I’m having a regular conversation with a friend, and I say something about how it would be easier to find tops to wear if I wasn’t fat. They give me a sad puppy dog face and say, “Aw, Mary! You’re not fat!”, and the disappointment begins.
This isn’t a one-time scenario I’m describing. It happens all the time. It has happened with friends, strangers, lovers. It’s very very rare that when I use the word “fat” to describe myself I’m saying it in a negative whine-y voice. I’m usually just using it as an adjective because it fits what I’m talking about. I’m not saying I’m fat so you can disagree with me or compliment me, I’m saying it because it’s accurate.
You know how when your tall friends complain that it’s hard to find a dress because their legs are so long so everything ends up too short? Would you ever look at them sad and say, “Babe! You’re not tall at all!”? I’m gonna say no. It’s a descriptor, just like “fat”. The only reason we react differently to that word versus tall, short, tan, brunette, or thin is because it’s stigmatized. It’s bad in our society to be fat, so we assume that when that word comes up we have to defend the person’s honor?
One time, someone said “Aw, Mary. I don’t think of you as fat”, which was interesting. I don’t think of anyone as their physical status. I mean, if I have to describe them, sure. I’ll tell you what color their hair is, how tall they are, what their body is like, if they wear glasses. But in my mind’s eye, my friends are my friends. They are just their names and the spirit they generate, not their weight, and I hope that’s the case for everyone, because if all you can think about when you think of me is my size, then you have some problems of your own to work out.
I’m not saying being fat is easy, though. We live in a time where it’s not only stigmatized, it’s ridiculed. We’re getting better as a culture and slowly moving in the right direction, (as with a lot of things like the acceptance of other lifestyles like sexual and gender orientation) but it’s still not great. And being a fat woman is worse. It just is. It’s not even that it’s a double “minority” situation, it’s that it’s more accepted to be a fat guy! If a group of fat men wore speedos and did a car wash it would be hilarious, and if a group of fat women did the same thing in bikinis it would be either “gross” or “brave”.
Don’t tell me I’m brave for wearing a bikini. I’m wearing a bikini because I want to wear a bikini. I’m all for people dressing in a way that is “flattering for their shape” IF that is something that makes them feel good. But if you are told you can only wear A-line skirts to be attractive and you don’t want to wear A-line skirts, then DO NOT WEAR A-LINE SKIRTS. If you’re happiest in overall shorts or leopard print leggings then just wear those things, even if a modeling agency isn’t going to stop you on the street and hand you a card. Want a beach body? Take your body to the beach.
I don’t care what you think, though. If you’re going to judge me for my body type or what clothes I’m putting on my body, we wouldn’t be good friends anyway. I’ve been all the sizes. I’ve been anorexic. I’ve been clinically underweight. I’ve been overweight. I’ve been bigger than I ever thought would be possible as a teenager. I have stretch marks and a double chin, and I don’t care. It’s completely fine. Those stretch marks represent a time when I sacrificed a thin body for happiness (i.e. the side effects of taking medication that would drastically improve my mental illness symptoms), and I never looked back. I’ve maintained a healthy body internally, all of my numbers for sugar, cholesterol, etc. are completely normal, and it’s important to me that I stay healthy if only to live a long life on this fantastic planet, but that’s actually no one’s business but mine.
If someone is fat and upset about it, help them make a change. Be a support system for healthy eating and getting your body moving! But also let them know that they’re beautiful already. Never settle for something that doesn’t make you happy, including your body. But make sure that you really figure out why you’re unhappy with that body! Is it because you feel you’re supposed to look a certain way? If you were to spend a week all alone in your house, just by yourself, would your body bother you? Or are you worried about how you look in comparison to other people? There’s no right answer, and everyone is different. I just want everyone to be happy and love themselves, and sometimes it’s more important to work on self acceptance instead of self improvement. And for Pete’s sake, if your friend is describing herself as fat to you, maybe just let her say it. Let’s take back that word! It doesn’t have to be bad. It’s just different. And different is fabulous.
