Have you ever heard about “fat hatred”? I suppose many people have, especially people who have struggled with body imaged and their own body fat.
People tend to think that if somebody is fat then there is something wrong with that person. That feeling of hating somebody’s fat, even if it’s your own, is irrational. It comes from this ingrained way of thinking that fat people are people who have let themselves go and who need to be specifically told to eat less and to exercise. Fat people know they’re fat, there is no need to point that out. But we still feel entitled to judge them for how they look, even if we have no idea of that person’s health history or personal struggles.
We hear all the time about different public campaigns that are supposed to make Americans thinner and healthier. Public officials and celebrities like Jamie Oliver try to introduce programs that would reduce the rate of obesity in the United States. However, they are not aware of the fact that these campaigns are the cause of fat hatred.
Fat hatred results in a distorted body image. We learn that fat = bad, so we start to hate every bit of it, whether it’s our own fat or someone else’s. We simply cannot possibly associate being fat with being happy or being healthy. Do you remember this photo shoot of “Fat and Attractive” from Abercrombie & Fitch? It’s a good step in the direction of normalizing fat body shapes but judging by the reaction of people who saw the photo shoot, we still have a long way to go.
Is being fat unhealthy? Yes, a person who is morbidly obese is not as healthy as a person with a regular BMI. But the same can be said about skinny people who hate their body fat to the point of becoming anorexic. Still, that kind of body type is not as heavily judged as being fat.
We condemn body shaming but we need to start doing the same for fat shaming. Fat shaming is when somebody criticizes another person for their heavier body shape. Have you ever heard someone say directly to a fat person “You need to eat less”? That’s a classic example of fat shaming and I can swear to you that any fat person has heard their share of this phrase. Do you think fat shaming is necessary for the fat person in front of you to start exercising? Well, think again.
Fat shaming is not a good motivator at all. On the contrary, it actually can cause paralyzing fear and severe hatred of a person’s own body. Feeling ashamed of something makes you want to hide it but it doesn’t help you grow. A fat person is more likely to start wearing loose clothes in order to somehow hide their weight instead of exercising. That’s because exercising would mean showing your vulnerable side in front of other people and most of us have been conditioned to conceal our fat due to extreme fat hatred.
Some people speak out loudly against fat shaming which is of course a good thing. The not so good thing is that these people are later criticized. They are called lazy because instead of dieting they would rather want people to accept them as they are. They don’t try hard enough, they eat too many sweets and fast foods, they don’t care about their health. That kind of criticism comes from fat hatred.
Fat people are somehow abnormal and they should simply become thin so that they fit in with the rest. We don’t see them as real people with feelings. We feel free to comment on their appearance whether it’s directly in person or in the comment section of a Facebook post. After all, they did it to themselves so they deserve to be called out, right?
Melissa McEwan from Shakesville blog talks about exactly the same topic in her blog post. She herself is fat and she doesn’t feel afraid to admit it. She also says that in her case, becoming thin is simply not a possibility. And that’s perfectly fine. We should not shame her for something that she cannot change.
Jamie Oliver states that “Obesity is preventable”. She rejects that statement. In her own words:
“Fat people are not only tasked with finding individual solutions to systemic problems; they are, in many cases, asked to somehow overcome their very physiologies and make their bodies do things that they are simply unable to do.
We are literally asked to be people we are not.
That is eliminationist. Plain and simple.” (source)
Just like Melissa, I am also what most people would call fat. I was always a chubby kid but what really cemented my body type was my pregnancy 5 years ago. Becoming fat is the price I had to pay to give birth to a healthy child. And I would do it all over again because I know there is nothing wrong with my body, even if other people might say otherwise.
Recently, I have started to slowly lose weight again. But it would still take me years to go back to what is considered a healthy body weight. In the meantime, I will be fat shamed again and again by people who think they can change me with their words.
I know I am privileged. I have access to good and healthy food, I can afford to buy diet books and go to the gym, I have time to exercise. Even with all that, I am still fat.
So what about people who don’t have access to these privileges? They might want to lose weight but don’t have the means to do it. And no amount of fat shaming will change that.
EVERY BODY IS PERFECT
Yes, I am confident in saying that every body type is perfect. If you think you are fat and want to change that to feel healthier, that’s perfectly fine. As long as you are doing it for your own good and not for the good of other people. In the meantime, enjoy the journey and your body, no matter its shape.
That’s what being body positive means – accepting every pound of your body, whether it’s a pound of fat or a pound of muscle. It also means accepting everyone else’s body types. Feeling hatred all the time is exhaustive so get rid of it. Why do you care that person next to you on the bus is fat? Accept it and move on.