Who LOOKS Fat vs. Who IS Fat

I have this problem, right? I don’t understand what people think they are describing when they talk about Fat People.  Now all you little happy trolls who just can’t wait to post and snark “Knew it.  Fatty don’t even know she fat.  Stupid Fatty” I know full well that there are others who feel I am beyond-help FAT with a capital FAT.  Yet I wanted to reflect upon the feeling I have that Fat always seems to be some sort of “othering” experience for people; haters or not.

What do I mean?  Well, it boils down to a belief people seem to have that No One they KNOW (or love, like, respect) is ever fat…or “Hugely Fat” or “OBESE GOING TO DIE GAAAH THE MEDIA TELLS ME TO FEAR THEM” fat…  Oh you might think someone is overweight but rarely do folks who know and love someone feel that they know anyone that is Headless Fatty Size and henceforth Doomed For Eternity. So tell me, What does it mean to be “FAT”?

If someone you know and loved called themselves fat you’d shake your head and deny it vehemently, right? At the very least you’d say “Oh no, you’re not THAT bad, maybe just a few more salads and walks”*  But why?  Because fatties are some sort of “other”, right?  Someone ELSE who is destroying the world one blobby, headless, SUV driving, McDonald’s snarfing, seat-overflowing, thigh-jiggling step at a time.  It is SOMEONE ELSE that is “teh fatty mc fatterson” that the news media and anyone who is anyone at all talks about all the time.  FAT isn’t your friend, or your neighbor, or that woman at the gym you look at enviously every time you go who seems to think she’s ‘Too Fat” and yet can run elliptical circles around some of the thinner ladies. Fat is…no one you know.  Because everyone you know is nice and…fat is just not nice right?  Fat is evil, sinful, lazy, no-good, will-less…it is just WRONG!

So what is it that makes someone cross that line from “Oh no, you’re not FAT!” into “Headless Fatty Dooming the World”? Is it just Adipose Tissue? “Too MUCH” of said tissue?  What is TOO much?  Who decides?  Is it just BMI? That can’t be the case because those numbers seem to keep dropping so that more and more people can be considered fat so it would be as though someone making decisions wants one day for the whole WORLD to think it is fat and that just couldn’t be, right?

Something else then…waist to hip ratios?  No?  That still doesn’t fit the bill, eh? Is it just going over a certain weight? No?  You don’t find out your friend who you love is 201 lbs and freak out, telling them they will die of Obesity, do you? Is there some arbitrary weight line drawn in the poundage sand?

No.  No. NO.  My point in all of this is that some people might find some of the above suggestions to fit their definition of what is FAT in a person who is a stranger; some mystically unknown “other”; a headless fatty.  BMI or Waist-Hip ratios or Simple Weight numbers exist…but you know what people actually end up judging as fat?  Looks.  Pure and simple.  It doesn’t matter if your pants label reads “0” or “12” or “36” or “5 Blue”.  When someone looks at a stranger, regardless of how that stranger may fit into the size spectrum of their friends and loved ones: they can be fat.  Oh yes.  That little bit of muffin top showing through that size 2 tank top? Some stranger somewhere thinks it looks fat.  So many of the people you might dismiss, perhaps even wistfully, as “normal” are thought by someone else to be Fat. Perceptions are not unified…and that hate you might be joining in on could just as easily be turned your way.

So many people are living their own Fat Life; even if no one else realizes it.  Self-hatred seems to know no size limits.  I think that there is a whole size spectrum of Fat Experience: We are all living our own individual versions of the Fat Life.  And you don’t know what that life or experience has been merely by looking at the bodily package in which one person’s existence takes place.

The take-home message here is that judging by looks is really silly.  No one can tell how well I can breathe by judging the size of my nose; why should it make anymore sense to think you can tell how well I eat or exercise by the size or shape of my body? Even if you want to call me a liar, I bet dollars to Baby Flavored Donuts that you really have NO CLUE how I eat, sleep, exercise, LIVE in my Fat Life.

