I don't.

Tanya said...

I think you can't let her comment mean anything to you. Yes you have to let others eyes tell you how you look since you don't trust your own but use the eyes of people who you know love you. Don't use the eyes of someone who was sitting in their talking about another co-workers weight loss efforts to begin with, thats just not a good idea.

The Binge Diary said...

I am not sure what to tell you, but I know that would have hurt my feelings also. I never ever joke about weight.. People just shouldn't go there. Maybe you could tell her it hurt your feelings just so she doesn't make that mistake again??

Anonymous said...

Well, honestly, I'm not entirely sure that you'll be able to put aside her comment right now. You know that it was intended as a joke of irony, a super unthought through one, but I think (in my personal opinion only) and you're still working on getting okay with staying/maintaining a weight that anorexia is not fond of. I kinda wonder whether you just need to give yourself a rest and accept that nagging thoughts are understandable but that her jokes are not the measure of yr health, worth or size! And try to rest in that rather than trying to eradicate the thoughts....you're likely to just get more upset with yourself for "not getting over it" kinda thing.

On another note, about 10 years ago I was at a youth group event and dressed in constume...something scary for me given my body image issues, heck just being visible at all issues! And one of the leaders whom i respected teased me...in relatively good fun, not understanding the trauma he'd unleashed in y mind. I ended up writing him a letter and just said to him that he was going to be a minister and should be careful what he says because he never knew what a person's story or history was. He rang and apologised and said I was right!! Wow! Anyway, I was just thinking that if you're confident enough with this girl you could maybe pull her aside one day and gently mention somethin similar. You don't have to say yr history at all...you never know, you may open the door to her admitting her own insecurities! Its not necessary to do, but if she's young and teachable, one super short talk might make a world of difference to her and those she interacts with in the future.

In the meantime *compassionate fly squatter vibes coming yr way*

always Telly xo

Anonymous said...


I think you should console yourself with the great Oscar Wilde quote

"Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit"

Your co-worker was, undoubtedly, being sarcastic and you should pity her because, unlike you, she can't even make a decent joke. Her brain capacity is such that she hasn't the wit to make an amusing comment, let alone a comment that is not detrimental to someone else.

She does not deserve your attention for a second, let alone a night of worry. If she could even begin to compete with you on an intellectual level and had produced a cogent argument with irrefutable evidence that your a was overly large, then maybe you should have a discussion with her.

As she has not, I believe you should put her comment (and, if possible, her) in a large bin marked "Sharps".

Love Charlotte

jadedchalice said...

That may have been a spiteful comment in the guise of a joke. It may also have been her way of saying your really thin, therefore she figured that you would know your not fat, and she probably figured youd take it as a joke.

I have had the same joke at my expense told to my co workers basically. Person a) I need to lose weight Person b) uh yeah your about as fat as deanna lmao Person a) ha ha ha ha ha ha right well i still think i need to lose weight.

It seems pretty clear from the outside that she said it to point out that you were quite thin and either said it out of jealousy and spite to point out how thin you were, or it was a comment in total jest, from a person who didn't know your situation, thought you would take the joke lightly and didn't mean to hurt your feelings.

I tend to think it was a bit of both actually, she probably is a bit insecure in her weight and ideally would like to look more like you, and instead of saying I wish I could look like you, she jokingly pushed your button....

Cathy (UK) said...

This must have been really upsetting for you Carrie, but I'm sure it was a ('bad taste' and very inappropriate) 'joke'.

Why would this co-worker say this? There could be a variety of reasons: jest/'joke', jealousy, intrigue etc. If you normally get on with this person I suggest her rationale was jest. If that is indeed so, then she evidently has a strange sense of humour...

If it were me, I'd take her aside and tell her (politely and calmly) how inappropriate her comment was - and precisely why it was so inappropriate. I'd tell her I was once very physically and mentally ill as a consequence of anorexia nervosa and that to gain weight has been one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. That aside, it is inappropriate to make such a comment to anyone.

Alternatively, just ignore her. She's probably just immature, and, as you suggest, "goofy". What's most important is that you are healthy.

MissBlueBird88 said...

Ugh, comments like that are rarely if ever funny. I can completely understand why that opened cans of worms for you.

Libby said...

