My wife and I are going out to dinner tonight. I am waiting for her to get ready. She is in the bathroom, standing before a mirror, pinching her tummy. She asks if I think she is fat.
“No,” I say.
She frowns. “You sure?”
“Well, I feel fat.” She pinches a new region. “This doesn’t look fat to you?”
She readjusts. “What about from this angle?”
“How about when I turn around?”
“Are you kidding?”
“How about when I stand like this and hold my neck like this?”
“You look extremely uncomfortable.”
I can feel her getting ready to say it. And she most certainly does. “But… I feel so fat.”
My whole life has been spent in the company of women. When my father died, he left me in a house of estrogen. I was raised by a village of females. And in my life I have learned one basic thing about the opposite gender.
Many women think they are fat.
And they are always wrong about this, no matter what their size. Because the word “fat” is a disgraceful term, unless it’s being used to describe a ribeye. When applied to humans, this word is a synonym for “disgusting.” And I refuse to believe any human is disgusting.
Although it is almost impossible not to feel fat in today’s world of airbrushed spokes-models. Every printed advertisement and beer commercial tells us we are fat.
But it wasn’t always like this. Things were different 75 years ago. You never heard anyone saying Marilyn Monroe needed to try keto.
No. People weren’t obsessed with being skinny. Consequently, American families ate more bacon. And according to the wise old timers who came before us: The family that eats bacon together, stays together.
But things have changed. By today’s impossible standards Marilyn Monroe would be considered a Clydesdale. Barbara Eden, a Holstein. Ginger and Mary Ann would be kicked off the island.
Last week, I got a letter from Myra, who is 19. Myra confided in me that she feels overweight, and has felt this way since middle school. She has been on a diet for six months but it’s not working.
So she went to the doctor. He did what all doctors do. He ran tests and did blood work. This led to more tests, more blood work, then, just for the heck of it, an MRI.
Then came an obligatory consult with a high-priced specialist, a visit to a dermatologist, an herbologist, a zoologist, an ornithologist, and a qualified priest. And do you know what the doc concluded? Myra was in perfect health.
In the doc’s own words: “You’re a little on the skinny side, Myra.”
How can a girl who is skinny by medical standards still believe she is fat? How, I ask?
But then it’s not your fault, Myra. We’re all in the same boat here. And it’s not just women, it’s us guys too.
We live in a culture that tells us we’re ugly, fat, boring, and we need better insurance. We live in a civilization where people drive to the gym to walk on a treadmill.
Ours is a world where underwear models are selling everything from iced tea to retirement plans. It’s a world where regular-looking people aren’t considered regular anymore.
Yesterday, for example, I was watching a commercial that showed four or five young people frolicking on the beach without their clothes on.
The young men were shirtless and looked like Sylvester Stalone on diuretics. The females were clad in swimwear so skimpy it wouldn’t have fit on a pasta fork.
After 30 seconds of this, I still had no idea what the commercial was advertising—although I did feel like a North Atlantic whale.
Not that anyone asked me, but I don’t believe in these kinds of TV people. I believe in real-life people. And when it comes to the gentler sex, I believe in the brand of woman who raised me; regular women who were brave enough to be just that.
My people didn’t go in for fad diets. They believed in eating regular food like fresh okra, summer tomatoes, and biscuits cut with an upside-down coffee cup.
Certainly, I believe in health and nutrition, but I also believe in living a rich, full life that occasionally includes Almond Joys.
Also, I believe in loving what is in the mirror. I believe in keeping the television off more than it’s on. And I don’t believe true love has anything to do with tight abs, nice thighs, or bronze butts.
I believe in authentic love. The kind of love found among old married couples who are so comfortable with each other they take a six-day cruise to the Bahamas and go all week without saying anything more than, “Shut up, Herb, you’re snoring again.”
I don’t believe in TV-Commercial Guy, or Magazine-Advertisement Gal. And when it comes to women, I may be old fashioned, but I believe a woman’s magnificence has nothing to do with her body mass index calculation.
And here’s the thing: there are a lot of guys out there who feel this way about the opposite gender. We just don’t get much airtime.
So I choose to believe in the internal beauty of Womankind instead of her dress size. I believe in her quiet power, her bravery, her kindness, and self-assuredness. I believe in Myra. I believe in my wife.
And whoever you are, reading this, male or female, I believe in you, too. So in case someone hasn’t told you today…
You are not fat.
Debbie g - April 26, 2021 7:28 am
You are amazing. You make me laugh while there are still tears in my eyes!!!! Love to you and family and your beautiful inner self 🙂🙂
Susan Wold - April 26, 2021 7:37 am
Thank you Sean. Many of us need to be reminded.
Mimi - April 26, 2021 8:22 am
Right on Sean! Thank you!
Norma Den - April 26, 2021 8:34 am
Sean you’ve touched so many women today. Yes we all believe we’re fat & ugly. Why…….well you said it all, TV, Ads you name it. I was a young teenager when Marilyn Monroe died, now that was a real woman with a gorgeous body, most girls aspired to look like her. Thanks you’ve made me feel much better & by the way I’ve been, skinny, fat, middle of the road & thanks to an older bullying brother have always felt ugly & that I shouldn’t have been born. You’ve made my day..God bless you.