I want to hear what you think about this. What do you think of the word “fat”?
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I’m not sure how I feel about the word fat in reference to other people but am perfectly fine telling my friends and husband how fat I think I’m getting. It’s I retesting to think about. I like the idea of it being a descriptive word, but I think I have my own personal issues to work through as well. Great post.
That’s completely fair. And it can really be a fine line for me, too, because a lot of my objectively thin friends will describe themselves as “fat”, which makes me really uncomfortable, sad, and angry. Saying you’re fat when you’re clearly not is an issue of self-esteem and self-worth, not an accurate descriptor of a person. And it’s completely fine to have your own issues with the word “fat”, or any other word for that matter.
I completely agree. Last year, I hopped on the ‘fatkini’ train, and most of my friends told me I was brave. It bothered me because I didn’t feel any different aside from having a cute new swimsuit, but to them it was like I was tackling some great feminist movement.
Yes! Fatkini is fantastic, not brave. Us showing skin isn’t a feminist action, it’s us showing skin. Thinking otherwise is taking feminism BACK thirty years.
Fat girl here too and I have experienced the same reactions… I do find it insulting, I mean talk about the elephant in the room.. Haha, fact I’m fat, it does not help by saying… No way your not, or I don’t think of you as fat etc etc .., yes I’m fat, I’m also a woman, a kind, compassionate, passionate, creative, loving, decent person… A human being with feelings … I exist, seems to offend some folk and not others, but remember I am so much more than my body!
Yes correct!! All of this is perfect and beautiful and I thank you for sharing.
Gosh, I wish I could have your attitude, and trust me, I’m trying! I was talking to my therapist the other day and said “I’m fat” in a descriptive way. It felt so weird rolling off my tongue, like I was insulting myself, even though I’m trying.
I really like your attitude, and I really would rather love myself then automatically try to change to make myself feel better. I’m working on it. I hope I will get there one day.
That’s the thing! We have such a negative connotation with it as a society that even when we try to use it in an innocent, objective way we can still feel like we’re putting ourselves down! I’m proud of you for using the word, your attitude, and your desire to work on your cognition and self-esteem!! That’s beautiful.
I think a lot times we are so used to hearing other people call themselves fat in a negative way, that we think we have to “reassure” the person that they are not. I usually don’t argue with anyone who might call themselves fat unless they are clearly not. In that case, they may be wanting some kind of outside perspective on their body, so I might tell them they are not fat, but I really don’t like talking to people about their bodies if I can help it! When people lose weight, I don’t “compliment” them on it. I don’t like it when other people point out if I’ve lost weight, either. I feel like weight can change at any time for any reason, and I don’t want people to think I’m keeping track of their bodies’ fluctuations. We all change physically, if not in weight, than in other ways, and I am just not interested in being compared to the way I used to be, or pointing out to others that they used to be fatter or thinner.
That’s a fair point. Lots of the time when people (usually women) call themselves fat they are wanting to be told that they are not or at least get the other person’s opinion on whether it’s an accurate descriptor. I like that you don’t compliment people on losing weight though, that’s awesome. I hate when people say that someone looks great when they lose a bunch of weight. You looked great before, babe. Unless you’re radiating now that you’re happier you lost weight, then don’t use someone’s body weight as the only barometer for attractiveness or compliments.
I agree with you, I think people are so much more attractive if they are comfortable in their bodies and minds. I also love that picture of you flashing your leg, you look marvelously curvy and happy, such a desirable combination..!
Yes, exactly! Confidence is the ultimate beauty. And thank you so much!!
I love this. I love all of this.
I don’t think a lot of people know how to be comfortable in their own skin, let alone know how to think about someone who is in theirs! I’m pretty confident most of the time, and usually stay that way until someone says something like the “I don’t think of you as fat” bit. Then I get a little confused and worried. But hey, shake that glitter off and get back up! 🙂
Hahah, that last line reminds me of Party Monster or whatever that movie is called. “Honey, if you’ve got a hump throw some glitter on it, go dancing!”