Ooooh, I am SEETHING. How DARE she trigger my FRIEND!?!

I don't know this coworker's personality, so there's a chance that saying something after the fact will be completely lost on her. But if not, I'd consider telling her something like, "That comment you made the other day really upset me. Dieting has always been an issue for me, and it's gotten me in trouble before. So, I'm super-sensitive to that kind of joking." And at that point, I imagine she'd apologize profusely and watch her tongue. Basically... you don't have to divulge much at all to make the point... that is, of course, assuming she's the type who will actually reflect on such things.

But now you can go in armed for the next time. There may never even be a next time. But you can be ready for it with a quick, "Oh, shut up. That's so not funny," or something like it.

Also, you can be ready, when the diet/BMI/etc talk starts. You can get the comment ready ahead of time... because I know for me, thinking on my feet when I'm getting upset is nearly impossible. But you can be prepared to say, "Hey, can we talk about something else... anything else?" You could add, "Because this is really boring..." or "Because this is all I hear about the rest of my day..." or "Because I was sick and had to deal with weight consequences and now I'm tired of thinking about it/sensitive to talking about it/just not ready to talk about it..." You could even plan something snarky like, "If you had cancer, you'd be glad for those few extra pounds," followed by a stomp, stomp, stomp off to do something else for a few minutes. You could even say, "My cousin/aunt/mother/friend/anyone is sick with an eating disorder..." and not have to say anything at all about yourself if you don't want to.

UGH. I am so sorry you had to deal with this.

But more than anything... please know that you are NOT a fatass.


M said...

If there's one thing people with eating disorders can't "take a joke" about, it's body/weight comments. And the really difficult thing about that is that it's fairly counter to common culture these days.

I hear "young people" call each other "bitch," "fat-ass," "loser," etc. in a colloguial kind of way all the time. It seems to be a conversational norm that others take in stride (or, strangely, even builds camaraderie).

I disagree with those who say to say something to the co-worker ... even though I think it's rude and gauche to make "joking" personal comments of any kind, it's really your issue. I doubt the reformed Cheeto-eater or the other co-worker have had another thought about the whole thing.

Yes, we like to educate the world about eating disorders and sensitivity to those who suffer, but it's really our sensitivity that gets us in so much trouble from the beginning. This is one of those deals where the onus is on the recovering person to utilize coping skills, self-talk and a support system to deal with a trigger rather than trying to re-design the real world to be free of triggers, fat talk, inappropriate clods, etc.

After all, your co-workers are speaking the same language as much of the country in this epoch of "obesity epidemics" and "eat this, not that." Not that that language is healthy, but I think Libby's idea of being prepared for how you might respond to uncomfortable work situations in the future seems a better option than re-tracing and re-hashing how things played out at the bakery (you can do that here and with TNT).

I hear you on the shot-through-the-heart feeling that kind of offhanded comment can instantaneously deliver, but I see it as a gift of insight that this area is one still very tender for you and one of the next great frontiers in your ongoing recovery. I'm confident you will look back at this episode and be able to say: "There was a time that kind of thing really threw me, but I have come a long way and no longer have a visceral reaction to body talk and incidental doofus commentary."

We take ourselves so seriously (and so we should when it comes to addressing ED issues), and I think these instances provide great opportunities for introspection. On the other hand, I don't think your experience is singular to someone with an ED ... one could have that same takes-me-back "ugh" in the gut about anything that was once a sore spot (whether that's being self-conscious about wearing glasses, having big feet, being short, tall, learning-disabled, not athletic, etc.)

We all have "stuff," and I think it sometimes helps to remember that body-talk may be part of yours and mine, but we have lots of company in the self-doubt and self-esteem department. Hope you don't let the anxious ickiness keep you stirred up ... take good care and be well!

dana said...

nobody would ever call someone who was actually 'fat' a 'fat ass' to their face. Im sure you have nothing to worry about. She probably just felt comfortable saying it because your so thin!

Dana <3

runwritetherapylife said...

It was an inappropriate joke. I would venture to see that the "joke" just reflected your coworkers own insecurities. You're beautiful! Just to know, in your head, that you're the bigger person. If possible, make an effort to help her with her self-esteem or confidence; let her know that all women can be beautiful -- there is no finite amount of beauty in the world!

