Eating Bull May Be Fictional, but Sadly the Fat-Shaming It Depicts Is Not

“There’s not a day goes by I don’t know I’m fat, because no one will let me forget it.”

By Larali21 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Larali21 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons]

I heard the above sentence from a tearful, severely overweight teenager several years ago in my clinic. The words haven’t left me since. In fact, they’re part of what led me to make an overweight fifteen-year-old boy the protagonist in Eating Bull. That, along with the research I’ve done over the years on overweight/obesity, went into Jeremy’s characterization.

I gained further insight into the emotional toll of obesity after attending a seminar led by overweight public health practitioners. The focus of the meeting was to highlight the frequent fat-shaming that goes on in our society—including from the healthcare industry—and to shift the onus from weight loss to size acceptance.

Though I’m not ready to write off weight loss as a goal, the seminar was eye-opening, and it made me reevaluate some of my thinking. Although I’d already written Eating Bull when I attended, I made some changes to my protagonist’s characterization as a result, including how he is treated by a less-than-supportive ER nurse.

It is not an overstatement to say I was appalled by the tales these speakers told, tales of the shaming they experience on a regular basis (at least here in the U.S.). The horrible things complete strangers say to them. The horrible things healthcare providers say to them. The horrible things family members say to them.

Image from Microsoft Clip Art

Image from Microsoft Clip Art

So I knew if I wanted to recreate this inescapable cloud of shaming for my hero, I’d have to make his life hell. He’s fatherless with an overworked and often absent mother, verbally abused by his agoraphobic grandfather, and bullied in school for his weight. Plus, he has little in the way of coping strategies other than to get lost in his online game and eat.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, I added a serial killer. Because, you know, first and foremost Eating Bull is a thriller, and in a thriller, horrible things must be heaped upon our protagonists, at least until they can stand up and fight on their own.

Writing about my character’s pain wasn’t easy, and I doubt it will be easy to read. Sitting in that seminar wasn’t easy either. But it got those of us who attended thinking, and it got us recognizing our own responsibilities in the issue.

So I’m sorry I put you through the ringer, Jeremy. I hope you’ll forgive me. Maybe between the two of us, we can get you to a happier place.

Any subject matters you find difficult to read about or watch?

*     *     * 

Rubin4Carrie Rubin is the author of Eating Bull and The Seneca Scourge. For full bio, click here.

274 Responses to “Eating Bull May Be Fictional, but Sadly the Fat-Shaming It Depicts Is Not”

  1. Phillip McCollum

    I have noticed that since I’ve had Angus, I’ve found it more difficult to read about bad things happening to children, etc. Guess it’s just gotten a bit more personal!

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      I hear you. I can’t read books with abuse of little kids. Or watch shows. It’s horrible enough to hear about it in the news. I don’t need to read fictional accounts of it too.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Aquileana

    I believe there are many stereotypes as to what is expected to be normal…
    Regardless, Obesity has become an epidemic illness in the States..
    But there are many wealthy countries that don´t have this issue…
    I often wonder if it has to be with a way of Life or if it associated with psychological disorders as well…
    By the way… The other day I watched an adult rated documentary which made reference to a trendy, quite perverted thing… It had to be with web cam models who were obese and some of them aimed to gain weight to have more clients…
    Saving details, it was a paroxistic expression of the super size sub culture, so to speak…
    I thank you for this thought provoking post and wish you a great weekend ahead, dear Carrie…
    Sending best wishes. Aquileana 🐉☀️

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thank you so much, Aquileana. And thank you for the Twitter share too.

      We do seem to have the greatest problem here in the US, but sadly, other countries are following suit (in part due to the fast-food mentality the US has exported to other countries). We need to get aggressive with the problem before it becomes a global epidemic. :/

      Like

  3. Shel Harrington

    Sounds like you’ve got some really good (bad!!) stuff going on in that book, Carrie – looking forward to checking it out!

    What I find painful to hear/be present during/overhear/ is spouses insulting their mate in the name of humor. Just not funny.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thank you! And yes, I agree, insulting others for a laugh isn’t very appealing. Yet so often that’s exactly what passes for humor on TV.

