Friday, March 1, 2013

An Interview with a Friend About Life, Fat, and Supersized People.


Pam was a friend of mine now deceased. I miss her very much. She did endure a lot of what I have and at one point was near 700lbs as well. She knew what it was to face severe weight issues into her 60s. She was a very funny, kind and loving woman. We shared many struggles and she was a life line to me for very years. It was a blessing to know her.  I remembered I was interviewing her in future hope of writing about weight, which I obviously did on this blog. :) I still own the tape and transcript typed out back then, and decided I'd share it here. At the time she gave me permission to use this for any writing. I am happy to share her words here. The conversation brings back fond memories for me not for what we went through but that that we were there to support one another. Of course since 2004, some of my views have changed which is the year this interview was done.


PAM: How old, or how moldy?

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: [laughing] No, how old?

PAM: Old enough to know better, but too young to resist.

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP [laughs]: That’s funny. What’s the highest weight you’ve ever been?

PAM: Boy, this is a personal interview – is this gonna be on “20/20”?


PAM: My highest weight was 600-plus in 1980, but they weren’t sure…one doctor said, as far as an actual weight, closer to 700 [pounds], and congestive heart failure, and they’d mainline Lacix – which drew a lot of water off of me in one week’s period of time.

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: OK – yeah, you said you got lots of water taken off of you.

PAM: Uh-huh. I didn’t know I had congeestive heart failure. I was 33, at that time.

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: OK. OK. And what’s the lowest weight you’ve ever been?

PAM: You mean, birth weight, or adult weight?

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP:  I was two pounds in the womb! I was born weighing 200 pounds [laughs] – that’s what I’d tell people!

PAM: As an adult – I think when I was 19, 18 ½, I was going to a doctor that was giving everybody all these – you know, it was like a diet clinic, and I got down to 123 pounds.

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: Wow, you’ve been smaller than I ever have…

PAM: Very, very…I was skinny, but I got pregnant, and I gained 60 pounds with the pregnancy…that was with my son, and, after that, I just kept going up. I was at Weight Watchers, and Overeaters Anonymous, to try to – you know, stay around 250 [pounds], because I was selling ads, and you have to make a fairly decent appearance, plus, you’re on the go all the time.

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: Yeah, that makes sense…what have been some of the challenges to you, in terms of being overweight?

PAM: Well, employment, housing – now, because I’m in a wheelchair. I don’t have to be in it all the time, but – getting older, disabilities are harder to deal with, as you age.


PAM: That’s a big challenge, aging; I’m facing that now – I’ve outlived a lot of people that are in a similar situation, that I knew. I’ve watched people just dwindle down, you know, under a system that’s not too kind. There’s not a lot of help for women in my age group, in the 50s – you know, if you’re disabled, if you don’t have a spouse with a good job, or a family that can help…and a lot of people don’t…or they have ‘em, but they’re not willing to get involved…so that can be quite a challenge to be in this age group, before retirement age.

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: Kind of like, you fall through the cracks, right?

PAM: Right, and fall through the cracks of what’s happening now…I just read an article about a county out here in rural [state] – the waiting list for people that are of retirement age, that are on Social Security, and not because of disability, but need services because they’re aging…they have medical needs…the waiting lists are getting longer and longer, because of the aging population. So, by the time I get into the next age group, if I live that long, I’ll be just one of those people on the waiting list [laughs] – so, I don’t know what it [the solution] is.

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: Let me ask this question – what would you say are the special challenges of the supersized, the 200- to 300-pound person? {I consider supersized to be 350lbs and above today}

PAM: That’s supersized?

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: Yeah, the supersized, the people who are on the upper end of the scale, like me?

PAM: You mean, 200 to 300 pounds?

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: Yeah, people who aren’t 200 to 300 [pounds]?

PAM: People that have lived at 600, 700, 800 pounds? I don’t weigh that now, but that could happen again in five minutes – you know, once you’ve been that big, you could go back there, because of medical conditions, food-related things, whatever…I’m not real clear on that question. Do that one more time.

