Weight Vs Intelligence

January 20, 2013 in Uncategorized

One day over the course of a conversation

That I was having with a group of people

It came up naturally

That I had a Masters degree in Education

And I will never forget

The next thing that came out of

This woman’s mouth


With a look of astonishment

Her face literally agape

Jaw on the ground

She stopped the conversation

And said

“Wait!  YOU have a Masters degree??”


I replied, “Yes”

Not sure why this was so shocking

And she shook her head

And said “REALLY???

“Yes”, I added

And then the conversation continued on


Later this same woman stopped me

As I was walking to my car

And she questioned me again

About my Masters degree

Asking me more about it


She found it absolutely fascinating

I had known this woman

For about 5 months

Not well obviously

But we were acquainted

She said to me

Words I will never forget


Well I just never would have thought


That you would have a Masters degree


I walked away from that conversation



What does that mean?


The next week I went back

And had another acquaintance approach me

And say

Oh I heard from so and so that you have a Masters degree

“Yes I do”

Oh wow…that is great!! I never would have thought that about you!!”


How do you take that?

Is that a compliment? Or an insult?

What is that comment supposed to mean?


Several of the people in the group found it shocking

To hear about my education

Partly because of my weight

Partly because I was a single mother of 4 children


Countless times in my life

  1. The number of children I have
  2. My marital status
  3. And my weight


Have been the triple threat

And not in a good way


Those facts apparently threatened my chances

To be accepted on any level

By those who decided that those three things

Defined my intelligence


I have a Bachelors Degree

Double Majoring in Psychology and English

I have a Masters degree in Education

With additional certifications from the state of Texas

Which I tacked on to my Masters degree


I’ve always enjoyed school

So I even have an entire semester

From a second Masters degree program

In Counseling

That I was pursuing before determining

That I lacked the time to complete it


I was even accepted to a Doctoral program in Education

Which I never pursued either

I just wanted to see if I could get in

On the off chance I decided to keep going

With my Education


Of course most people don’t know these things

Because I don’t walk around

Handing my resume out to people

But at 400 plus pounds

I often felt that I should have

Just to gain entry to the conversation


Here is reality

That woman said it all

When she said this


I never would have thought

You would have a degree

So my appearance

Somehow affects my ability

To earn a degree?

My weight

Somehow is indicative

Of my intelligence?




People think this

They really do

It’s hard to believe

Hard to grasp

But this opened my eyes

To what many were thinking


I’ve had similar experiences over the years

Where people or potential employers

Would judge me

Based purely on my weight

It seems the number on the scale

Reigned far above anything else on my resume


This is what people think

When they see someone

Who weighs over 400 pounds


“You can’t be very smart if you don’t understand that eating that much will make you obese!”


Like so many out there

They chalk it up to a knowledge problem

An intelligence problem

Or a character issue


You lack character because you can’t control your food intake

You are morally reprehensible because you can’t stop eating

You are of lower intelligence because you can’t comprehend the most basic

Caloric equations to control your weight


They decide that because you have one area of your life

That you cannot control

Then you must not have control

Over anything else either


I mean if you can’t even control what you eat

Why would I believe you have control over anything else?

This seems to be what they think


This is sad

Because no one is perfect

If you’re thin

But you lack control in some area of your life

Your finances perhaps



Whatever it may be

You might be able to hide that

From the world


But if you’re obese

If you have a food issue


The whole world will know


People who are obese

May have total control

Over every other area of their life

BUT their weight


They may be astute investers

They may be ingenius business men and women

They may be excellent teachers

They may be kind and generous and smart and marvelous

In every possible way

But because they publicly have to wear

Their food issues

And have no ability to hide it

They are stamped





I really hate to say this

But I have found it to be true


Trust me—I know this


Look at my brother for example

His wife came into his life

At his heaviest weight

He weighed 454 pounds

And carried an oxygen tank around

Just to breathe


She saw past the weight

But trust me

That is NOT the norm

It takes a very special person

(Which she is)