Fat exists.  On people even; on their (our) bodies.  On the bodies of people you know and love.  Looks are deceptive.  And no-where is it written that you get the right to judge others as somehow less of a person because they have more of a particular type of tissue on their body. So the next time you find yourself starting to snark at someone entering a Fast Food restaurant or struggling to find work-out clothes in their size on the rack in a mall (good luck on that one btw); consider that you really DON’T know this person and think if you would feel the same if maybe you DID know them.  Would you still judge?  Still shame?  Still feel justified in exposing disgust?  How long do you think it might be before YOU are thought of as fat?  Who around you might ALREADY be judging YOU as fat and undeserving of basic human respect?  The judgement knife cuts both ways my dears.

Are you fat or do you just look fat?  It all comes down to: either way it is no one else’s business.  So mind your own and live your own life, whatever size or shape it takes. Okay?

*Well unless you’re one of THOSE sorts of friends or family members… the kind who politely disagrees when anyone says something so self-disparaging and then blithely suggests you BOTH join WW for the “moral support”…yeah THAT kind of friend.

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46 thoughts on “Who LOOKS Fat vs. Who IS Fat

  1. I’m barely fat (size 12-14, BMI 31), but I talk about being fat pretty regularly because the medical industry has declared me it. Not one person will say “oh, but you’re not fat” and I’ve had lots of people tell me things like “you need to lose weight or you’ll get endometrial cancer.”

    So, in my experience, if you come off as not ashamed of your body, fat = larger than a size 8.

  2. Ashley that’s an interesting view. And yet my mother at size 6 still thought she had work to do….

    Part of me wonders if there IS a perceived “normal” anymore or just two halves of a dichotomy: Fat or Anorexic in people’s judgments of bodies…

  3. Precisely Jessi but do you know what that even looks like? This young woman is Obese: http://www.flickr.com/photos/77367764@N00/1459239412

    The entire concept of “How Fat” is what I’m arguing is entirely subjective….so Ashley saying that a 12/14 is “Barely Fat” is accurate for her (and very true of the perceptions for many others, for whom “Fat” only begins once you hit plus sizes of 16+)

  4. I’m having fun with this one myself. I’m obese (BMI of 32) and I wear a size UK14 / US10. People say to me “But you can’t be obese! You don’t look obese!” etc. But yep, I’m obese. If people don’t “like” the idea of me calling myself obese, well that’s their problem.

  5. At the very least you’d say “Oh no, you’re not THAT bad, maybe just a few more salads and walks”

    Then there’s the “But you carry it well” or “But it looks right on you”, which seems to mean that a) I have cleavage b) I have decent posture c) I am not bedridden, have a job, go to the gym, etc.

  6. I have a very good friend who has been losing weight on a doctor-encouraged regimen for a while now. She called me last week and excitedly told me that she weighed under 170 lbs. for the first time in her adult life. I said, wow, and I weigh a lot more than that. She automatically said that I couldn’t weigh more than that. It just so happens that I was weighed as part of a doctor’s exam in January (and I have to give the docs kudos because there was not a single mention of weight loss during the entire appointment, and they treated me for the issue I came in to talk about) and I happened to have seen that my weight was 237 lbs.

    Yep. I weigh nearly seventy pounds more than my friend, and she had no clue despite the fact that we’d spent an entire day together in December, just one month before I got weighed. We’re also nearly the same height with similar fat distribution, so it’s not like there were significant differences in other directions to make it less obvious.

    Perception is a flexible thing. We see those we love through the lenses of what we perceive as positive. That’s why my friend didn’t see how much more I weigh than she does.

  7. i am always between 200 and 220. If I say Iam fat…my friends and coworkers deny it. My friend brought me back a t-shirt from a concert and said – “its and XL cause you say your fat…but i dont believe it…I almost got you the medium”. I am wearing the XL right now as I type this and its so tight across my bosums that you could bouce a quarter off the middle. I know I am overweight…I also think I look good. I notice that my 200 looks differen than others 200…its not just weight or clothing size…its muscle, and bone structure and how your body puts the fat on..