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: OK. What would you say are the special challenges that the supersized fat people have to deal with…

PAM: That the moderately overweight don’t have to deal with?

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: Yeah, that the moderately overweight don’t have to deal with. PAM: Well, I mean, like we’ve talked about – personal things, personal hygiene. It’s amazingly hard for moderate overweight people to realize that people, once they get up over 400, 500, 600 pounds, that there are landlords – if they see the person, they’re gonna assume that they’re not gonna pay their rent, that they probably don’t keep their apartments clean, because they’re too big to run a vacuum, or whatever…

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: That’s true; they won’t rent to you. {I was refused an apartment once due to weight}

PAM: There’s rental discrimination…there’s people that are supersized, and they keep their apartments immaculate. You know, I’m not supersized – well, I’m borderline supersized – I consider anybody over 200 pounds to be supersized. But, super-super-sized people…it was a struggle to do some of the things thin people take for granted, when they clean, or bathe, or have a bowel movement. You know, we talked about the toilet paper sponges, for the reach, and the bidets, for the overweight – even umbrellas. An umbrella for an average person won’t keep a supersized person dry.

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP [laughs]: Yeah, you’re right, I was thinking about that – you’re right, it won’t.

PAM: Yeah, when it rains, and you use a regular umbrella, all it does is bring the rain down on your shoulders, and it drips down on your body.

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: That’s true. That’s actually something that frustrated me. I didn’t know anybody else that noticed that.

PAM: There’s all kinds of different things…thank God that people challenged it, and there’s more big people now – there’s money to be made off of us, so the fashion industry opened up, but it still has a long way to go -- there’s things that I need, that I can’t from Roman’s, and Lane Bryant’s. They don’t seem to carry pantyhose, and brassieres, and girdles that’ll fit real big women -- or women, even my size, with the loose skin. I still need a gigantic girdle, if it’s gonna be on me, and support me, but you can’t buy them.

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: I know, they just don’t have them – I had to give up wearing bras long ago. Do you think discrimination against overweight people is getting worse?

PAM: I think, because there’s so many overweight kids and adults – you would think it would be getting better, but I think it’s an unpopular group to be associated with. People, even if they are heavy, or supersized – they may find friends in that weight range, they can relate – but I think the discrimination is still there. You know, if we walked in on an interview, and had degrees, and a thin woman that had the experience, and [only] some degrees, based on appearance, they’d pick the thin one. I mean, it’s been proven.

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: Yeah, they have done studies on that – they have done studies on that, and they’ve definitely have always picked the thin one.

PAM: Well, they did a study, too, with little children – five-year-olds – and they used dolls. One doll was disfigured facially, like a burn patient; the other one was without limbs. I forget the others. You know, there’s different disabilities that can come upon a human being…and then one was just huge, just a big fat doll baby. Of all these disfigured dolls, even though the obese wasn’t burned, or limbless – the one that none of ‘em wanted to be was the obese doll.


PAM: They would rather be without arms and legs, facially disfigured, whatever, than to be obese.

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: Hm – that’s probably because of some of the messages they hear about how bad fat people are, over and over…

PAM: Oh, sure. And then, all this stuff about the restaurants downsizing food portions – I don’t see any of that stuff happening. I don’t know what the answer is.

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: Actually, it’s not happening – did you know Hardee’s actually released a 1,400-calorie burger?

PAM: Oh, mercy!

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: That’s pretty bad, isn’t it?

PAM: Especially when they’re hyping all this, “Oh, we’re gonna try to help,” you know, especially with the next generation – which I do see some improvement. But there again, there’s gonna have to be more support groups – and God forbid, maybe even the only way that people would ever cut back, if all this stuff is gonna continue to be available, and so many people are insulin resistant from eating this way for so many generations – that it might take, whether it’d be a famine or something, for a couple generations to get back to where they’d have to plant, and harvest. Like the Bible says: “You work by the sweat of your brow.” I mean, people don’t have to do anything!

