Why fat isn’t as complicated as we make it

February 11, 2019

Fat has always been a significant topic in my family of origin. Even when fat wasn’t, well, “fat”

I was probably 13 or 14 when a cousin on my father’s side asked me to be a junior bridesmaid in her wedding. It was an exciting prospect.

After “the ask,” the mother of the bride (my father’s older sister) pulled me aside.

fatI don’t remember her exact words but the message was clear: I should consider “losing weight” before the wedding.

Seriously? I was a young teenager in puberty and probably a size 8 or 10 by today’s standards. I wasn’t fat. But she certainly made me feel that way. And this was in the early to mid-1960s.

So I guess it’s no surprise that her children all had serious weight issues.

My father was super-fit and super-vain. He was once overweight but after he got fit he became obsessive, working out two hours a day seven days a week for decades. Running 10 miles a day. Then, needing two hip replacements as a result. And roto-cuff surgery after doing pull-ups at the gym at age 70-something to impress younger men.

Like I said, ridiculously vain.  And he became overly focused on fat, seeing fat people as lacking discipline. Like my mother.

I know many fat people. I know fat people who are fit, who do yoga, who work out and who are happy with their size. I know fat people whose blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels are all normal.

I also know fat people who would like to lose weight. Whose self-image needs some work because our “ideal” tells them they are “less-than.” And I know fat people who should lose weight for real health reasons.

fatI know fat people who have had surgeries in an attempt to get thin. Stomach removal. Gastric bypass. Lap band. Surgery. I know people who have been successful in that and those who have gained it all back.

I know a lot of people, fat and thin. And here’s a news flash: not all fat people want to lose weight.

I know fat activists and yes, they like to be called “fat.” Call a spade a spade, they say. I’ve been fat and I’ve been not fat, so I’ve seen all sides of this.

My feelings are this:

Fat people know they are fat. They do not need comments about how pretty they would be if they lost weight. They are already pretty. (Fat activists often cite “You have such a pretty face!” as infuriating.)

They are well aware of any health risks surrounding weight, theirs or anyone else’s. They do not need your concern about their health. They understand any risk factors. They are, after all, adults. And fat. That fact isn’t lost on them. And they certainly do not need your insults.

Thin is not always best. The fact is that I do not look good thin and I do not want to be thin. I like being curvy. Sometimes I wish to be less curvy than I am but overall I like being a curvy girl. That’s who I am. Built for comfort, not speed. I will never go below a size 10 and a 10 takes work. Too much work. 12 is my lowest comfortable size and it’s considered “plus.”  Which I think is ridiculous.

Which brings me back to my aunt. Who was very thin. And who should’ve kept her mouth shut and just been happy to give a young teenager a role in the wedding. Without condition.

So here’s the thing: If you know a fat person, you do not need to make any comment on their appearance, their health, what they are eating or their health. No need at all. DON’T DO IT.

And if a fat person looks like they’ve lost weight, don’t say “you look like you’ve lost weight.” Give them a real compliment that’s not about fat. Like “You look beautiful today.” And not with an air of surprise.

If you know a young girl, do not make them feel less than because they do not meet the so-called “ideal” of thin. Let them know they are just fine the way they are. Support them in becoming more active or eating a healthy diet. But never, never, imply they are less than because of their weight.

Would love your thoughts on this post or even your own experiences.

7 comments on “Why fat isn’t as complicated as we make it
  1. Haralee says:

    EXCELLENTPOST!!! When my BFF was dying and getting really thin, she was a thin woman to start with, people said you look great to her. Her response was no I don’t I am terminal!

  2. Jackie says:

    Unfortunately we live in a competitive society and visual world; very youth oriented.
    And we all think we need to be perfect to be loved and desired. It isnt enough just to have a good heart and be a good person. Whether you are fat or thin, pretty or ugly, etc people will judge.

  3. Alana says:

    Today, I think of someone I know whose mother got on her constantly for her weight and today, the mother departed this earth a long time ago and the daughter still struggles with weight. I can remember my self esteem being impacted as a teen because of unkind remarks about weight I put on after my mother died and I turned to almost nightly ice cream sundaes to cope with the pain. Thank you for writing this.

  4. christiba says:

    Sigh this is such a loaded topic! Even when we think we’re very progressive, we often have this nagging insecurity about our weight in the back of our minds. I blame society! lol.

  5. I only ever see my doctor during my annual check-up and guess what? I’ve put off this year’s because literally every appointment is “You’re incredibly healthy, but you need to lose weight. Try limiting your calories to 800/day and that’ll help!” (Mind you the last time she told me this I was NURSING A BABY!) There’s no doubt I need to lose weight and as you said above, I’m well aware of that. But in the mean time I’ll continue to eat (mostly) healthy and on stressful days, yes I may still turn to bread but hey at least it’s not cigarettes or booze, eh? 😀

  6. Debbie D. says:

    Excellent advice, Carol. My mother was slim and vain like your father. In fact, a textbook narcissist and control freak. Weight issues have plagued me most of my adult life and I’m always struggling to lose some, mainly for health reasons, but, there’s a little vanity in there, too. 🙂 Trouble is, most of our social life revolves around food and we like to eat. Working it off, not so much. We know this and accept the consequences. People should never be defined by or judged for their appearance. As the old cliche goes: “It’s what’s inside that matters”.

  7. I am a lot bigger than I used to be but I don’t think I was ever meant to be really thin. I had double pneumonia when I was 12 and I lost a dangerous amount of weight. It took me years to get to a healthy weight and I think my metabolism is shot now because of it. When I was really thin I hated it and it’s taking some getting used to this bigger me but I do overall feel much happier.

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