      Like

  4. Roy McCarthy

    Hey Carrie, so looking forward to reading your book and doing my little bit to promote it over here if I can. Fat shaming would be great if it had the desired effect but I believe it’s not the case and only embeds the issue more deeply.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      I agree–when people feel shamed, it only lowers their self-esteem more and makes it that much harder to make positive changes. Thank you!

      Like

  5. Leslie Leibhardt Goodman - Writer

    It’s just a thought, Carrie, But have you ever considered writing a book in a similar vein to the middle-grade crowd? This is a painful reality for many young people, and knowing how the protagonist in your story faces his/her similar situation and deals with it could inspire others.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      It’s a great idea, but it’s not really my area of comfort. I’m most comfortable writing thrillers for adults. And although one of my main characters is a teen, the other is a public health nurse. And of course there’s the bad guy. The book alternates from their three POVs, so it’s definitely geared for adults.

      Like

  6. Britt Skrabanek

    Preordered mine…woot! I think it’s really awesome that you’re sharing such an important issue within the thriller genre. It’s a wonderful way to spread the word to more people who wouldn’t be as likely to pick up a non-fiction book on the topic. Proud of you for writing this as I’m sure it was tough! Can’t wait to read it.

    Not too many subject matters are difficult for me to read or watch, except when it comes to animals. Kill all the humans, but when something is happening to an animal, I freak out.

    Reading Wild recently, there was a really tough scene with a horse. I got through it as quickly as I could, but I felt sick to my stomach and I was bawling.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      I hear you on the animal thing. I don’t like to read about them being hurt or see it in movies. Same with little kids.

      And yes, that was my hope with Eating Bull–to showcase a topic people might not read in nonfiction. And since thrillers are what I’m most comfortable writing, I threw in a really bad guy to up the stakes. Might make for some uncomfortable reading, but it will hopefully stay with the reader and make them think.

      Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Diane Henders

    Thanks for the pre-order link – I just ordered my copy! To be honest, though, I’m afraid it’ll scare the crap out of me. I really don’t like reading about serial killers, and fat shaming makes me terribly sad. So many of my overweight friends suffer from the insensitive remarks of others. I guess that means I’ll really be rooting for Jeremy, though! Congratulations on the release!

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thank you, Dianne, and thanks so much for your support! Yes, I suspect it will be difficult to read parts of the book–it still is for me, and I’ve read it a zillion times. But my goal was to get a reaction and make people think, so hopefully I’ve done that. And since thrillers are what I’m most comfortable writing, I had to throw in a really, really bad guy…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. A @ moylomenterprises

    Love the insight into the book… Thanks for sharing

    Like

  9. Sue Archer

    Hey Carrie! Looking forward to reading your book. I don’t like watching any kind of show that features pranks that humiliate people. Or scenes of humiliation, period. I don’t know how anyone can find them funny. Overweight people get subjected to them a lot, but they’re not the only ones. I much prefer positive goofy humour…wish we had more of that!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carrie Rubin

      Yes, that would be nice. I enjoy the fun humor too. Which doesn’t explain how I ended up writing such a grim book…

      My poor protag does have some scenes of humiliation, but I guess there’s no way to depict fat-shaming without actually showing it. Show not tell, right? Poor Jeremy. I hope he’ll forgive me.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Sheila

    Yay – I can’t wait to read this! I fell in love with Jeremy just from reading the sample chapters. I love novels that make me stop and think and those are usually the ones that show unfairness or something that isn’t right in our society. I’ll look forward to rooting for Jeremy – I hope he overcomes it all somehow!

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thank you, Sheila! It’s not always an easy book to read, but I’m hoping it will get people thinking. Some who’ve already read it mentioned it stayed with them after they finished it. That’s always good, whether they liked it or not. 🙂 Just sent you a DM on Twitter too.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Vanessa-Jane Chapman

    I find any kind of bullying or prejudice really difficult to read about or watch, even when it’s fiction, I guess because we know it goes on in real too. I can’t wait to read your book! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      • Vanessa-Jane Chapman

        Well I do think it’s important now and again to read and see things that make us uncomfortable rather than staying in the cosy and rosy zone all the time! The cosy and rosy zone – I like that 🙂

        Like

  12. Darren

    There’s big business in sugar consumption so don’t really see a change in growing obesity levels any time soon. Sounds like a interesting story, and I absolutely love the cover. Gonna put this on my to read list.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thank you! And you’re right–fat, sugar, and salt in addictive combinations are big business. I go after those businesses in the novel. Well, I should say my headstrong public health nurse does!