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: I know, that’s kind of why we’re all getting messed up…’cause, then, you burned it all off.

PAM: Everybody’s at the TV, or computer…yeah, you see some people jogging, and walking, but – you know, once you get to a certain point – whether it’s just the natural aging process, or you’re obese along with it…I mean, you’re limited how much of that you can do safely.

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: I actually have the belief that if you don’t exercise enough as a kid, and your life’s sedentary, you never can get to the good part. Does that make sense?

PAM: Yeah. Well, and I think, too, some people are heavy because of illness, even, from birth on – they don’t ever feel well enough to exercise. And there’s the other side, too – the other side of the coin with people – where getting that habit ingrained in your mind [is difficult]. Once you feel better, I think if you can keep with it, maybe get some support, get involved in a sport, or something – if that’s even possible – it’s just not even possible for a segment of this society. They’re not mobile enough to do it. But there’s decent exercises – there’s depression in there, too, people are battling that. A lot of times, obese people are isolated, alone in apartments, where even the most optimistic person – over the long haul, day in and day out – would be wore down.

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: Well, here’s the thing, too – I almost think, when there were more people around, they were a more closer-knit society. That actually gives you a chance for more movement. Does that make sense? ‘Cause you’re moving around…

PAM: Before the automobile? You know, I mean, it’s not been that long ago, maybe there weren’t even bicycles…I don’t know what the history is on bikes, or things with wheels, but you know – basically speaking, it was the only wealthy that had things like this. Your feet got you there, and maybe somebody might have an old wheel, but I don’t think they really rode ‘em – they used ‘em for farming, or transporting goods.

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: I think they walked.

PAM: They walked! And women lived and died within a mile of their house – I’ve read that over and over. People were born in a village, and if they maybe went to town once a year, there’d be a homecoming, or something – that was as far as most women went. A lot of ‘em didn’t know how to read, a lot of people didn’t know how to read. Maybe the priest, or the pastor, or a lawyer in town would do all the documents – poor people, especially, just the average man on the street was not that educated.

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: That’s true. You’re right. OK, let me ask you a new question…there’s some good stuff. Let me – I was gonna ask you about size acceptance. What do you think of the size acceptance movement?

PAM: Over the last 30 or 40 years, whenever it started – I think it’s probably getting close to 40 now, but…

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: Wait a minute, just a second, whoops…my microphone fell off, just a minute.

[FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEPstops to get another piece of tape to hold her microphone in place.] [break and off subject conversation]

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: I always wonder, though, if both of us worked – all these errands, and crap, and cooking, and stuff –

PAM: Well, what happens if people don’t work on their marriage, and take time for themselves? That’s what it becomes.

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: I know – I don’t know how these people have any time.

PAM: They don’t.

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP [laughs]:’Cause, I’ll tell you what, Pam – during the day, paying the bills, making the food, making sure there’s groceries, laundry, all the medical stuff, that takes up enough time, where I’m like: “What if I had a job? We’d never see each other.”

PAM: Yeah, you know, you have to be real mobile to do that, and some people do get way behind. Their kids suffer. A lot of women that are out there working are not making any money, if they’re paying babysitters…

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: I know – I actually think they should be allowed at home. You know what I've said about the two for one deal the corporations got, when one income used to support a family.

PAM: There are ways to have what you need, and still stay home, and be a mom to your kids – and it’s too much, ‘cause it’s the woman that ends up paying ‘em [babysitters, daycare, etc.].

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: I know. I think feminism screwed us [laughs], I do!