Have a spectacular week!

From Here to There. In Purple. said...

ugh i cant stand when people don't think before they speak. i think we both know deep down she "didnt mean it like that", but sometimes we cant help but to let words affect us more than we'd like..

you keep doing what you're doing-- youre a rock star and no one should bring you down.

Asha said...

The thing "people like us" need to remember is that "people *not* like us" see things very differently. Your coworker knows you are not fat, and because of that, she assumes that you know you are not fat. When both of those conditions are met, what she said passes for a decent joke. She didn't realize that both of those conditions were not met, and I'm inclined to believe she would never has made such a comment if she knew how your ED would take it and run with it.

When your ED starts to cloud your vision, keep this in mind: we all think the world sees itself as we see it, and we're all wrong.

H. said...

I've had people make jokes like that about me, especially in a work environment. I'm 100% sure she was joking about you. How comfortable around her are you? If you think you can do it the best solution might be to go to her (or if it happens again) tell her that those kind of joke are offensive to you, or something along those lines. When people make weight jokes or comments (even if they are "positive") I treat them like I would racist or sexist jokes or comments, I politely tell the person I do not engage in that kind of talk because it is hurtful and unhealthy. As a result I sometimes get weird looks, but people have started to knock it off around me. Have you ever read "Do I Look Fat in This" by Jessica Weiner? It's really good and addresses this kind of weight language

Cammy said...

I've had experiences with people making similar comments, it is SO frustrating. But I unequivocally opine that she was just being facetious, she never would have said that (especially not in front of you) if she actually thought someone believed it. Maybe a bit of passive aggressive jealousy or competitiveness being displayed, but that is HER issue and not yours! Keep your chin up, Carrie, sorry you had to deal with that but don't let juvenile comments get to you!

Eating Alone said...

Ok ready to be slammed for this but, I started reading your blog because you explained stuff so well. All this tech stuff. YOU know that BMI is totally bogus. I think it was one of your blogs that showed just or pointed to a site saying that. I know you are struggling right now but maybe you could comment to this guy about how bogus that BMI thing is.

Sorry I'm still pissed at that whole bmi numbering thing and can't get it out of my head. Even thought RD/Therapist/MD all say I'm fine that number still say's that I'm overweight. I HATE that BMI crap.

Kim said...

Oh man, I would give that coworker a big, fatass eyeroll. That is such a juvenile, silly comment. Of course, it's immature and definitely meant to be a "joke." I've gotten this stuff before, like trying to squeeze into a backseat with two other people and someone says, "Geez, Kim, you take up so much space...haha." I don't know why people have to be sarcastic about weight. Then again, I've been called "shorty" before since I'm so tall and this doesn't bother me, so maybe it's just my own sensitivities and I have to deal with it and understand that people don't see weight comments as I do. Still, there reallyw as no need for that stupid comment your coworker made.

Missy said...

Unfortunately, I have no words as to what you should do in this situation but I SO understand what you are feeling (angry at them, angry at yourself for being angry, knowing they don't really think you are fat .. but then...)
It makes me want to *%&@!!*&%!
when people comment on my weight.
"Looks like you've gained weight...you've filled out a bit...etc"
Thing is NOBODY would say these things to a fat person. Just because we are thin, people feel they can say things that are just...not really very kosher in polite society.
"What do you eat to stay so thin?"
Would someone ever say, "What do you eat to stay so fat?"
"You need a hamburger, girl!"
Would they say, "You need a little more salad and less grease, girl!"

Alot of the times if people talk about my body I deadpan look at them and explain that I struggle with an Eating Disorder and I am really trying to get better and it is a waking nightmare that I would not wish on my worst enemy.

Then watch for people's various responses....it's interesting.

Ellie Dworak said...

Hi there - I've been reading awhile, I don't think I've commented before. I often want to give you a big hug.

I agree with some of the other commenters who said that this girl probably thinks you're skinny, so it's OK to joke. But it's not OK to joke about somebody's body. Even if it isn't a problem for that person (e.g. even if the subject of the joke is A.OK with their body), it's -their- body and it's not OK to joke about.

If this happened to me and I were thinking fast enough, I would say "Hey, that's my BODY you're talking about! Private!" Of course, I never think that fast.