      Liked by 2 people

  13. thefolia

    Sometimes we need to hear about the not-so-happy issues especially when we read it and feel it from another perspective, only then can we change our weighted and nasty words and actions. Obesity and anxiety in children didn’t happen overnight…we need to take responsibility for how we treat our children, it effects everyone. I unfortunately have heard name calling about the subject in my family. Cheers to being mindful and thoughtful with our words!

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Most definitely. Name-calling gets us nowhere, and it sinks those who are overweight into even darker places which can lead to emotional overeating. My bad guy does a lot of name-calling which can make for some difficult reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Inion N. Mathair

    Mathair and I are excited to delve into Jeremy’s story. I was over two hundred and fifty pounds when I was in high school and had to deal with a lot of bullying. I lost the weight once I was out of college and am now healthier than I’ve ever been. But I’ve heard every fat joke in the book and now have realized that there is also skinny shaming. I just think that everyone needs to get to that point where they accept themselves and others as who they are and not what size they are. Congrats on the book, Carrie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thank you! And thank you for the FB share as well. You’re always so good about that.

      I agree–we need to get to a point of acceptance all around. My character has a poor self-image and gets treated pretty badly. In order to explore fat-shaming, I had to fat-shame my poor character (through the bad guys). Can make for some uncomfortable reading. But that’s all part of the story.

      Liked by 2 people

  15. Katie

    My current cringe issue is hate or maybe meanness. Society seems to have caught on that we should tell our children not to bully but adults seem to do it all the time. It seems as though very few can disagree and discuss differences rationally. If someone has an opposing view then they must be ignorant or immoral. Social media, politics, and talk shows seem to inhibit the ability or the desire to see things from the other’s point of view. Everything from medicine to the Pope has commenters competing for the best slam. I’ll stop there. Ugh but…how can we expect kids to stop when adults are getting worse?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carrie Rubin

      So true. There are many poor role models out there. Just look at those running for office, particularly Donald Trump. If someone says something he doesn’t like, he attacks them on a personal level. Insults their looks or something else childish. And that rallies his supporters even more. Scary.

      Liked by 1 person

    • philosophermouseofthehedge

      I think you hit on a big issue: meanness is encouraged by society, media, politics, even as entertainment. People are seen as targets for entertainment – and of course overweight/underweight targets are such easy prey.
      Kids will bully and get bullied until there’s a change by adults and entertainment industry. Kids mimic what they see at home and on the screen.
      If people were serious about change, then adults would stop their own behavior, too.
      What happened to treat others as you wish to be treated, and don’t laugh/be cruel to other’s misfortune or suffering? Needs to be taught and demonstrated by adults when kids a very young. Name calling was alway said to be the product of weak minds.
      Sorry for the rant – but Katie’s comment hits the cause of so many problems that people say are unsolvable

      Liked by 1 person

  16. aetherhouse

    I’m pretty excited about your premise. Your protagonist sounds immediately sympathetic and tying in fatshaming with murder is interesting….it’s sad how many people I personally know hate/shame fat people, and I almost wouldn’t put murder past some of them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thank you. Ironically in order to explore fat-shaming, I had to fat-shame my protag (through my bad guys). I’m most comfortable writing thrillers, so that’s why I put in a killer–something to really up the stakes. I was a little uncomfortable with it at first, but I didn’t think a stalker from the food company would be believable as an antag. So I hadn’t to create someone disturbed who has a warped sense of what should be. It makes for some intense scenes, and I’m sure there will be those who are uncomfortable reading it, and it won’t be for them.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. roughwighting

    Excellent, thought-provoking post. I really have a difficult time reading anything (or watching shows) with violence. My body responds with nausea and nightmares. Same with physical and verbal abuse. Child abuse – just can’t do it. I do believe that reading fiction as well as non-fiction informs us and helps us right wrongs. But if the material is too rough, I need to put it down.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      I read a lot of dark fiction, and I can handle violence (and of course, I love writing thrillers), but like you, not when it involves little kids. Even using a teenager was tough, though it’s probably easier to write than read since I know what happens. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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