    I am lucky – my weight goes on all over.
    at 19 I ws 34D – 24 – 36
    at 32 I am 44DD – 34 – 46 (measurement under breasts is 34 – same as waist)
    Basically the same body just – more sand through the hour glass… so the fact that I have an hourglass shape tricks myself and other people into think i am okay…when really I am fat…i need to lose weight.

    My mother is 300+ – she cant walk up stairs, she is always in pain…the pain getting worse when weight goes up and her pain goes down and energy up when weight goes down. She is fat. I read angrygreyrainbows and part of me gets fat acceptance…but part of me says no…this problem is becaue of my mothers weight. I knew her as an active 230 lbs cop…and she was powerful and strong…she was overweifht but it was different. this women know is a shell of herself…and it has to have something to do with the extra fat. andI am terrified of become her. To me fat acceptance is scary becaue it means accepting my mother…and that means I could become her.

    • Dedabets I’m approving your comment because I think you touch on something that many MANY of us have and even continue to go through: the fear of mortality. We fear having a shorter life; or of BECOMING ill (which more and more often is purportedly now a-days linked with being FAT!) We fear getting older and losing our youth, strength and health…any and all of those combined even. That fear doesn’t make us bad people. Acknowledging the fear for what it is: an rational response to human mortality, may even be a bit theraputic.

      Not sure where I’m going with this. Anyone else?

      • April, I think you’ve touched on a VERY big part of all this fat hatred: fear of death. Fear of illness, of being incapacitated, of being unable to live as we do now. We blame that on fat because we want to believe that fat is to blame – and more importantly, this body composition is under our complete conscious control. And if we control it, we can dodge the bullet known as the consequences of aging – which we cannot control.

        My father in law had many of the same problems described above before the strokes that took his life. He had no energy. He couldn’t climb stairs. He was always in pain.

        He was thin to the point where his nutritionist had put together a very nutrient-dense, calorie-dense eating plan to try to get him to gain some weight. Any weight.

        So no, fat doesn’t “has to have” something to do with the effects age and illness have on our bodies. We just want it to because we think it’s something we can control, and we will cling to that illusion with all our might, because the alternative is too frightening to contemplate.

  8. Then there’s the “But you carry it well” or “But it looks right on you”, which seems to mean that a) I have cleavage b) I have decent posture c) I am not bedridden, have a job, go to the gym, etc.

    I’ve gotten the “you carry it well” remark too, and I agree that’s it probably because of those things above you mentioned. I’m deathfat at over 300 lbs, but aside from the doctor and my immediate family, I’m sure most people think I weigh much less than that.

  9. Also, Jessi, remember that BMI doesn’t mean shit & that, to be honest, a woman who wears 12-14 is NOT fat. There are a lot of very thin-looking, super-fit athletic types who have BMI’s well over 31, but they are okay according to the larger culture, because they don’t look fat & because, in most cases, they are male. My own BMI has ranged between 28 & 32 or so all my adult life, but my clothing size has ranged from 16 to 22 (at least partly because women’s clothing sizes are incredibly inconsistent), but how I am perceived is partly how solid & firm I look at the time & also on how the person looking at me feels about me. I never get rude remarks about my weight in public, though I have had a lifetime of nastiness about having cerebral palsy, but I am sure that opinions range all the way from ‘normal, average-sized” to ‘not all that fat’ to ‘big, fat slob’ to ‘OLD, ugly, (Invisible & asexual) crippled fat bitch.’ What matters is how I see myself & that I am loved, accepted, respected, & appreciated by those who are important in my life. I am almost 60 now & life is too short & to precious to worry about how some ‘numbers’ classify me or what strangers think about me. I am indeed fat, & I am fine.

  10. So…I was raised by a self-labeled community of fat women, because my mom had weight-loss surgery back in the ’80s and all her friends were surgery support group friends or WW friends or exercise class friends or whatever. My whole family’s fat, from “always on a diet so a size 12” fat to “OMG barely-walk dethfatz” (except they’re all able-bodied, except when ill or injured). Even the men – my “little” brother was a chubby teenager and now, after years of weightlifting, extreme sports and high-protein diets has a sub-10% body fat level…and is still “obese” by BMI. Oh my.