So I think that part of why this felt crappy to you is that it was a boundary violation.

The other thing is that nothing anybody else says changes what is. I mean, I don't know what you look like, but (rationally) you know what the numbers are and whether they are healthy.

I -am- a little overweight (maybe 30 pounds). Usually I think I look fine, but I'd rather be thinner. The other day I was getting dressed, and nothing looked right. I've been binging lately and my tummy was too prominent and my butt feels fat and and and . . .

Suddenly it occurred to me that oh well, I'm fat. I'm not going to hide it with the right outfit. I'm not going to apologize for it. I'm just who I am, and who I am is a woman who has a lot of good qualities, who is loving and smart and creative and sexy and has a weakness for chocolate and baked goods. Oh well.

I'm not sure how long I'll hang onto this feeling, but I've been feeling much better ever since. And also, much less like binging.

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone has said this yet...

Remember what Guy Coworker said? "Carrie's not even close to fat!" That's the voice you should be listening to. ED seems to want you to latch onto the other voice, but it's totally - totally! - wrong.

In addition to that, I'd like to second what everyone else said. It seems that was a joke, but it was certainly not funny at all.

James Clayton said...

Same thoughts here. It wasn't a funny joke (I'm not even sure what it was. Envy, immaturity or just a desperate desire to say 'fatass' for no good reason) and it should be cast aside as her problem instead of being dwelt on just as the ED instinct wants you to.

I don't know, maybe it would have been good to go ape and tear into her. It wouldn't be comfortable revealing very loudly that you've suffered with eating disorders and body image and that they've really offended you. However, it would make the point and force them to confront their own stupidity and make them answer for their comments.

Don't let idle babble bring you down Carrie: you're brilliant and if your co-workers (or anyone) don't realise it then that's their loss. Seeing as you work in a bakery, I'd say pick up a rolling pin and beat some sense into these people. Best wishes and a big smile from James.

Angela E. Gambrel Lackey said...

I would have taken it personally, too. But ... she also needs to be told that isn't appropriate in the workplace. Flat out. That is not an appropriate way to behave in a place of work and if she isn't careful, someone else might just haul her ass to the boss and report her. Many places would fire people for that kind of thing, and rightly so.

Alley Cat said...

It's so weird how your entries always go hand in hand with what I've been thinking about! This week, I was talking to my therapist about how these conversations never make people comfortable, whether they have eating disorders or not. Yet, people still have them! It's so stupid. Abnormally skinny people getting called fat in college, people comparing their diets, UGH. I always have to self-talk to remind myself, that what is healthy for me is healthy for me regardless of what others are doing. The voices get loud this time of year, but the loudness is just more absurd lies, so I try to laugh!

imaginenamaste said...

That is nuts! I hate it when people joke about weight--even if they don't realize what they are saying! Crazy people who don't realize that a person is more than a BMI (which doesn't say a whole lot!)

Patricia said...

Wow! This is a great post and I think it is so brave and personal for you to share what goes on inside your mind. I have been working on a project, which consists of a website full of information that teaches people to love themselves. One of my focuses is eating disorders. Thank you for opening my eyes. I will keep coming back to your blog for more great information! Keep on fighting!

Laura Collins said...

It seems obvious to me that the woman was making a joke about herself: she assumes that fat is bad and that neither of you want to be this bad thing but you are so NOT bad that it is comical.

There isn't anything wrong with being fat, however, and that is what makes me feel sorry for this lady. She doesn't feel good about herself. It's sad.

I wish she lived in the world we do: where this kind of fat joke doesn't happen and wouldn't work. I love surrounding myself with people who don't think this kind of prejudice is okay - especially towards oneself!

Anonymous said...

Carrie, Don't worry about killing her with a giant fly swatter - I have already done it for you.

I don't have an ed but my daughter does and she is an elite athlete. These days she can cope (and I mean cope - not accept yet) with her body size - she just gets bombarded with talk about weight, bmi and body shape during training.

She loves her sport, she has a right to train in an environment that is supportive.

Carrie Arnold said...

Aww, Anon, that's so kind of you!

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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Have any questions or comments about this blog? Feel free to email me at carrie@edbites.com

nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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