To see PAST the weight

And straight to the heart


But many

Far too many

Refuse to see past the exterior

And judge you immediately

For what you weigh


Now let me stop for a moment

And flip the script

Because there is another stereotype

Regarding education

That is out there as well


Some of the smartest people I know

Some of the most intelligent

Have no education at all

My grandmother had an 8th grade education

And she was self made

She was a shrewd business woman

Intelligent and accomplished

In every way


Google famous people in history

Who never went to college

And you will quickly find

That the degree

Does not make the man

Or the woman


Some of the smartest and most successful people

Out there

Didn’t need those credentials

To succeed far beyond their counterparts

With advanced degrees


But here is my point

Our intelligence levels

Our abilities

Our potential

Should not be judged

So quickly

By those

Who are in fact the ones

Guilty of ignorance


Who is really the one

That needs to be educated

In this scenario

If you look at a person

And think their weight

Somehow determines

Their intelligence


That number on the scale

Is not your IQ Score

Those degrees hanging on my wall

Shouldn’t come as a shock

Because of my weight


Being obese doesn’t impair my ability

To think

To study

To achieve


Just like NOT having a degree

Doesn’t mean someone lacks the ability

To think

To study

To achieve


This is the world we live in

And sadly it is full of stereotypes

That seem to exist

Every day obese individuals

Accomplish things

Proving that their weight

Does not have any bearing

On their intelligence

And yet still there is this idea

That permeates society

That says

We are stupid

We are lazy

We are incapable


When you live that way for years

You have to prove to people

By overcompensating in other areas

By working harder

To prove you are not who they think you are


You show up early

And work late

You do whatever it takes

So they’ll know

You are capable


The world is full of stereotypes


False beliefs

There is One who knows this well   (Mark 15:3)

For He has been misunderstood for centuries

He knows easily how people

Can attribute to Him a quality

That is not His own


Often times people so easily fall

Into believing things that just aren’t true

Judging people

Before getting to know them

Their looks

Their clothes

Their house

Their voice

Whether they stutter

Their physical abilities

Or lack thereof

And certainly

Their weight


Have you ever been

To a job interview

And had the potential employer

Pull out a scale

And ask you to step on it

Before the interview would proceed?


Of course not!!

That would be illegal


So they weigh you in their mind

Weigh you up before you can even get all the way in the room

And if you can’t fit in their chair

Or you’ve had to squeeze in

They’ll often determine

That you can’t string a complete sentence together

That you can’t transmit ideas

That you are most likely the least intelligent person

They’ve met all day

Simply because

That invisible scale in their mind

That they had you figuratively step on

Told them so


You can become bitter


You can become better


That’s the phrase

And it’s true

Bitter or better

What will it be?


We let these experiences define us

Or we let these experiences

Become stepping stones

To make us more compassionate

To the world around us


I choose compassion

Compassion for the ignorant

Who have no idea

Just how small their world is

When they judge


Compassion for others

Who may not be judged for their weight

But most certainly are

For other reasons


We either let these things drag us down

We believe the lies

That we are stupid and lazy and lack intelligence

Or we combat the lies

With truth


And then we grow compassion

For those who seem to know no better

And then we pray for those

Still suffering under these lies



Obesity was the teacher I never asked for

The one I never wanted

The class I never signed up for


I have degrees

Hanging on my wall

But obesity was the class

I had to take

Every semester

For endless years


The one class

I seemed to fail repeatedly

Yet somehow ended up

Registered for once again

At the start of every new year


The class I desperately wanted to drop

From my schedule

But never could


It was far more brutal

Than any degree I have hanging on my wall

And it taught me more

About the human condition

And life

Than any class I ever took

In my Psychology major


Trial by fire

Hands on learning

Thrown in the fire

Sink or swim


This degree is earned

By every person

Who struggles through obesity


A Bachelors degree in Suffering

A Masters degree in pain

A Doctorate in Adversity


No matter how unwillingly you go

You will find yourself

Sitting in its classroom

Front row and center

Taking never-ending tests

You were not prepared for


It will teach you things

You never asked to learn

It will open your eyes

To the truths of this life

You wished you never had to know


It will show you things

You wish you could unsee

Words and condemnations

You wish you could unhear


But in the end

You will find

That if you let yourself

The lessons can be used

For good and not evil


How to be a survivor

How to take care of yourself

When the whole world

Is throwing rocks your way


Obesity was the teacher

I never wanted

But who has taught me more

Than I could have learned

In any other way

So for that I will be thankful


romans 5-3-5.001


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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Amanda January 21, 2013 at 5:42 am


This post really resonated with me. I have tried (and failed) to explain this very concept to my husband, and others, who refuse to think that the world operates this way. I can’t tell you how many times I have been told that this is “all in my head”. But, they aren’t on the receiving end of it, so they don’t have to carry the shame and stigma of ALWAYS being the fattest person in the room….to be treated like a pariah, it leaves a soul-deep mark.