PAM: OK – you take a situation, if a woman can handle all that – of course, if you wanna get yourself into that, a person should be allowed. I don’t think there should be any restrictions set on it. But I just think a lot of women didn’t realize what they were getting into, and once they got into it…


PAM: Yeah, it’s like an addiction – it can be more fun to go to work, than taking care of two- and three-year-olds – preschoolers, you know? It’s hard work. [(337 feet): Discussion turns to difference between modern life, and level of activity in older, agrarian-based society.]

PAM: Today, if you use a towel, then it goes in the laundry, instead of hanging it up, and using it for a week – because it was clean when you use it. Unless it’s like a hand towel…

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: I know – I do too much laundry, ‘cause I always have to wear different clothes – I smell really easily, so I can’t even repeat a wearing of anything.

PAM: They say it’s the foods we eat, and if you take medicine, and have illness, you’ll have a body odor difference, sometimes.

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: Actually, I believe PCOS makes you stink, especially if it’s uncontrolled. It makes you smell lot. It really does.

PAM: Huh! I don’t perspire, or anything – sometimes, because you’re round yourself… [Of subject conversation PAM says. “Some of these people are so competitive, even if it’s to advance the cause…”

PAM is more enthusiastic about nominating MICHAEL MOORE: “He’s a tub! He’s one of our brothers in fat. I tell you what – that man could help us.” PAM and FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP then briefly talk about merits/demerits of weight loss surgery, before going back to list of interviewees.] PAM [after suggesting Ricki Lake, who’s gotten heavy again:] There are people, believe it or not – I know a couple of ‘em – they’ve finally got a handle on it, finally got some kind of exercise in their life…

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: I think if people have an eating disorder, and just eat too much, and they don’t have the metabolic issues – if they get treatment and are able to quit eating too much, and they exercise, they can get at least some of the weight off. But if it's metabolic it's far far harder.

PAM: Yeah, I think so, but if there’s a lot of medical history – and also, if you get to a certain point where you lose mobility, it’s hard to ever get it back, or keep it.

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: I know. Look at me, with all the breathing problems, and stuff – how am I gonna go burn it all off?

PAM: Yeah, if you don’t move around – I mean, can you imagine how many calories you burn, just walking to get out of your apartment?


PAM: Yeah, you do. My doctor told me, just to be alive – when you’re over a certain amount of weight, the tremendous amount of calories [needed] just to keep this machinery going – the breathing, the digesting of the food, all of it, any movement at all…like, say, when a thin person gets up off of a chair, it’s nothing.

FIVEHUNDREDPOUNDPEEP: I know – I do move around a lot for someone [my size]. I’ve been told that by people at offices. I’m kind of a fidgety person – like, even now, I got my leg hanging over the end of the bed, going back and forth.

PAM: Yeah, well, you probably have a lot of energy trapped inside of you, you know, where…


  1. Glad to see more posts from you! Yours is one of two or three blogs that i actually click on to read in its entirety whenever you post. I see in this interview even you were intrerested in observations about how our society is so disconnected from each other. I just want to add my own observatjon that i think in some ways those of us who (for whatever reason) never had children seem to have more in common than our weights or mobility. Over the years as my friends have had kids they have decided to limit their social circles to those who also have children. In some cases they have verbalized a conscious desire to do this and in some i think its not conscious.

    Either way though it ends up those of us who don't end up being stuck on the fringes. I don't regret not having children but honestly i miss seeing people for coffee or having a friend over. I in no way mean to minimize the difficulties of being housebound by saying that, i just mean t seems to really fit in with your point about our culture now.

  2. Thanks e.hill. Yes I believe society has become very disconnected form one another. Maybe I will post on that more. I agree that if you never have children there are many who do cut you off. I tend to befriend single people or befriend older married or divorced women with children who were grown or single ladies. Women with children usually WERE not available to me as friends or if they were their time was in such short supply the friendships usually never became very close. I think something changed in society where friendship got pushed aside and many just focused on their nuclear families with the helicopter parenting holding sway. So I have seen that happen too, it can be painful for those who are left out. I grew up in a family too where the childless were not as included and deal with the outcome of that today. I am glad you do not regret having children, I do to a certain extent but I was smart enough to know I was too ill, and too impoverished, and frankly health wise it was never on the table with majority fertility issues included. I do have a couple friends I can have over, but I have noticed this happening with others who never had children, they do seem pushed to the fringes. It is not something I expected to happen so much.

