Coming to Terms with Obesity: Three Women Tell Their Stories

By Hulin, Belinda | The Florida Times Union, September 10, 1996 | Go to article overview

Coming to Terms with Obesity: Three Women Tell Their Stories


Hulin, Belinda, The Florida Times Union


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

to do."

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

lost weight."

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

heavy."

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. …

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