    I was a tweenie through my ’20s and now I’m 34 years old and a size 20. I started doing FA on myself when I was about 19, so I’ve never dieted for more than about a month and I’ve always had a pretty OK body image.

    People are ALWAYS telling me I’m “not really fat”. When I was a tweenie, I usually weighed 160-180 and people never believed it. A friend who is really unhappy about her body was giving me some clothes she dieted out of a few months ago and when I said “None of these will fit me, I’m a size 20 now,” she was all “No you’re not! No way are you a 20!” I had to take off my pants & show her the tags.

    So I’d say nobody knows any “really fat” people because they think fat=bad and so anybody they know isn’t *really* fat.

  11. I remember when, in my fiction writing class, a person used “295 pounds” to describe a guy in one of his stories. The assumption that everyone came up with was that he was this really hugely massively obesely enormous fat guy, and they kept on in that vein until I got kind of mad about it. I piped up and told everyone that I weigh 280 and no one has said I’m “enormous”, and because no one actually has a good idea what “295 pounds” looks like, you should use other descriptors besides a number if you’re going to describe a person’s body in fiction.

    This post also made me think of why people react with such vitriol when someone writes a piece about fat acceptance using the word “fat” as a morally neutral descriptor. Because in the rest of the world, it’s NOT a morally neutral descriptor – describing someone or a group of people, even a group of people you’re trying to advocate for, as “fat” is akin to calling them lazy, ugly, greedy, undeserving couch potatoes who you will never be friends with, because no one you KNOW is FAT.

    It’s like trying to advocate for Communists in the United States in the ’50s. “Communist” wasn’t a person in a political party – it was a derogatory term similar to “traitor”. Or like trying to advocate for “infidels” in post-revolutionary Iran. You get the idea.

    • library-chair that’s actually a very compelling argument and one that goes through my mind each time I consider whether or not to USE the word “Fat” to describe myself and the concept of self or Fat acceptance.

      • It is an interesting thought. I usually come down on the side of using the word, because using what has been seen as a derogatory word in a positive light has worked for other social justice movements, and there’s something empowering about “claiming” a word back from what culture has made it into. In this case it is the least euphemistic word available, too, and the one with the least specific baggage – “obese” is pathologizing, “BBW” is fetishizing, “fluffy” is infantilizing… et cetera. “Fat”, while usually seen as overwhelmingly negative, doesn’t have any particular connotation separate from Western culture’s general dislike of fatness.

  12. We need to keep using ‘fat’ as just a neutral descriptive adjective because there is nothing more wrong with being tall or short or brown-eyed or green-eyed.

    We all die eventually & before that, unless we die, we all age. Our bodies change, we slow down. Many of us develop some kinds of disability or chronic pain problems. Those of us who are born disabled face becoming more disabled & losing mobility with age. These things can & do happen to people of all sizes & shapes & somehow our culture conflates fat with disability, aging, & death & because we fear these things, because our culture emphasizes the importance of being forever young, fit, active, strong, we fear fat.

    It is also quite normal for most of us to gain at least a bit of weight with aging &, especially for women, with childbearing, agig, menopause. It is also about 95%-98& likely that if we DO lose weight, we will gain it back & keep rebounding to a slightly higher weight than where we started. Fat does not cause nearly the number or severity of health ‘issues’ we are told it does, IF it ever exacerbates anything at all, but the various attempts to lose weight cause all kinds of health problems &, especially as we grow older, increases our mortality risks. I am not willing to go that route. I am from a family of fat people who have almost all lived well into their 80’s & 90’s & I will take my chances.

