I Was Fat-Shamed at Gorham House of Pizza! How I Became a Casualty in the War on Obesity!

Fat-shaming me didn’t embarrass me.

It didn’t wreck my day. It didn’t make me run for the SlimFast or to join Weight Watchers. It sure didn’t make me cry or ask myself, “what’s wrong with me?” It pissed me off.

Yes! I was fat and I was pissed!

This particular fat-shaming incident, and there were many others, happened in the early summer of 1989 at the Gorham House of Pizza.

I recently had given birth to my fourth daughter.

I now had children ages eight, five-and-a-half, three-and-a-half and a one-month-old infant. I was kept very busy at home with those four girls.  We also had a small farm and owned a Morgan stallion that I stood at stud to outside mares and showed in harness and under saddle.

Caring and training for a horse is 500% easier when I'm fit. My stallion was as sweet and well-behaved as my kids!

Training and caring for a horse is 500% easier when I’m fit. It involves a lot of running, lifting heavy objects, and shoveling. It also take real physical exertion to ride a horse while influencing him to have balance, impulsion, and collection. My stallion was as sweet and well-behaved as my kids!

My husband owned and operated a leather shop on Congress Street in Portland and for “fun and entertainment” also worked on the waterfront as a longshoreman. Life was busy and interesting!

On this particular night I didn’t have much in the fridge to pull together for dinner.

My husband was not home. I decided to take the girls to GoHOP (Gorham House of Pizza) because they have great pizza and Greek salads.

It made sense to dine in rather than take out. The pizza is hotter and the salads seem bigger. Plus, the baby was sleeping in her carseat so, why not eat here and leave the dishes for somebody else to wash?

We sat in a big booth. We got our salad and drinks right away. Then we waited for the pizza.

Well-behaved, sweet, little girls until they're made to wait an inordinate amount of time squashed together in a booth at a pizza joint!

Well-behaved, sweet, little girls until they’re made to wait an inordinate amount of time squashed together in a booth at a pizza joint!

And we waited for the pizza. And we waited some more for the pizza. The older girls were getting restless. The baby had awakened. And we kept waiting for the pizza. I finally got up to go to the counter to ask if we’d be getting served soon. As I walked to the counter I noticed a couple in their early 30s in the booth adjacent to the one we occupied.

The woman watched me walk up to the counter. Her expression was clearly disgust, but it didn’t register that the disgusting thing she saw was me!

It was pretty hectic with a lot of people coming and going that night getting takeout orders. I think our pizza order got lost somewhere in the shuffle, but I was assured it would be coming soon.

I went back to the booth to tell the girls, “just a few more minutes.”

By now the baby was done sitting in her carseat. She was getting ready to start to vocalize just how over the carseat she really was. The two girls in the middle were fighting over their spaces. Seems like each of them were encroaching on the other’s private property. One elbow jab upset a glass of apple juice. My oldest daughter was a combination of annoyed and bored. She was tired of sitting in a booth at GoHOP with her wrangling little sisters. She just wanted to leave, but we didn’t, we kept waiting for the pizza.

By the time the pizza arrived things had really fallen apart.

The two middle girls had escalated their defense of property rights into physical attacks. Another drink was spilled. The napkins in the chrome holder on the table were depleted from being used to sop up all the liquid. The baby was wailing the way only newborn babes can wail, and my oldest daughter was now beyond annoyed and telling me how much she hated everything.

I was hungry! The salad was all I’d eaten since breakfast.

I’d been busy all day and never got a chance to eat. Now it was 30 minutes ago that I finished the salad and my hunger was back with a vengeance. The pizza arrived, but the circumstances under which I could have taken my time and savored every bite were gone.

I was in a booth with noisy, fighting, unhappy children.

The kind of children other diners don’t like to have around them. My normally very well-behaved kids were just too bored and hungry to show off their superior, childish manners! I waved the waitress over to ask her for a “to go” box.

“We had to get outta here, fast!”

But before she could come back with the box, I picked up a slice of pizza, folded it in half lengthwise, and pushed it into my mouth. It was so good and I was so hungry! Then I picked up a second one and started to repeat the process.

That’s when I was fat-shamed!

That same woman whom I noticed in the booth across from us, the one who looked like she smelled something putrid when I went up to the counter, said loudly, “You could at least chew that!” to her dining companion.

She directed her comment at him, but it was for my benefit.

She was watching me like a freak in a side show! I can imagine she was thinking about how does somebody get so fat? She was interested in my food and the way I ate it. She was doing her research on “revolting obese people – me!”

I was stunned! How incredibly rude!

Is she always this rude or was the comment made “for my own good?” It was true I was very overweight. I had a baby just a month ago. Yes, I gained rather a lot more than the recommended 30 pounds, but why is that any of her business?

I was breastfeeding and I knew from past experience that weight loss was slow for me while breastfeeding. My experience was contrary to the literature that said breastfeeding helps mothers recover their pre-baby figures faster! I never seemed to be able to lose pregnancy weight until after I stopped nursing.

I got the feeling that since I was a disgusting fatty this woman felt justified in her insensitivity and bad conduct.Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 6.10.40 AMMaybe she thought I needed help to get motivated to lose weight and she was going to help me with that because I was too stupid to know I needed to lose weight without her help.

Boy, did she get that wrong! I don’t like people to try to influence my behavior. I’ll often do the contrary just because I hate to be told what to do!

If my weight didn’t make me uncomfortable, I just might even get fatter just to irritate her and all the other soldiers in the “war on obesity!”

What gives anybody the right to start a war on somebody else’s body?!!

I wanted to lose weight because it was easier to ride and train my horse when I weighed less.

I could definitely notice the difference in the way my horse performed when he had a lighter, more fit rider on his back. I had more energy for playing with my kids. I hated picking my shorts out of my butt because my thighs sucked them up with each step. I had my own reasons for wanting to lose weight and I couldn’t care less about some awful woman at GoHOP’s opinion of me.

I put the rest of the pizza in the box, gathered the older girls, strapped the baby back into her carseat and walked out, but not before saying loudly to my children as we passed her booth, “did you hear what that lady said? She thinks I’m fat, but you know what? She has bigger problems than I have; you just can’t see them!”
Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is the general manager of Weight Watchers of Maine. She is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. Her experience with her own weight management journey and raising girls has given her insight into the struggles families face with weight, healthy body image, food and physical activity. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news for more than ten years and appears monthly as a guest on FOX network morning program Good Day Maine.