Content warning: fatphobic language and talk of disordered eating
“My goodness, one of these days I’m not going to be able to fit my little old arms around! You really are quite squishy!”
Unsolicited body commentary. Something most people face, whether it be: attempted compliments, criticism (under the guise of helpfulness), or outright rudeness. And, sometimes, you hit bingo and it’s really all three. Of course this gets worse, the larger you are.
“Thanks, it’s deliberate.”
I replied, in a matter-of-fact tone.
The commentator was visibly confused, as any rampant fatphobe would be, to hear that someone might actively choose fatness. Ironic, seeing as fatphobes do spend a lot of time telling us we must be idiots, for choosing fatness over losing weight.
Either: being fat has to be a choice, because who wouldn’t try everything in their power to not be fat?
Or: It can’t possibly be a choice, because who would chose to live in a body so hated?
So, which is it according to them? I wondered…
“Do you mean that? Is it really deliberate?!”
Her voice hit the sort of pitch people might reach if you tell them you’ve just named your baby after their ex. She couldn’t hide the shock and distaste, but tried to style it out as though she wasn’t utterly horrified.
This person had already been made aware, on several occasions, that:
- I love and accept my body as it is
- I do not tolerate any commentary on my body (not even things intended as compliments)
- I do not tolerate any commentary on my food choices
- My boundaries are non-negotiable on this
“Yeah, I mean it. This is why I really have to go now. I’m late for dinner and I need to eat if I’m to maintain this physique!”
I grabbed and jiggled my fat tummy, just to be extra clear that this is the exact physique I’m proud of.
Thrilled at my hilarious response, I gleefully jumped down the two doorsteps, like I used to when I was a kid.
Although, I ended up less thrilled with that decision. Embarrassed that the motivation behind my manoeuvre, probably, stemmed from me wanting to show her that this big body could be spritely, if it wanted. That cursèd fat urge to prove we are not useless at every turn! Oh, and also the fact I’ve never gotten over being told, at age four, that I was “too fat” to join ballet class.
I have never been spritely anyway, even when thin. I’ve always been a stompy, boisterous, cumbersome presence. Still unsure if this was due to deliberate rebellion against the notion I should be dainty, just because I was born with a vagina. Or, perhaps my vagina wielding body just never got the memo that I am part of the 50% of the population who is supposed to behave like a fragile doll.
“No, be serious with me a second. Are you really saying you choose to be… big?”
For someone who has no problem riding a steamroller over my boundaries, she takes great care to appear as though her words are totally innocent. Much like my failed attempts at being feminine as a child, she’s half heartedly trying to be dainty. But she can’t hide the stompy, and nor does she really want to.
“Yeah! It is deliberate!”
I tried to sound as jovial as possible about my admission, whilst maintaining a level of seriousness. Because this isn’t a lie, and I am extremely happy with my choice to be fat. Although it’s more of a passive choice than an active one. The active choice, was to stop pursuing weight loss. It was so detrimental to my mental and physical health, that it had to go.
A tipping point came, when I refused to eat a homemade vegetable soup. I was on my most restrictive diet yet. And so, fearing the addition of some sort of forbidden cream to this soup, I went to ask the host what the ingredients were.
- 1 OXO cube
I stood in the kitchen and agonised over the wording on the box of stock cubes. I calculated that one solitary cube, divided between 6 servings of soup, would amount to minimal contamination… but, rules is rules and the thorn in my side that day, was some diet peddler’s sound bite:
“If it’s inpronounceable, it’s inedible!”
I remembered that one specifically, because the author made some quip about him being able to play with spelling rules, while we weren’t allowed any wriggle room when it came to his food rules. Twat.
So - that meant a solid fuck you was given to the stock cube, and the Disodium 5'-Ribonucleotides (whatever the heck that was) contained within.
Britney’s “Don’t you know that you’re toxic” played in my head. But it wasn’t me thinking that my behaviour here was toxic. Me? An extreme dieter, dedicated to the cause? I am a pillar of virtue, to be revered at all times and to have my wildly ridiculous food choices respected! For I am the one working hard enough for social approval! I am the one doing everything the mostest, and doing it right!
But no, I felt the only toxic one here was, of course, the evil OXO. How dare it ruin one of the few things I could actually eat? Bastard little stock cube. The host, no stranger to dieting herself, saw me in turmoil. And, instead of telling me this level of upset over a stock cube is highly disproportionate, she praised me for being so good, and not giving in to temptation. Yes - well done me for resisting a four ingredient vegetable soup. I am inspiration personified. Chesney Hawkes’s “I am, the one and only!” replaced Britney, as a self congratulatory anthem. Appropriate song choice at the time, given that I felt anyone who sings that non ironically is an absolute wally. It’s me, I’m the wally.