    I have been extremely active all my life, for long (3-4 years at a time/3-4 hours per day) compulsively so, & that excessive exercise has done more to cause progression of arthritis & chronic pain than my weight ever could. Btw, the last time I went through this, ending some over 6 years ago, when I returned to more normal levels of exercise, I lost a total of 15 pounds in nearly 4 years. Since cutting back to exercising between 45-90 minutes per day (& remember, they can only demonstrate some health benefits for 30 minutes daily of moderate activity & some doctors are telling us, particularly as we age, that 20 minutes daily is enough), my weight has rebounded about 35 pounds. Of course, I have also obviously been aging & I completed menopause over two years ago, my previously hourglass shape has become more of an apple. Aging happens to all of us & I sure as hell prefer it to the alternative. The only way to avoid aging is to die young. Personally, I hope I have another 30-35 years to watch my shape become more Venus of Willendorf & to deal with the changes/pains/limitations of age. I still have some fear of death, but I am pretty much past the fear of aging. I am older, &, yes, I am fatter; it is not the end of the world &, no, losing weight does not magically cause someone to become younger & less disabled. However, some regular exercise may help us to function somewhat better at any size.

  13. Obviously, I meant ‘nothing more wrong with fat than with tall, etc.’ & also, ‘unless we die young’. My mind goes a lot faster than my fingers are able to. 🙂

    • My mind often goes faster than my poor fingers so I understand! 😉 Also; regarding fear of aging/fattening/losing youth or health or ability/mobility and mortality in general I think you’ve touched on a large part of what drives hatred of the dreaded Fat. It is that monster lurking around the corner. People seem to think if they beat it back with enough diets, placate it enough with platitudes of intense exercise and eating “right” that somehow Fat (and therefore Aging or Death) will not come knocking at their bodily doors…

  14. I think it’s interesting that one person here said I’m definitely NOT fat and another person said that there’s no way I’m barely fat. Which one is it? As it is I can’t buy clothes in most stores and get crap from my doctors about losing weight, even though I”m currently 9 months pregnant.

    It feels weird to me as a formerly skinny person now with a (pre-prego) BMI of 31 to use the term fat to describe myself because, frankly, I don’t even fit my own definition of what “fat” is. But if I use another term like “stocky” or “larger” it sounds like I’m euphemizing my body size and implying that to be fat is bad.

    As it is I tend to insist in public, quite angrily, that I’m fat to highlight just how messed up the standard is. People hear “obese” and think those headless fatties, not someone who has a muscular build on a very curvy hourglass figure.

  15. “Then there’s the ‘But you carry it well’ or ‘But it looks right on you’, which seems to mean that a) I have cleavage b) I have decent posture c) I am not bedridden, have a job, go to the gym, etc.”

    This is so true, living400lbs! I have a classic hourglass shape with cleavage along with all the other padding. My mom and sister express envy of my boobs every time we go bra-shopping together. (Me: ‘I wish they sold cute bras like that in my size.’ *pointing to a red-and-white polka dot A-cup* Sis: ‘I’d rather have something to put in a bra!’) I also have a large-framed, fairly muscular build thanks to my farmer ancestors. I measured from one side of my pelvis to the other once and estimated that my skeleton was a size 12 in the brand of jeans I was wearing at the time. Even if I starved to the point of skin and bones, I wouldn’t get any smaller than a size 12. Fie on thee, designers who won’t make anything over a 10!

    I remember one day I told my best friend how much I weighed. Shock and disbelief! ‘You CAN’T weigh that much!’ Yup, I do. ‘Well… you carry it really well!’ Yup, I do, don’t I?

  16. I don’t know how I came to your site but I love your writing. I’m a 27 on the BMI and I constantly think “but I can’t be FAT”

    We are a weird self loathing society we are.

  17. It is true that people do tend to cut some slack to people who ‘carry it well.’ When I was able to push myself to exercise until I dropped & was very firm & shapely, I got cut slack somewhat even by hyper-critical, fatphobic relatives (the few thin ones I have) & I was envied by the fat relatives who buy all the ‘fat is ugly/fat is dead’ bullshit of the culture for being ‘able’ to whip myself into shape, regardless of what pushing myself did to my body & overall health.