    I wrote this about not having had children some time ago....

  3. The article I link to above even directly deals with what you brought up too ehill.

    "Our society is very family-centric. Even if you happen to be a married couple and there are plenty of people who are single too, you can be made to feel like you are on the fringes as you have no children. I've experienced this in churches and other venues, where having no children, grown or otherwise means you didn't fit in. I grew up in a family where because of its religious culture, one is not viewed as a "full adult" unless they had children. Oddly I grew up under the conflicting demands of extreme feminism coupled with this idea that unless I fulfilled certain demands--motherhood and a high level career, that I was not worth anything.

    I think in times past even if one didn't have children, they were included in the family of origin, as the auntie, or uncle, where they could become close to nieces and nephews, and be on going part of their lives. This option hasn't been opened to me, though I try to send them cards and visit as I am able, I remain somewhat a stranger since they only see me once a year. Two nephews I haven't seen in three years. One aspect that is frustrating about dropping down the socio-economic ladder is the upper middle class has no qualms about living hundreds of miles or even thousands of miles from each other, but what happens if you fall down the ladder and can't afford the gas or trips? You feel you have failed in these relationships despite your best efforts."

  4. I hope you don't mind me latching on to one little point here - the bra thing. I'm not fat, but I choose not to wear bras as I really dislike them; I always thought that fatter women would find it harder to pass them up than I did, as it seems like all the women I know who have larger breasts find that the stability bras offer wards off back pain. I wear camisoles and well-fitting tank tops and undershirts for support instead - you've written about how finding well-fitting clothes can be hard, so I hope you have some good options too. Again, I hope you don't mind me asking - I don't come across that many other women who don't wear bras.

    The comments about children struck a chord with me too...I'm feeling a little opposite to that right now; I'm 28, married and childless by choice, and very few of my close friends have children, and I doubt many of us ever will. We're an economically scarred generation, and we have an awful lot else we want to do with our lives. The next generation will be strangers to us.

  5. Hey I am glad there are other women who can't stand bras. I think they are the modern day corsets as I wrote. I am fatter on the bottom smaller on top, so probably women who are larger on top it'd be harder to pull off. I've always heard PCOS gives you smaller breasts too. Yeah finding good fitting clothes is hard. I've had to special order everything, even if I was smaller I do not want to dress like a construction worker which is the styles in most of the plus-sized shops. Most women I know wear bras so yeah wish there was more that refused it. I understand childless by choice under economic durress. How do you take care of children when you can't take care of yourself? If you have noticed I have written about being severely poor on this blog most of my life:

    My life has been one of economic scarring and denied opportunities via money.

    A lot of my friends could not afford children either. Even if I had been healthy enought and fertile to pull it off, I think there were times in my 20s, where the poverty was so bad, how could we have taken care of children?

    I fear for your generation, I have three cousins all over 25 still at home. I know 40 somethings living at home with Mom or working at bus boys at restaurants even with formerly good jobs. I could afford the crummy rented rooms or slumheaps and milk crate lifestyle with low paying jobs, but what are young people going to do now when even those jobs aren't there? My life was ruined economically and even now financial stresses are unending. We really do scrape by where food even gets scary to come up with. What is most sickening to me is most of the baby boom generation doing well just does not want to know, and they didn't want to know with my own generation [Generation X]

    The real deal out there is scary...

    Though today I am facing some grief, at noticing the extended family lives of those

  6. continued...
    Thought today I am facing some grief at noticing the extended family lives of those my age who are now grandparents and more, and realizing what I missed out on. That is one thing if you do not have children, I thought it would get easier with age, it got harder.