I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people use “fat” as an insult or as a negative, to mean unattractive or something that we must avoid at all cost. It’s not exactly helped by women who are happy to make money from the plus size label who are then repulsed by the idea anyone is calling them fat – as if that’s the worst thing anyone could be. It’s such a huge disappointment and a contradiction of body positivity and acceptance to see these women basically undermining their own cause. I wonder if they really understand the issue. It portrays such a confusing message to almost anyone with any hang ups about their body.
Then there’s the back-handed compliment when someone thinks that by denying you are fat they’re being complimentary… “You’re not fat, you’re beautiful” with the age-old misguided assumption that waist size and beauty somehow correlate. In my experience they simply do not. If anything, confidence and self-love are more relevant contributing factors when it comes to beauty, and more importantly self-esteem and self-worth.
I also take issue with those who offer criticism of bodies thinly (ahem) veiled as concern for their health – that we’re glamorising obesity and promoting an unhealthy lifestyle. I was so disappointed by the negative comments the beautiful blogger babes who went on This Morning to challenge body shaming received on Twitter (although I guess that kind of challenge does tend to bring the arseholes out of the woodwork!) and so much of it came down to people claiming fat=unhealthy. Which is often not the case.
Health and wellbeing is determined by a number of elements, these include: physical, psychological and social wellbeing (different theories have others, but even just these 3 are enough to illustrate my point) and it’s about striking a good balance with all 3. Just because you can see that I’m fat doesn’t give you a right to tell me I’m unhealthy – you are only witnessing one part of the puzzle, and it may not even be a significant part!
Recently, The Lad Bible decided to apologise to Wentworth Miller – not for the fat shaming but because of his mental health. So basically they think it’s OK to take the piss out of a body shape – as long as there’s no underlying mental health issue to blame for the hideous fatness. If he hadn’t had mental health issues, would he have been fair game?! Is the media implying there must be an underlying excuse for fatness in order for it to be acceptable and berating to be off limits?! I’m absolutely not in support of that.
When I was at my thinnest just before I got married I was smoking, regularly drinking more than my daily unit allowance, taking weight loss medication (which is no longer prescribed due to health risks) and I didn’t exercise as much as I do now. I had the typical pre-wedding stresses and was worried about having my parents in the same room for the first time since I was about 10! I was also still embarrassed and ashamed of my fat body, particularly when looking at photos of myself after a dress fitting. I was the THINNEST I’ve been in my adult life!
Today, I’m easily 6 stone heavier (I no longer stand on the sad step so I don’t know my exact weight), several dress sizes bigger, I don’t smoke, I drink in moderation, I exercise 3 times a week covering cardio, weights and toning, I’m learning to love my body and what it has given me. So why would I want to go back to the thinner me, who at times hated herself?! I can run and dance for longer, lift heavier weights and I can look in the mirror and be happy with my own reflection. So am I really less healthy because my waistline is bigger?!
And besides, my health is my concern. Mine and my doctor’s. All bodies work differently. You do not need an explanation or an apology for my fatness. Just accept it without judgement.
A couple of weeks ago I saw a guy post on Instagram that he felt wrongly accused of body shaming by saying he didn’t think a particular fat body was attractive. Dear Mr Instagram: you’re more than welcome to have your own views on what is or isn’t attractive to you as an individual – that’s just personal preference… but please don’t expect the rest of the world to be disgusted by a visible belly outline or some chunky thighs. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – let people make their own minds up. Finally, please understand that these bodies have not been posted on Instagram for your approval – they’re there to give fat bodies exposure, a place in the world – so people who are struggling to love their own bodies can see beautiful bodies just like theirs and that it is OK to love and nurture their own. If you don’t like it simply look the other way and keep your damaging negative comments about someone’s body to yourself. (This applies to all body shapes and sizes, not just fat ones!).
It’s not the word “fat” that I have an issue with at all. This week at work I overheard some kids describing me as ‘the fat one’ and colleagues were confused that I wasn’t upset or looking to address their language. I believe that if you’re using “fat” as a simple adjective to describe the shape of something that is actually fat then that’s fine, but if you’re using it as an insult or a derogatory term it isn’t acceptable. I think it’s time to reclaim ‘fat’ as a descriptive word, not an insult. Come up with something more imaginative… or (like Mr Instagram) keep your comments or negativity to yourself – especially if the body you are describing is not your own.
Some people are genuinely happier when they are a particular size (either thinner or fatter) – if that’s what makes them happy as an individual – that’s their choice. Some people don’t have much control over the size of their bodies, no matter what they eat or how much they exercise – I have a friend who is fairly thin who was actively trying to put on weight but despite eating a very high calorie diet and not exercising at all (she never does) she was unable to do so. Some people would envy her tiny frame and visible hip bone – she hated it. I’m not advocating that any one size of body is better than another, it’s about how you feel about your own body that matters here. We shouldn’t be made to feel bad for loving our bodies. Surely by loving it we’ll be better equipped to take care of it in the long-run?
Fat shaming an individual is not going to change their weight. It’s not going to change the so-called ‘obesity crisis’. Fat does not equal bad. Fat does not equal ugly. Fat does not necessarily equal unhealthy. Fat is just fat.
Like my Mam used to tell me – “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!”