    And Ashley, I don’t see you as fat, but if you identify as fat, I can understand, given the climate around us. I was labeled ‘fat’ over 31 years ago at 5’6″, 156 pounds, early in my second pregnancy, which is as thin as I was able to maintain before I started dieting. Being fat is not bad, but it is very arbitrary, the way the ones with the power of the pen & public forum keep lowering the threshold & assuring us that anyone over their artificial, arbitrary line is lazy, gluttonous, unhealthy, or about to be unhealthy & shorten his/her life just because they say so, wanting to control us, our bodies, & mostly to make a lot of money by prescribing us diets/drugs/surgeries, etc. I guess that is why it is kind of a reflex action for most people to assure someone your size that she is not fat. However, there is nothing wrong with ANY of us, of any size, for being fat.

    And I guess most of us weigh more than we look as if we do, at least to a lot of people. My husband would never believe that I could weigh more than 150-160 pounds (because that’s a LOT for a woman to weigh) even as my real weight was between 185 & 200. We are conditioned & socialized to believe that ‘women just don’t weigh much’, as long as they look ‘normal’ & are able to function & live a full life & not resemble too closely those lovely pictures of ‘headless fatties’.

  18. There’s an assumption in this argument that those who deny that the person they know/love is fat are being honest. I’ve been around friends who complain about how fat they are and I’ve denied it, or said, “but you carry it well”, etc. But I didn’t mean it. I was just being polite. They were not prepared for a lecture on body acceptance, etc., they just wanted someone to make them feel better, so I said what they wanted to hear.

  19. I saw your blog on wordpress and clicked on it because of the name. Very clever! Great words of insight. Thanks for sharing.

  20. All I can say is, “Amen Sisters.” I’ve been working on this issue for decades, including a section on it the Diversity Issues undergraduate seminar I developed. I talked about “being the face of what 200 lbs looks like,” and I got, “But you don’t LOOk fat!” (and, for the record, yes I did and do.) AND I accept myself and like myself. This is an important issue, especially in an age when airline employees can arbitrarily force people THEY think are too fat to buy a second, full-price seat.

    Well done!

  21. And oh yeah, WHAT is up with designers who think that if you’re fat, you’re also tall??? Hello?!? Overweight people can be short, too – Petite is HEIGHT designation, not a weight designation! C’mon designers – really take a look at who you’re designing for!

  22. Interesting post.
    I am a 22 on the BMI and I feel fat. Not so long ago I was a 20 but I still felt fat. That’s how strange my head is…
    I’ll be coming back to your site, lots of interesting stuff.

  23. Wow. I have to say I’m a bit stunned and yet find it oddly fitting that this particular topic has not only push my blog to the number 3 spot on WordPress’ latest “Growing Blogs” list but has also garnered the largest amount of traffic and commenting in one day.

    It is obvious that our perceptions of Fat (in ourselves or others) are a very hot topic. Not only is this “Fascinating” (to quote a certain Vulcan..) for the purposes of my blogging but I think it also reflects a bit upon what people are feeling and thinking right now about the subject itself.

    While long-time readers might realize that I do have a moderation queue that gets weeded so negative comments don’t see the light of my blog’s day; even on this arguably controversial post topic I must say that only maybe 2-3 comments were among those not approved. The rest, as you see here, have been very reflective and I thank you all for promoting even further discussion! 🙂

  24. This whole post is sooo true! Its kind of weird really. I have a BMI of 31 so I’m technically obese, and I wear an Australian size 12, sometimes 14. My husband, although he complains about my weight, when I call myself (neutrally) fat, proclaims “you’re not fat, its not like you’re obese or anything, you just need to lose a bit of weight” and I’m always (in my head) like well, actually, BMI says I’m obese, so yeah, I AM fat.

    But because fat is such a loaded term to most people, they can quite happliy look you in the face and tell you that you’re not FAT, you just need to lose a bit of weight.

    So what is it they think you actually ARE then? It makes no sense to me!

  25. I say I’m fat because I jiggle in places that shouldn’t jiggle as much. And I’m a dude. So yeah. Preferably, I wouldn’t want jiggle anywhere. ^_^

    Mostly, I just want to be faster, stronger, and in better shape, and part of that is losing some weight.

