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.
“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?”
“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.