I guess that is part of why I prefer to socialize online. Where no one can look at me first, and then decide if my IQ surpasses that of plant life, and use my size to determine if I am capable of interesting and thoughtful conversation.

Thank you, yet again. Thank you for being “our” voice.


Chris January 21, 2013 at 7:47 am

fantastic!!! I am so glad I have you on my blog roll….the hardest lesson learned about looks wasn’t when I was overweight..it was after I lost weight. I saw the disparity in how I was treated both before and after…and people would say “Well, you act differently.” And I do…but others acted differently towards me. For many people who ‘think’ they are superior…they are actually some of the most shallow people around. They see only the surface. They don’t care what is underneath. And that was the hardest lesson. But it’s a good one. You know who loves you, and who your friends are.
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Jane January 21, 2013 at 11:51 am

Back in the 1970’s I was on a job interview when after the interview was over the “gentleman” asked me if he could ask me a personal question . Really wanting the job I said sure. He proceeded to ask me why a young girl like me was so overweight. I did not know how to reply so I thanked him and left. Today, that is illegal but back then it was not. I never forgot that man or the pain of that question. What did that have to do with my ability to do the job?


Linda Sherwood January 21, 2013 at 12:11 pm

I get the shocked comments and stares as well. I have a master’s degree and four kids. If I’m at work, the shock is about having four kids. If it is in a social situation, the shock is that I have a master’s degree. For me, I get it more often about the number of kids I have than my weight, but I definitely get what you are talking about.

Big hugs, Holly. 🙂
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Lee Ann January 21, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Absolutely loved today’s post. Everything you said is very true to how I felt. “you must be dumb if you dont know that eating that much will make you fat”. Geeze. Some people are so ignorant. And some of the smartest people I know are SO dumb! Such is life and it is up to you what you make of it. Lemons or lemonade yes?
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Adelyn January 21, 2013 at 12:26 pm

This rings so true for me in so many ways. Thank you for your writing.
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Melissa @ Pass Go and Be Below January 21, 2013 at 2:02 pm

I also have a Masters in Higher Education and at my largest I was at the thick of my Doctorate – ironically I had the opposite response not with education but with not having children.

1. I’m married
2. I’m the main bread winner if you will
3. We have chosen not to have kids

When I was heavy, individuals find it selfish for me to move my husband around for me to work in the university system. They find me at my heaviest that education is “all i could do” and they can’t understand why I don’t want to try to have kids now that I’ve lost the weight.

Looking at me…they didn’t think my choices were right, but my choices are my choices. You are intelligent and it never had anything to do with your weight. Thank you for sharing.


Jessica From Bariatric Beginnings January 21, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Boy I can totally relate…I too have a Master’s degree, mine is in Community Health Education of all things, people are shocked by the master’s degree and even more shocked by the health education part. An obese person who knowledgeable in health? That doesn’t make sense! A little while ago I had someone say are you going to go back to school after your surgery? I said why, I already have a master’s degree, they were shocked, they were also a wls patient. I’ve had 50 some interviews, in my field or closely related, probably since finishing my degree in 2007 and never got any of them. People would rather focus on my size than my education and accomplishments. I am what I like to call underemployed, working and being paid far below what I am capable of.
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Tammy Herrin January 21, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Love your post (as always). Just wish it wasn’t so much scrolling. LOL
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Steelers6 January 21, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Quite unbelievable! Wow. I’m horrified to hear
this. I can’t believe the woman said that and
allowed her face to show her shock. ?!!
Sheesh! On appearance?! Wild.


