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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

David Smith's Sad Story

Another blogger on a website I write for posted an excellent blog about the story I’m about to address today, and I felt extremely compelled to put in my two cents as well.

It’s about David Smith, aka “The 650 Pound Virgin” of TLC fame. I remember watching the show when it aired. (I know … shame on me, tuning in like all the other freak-show fans to watch a human being’s private life splayed open and dissected like one of those rubbery frogs we all practiced our rudimentary scientific skills on.)

Anyway, I remember watching the show and watching his facial expressions as he began losing the weight and thinking, Hmmm … there’s a lot going on in there. He was doing his best to hide it – smiling, acting happy and proud, working out like a real go-getter, and blushing modestly at all the praise that came his way.

I could relate, because I rapidly lost a lot of weight at one time in my life too – not as much as David, but enough to qualify as a lot of weight. I remember my dismay when I looked at my much smaller body and admired how it looked (and was quite in awe of myself, I have to admit -- I was not without narcissism) … but still feeling exactly the same underneath. I remember my dismay when I realized I wasn’t a different person at all. I may have looked quite different, but the woman inside was completely intact.

Not that I didn’t love or value that woman … but I also knew that she had a lot of issues. A lifetime of them. And a lot of them came from being fat.

This is what angers me so much when I hear people religiously touting diet after diet, and proclaiming that theirs is the miracle diet that will finally get the weight off for good. We all know those diets don’t exist … but let’s just play devil’s advocate for a moment and pretend that there is a miracle diet that gets the weight off for good. Okay, so the weight is off. Now your life is supposed to be perfect, right?


I cannot think of a better example to prove this fallacy than David Smith. If you didn’t see the show when it aired, go to Youtube and check out some clips. Look at how hard he worked, how he struggled, how he fought to lose the weight. (And he is just one of many, many people who have done the same.) He underwent painful surgeries to get rid of the loose skin that was aesthetically displeasing to his newly trim body. Do you think he willingly would have put most of the weight back on after all that suffering? Do you think he didn’t realize it was creeping back on?

But he couldn’t stop it. He couldn’t prevent what was happening. He was returning to his old body, his old self, his old habits … because nothing except his body had changed.

Why do people believe that thinness equals happiness? Here was this 650 pound man who had no friends, had never had a girlfriend, was housebound, had basically no life, and who at one point had actively planned his own suicide. Then, relatively suddenly, he was “normal”. He was proclaimed “okay”. People called him cute and studly. Women were suddenly interested. How do you think someone who has been isolated and depressed for most of his life would react to this sudden acceptance into society?

I could see it in his facial expressions during the show -- especially one excruciating segment when he went to a bar to try and meet women. He was obviously terrified and didn’t know what the hell to do. Of course he didn’t. How would he? BUT HE WAS THIN. So what’s the problem, some people will undoubtedly ask.

The issues were obviously still there. Unless the issues that underlie being fat are dealt with (and a great deal of us have them, to some degree), losing weight will never be a victory.

All fat people feel, at some point in their lives, that they have been excluded from a select group of preferential people. If they lose a lot of weight and suddenly become “worthy” of inclusion into this select group, do you think they’ll be happy about it? Why the hell would they?

Why would anyone want to hang out with and share any part of themselves with people who told them they were ugly and lazy all their lives? I think all people who have lost a lot of weight struggle with this issue, and I think a lot of us have pretended and faked friendliness with people like this for awhile. But sooner or later, the resentment and general distaste kicks in. We realize that hanging with people like this is really a betrayal of our own values, and I think that’s a big part of the reason the weight comes back on. These people don’t really love us, and we know that. So we hurry up and get fat again so they can kick us out of their group. That way, we don’t have to take responsibility for leaving that cabal of thinness ourselves.

David’s so-called saviour, motivator, personal trainer and BFF, Chris Powell, who was all buddy-buddy with him during the show when he lost the weight? It's been reported that he's no longer his friend. You’re not surprised, are you?

Apparently, David’s girlfriend (who met him when he was thin) has stuck with him so far, which frankly surprises me. I just hope that in his despair and humiliation at regaining the weight that he doesn’t undertake another drastic weight-loss regimen. (I just discovered this video on Youtube, where David appears set on doing exactly this.)

This sad story reteaches us all an extremely important lesson. If you’re unhappy with your life and you’re fat, simply losing weight is not the answer. You need to ask yourself some very deep, hard questions, and be honest when you answer them. 


