Chrissy Metz Shows She’s All Of Us
A warm, confident Metz shared a personal story of weight bias.
Posted April 6, 2018
Kate, Chrissy Metz’s “unconventional, emotional” character on NBC's This is Us, has had plenty of pain in her life—some of it centered around other people’s reactions to her body and weight. The same could be said for Metz herself. She shared a personal story about that very thing when I had the privilege of meeting her last week, backstage in her dressing room at the Wilbur Theatre during the tour for her new memoir, This is Me.
After I introduced myself and we chatted for a bit, she shared a quick story that sounded all too familiar to me, as executive director of Green Mountain at Fox Run, a women’s retreat for healthy weight and well-being where we help women make peace with food and their bodies: “My size makes some people uncomfortable,” she said. “Recently someone looked absolutely horrified when I raised my arms over my head, and jiggled my fleshy fat. I believe it is because they are not comfortable in their own skin! I have to embrace my fat arms and my size. Hashtag: This is me! I accept myself now, and then if I want to change, I will.”
Many people who live in large bodies experience these types of microaggressions—someone looking askance at your body or making a face—and it’s tough. In fact, a report by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity published in the American Journal of Public Health concludes that stigmatizing people living in large bodies “poses serious risks to their psychological and physical health, generates health disparities, and interferes with implementation of effective obesity prevention efforts.” The researchers go on to say that the data on health effects of weight stigma raise it to the level of both a social justice issue and a priority in public health.
Metz bares a lot in her new book, such as physical and emotional abuse she experienced at the hands of her stepfather, who goaded her for her weight and made verbal and physical jabs at her “offensive body.” As an eating disorder specialist, I see the clear, and very common, reasons she turned to food as a child. “We had lived with a lack of food for so long that when it was there, I felt like I had to eat it before it disappeared,” she writes. “Food was my only happiness. I’d get up in the middle of the night and eat. I’d sneak food to eat in the bathroom. Cookies, chips. Things that would give me the brief bliss of numbness.”
Despite the gravity of some of the things she talks about in her memoir, Metz is a natural born storyteller. Her book pulls you in to the pain and joy of her life and leaves you with great advice, as if you were just hangin’ with your girlfriend. Something I noticed while reading is that no matter what was going on, she almost always had friends, besties. She was a magnet. And that’s how I felt about her book, which I finished in one afternoon. Her presence in person onstage at the Wilbur was magnetic, too. She was comfortable in her skin, as real as the Velveteen Rabbit, funny in her Southern speak, sing-song way, someone you could see yourself being BFF’s: “All these people are here to see me? Don’t they know the whole cast isn’t here with me?”
Fans of Kate on This is Us will love learning more about Metz in her book; but there is so much in This is Me for any woman who has struggled with weight, body size, and food. “It’s hard not just to feel that pain again, but to realize that it is all still there, so close to my surface,” she writes. “I believe that pain is in every pound that is still on my body. I stuffed my feelings for so long, they must come up and come out for there to be a real healing.”
I’ll leave you with one last tidbit from her book that encapsulates the hope and freedom of its message. A line about bees: “Ya know, it is aerodynamically impossible for honeybees’ wings to support the weight of their bodies to lift off and fly…and yet…there they go…”
R. Puhl, R., & Heuer, C. (2010). Obesity Stigma: Important Considerations for Public Health, American Journal of Public Health 100 (6): 1019-1028