Jane January 21, 2013 at 4:11 pm

I can definitely relate! In professional settings, I am usually both (1) the fattest person in the room and (2) the smartest person in the room. That’s not hubris speaking.

And when meeting with clients or counterparts it is truly funny to watch people’s attitudes change once I start to speak up in a meeting. When I start talking, people kind of roll their eyes, impatient that I am taking up their valuable time. There’s a palpable shift as they realize that I am talking sense — that I understand their issues sometimes better than they do and I have smart, on-point, relevant contributions to the discussion.

Part of the initial disdain is no doubt for me as a woman in a subset of law that is really predominantly male, but neat, trim, fashion-plate type women in my field do not get the same disdain.

Unlike many, I have been lucky enough to get my dream job in my field. However, though it is my dream job, it is not the top job I am qualified for. I have to wonder — would I have been able to get the job if I had been merely qualified rather than over-qualified?


Amy January 21, 2013 at 5:12 pm

This was such an amazing blog post.. I know those exact feelings well.. im fat so i must be stupid?! Are you crazy! anyway, thank you for that wonderful message, I will use my knowledge and experience for good, just like you did.
Have a blessed week!


Pam January 21, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Holly, When your book comes out, I’m going to be first in line to buy it. You are so right–we are judged by our appearance, and considered to be lazy and stupid because we are obese. There are some who do not judge based on appearance. My husband judges others on their appearance and it bothers me, but he has loved me through the fat years and now, this thinner time (which I hope is permanent), and to me that says a lot about his character. He told me once that he saw “beyond the fat.” He didn’t dwell on my size ever and he rarely mentioned it, but I will never forget him saying that and I thank God for that attitude. To be honest, I’m not sure that I would have been capable of sticking with a person who let herself become so obese and stayed that way for most of our marriage. I know I would not have been as compassionate as he was. I have friends and co-workers who did not judge me on my size too. But there are many others who did judge me. I think my weight is one of the reasons I couldn’t get a teaching job, or an advancement or promotion in the job I did get after college. Sometimes I want to shout: “Hey–I’m NOT STUPID!”
We have learned empathy and become stronger because of the treatment we received as obese women, however. And I LOVE your graphic and the words you wrote:
Do Not Judge
Have Compassion
Overcome Adversity
Be A Fighter!
Now as we enter the world of normal-sized people, I hope we can remember those lessons we learned.
Thanks for being the voice for our concerns and standing up for those of us who cannot write as well as you!!!
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Tammy January 21, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Unfortunately, I’ve taken the same class. Great post Holly, I wish you never have to experience another person like that. I like that choice “bitter or better.” It’s hard sometimes not to be bitter.
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Heather Flannery January 21, 2013 at 6:46 pm


I wish I had time to write more now, but I must take a quick moment to thank you for this *amazing* piece. I truly felt you were speaking for me, writing for me, writing in one powerful Voice that captures the experiences of millions.

I am honored to call your amazing brother a good friend; I hope that someday soon I’ll have a chance to meet you, too.

With warmth and respect,

Heather Flannery, CEO, Obesity PPM
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Lady Amanda January 21, 2013 at 7:10 pm

Many excellent points in this blog! Another great blog post! 🙂


TheLapbandChronicles January 22, 2013 at 7:58 am

No one disagrees with the idea that one should not be judged by one’s appearance.

But it is very true that there obese people are rare in the upper echelons of academia. I cannot think of more than five that would fall into the category of morbid obesity.

Why is this? I’d venture a guess that when pursuing the life of the mind, there is little bandwidth left to devote to overeating. Most PhD candidates are rail thin.

I sense there is a correlation between being “filled ” by one’s passion—in the case of academia, this would be books, research, writing, etc—and that being enough.

Whereas so much of overeating is linked to feelings of isolation and boredom. Both are rare in academic circles, as one is always among students or colleagues, and boredom is moot when one’s life is devoted to one’s area of expertise.

Just my thoughts. Again, it does not excuse that woman’s comment to you, but I do understand the basis for it.