    • Wokeupsleepy I suppose my question is to you then: if you DO work and end up becoming faster, stronger, in better shape and yet you STILL jiggle in places and do NOT lose weight, does that mean you’ve lost and have somehow NOT increased your fitness? These are some of the ideas that get addressed here so I’d certainly love to have you stick around and discuss them…

      • Hmmmm…

        Well, I’ve already lost a bit of weight after I began exercising. Part of being faster and having more endurance is simply having less mass to move around, so losing some jiggliness, to me, is automatically part of that. In general, strength training does not necessarily decrease weight, since building muscle will actually weight, but it would increase my daily activity, which I suppose would lead to me losing weight.

        Of course, I’m still going to have some jiggliness afterward, and I’m perfectly fine with that. For the most part, I just want to condition my body so that I have better control over it and so I can do more with it. Losing weight, to me, is not the objective, but merely a welcome side-effect.

  26. I have taken two body mass tests and both said I was really fat. I got on the scale the other day and it said, “ONE AT A TIME PLEASE.” All kidding aside, I do have a weight problem and your right round is a shape and I am just about as close to a circle as you can get.

  27. My adult weights have fluctuated from a high of 210 my first year of college (I’m 5’5″) to about 140 now, while I’m actively dieting.I have most comfortably hovered around 160 and find gaining or losing above or below that point to take a sustained effort or a depression or whatever.

    And the whole thing has taught me how much fat is in your head and not in your thighs. I know it’s sick, but when I look in the mirror now most times I can’t see a difference in my body from when I was 210 pounds. I know I’m wearing smaller sizes. I see extrinsic evidence. I don’t get any concerned pressing of lips and family members worried about my health now. My PCOS symptoms have drastically decreased. But really? I still see fat. I still see huge. I still see obese. I see the fat identity I assumed when I was 8 years old and has so little to do with what I actually weigh. It’s most obvious to me how I can be having a pretty day while losing weight at 150 and notice how much I get hit on, or checked out, how healthy and lovely I feel, but I can be gaining weight at 150 and feel completely worthless, heinous and unlovable. (I’m not holding myself as any sort of paragon of body image, obviously. It’s a messed up head I have. I doubt it’ll ever be skinny but I hope self-accepting.)

    I project that on to myself. I wear my fat in my head, and I imagine to a lesser extent that’s what everyone else does when looking at other people too. The definition of fat can’t exist in a bubble. It’s such a cocktail- how someone looks, and the media, sure, but how you feel about your body being a big part of how you perceive others’ bodies. I think some of the most hateful are those who are fat or terrified of becoming fat in their own heads. And the judgment and disgust they’re so quick to project? It’s often internally focused.

    This was a bit of a tangent. And a long one at that. But I found this really interesting. Thanks for the post.

  28. I had a friend (size 6 maybe now?) try to give me some of the clothes she had just dieted out of – size 8-10s. I told her they wouldn’t fit. She didn’t believe me when I said I was a 16, she said I couldn’t be that big. I didn’t tell her I had lied and that I really wear an 18.
    Having gone from 225 to 150 (in a very unhealthy way when I was in college) to now back to 199 (and holding, the same as the way my grandmother was 29 for decades), I have a very skewed perception of my body. Some days I see it as much larger than it is.. other days I see it as much smaller.
    Anyway, thanks for this post. It made me think about the way I judge not only other people but also myself. What would I think about my body if I saw it on a stranger? What about a friend? Hmm..

  29. I don’t agree. I’m fat, my dad is fat, my sister in law is fat, some of my friends are fat. Yes, I do like to use other words that fat. My dad is often called a gourmand, and my mom calls him overweight. My sister in law and my friends, I call them huge sometimes. Fat is not something that only happens to other people. Not everyone denies reality like that. Fat is not a pretty word everyone likes to use, I like to call myself voluptuous instead of fat. But I don’t deny that I’m big.

    • “Fat is not something that only happens to other people. Not everyone denies reality like that.” I don’t feel that the issue is so much “denying reality” Nathreee so much as it is a matter of people’s own perceptions skewing what the questionable metrics of BMI tell us IS fat and what reality tells us gets pointed out AS fat.

      • hmm, I sounded… not so friendly. I’m sorry.