Oh, the thing with slender people complaining about their weight, as in they are feeling overweight, I have a lot of problems with that, why complain publicly, first of all, why in front of heavier persons, why complain at all, we all know we are actually very many different shapes, not cookies cut by a single cutter, omg I just complained about people!!! I’m getting off the computer now and doing some cooking!
Yeah, I’ve never understood the concept of someone objectively thin(ner) than someone else complaining about their weight in front of them. I’m not necessarily offended just because I’m comfortable with myself, but if in their head they think “fat” is bad, then why would they say that to you?
I never disagree with people when they call themselves fat, because I made a rule for myself to never ever comment on another person’s body. And I feel absurdly guilty about not disagreeing, so your post helped me feel less guilty. 🙂
On a related note, the idea that every woman is on a diet or trying to lose weight all the time completely confounds me. (I know not everyone is!) But an in-law who rarely sees me said I looked like I had lost weight (I hadn’t) and then he waited for the positive reaction that he was expecting from me. What he got was a blank stare. It was really weird for me to realize that this is some kind of stupid trick that he uses on women, but it’s a bizarre (and messed up) “compliment” that presupposes that all women want to lose weight, and are actively working toward such a goal. And not all of us do. I don’t. Right now the thing I am working on, in terms of my body, is gaining strength. And since muscle is more dense than fat, I think I might actually gain weight…
Next time that comes up I’ll need to explain why his compliment is actually an insult.
I think the rule of not commenting on another person’s body is a pretty good one in general. I’m glad I helped to alleviate some guilt that may be associated with that!
And yes, I definitely agree. Not everyone is trying to “improve” or alter their body all the time, and sometimes when they DO lose weight it’s not actually a good thing! We’ve just come to assume that skinny is good, so losing weight is good, too! It’s all way too general and stereotyped. I’m glad you received that “compliment” with a blank stare!
I am “objectively” a normal weight, but sometimes I feel fat- either because I ate a lot, or because some piece of clothing is restricting me, or because I am tired and I feel as if I am lugging my body around like an elephant. Sometimes it is just a subjective feeling that you have.
I think that’s fair, actually. You can temporarily feel fat or bloated or stuffed or whatever because of maybe the food you ate or the clothing you’re wearing. Just make sure that you’re still loving yourself when you have those thoughts! <3
Love this post!!! This post falls right in line with a book I read years ago that inspired me to stop living under a shroud of negative self esteem and guilt for being a fat chick. It helped me begin to change my thinking and grow to love myself no matter what my exterior looks like. That book is called ‘The Fat Girl’s Guide to Life’ by Wendy Shanker. The world needs more people like you in it, Mary!!! ❤️
Ohhh that book sounds great, I’ll have to check it out! Thank you so much for your kind words and your desire and attitude to love yourself!
I”m sitting on the other side of the same boat – the medication that means I’m able to leave the house and live a normalish life also mean the drugs I take for my PCOS don’t work so well on the weight. In short – I can be thinner, but also unable to function. Sadly, it’s a choice I made. By this i mean, I had to consider it. I pondered if it would be better to be thin than happy. Isn’t that messed up?
Anywhoo, I’m in the process of chucking out all my boring clothes and restocking with fun stuff to wear. It’s been an enjoyable process, even if I have to make some of my own clothes because that’s the only way they fit properly (even if they don’t fit properly because I suck at hemlines).
Hey Lyn! First of all, I want to say I’m proud of you for choosing happiness over a thin body and for finding fun stuff to fit your new body instead of choosing grey sweats in defeat! Secondly, I actually just got diagnosed with PCOS this year, and it’s clear I’ve had it for years. I also was in your exact same boat because when I started taking my psych meds to make me feel better and deal with my symptoms they immediately made me start gaining weight. I had a conscious choice to make: stay the same weight or feel better? And I chose to feel better. So these stretch marks on my belly are just part of the journey I took and choices I made to focus on happiness instead of typical beauty! <3