Birgit January 22, 2013 at 9:08 am

What a great post! Being addicted to food really is one of the worst addictions, because everyone can see it. I often thought it would be so much easier if I could develop bulimia, then at least not everybody would see immediately what my problem was just by looking at me.
And I especially like the quote about bitter and better. That is just what I needed right now, because I am about to become bitter about my weight loss journey. Thanks for another motivating post!
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Carly January 22, 2013 at 11:58 am

I love the way you write and really articulate what I am sure so many of us feel. 🙂
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Shay Trashay January 22, 2013 at 2:53 pm

I’m a new reader, and I’m so excited to follow. I had a similar experience once. I was a very late bloomer: I always say I had an “awkward phase” from the years 0-22. Basically, I looked like a huge nerd, even though I was totally cool–people just had to get past the braces and long, pasty horseface. 🙂 I pulled out a cigarette one night as a group of us new dorm friends were walking to a Blues club, and a girl stopped in her tracks and said, “YOU smoke?? You just don’t look like the type!” I understood what she meant: You look like a dork who’s never done a thing wrong. My response: “Yeah, and I’ve had sex, too!” That shut her up. 🙂 I know it’s a completely different circumstance (and I’ve since given up the smoking–okay, so I might have ONE with a drink every now and then, but it’s very, very few and far between), but I can get this. People can be so stupid! We’re all judgmental by nature, but come on–keep your stupid judgments to yourself!! Rock on; I love this blog.
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Linda Kuil January 22, 2013 at 6:22 pm

I’m very fortunate to be one of the few that found a man that loves me no matter what the scale has said. I just love myself more being a healthier, fitter version of myself.
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Dagny January 22, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Holly, you exemplify the basis for my book! For us, it’s never been about weakness and a lack of control. Just the opposite. I believe the real “powerful hunger” inside us is the need to feel in control of our bodies, our minds, and our lives. We do battle with no lesser adversaries than our own brain wiring, our genetics, and our body chemistry. We carry on this war in the most obesogenic culture on earth where even the weight loss marketing promotes indulgence.

If you’ve finished my book, I welcome your comments and critique.
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MandaPanda January 22, 2013 at 10:47 pm

A person is smart. People are dumb. And for anyone to talk to like that is just rude. Seriously, what is WRONG with people? And yes, these lessons are hard and it seems unfair that not everyone has to take them, doesn’t it? But you are educating people every day to see past those appearances and overcome those obstacles and reach their potential. 🙂
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Arlene January 25, 2013 at 6:00 pm

I just wanted to say thank you. You put into words the things I have been living through for years. You made me cry, but more important you made me think. “You can become bitter, or you can become better.” I choose to become BETTER! Thanks again. Keep up the good work.


cora January 27, 2013 at 12:21 am

i ask my neighbor to move his car so i could get out of my drive way , his wife screams at me your a fat ass bitch ,, nothing to do with them blocking the drive ,,, i have rental homes ,, i went to collect rent the tentant was moving she says your fat ass ,, just because i wanted the rent that she agreed to pay , so i understand what she is talking about


Misfit February 4, 2013 at 4:22 pm

oh my, this resonated so much for me… I have always been regarded as smart (too smart, ppl act alienated by it even though I’m not in-yer-face about it) and have always been, um, chubby, with the plainest of faces. I almost always came top of my class in school, and my class was the top stream (we were grouped according to academic ability). One day someone introduced me to someone else and said I was that keener that was top of the top class. She took one look at me and said “YOU?!” followed by some remark about how she would never have believed it of someone who looked like me (read: fat, ugly). I would like to be better but some days its just too hard not to be a little bit bitter.
I like your blog. Mind if I look around? 🙂


Beth February 6, 2013 at 9:39 pm

I wish I could have read this blog when I was in college studying to be a dietitian. My education did not prepare me for how to help someone like you (I am not speaking for all dietetics programs). We were taught all things in moderation, but through my experience I have learned that this doesn’t work for everyone. When I started working I realized that many people who were overweight already knew the basics of calories in & out, food journaling, healthy eating, etc and still they weren’t able to lose weight. Dietitians know a lot about nutrition and how to help people with various conditions through diet. But in North America, the biggest health issue is overweight, and so for a long time I felt completely useless as a dietitian. Your perspective is extremely valuable, thanks for sharing and I hope many dietitians are reading your blog.


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