Leigh Amiot - April 26, 2021 9:13 am
Norma, my heart breaks that you have labored under feeling ugly and that you “shouldn’t have been born.” My mind immediately went to the words of the prophet Jeremiah, whom the Lord told that before he was in his mother’s womb, He knew him. That applies to all of us.
Sean, on what I hope is the tail end of this pandemic, I’m just glad to see anybody! Some people gained weight due to the confinement, I lost some during a bad bout of anxiety last year. (I had it to spare.) My husband observed people he hadn’t seen at church since before the pandemic were grayer. (We are, too.) A pandemic has effects on our appearance, it seems, but we who are left are survivors, and I hope it makes us all glad to see one another no matter our size or hair color!
joan moore - April 26, 2021 10:53 am
It’s no wonder Alfa wanted y’all in their ads. You exude health, happiness and love!
Suzanne Jones - April 26, 2021 10:57 am
Well said! And so true…I said those three words to my husband yesterday
Jean - April 26, 2021 11:06 am
Marisa Franca - April 26, 2021 11:18 am
Great article, as always!!
Melissa Armstrong - April 26, 2021 11:30 am
Made my day! From someone who has battled the bulge her entire life, I thank you for your kind words. I believe you.
Bob E - April 26, 2021 11:39 am
As some past song went, “Don’t want no woman w’ no skinny legs”.
Have always loved that line…
Annie Sommers - April 26, 2021 11:41 am
This morning when I got up I was feeling so fat. Thank you Sean for your compliment. I feel better.
Nela Loflin - April 26, 2021 12:22 pm
Thank you, Sean
Pam - April 26, 2021 12:25 pm
This is what young women need to hear. And maybe me too. Thanks for lifting us up this morning!
Jan - April 26, 2021 12:59 pm
Thanks, Sean! I needed to hear / read that!
Gretchen Hitchcock - April 26, 2021 1:11 pm
I will add my thanks to the many that you will you will receive today. We love you for loving us and for sharing your love with the world. When everything seems a little overwhelming I can count on reading one of your columns and feel my world right itself again.
billllly - April 26, 2021 1:27 pm
You write things that need to be heard!
oldandblessed - April 26, 2021 1:53 pm
Love this! I’m going to post to Facebook. I’m sure it will be encouragement for some of my Facebook friends, who feel their clothes have shrunk while lingering in the closet during the last pandemic year.
Tiffany Cadenhead - April 26, 2021 2:03 pm
Sean, how could you know this was just what i needed to read this morning?
Lisa Bowman - April 26, 2021 2:15 pm
Thanks! I always need to hear that! 😂 ‘Great story!
Jay - April 26, 2021 2:47 pm
Good stuff! Thanks Sean!
Kathy Grant - April 26, 2021 2:54 pm
Thank you for the timely words, as I approach yet another age upgrade on Saturday. My body is responding to gravity more and more yet my husband thinks I’m still sexy. Even with his glasses on. So, I’m going with what he says and not the mirror. Your words confirmed that.
Cheryl C Hill - April 26, 2021 2:58 pm
People like you DEFINITELY need more airtime!! 🥰 Thank you for saying what so many of us needed to hear.
Christina - April 26, 2021 3:25 pm
Sean, if I were president, I’d ask you to be the minister of healthy living. This is the perspective that we all need to hear more than ver!
Holley Calmes - April 26, 2021 3:41 pm
I have felt fat all my life. I was in a ballet company during my teen years, and I was one of the “fat” ones on the back row until my senior year in high school. I starved all summer. This gave me trench-mouth. Really. A disease once suffered by WWI soldiers resulting from poor nutrition. But by golly, I weighed 105 pounds! No longer was I fat! I got better roles for my last year in the ballet company. I looked good in everything I wore. Sad to say, that was one of my last happy times looking in a mirror. The second and last time was when I started running. I hated it, but I did get down to 117 pounds – not bad for a 30 year old. Now, at 71, my sweet husband forces me to eat chocolate every night because “he loves me.” I complain to him that “but I’m fat!” And he just says, “I want you to be happy.” I’ve avoided plus sized clothing so far, but the possibility is looming. I’m the poster child for the fact that for women, the word “fat” is a life-long curse. But…. I am happy. Bless you Sean.
Cheryl Buchanan - April 26, 2021 3:46 pm
Linda Moon - April 26, 2021 4:32 pm
“No”. Always…repeat….ALWAYS say that, no matter how many times your wife re-phrases her question. Brave women raised me. They were not skinny, and the kid (me) was not skinny either. I’m not fat now, but either one is okay because I’m still here to be either. Your wife’s inner beauty is exquisite, and her outer beauty is too! So, tell her that for me today….will you?
Susan Kennedy - April 26, 2021 4:52 pm
Thank you Sean. This is beautiful.
Colleen Shabluk - April 26, 2021 5:40 pm
Thank you. Your words are always inspirational, no matter the subject. We all need your messages of encouragement.
