Fat in America:Something connected all of these stories and the hundred of others like them. It didn’t matter whether the participants told of clothes or farms, bicycles or bloody noses. What did matter was the way they spoke about these things. Losing weight and being thin made people “feel proud and successful” at how their clothes “fit perfectly.” Being overweight, on the other hand, related to “being punished,” “keeping inside,” and being “a real turn-off”.The axis of tension emerged via these stories. Just as the other side of the axis from beauty for Americans is provocativeness, the opposite position on the axis from fat is connection. As a culture, we believe that thin people are active and involved. They are “proud and successful” and their clothes “fit great.” On the other hand, fat people, according to the stories, and disconnected from society. They turn people off, they stay inside, and they fail to interact with their families.This axis is visible everywhere in this culture. A woman might stay thin through the early years of her marriage, but after her second or third pregnancy does not lose the weight. Why? Because she is unconsciously disconnecting from her husband in order to concentrate on being a mother. A man struggles uncomfortably with a life in middle management and, when he puts on an extra thirty or forty pounds, complains that he has been passed over for a promotion because of his weight. People balloon multiple sizes after a bad breakup, the loss of a job, their kids’ departure for college, or the death of a parent.The tension is always there. We might use alibis, like “big bones” or a slow metabolism. We might talk about “love handles” or how true beauty resides “on the inside.” Quite often, though, those of use who struggle with our weight are also struggling with one of our connections—to loved ones, to the roles we play, to the “rat race.”The Code for fat in America is CHECKING OUT.Given such a Code, is there any question why there are so many overweight people in this culture? As Americans, we are masters at putting undue pressure upon ourselves. We must be supermoms. We must climb the corporate ladder. We must have a relationship worthy of a Harlequin romance. That’s an awful lot to handle. In fact, for many of us, it’s much too much. Therefore, we unconsciously check out. Better to blame the fat than to acknowledge our desire to eschew expectations.Getting fat is the most common available unconscious way to check out of the rat race, to adopt a strong identity (as an overweight person) without having to fight for it, to move form active to passive. Being fat allows us to know who we are (fat), why this has happened (the overabundance of food “forced” on us), who is responsible (McDonald’s or some other fast food restaurant that “makes us” eat their food), and what our identity is (a victim). Fat also allows us to use commonly accepted alibis to regress to childhood. Another tension we experience is that as babies and young children, we are fed with the intention of making us fat—no one wants a skinny baby—but as we get older, society pressures us to be thin. If we get fat enough, we unconsciously think, perhaps others will take care of us again, as they did when we were babies.