        The thing is: Fat is not a nice word. I don’t know why or since when, but it has a lot of negative connotations. So people like to use different words. Big, overweight, voluptuous, round, other words. Because fat has this negative feeling clinging to it. That doesn’t mean we don’t know that we’re fat. We just don’t like to call it that.

  30. And, Eric, you do NOT have a ‘weight problem’, but you, like the rest of us, live in a culture which believes & tries to convince us that everyone has a ‘weight problem.’ Oh, & I can also assure the person who doesn’t want to jiggle that jiggling is normal, natural, & human, perhaps moreso for women than for men, but it is a normal thing. Also, as someone who has ALWAYS exercised & has spent several periods of 3/4 years exercising obsessively & compulsively for three to four hours daily, including many stomach crunches & a lot of weight lifting, etc., one can be very solid, firm, fit, & still jiggle.

    “Round is a shape” indeed & it is a very beautiful one. I believe that some cafepress shop has a t-shirt which says that. I just wish that we could all develop more confidence, self-love, & genuine self-acceptance, & understand how good & wonderful a thing it is that everyone is unique & irreplaceable, & see the beauty in all sizes & shapes, including our own. I really hate words like “obese” because it medicalizes & judges natural variations in bodies & maybe even more ‘overweight.’ Over WHOSE weight? What you weigh is what you weigh & how can you be over your own weight? Are some of us also ‘over-tall’ or ‘overshort’?

    And, btw, I will be 60 in September & have been working on all this for about 30 years, so I am aware it doesn’t happen overnight &, in this insane culture which sends us all insane messages & sets unattainable standards, it is nothing short of miraculous that body love & acceptance happens at all for anyone.

    • Wonderful words Patsy; thanks for the great response regarding jiggling too. I have similar “issues” with calling people “Overweight”. Not only because what that “weight” we’re supposedly over is being dropped so we can never quite catch up even if we WERE to go on diets, etc but because, as you indicated, this all hinges on the idea that there is ONE single IDEAL weight. If that were the case and it was “Nature” as contended so fervently then why is it even POSSIBLE for bodies to exist outside of that ONE weight? It is because “nature” is a range of weights and bodies and shapes.

  31. Pingback: Earning the right to live « I AM in shape. ROUND is a shape.

  32. Then there’s the “But you carry it well” or “But it looks right on you”, which seems to mean that a) I have cleavage b) I have decent posture c) I am not bedridden, have a job, go to the gym, etc.

    THIS.

    Through my experience I’ve gotten a lot of “but you’re tall” which always baffled me because with my warped perception of femininity and fat and years of feeling like a huge hugey lumbering monster I always felt that it was WORSE to be fat and tall, not better, as some seem to think and I was actually always jealous of the petite fats because to me it was at least more compact, less intimidating, and as a result, more feminine.

    This reminds me of something I wrote a while ago and I think it’s something every FA/Body Acceptance advocate needs to examine, this assumption that everyone “KNOWS” what fat looks like and weighs like, and that of course, no one’s friend, lover, loved one, or family member is THAT fat.

    I’ve hovered my entire adult life between 180 and 220. At my fattest I was 220 and a size 16. My friends refused to believe I was 220 lbs. I got a variety of combinations of “no, Swan, the scale was wrong, there’s no WAY” or “but you so didn’t look it” or “but you weren’t unhealthy”.

    I suppose my frame does “carry it well”, after all, my proportions are large all over, heck, even my feet are big. And I tend to have a rather boxy, athletic, boyish frame that I think is often equated to thinness which also might be what people also mean by “carrying it well”. However, it’s as you said, fat is subjective and relative and a number of other things. Just like tall and short are subjective and “cute” and “ugly”. Heck, even haircolor is subjective. No one can seem to decide if I’m blonde or brunette.

    But if we start preaching that people might actually start thinking that the myth of perfection is, you know, a myth.

  33. Pingback: Animals: Fat and Happy. Also, knees to be fixed. « I AM in shape. ROUND is a shape.

  34. Pingback: New blog look, recap of 2+ years of content, link love « I AM in shape. ROUND is a shape.

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