Bernadette Wyckoff - April 26, 2021 6:43 pm
Thanks Sean…as always I needed this message today. I’m giving myself permission to have a slice of homemade apple pie for lunch. No salad just pie!! God bless you always.💛
Kathy Coxwell - April 26, 2021 6:48 pm
I’ve been in this battle since I was a teenager. I’ve been pencil thin, and a bit overweight. But even though I thought I was fat, I wasn’t. I’m 73, knocking on 74, and getting thinner. Not all due to COVID. I’ve always heard that when you get old, you either blow up or dry up. I appear to be on the drying up side. But you are quite right! Marilyn, Deborah Kerr, Elizabeth Taylor, … all the great beauties of the ‘ 50’s and ‘60s were not anorexic, and thank goodness they weren’t!
Chasity Davis Ritter - April 26, 2021 7:58 pm
Marylin Monroe was my favorite. She was beautiful and way more (everything) than she got credit for. I have always loved that she was a size 14ish. I always thought Ellie May Clampett was beautiful too. Curves are everything!! Being happy with yourself is everything too. And I LOVE Bacon!! Whisper it to me and there is nothing sexier!! Jk but still it’s pretty much true. I know my hubby loves me just as I am. I can dress nice where I’m comfortable and it still turns him on too. I don’t try to fit in those skinny jeans with the rips in them. I tried one pair on before because they were the in thing and I looked like a busted can of biscuits!! I’d much rather have my biscuits on a plate with gravy and a side of bacon and some sliced summer tomatoes any day!! So even though I know I “could lose a few pounds” I’m quite happy with myself. Only skinny gals get kidnapped and abducted.. I’m safe and happy with my bacon and curves. But seriously though have you ever noticed that when people lose weight to be healthy… they get skinny and people ask them if they are sick??? If my dad didn’t have the weight on him to lose when he had cancer he would have only been bones left to bury. I’m glad he ate what he wanted and was happy when he was and now that he is bones it really doesn’t matter anymore. I won’t say I’m fat but I will say I’m FAB!! And I’m Freddie’s daughter and blonde size 14 like Marylin who loves animals like Ellie May and who my hubby of 25 years still finds sexy…. now gimme some bacon :)!!
Barbara - April 26, 2021 8:14 pm
Thank you for this uplifting piece Sean! And thanks for approval of an occasional Almond Joy. I most especially enjoyed the one sentence exchanged by the long married couple.. I though my husband of 56 years and I were abnormal.
Melinda Ratchford - April 26, 2021 8:15 pm
You are so wise and so witty in letting us know that. Thanks
Sonya Tuttle - April 26, 2021 9:52 pm
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Women are their own worst critics. God likes VARIETY, and we are all made in HIS image. Rejoice!
MAM - April 26, 2021 10:42 pm
I was scrawny skinny as a kid and young adult. Having kids took care of that. Now I’m just a little rounder in some places than I want to be, but I’m too old to starve myself. Besides, I’d have to get rid of my comfortable clothes. No, thanks. I’m fine the way I am and my husband agrees. He’s smart, too. He always says No, when I ask If I’m too fat.
Steve E Rafferty - April 27, 2021 1:54 am
AMEN SEAN!!! BMI 30
Bob Brenner - April 27, 2021 10:22 am
Bingo to every word in your column this fine day! Old, fat and happy 😃
Kate - April 27, 2021 12:48 pm
So many of us need to hear what you wrote. I have struggled all my life with my looks, too fat ( I never was, but constantly told I was – I was 5’4” and weighed 110) never pretty enough, although not beautiful I was attractive. It mostly came from my mother, my hair was never right, my hips were too large. Constant criticism is so hard to overcome and we measure ourselves by what we hear from others. And was told I was not very smart to boot. I went on to be amazing – wonderful life, wonderful family, wonderful husband, wonderful career, wonderful friends. I learned along the way to encourage others, to see the amazing things within others and to help them be successful, probably because I knew how much it mattered for someone to invest in another person. I learned to love life and to see how amazing people really are. I still need to learn to laugh more and not be so serious, but I am getting better. I wish everyone knew how amazing they were and how many talents and gifts God has given them. They would be so much happier and in turn would give love and joy to others in abundance. Thank you Sean.
Dee F. Wichman - April 27, 2021 5:58 pm
Thank you, Sean. I love you.
Karen - April 30, 2021 1:16 am
God bless your clean, honest heart! Loved this enough to save the post!
cashtilton - April 30, 2021 11:48 pm
I had a doctor’s appointment this morning. I was weighed. As I feared, I am fat. However, thank G-d, I am not fat-fat.
Cyndi Bryan - May 11, 2021 4:08 am
I was feeling fat tonight. after reading this I can go to bed knowing that my husband loves me anyway!
Liz Watkins - May 14, 2021 4:07 pm
I can not wait until I feel comfortable enough to hop on the Drs scale with my purse, shoes, jacket and my jewelry!!! Lol!
I notice there is not many diet and exercise books in Antique Stores!!! Wonder why???🤣🤣🤣
God Bless you and Jaime, oh and Mother Mary❤️🙏🏻😊😊😊
Debbie - March 29, 2022 8:23 am
Thank you, Sean. As always, I feel better after reading your thoughts.