The conversation with the boundary crusher continued…
Why do I chose to be fat, she wonders. As if I haven’t explained this to her before, explicitly, on several occasions. I think she hopes that if she asks me for justification enough times, I’ll finally realise it’s because she doesn’t accept my answer, and I’ll care enough about her opinion to change my path. Or, I’ll switch direction just to shut her up. Whichever happens sooner.
I do the mental equivalent of girding my loins, and say:
“Don’t give me that, come on. You must have a reason!”
I should have known “Why not?!” wouldn’t have worked. I naively didn’t expect to need an actual answer here though, given I’ve already explained my choices eleventy thousand times at this point.
I didn’t have anything left to hand from my “battle of wits” arsenal at this point. However, there was something of hers that had landed in my brain long ago, and had remained lodged there. Like a bullet that hasn’t struck fatally, but the metals slowly leak out, spreading poison over time. And that’s what I’d plucked out and threw back at her:
“Well, who’d want to be slim, these days?!”
“Who’d ever want to be fat?!” she used to say when I was growing up. And I agreed. Who would want that, given how terribly fat people are treated? It made no sense at all! And I vowed to myself that I’d never ever be fat.
All the messages I absorbed growing up; I knew they were causing harm. But I never questioned why people hated fat folk so much. Just accepted it as a truth. I felt like there had to be a good reason for it, if those charged with my protection were doing it. I had no choice but to trust it.
Fat = bad. Got it.
If you are fat, stop eating until you are no longer fat.
“Just lay off the doughnuts! It’s not hard!”
Doughnuts = bad. Got it.
(Why is it always doughnuts?)
“Look at her, stuffing her face. It’s not like she’s never been fed, look at the size of her!”
Being caught enjoying food = bad. Got it.
“Wow, who does she think she is, wearing that dress with those thighs? No shame, that one.”
Wearing nice clothes when you’re fat = bad.
It took me until my twenties to make an important connection: the people telling me to not be fat for my own safety, and the people actively making it unsafe for fat folk, were… *drum roll*
THE VERY SAME PEOPLE!
But seriously - imagine if fatphobes just stopped bullying. And imagine if the fatphobes in power simply stopped making things inaccessible for bigger people, instead of telling people their bodies are dangerous. And imagine if the fatphobes in charge of media operations employed more fat models and actors, instead of only ever showing us slim folk. And if medical training included fat bodies, and if all medical staff had decent sensitivity training on how anti-fat bias impacts their work and fat lives… then… then there’d be no reason to fear being fat, right?
Although, the sticking point here is - people who build their entire feeling of self worth based on how they compare to others, would be left with one less group to stand on the backs of. And they’re not going to let go of the props that hold them up so they alone can reach exclusive privileges, are they…?
“Well, who’d want to be slim, these days?!”
A question that stoked the irrational fears a lot of fatphobes hold: What if this body positivity thing all goes too far, and then it’s us slim folk under the lens? Having our bodies scrutinised and judged? Being told our bodies are not in fashion? Having abuse hurled at us on the daily, due to the size of our bodies?
It’s almost like… they know exactly how harmful their anti-fat bias is…
People pretend to not comprehend privilege as a concept, but they sure are aware of it when they feel it slipping from their grasp.
I didn’t enjoy seeing that momentary flicker of fear in her eyes, in the brief second she considered I might be serious. I gave a quick “tongue in cheek face” to indicate that no, I don’t actually have the same “ew” feeling towards slim folk, as they do me.
Before she had chance to muster another comeback, I started waking away, waving without turning. No more boundaries were going to blow up in my face that day.
And I’m sure the retribution for that minuscule, momentary win of mine, is pending. Because god forbid a fat person outsmarts someone who believes all fatties are inherently unintelligent!
“It’s ok to cut people out” can be a really helpful message, but shout out to people in situations where it’s just not that simple.
Until we can all be free of this bigotry, I hope Chesney Hawkes’s greatest hit plays in your heads, and you sing along non-ironically, and unapologetically. Because screw modesty. Screw feeling small. Screw letting people talk you out of the pleasures in life, like delicious food and dated pop tunes. Screw letting other people make you feel like you’re not good enough. Screw people who tell you you have no right to love yourself.
I am the one and only me, and there is nobody I’d rather be.
Now, you may well question my choice to reference Cheesy Hawkes multiple times in one article, but you don’t get to question my choices about my body.
You can read the interview to Cara Mac_B HERE