In spite of the fact that one out of three Americans is obese,
the social stigma attached to obesity is enormous.
Virtually any person above normal weight can recount stories
of public humiliation, of rudeness from well-meaning friends and
total strangers, of discrimination in the marketplace.
Even a U.S. government publication on the subject of obesity
notes, "One of the most painful aspects of obesity may be the
emotional suffering it causes."
Here's how three Northeast Florida women have come to terms
with their weight.
Sue Swearingen has gained and lost hundreds of pounds and
spent thousands of dollars doing it. At her top weight, the
44-year-old, 5-foot-5-inch hairdresser tipped the scales at 312
pounds. "At that point, I didn't even try to cut back on
anything," she said. "If you're the size of a house, why ask for
Sweet 'n Low?"
Swearingen said she always appeared self-confident, but
eventually the weight began to affect her physically. "I stand on
my feet all day. I love to play volleyball and badminton," she
said. "The weight changed the amount of energy I had. You feel
trapped in this body that's not allowing you to do what you want
In May 1994 at 300 1/2 pounds, she began her last diet. Since
then, she's lost 126 1/2 pounds and is still working at losing
weight, slowly but surely. "I think the main thing that was
different this time was my spirituality," she said. "I prayed I
wouldn't beat myself up when I hit snags. I was just going to do
the best I could. I come from an obese family, so we used a buddy
system. My mother and sister and I did it together and we all
She said she feels better, but when she looks in the mirror,
she still sees a 300-pound woman. "I understand how anorexics
can't see how thin they are," she said.
"After a lifetime of being heavy, I still think of myself as
She's a successful professional, has an active social life and no
problem finding dates. And she's obese. Susan Reedy, a doctoral
intern in psychology at Northeast Florida State Hospital, is 5
feet 5 inches tall, weighs 330 pounds and is perfectly happy
about it. …