From Bangkok Post
16 April 2002
The Fat Club
While providing respite from an often hostile public, a
organisation works to make the world a better place in
more ways than
Story by ONSIRI PRAVATTIYAGUL
Picture bySOMKID CHAIJITVANIT
Together, Karuna Morris,
Akorn Buranont and Prinya Chan-thorn can fill
any room with
laughter thanks to their self-deprecating banter
good-humoured asides. But as founders of the Fat Club, their
is no laughing matter.
While most people realise
that not everyone can be as slim and
beautiful as the cast of
Baywatch, being overweight carries a certain
People who are physically larger are always an easy
jokes and ridicule, much of it heartless and hurtful.
this typical, negative reaction to obese people that drove
trio into forming the Fat Club two years ago in the hopes
overweight people would not simply be treated as the butt of
but rather as a resource that could contribute to the
It all began when the three
founders, all of whom work in show
business, met at a social
function. They knew right away that they
were meant to be
comrades. They cemented the bond through frequent
conversations and informal meetings.
``Then we thought that
we should get together and do something that
would benefit our
country. We wanted to use our obesity as a tool to
society,'' Prinya said.
He was the one who came up with the
idea to found the club. With help
from friends and colleagues in
the entertainment industry, it was up
and running in no
More than 6,000 people subsequently expressed interest
and joined up.
However, only a hundred or so members turn up on a
A young organisation, the club has no set
rules about the types of
activities it will engage in. Basically,
they will do anything for a
good cause, ranging from fund-raisers
for charity to staging plays to
``Sometimes, we campaign for donations and clothes to
give to flood
victims or other charity organisations. We appeared
once at the Red
Cross Fair and entertained people free of
charge,'' Prinya said.
Most important of all, the club acts
as a support group. It runs quite
a few programmes to boost the
morale of members.
``We held a beauty workshop for obese
ladies, since we often have
problems in that department. We hired
an acting coach to teach these
women about comportment so that
they can be confident wherever they
go,'' Karuna said.
club sponsored self-defence classes as well, she added.
the founders, satisfaction comes from realising they have
members foster a better self-image, helping them to have
confidence in themselves.
``We know that people who
are overweight often feel ashamed of their
body. That shame
lowers their self-esteem. It's hard for some of them
window-shoping at a mall because they're afraid someone will
fun of them.
``We're proud to say that after spending some
time at the club, with
our help, these people are not afraid to
venture out any more in
public,'' Karuna said.
that the understanding and support they received at the club
helped these people face the world.
Akorn said the club was
so popular that the side street where its
office is located has
come to be called the ``fat club soi'' and the
building in which
it is housed is known to all and sundry.
overweight and happen to be walking past the soi, people
call out directions to the fat club without being asked,
that amazing?'' Akorn said, using the word ``fat' with no
Although it will stick with its
individuals of ``average''
size are welcome to join in club activities
too. ``Some members
are actually very skinny,'' said Akorn. Prinya
wanted to be a part of our group because we're such a
and they have fun just hanging out with us. Anyway, we
anyone who has a good attitude toward overweight folks
Despite the overwhelming response from
members and the obvious
benefits which the club has been to them,
the trio of founders have
been forced to slow things down a bit
because of a lack of funding.
``We have, more or less,
emptied our own pockets, so the activities
and the club are on
hold right now,'' Prinya said.
The Fat Club asks for a
contribution of 500 baht as a membership fee.
all members have paid up _ thus far they have
membership fee from only about 30 people.
that some members are not well off, and can't
afford the fee. He
said the club would not deny access to those who
fall short on
the financial front.
The three founders have been trying to
obtain sponsorship to keep the
club going. Although the group
received a lot of publicity when it
first began, the excitement
has fizzled out, and they have not yet
succeeded in securing any
``Sometimes, when we ask for donations, we
feel like the last shred of
our dignity has left us!'' Karuna
``Some people just brush us off or
stand us up. It's horrible. And
sometimes they don't want to give
us any money because they think that
we're already rich. We're
large, so we must have a lot of dough to buy
all the food to
stuff our faces _ that's a misconception and a
Another is that everyone expects us to be jolly all the
Their last attempt to salvage the club involved
staging a play, but
the effort flopped due to lack of public
interest. ``I guess no one
wanted to see a lot of fat people on
the same stage!'' Akorn
Although the club's
gatherings and charitable outings have become less
days, the members remain closely knit.
``We still talk. I can
get phone calls at two in the morning, so one
way or another the
club still exists,'' said Karuna. ``It's like every
person on this planet has our number,'' she
The trio may be sad that their
club is on the ropes, but that hasn't
stopped them from spreading
the message that there is more to life
than being ashamed of
one's body, and that while it's perfectly
alright to try to stay
in shape, mentally beating oneself up over
excessive weight is
``We want all overweight people who are still
in hiding to know that
they can come out and rejoin society, and
they mustn't look at
themselves as some sort of a problem. We can
be anything that we want
to be. Don't ever think that you're not
worthy,'' said Akorn.
Like it or not, the social chaff and
fat jokes will remain,
particularly in Thai society where one's
appearance can be the subject
of harsh comments or exaggerated
praise, even from complete strangers.
The club founders'
advice: hold no grudges.
``You can't treat it as a problem
and let it eat you up,'' Akorn
pointed out, adding, with a grin:
``Try to turn your weak points into
strength. You'll be so much
happier that way. And you can always make
fun of your tormenters
Another problem faced by overweight people is
pressure from their own
families, which can lead to thoughts of
suicide. During the club's
short existence, members heard reports
of at least one attempted
``My parents used to
come down on me really hard,'' Prinya revealed.
``They used to
force me to run laps in the park in the morning but I'd
and take a nap instead. One day my mother, in her high
came running after me and caught me snoring!
dad was really tough and scolded me about my weight all the
I was close to snapping, but I decided to have an honest
talk with my
parents, and now they accept me for who I am,'' he
said, adding that
his heart goes out to those who might be
undergoing the same domestic
``The only way to
get through it is two-way communication,''
The three founders realise that changing
society's prejudice against
overweight people won't happen any
time soon. Neither do they expect
to have much luck changing the
way Thai people judge others based on
That's why they are banking on the younger
``Parents must teach their kids to be kind and
people who are different so that they will not
grow up to become
mean-spirited adults,'' Akorn said.
himself has encountered more name-calling (``Fatso!'') than
cares to remember.
Although Karuna, Akorn and Prinya
are not trying to elicit sympathy
from the public, since they are
strong, capable individuals in their
own right, they want to
remind people that prejudice and name-calling
can inflict pain,
knowingly or unknowingly, on those who
``Society has to understand that we are
real people. We have emotions.
We have feelings. We are human
beings, just like everybody else on
you'd like to contact the Fat Club, call Prinya on
use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to the Yahoo! Terms of Service.