  1. I've been saying this for years - if you don't like who you are, as a person, when you're fat, that isn't going to change all of sudden when you become thin(ner). And if other people didn't like the person I was when I was fat, why the hell would they like a thin(ner) version of me? I'm the same person I was when I was fat, with the same personality, the same hang-ups, the same weird sense of humor, the same love of books, the same impatience with stupidity, the same compassion for people, the same everything - just in a smaller package. So if it's just that they like the packaging better, then I don't need those kinds of people in my life. That was a hard to lesson to learn, but I learned it early on in my fat life and it's stayed with me. That's one of the main reasons I don't judge people by their looks - I judge them by their character, or lack of it.

  2. Awesome comment, thank you. I totally agree with you, of course. I can't abide people who have a "looks prerequisite" in order to hang out with them or be their friend. I think that kind of attitude is simply loathsome ... and I just don't associate with people like that. it's one of my deal breakers.

  3. As someone who has lost over 350 lbs in less than five years, the psychological and emotional changes I went through (and am still experiencing) are far greater than the physical changes. There's a mind-body connection that must be addressed. I hope that what David finds is happiness and fulfillment at whatever size, with a lot of loving emotional support including from people who don't stand to make a profit from his success.
    I know EXACTLY what you mean about feeling as if you're betraying your own values when you're standing among and being accepted by people who formerly were disgusted by you (or people of your former size) and how I didn't want to be accepted by them. I wanted however, to be treated with respect as every human being deserves regardless of size. My heart goes out to David and everyone else on a journey of finding their own happiness, regardless of whether it has anything to do with weight.

  4. Thank you for your comment. Going from a very large person to a relatively small person is a HUGE psychological adjustment, and it always stupefies me a bit when people get surprised by this. I guess it's all the brainwashing we receive on a daily basis of seeing happy skinny people on commercials and in TV shows and movies ... people just equate thinness with happiness, it seems to be second nature. I too hope that David finds peace and happiness and I definitely hope that he doesn't hate himself anymore (he had actually planned a really grisly suicide before his weight loss). All human beings want to be accepted and respected by others ... but no one should have to go through what he did to try and attain it. It should just be a given. If only.

  5. Great blog. I've always felt that when one "plans" to lose a significant amount of weight, psychological therapy should be included in that plan, to help the person deal with the radical changes in their lives. That happens to people who lose a limb, or mobility, why not give the same kind of support to a fat person? I'm not sure it would be 100% effective, but certainly couldn't hurt.

    I'm not surprised that his girlfriend has hung in with him. My experience has been that women, once they love someone, tend to disregard changes in appearance, while generally men seem to be just the opposite.

  6. I remember when I went on my radical weight loss plan ... part of it included a monthly consultation with a "doctor" (who changed frequently, and always just seemed like charlatans in white coats to me). Anyway, I remember telling one of them that I thought it would be a good idea to include some pscyhological counselling in the program and he just kind of chuckled at me. Then he said the doctor who ran the program didn't believe in it ... that he believed weight loss was purely a physical matter ... and that was that.

    I agree with you are definitely far less tolerant of physical changes than women ... I guess it's just my cynical self creeping in when I said I was surprised his girlfriend is still there. I hope she sticks around and truly loves him because he needs all the love he can get. Don't we all? :)

  7. Hei! I've just read your post and I realised how right you are.

    I have always assumed that when I would lost some weight i would be happier, more confident and i wouldn't have this sick need to please other in order to make them to like me more. I thought i would be like my mother want me to be: a person who make friends easy, who have the guts to say to others what i don't like, who is more open.

    Now you forced me to think about it, to imagine myself thiner. I would probably be a little bit more confident, but i don't think i would easily approach unknown people or other stuff like that. This means I have to do some serious thinking about myself and try to heal my phychic

    Thank you for opening my eyes! (and sorry for the bad english. I'm not a native speaker)

  8. Thanks for your comment, Ioana! I appreciate your letting me know that my blog made you think about things a little differently. It's true ... it all stems from the inside. If you're not comfortable with yourself, it will stay with you no matter what size you are. We all need to learn to just accept ourselves ... that we are fine just the way we are.

  9. I agree with the part about resenting those that dont accept you, ive been overweight all my life and when someone (beautiful) is being nice to me it kind of makes me angry, and i feel like there not being nice there either faking it or they want something from me, i feel like they look at me and think because im fat i must be stupid too, maybe i just have an anger problem i dont know.