This is one subject in particular I am personally familiar with. In America we hear all the time that many of us are overweight, but aside from the health concerns that we are reminded of daily, there are many negative mental health side-effects that no one really bothers to mention. If you are “fat” by society’s standards, or even by your own standards, you constantly endure an emotional hell in your mind. Some women are proud to be the size that they are, or at least they say that they are, but most of us are not that lucky to have that kind of self-love. Society and your peers are constantly judging you. Even if they aren’t judging you, they have you so paranoid that you think that they are.They also attach words and feelings to being “fat” or “overweight”: lazy, disgusting, bad hygiene, lack of ambition, ugly, etc. People will oftentimes go to the next level and instead of just silently judging, they judge you out loud for the world to see and hear. This is called fat shaming. Fat shaming is said to be a “tough-love” approach, but it is usually not coming from anyone who “loves” you, and it is usually more painful than helpful. I am here to set that straight. You’re not being helpful if you are shaming someone who is fat, and it probably isn’t even your intention to love them or help them for health reasons-you just want to make yourself feel better about bullying someone. In case you still don’t understand, here is a Venn Diagram to get the message across:
Many fat people know they need to lose weight, they may even want to lose weight, but others who are not fat do not consider that the person may have a disorder that is just as real as anorexia.
This may sound bogus to some, but the fact is that you have no idea until you are fat. Yes, fat people can lose weight, and yes they do actually probably want to, but just like any addiction it is almost impossible to break. It is almost worse because you can stop taking drugs or drinking alcohol, but you can’t stop eating. Not every overweight person has a disorder, but I am willing to say many of them probably do. I have struggled with weight most of my life. I was chubby all throughout high school, and through some of middle school. In college I lost weight off and on, but right now I have gained back most of what I lost. It’s not because I want to be fat, but because instead of doing drugs or drinking to ease the pain of traumatic life events, I eat. It comforts me. I thought about that fact the other day and asked myself what made me gain the weight back. It was subconscious then, but I see it now. I gained weight as self-preservation, it sounds weird, but I am well aware of the connotations of being fat. I told myself: no one wants to rape a fat girl. When I was assaulted it was after I lost about 30 pounds. I looked and felt great. Now I am afraid to go there again, because this is where I am comfortable, even if I don’t like being overweight, I feel safe. Being chubby, to me, feels like having a security blanket being wrapped around me. No one will get me, because no one wants to get a fat girl. At least that is what I have been told all my life by the media and by peers.
The sad thing is, even if I did want to lose weight I feel like I can’t go to the gym. When fat people do try to lose weight and go to the gym people will stare at you wondering, “Why is that fatty here, this is a place for all the skinny people”. It doesn’t make sense, but we are judged for wanting to get healthy. They are mad we are at the gym, even though they taunt us to go to the gym. They want us to lose weight, they just don’t want to see us in the process. It’s like we are lepers.
Fat shaming is everywhere, especially during the warmer months. Chloe Angyal said it best in her article “Fat-Shaming All Around Us”.
In reference to the photo above, Angyal wrote: “This, ladies and gentlemen, is what fat-shaming looks like. Summer’s coming, and with it, hot weather and skimpy clothes. Better look ‘good’—that is, skinny—when it arrives. Because fat people are disgusting, right?”
While I do believe health is important, health is not always the same as “skinny”. There are many curvy girls who are more healthy than some skinny girls. When I lost weight, I was still chubby to most people’s standards, but I was healthy. I was eating healthy foods, exercising constantly because I worked with kids and we were always running around, and I was mentally in the best shape of my life. I may not have been a size 2, but I was healthy. This is what I try to teach the kids that I am currently nannying. The five-year-old boy constantly talks about being fat, talks about how characters on TV are fat, and worries about getting fat. It is disgusting and devastating; it saddens me for him. This child has learned at such a young age that he better never get fat, and that fat is gross. His concern is never to be healthy, it is just to be skinny and not fat. While it is important to teach your child to be healthy, it is abusive to shame them away from getting fat; especially when they are not fat at all and perfectly healthy. He can’t even eat a snow cone and enjoy it because he is afraid to get fat, or afraid that he is fat. He always tells me that I am not fat, but that I just have a big butt (which is entirely true, and I am proud of it), but I am sure the person who warns him about being fat has mentioned me to him and warned him about getting “fat” like me. Whether that is true or not, I make a point of letting him know that the goal is to be healthy, not fat or skinny. His sister and I tried to explain to him that just because you’re chubby, doesn’t necessarily mean you are unhealthy, and just because you are skinny, doesn’t mean you are healthy. Even though I try to encourage and enlighten him daily, he still obsesses daily about getting fat, and laughs at characters on TV who are fat, mocking them. He’s a work in progress. I hope some day it won’t be something that is constantly on his mind. Everyone should have the right to feel comfortable in their own skin.
In case you didn’t catch my photo on being bikini-ready for summer, here is a quote from Inner Subversion that says it all: “How to dress for your shape: are you human-shaped? Play up your confidence and natural sex appeal by wearing whatever the f*ck you want. Life Tip: As the weather gets warmer, continue to wear whatever the f*ck you want. Flaunt everything or keep it cool under cover. Dress to make yourself feel rad. How to get a bikini body: put a bikini on your body. Want sexy own-the-beach summer legs? Shave, or don’t because they’re your f*cking legs.”
It seems we should all be able to wear whatever we want, but that is not what we are told by society. I am sure many of you have heard about what the CEO of Abercrombie said about “fat” women and “cool kids”, if you haven’t you can read about it here. Something he may not realize is that some of the fit, or skinny people, may have lost weight. He is singling out fat women, but what about former fat women. I’ve heard many of them say that even though they are able to fit in the clothes, they will not wear them because of the message he is sending. Skinny does not make you elite or special, it doesn’t make you better than anyone (or worse). It is your body type, and it is how you, personally, decide to look. It shouldn’t be how anyone else is telling you to look. We all have the right to decide what to do with our own bodies, otherwise this country isn’t truly free. It is my body, you have no say in it, and frankly I don’t like exclusionary brands of any kind. It is discrimination, and I do not stand for discrimination.
Fat shaming does not work, it isn’t “good” or “helpful” for anyone, except the offenders. Writing “moo” on my notebook that I left in class in high school did not make me want to lose weight, it just made me sad and angry that people are so ignorant. Loving yourself is a journey, and I am still on mine.
Oh, and to Abercrombie: You can kiss my fat ass.