Fat and Proud: Calling out fatphobia

Someone excellent once said to me “What about you makes you think you deserve to take up less space?” and my god, she’s right. I deserve to take up space! I deserve to love myself and my body. Following from the absolutely incredible series of talks about acceptance of your own body, from the Anti Diet Riot Club Weekender, I wanted to write down my thoughts and experiences of fatphobia and how the experts suggest we beat the stigma and start feeling more body positive!

BuT yOuR LiFeStYlE aFfEcTs ThE HeAlThCaRe SyStEM

I’m sorry Brad, but when you twist your ankle on the rugby pitch for the 15th time and you need an x-ray to check if it’s broken again, then isn’t that me paying for your lifestyle? The idea that we don’t all deserve equal access to healthcare or that it’s anyone’s fault that they are ill is frankly wrong (and such a Tory move). Individuals can have the same “health status” with different weights, and linking weight and health is tenuous at best.*

BMI is not a measure of health, and quite often fat people are not offered the same treatments as thinner people* because they “think you need to lose weight first.” When I was a teenager, I visited the doctors complaining of shooting pains in my back. After them saying repeatedly that it’s probably because of my weight, I had to fight to get them to do more tests. Turns out, I had a kidney infection.

Related post: Learning not to doubt my worth

On another occasion I got told, again by a doctor no less, that my stress and low mood were likely due to my weight as it was giving me a “bad self image”. The nerve! My low mood was because stress and anxiety (to do with work and relationship issues) was eating me alive! It’s actually because I loved myself, and had people who reminded me I was worth more, that I even decided to do something about it and try and seek help.

I went away disappointed. They failed me that day. It then took me signing off work and having an entire mental reshuffle and getting another doctor’s opinion 4 months later for me to start on the path to getting better. My breakdown may have been inevitable, or it could have been nipped in the bud – I’ll never know.

Fat people are faced with the stigma that their weight is the cause of their illnesses and not a symptom, or ineffectual, and that can be one of the most damaging things for those seeking out help for their issues.

Putting on the pandemic pounds…

How many people who were fat before the pandemic are now sick of the wave of “pandemic weight” memes that have surfaced as a result? My weight has always been more of a problem for other people than for me. I am lucky enough to say that I actually love myself and my body and although I’ve had the normal gripes with it, I actually do not hate myself because of my size. Shocking, I know. When your body type is seen as undesirable to the point of it being a subject of jokes, again, it can be really damaging for people who are fat.

In other pandemic related news, it’s only now that people have started to put on weight during the lockdowns that they realise they should try to accept themselves rather than feel bad about it. Well guess what, the concept of body acceptance is NOT NEW and fat people have always deserved to be able to love themselves, regardless of why they’re fat.

I’m going on a diet… starting Monday

How many times have we all heard this? Well I can say I heard it almost EVERY day at work when I worked in a small, female inhabited office a few years ago. Every day they’d be barking on about another diet they’re trying, then stuffing their faces with biscuits and cake and then spewing out some more hate for fatness. It was toxic. It made me feel like a lost cause. It made me feel like shit, actually, and as much they said “Oh, but I just mean fat on me, not fat on you…” No, Sandra, fatphobic comments are exactly that.

I think it’s really important to have a good relationship with food; to understand what it’s doing for your body and how you can improve your well-being by eating the right things in the right amounts. But yo-yo dieting, “syns”, “good and bad” foods and rewarding weight loss when actually there’s nothing to reward you for is just really damaging for you psychologically and only fuels guilt spirals and negative body image. Ultimately, it’s about how you feel, and if you feel fat and fabulous, then that’s fantastic!

Related post: How body confidence hit me like a tidal wave

OhmYGoSh… YoU LoOk SooooOOOOooo SLiM!

So many of my family members have made fatphobic comments in the past. Whenever any of my cousins lost weight, they’d be told “Oh wow, you’ve lost so much weight” “You’re looking so slim” and the praise would pour. I’d always be the fat, smart one. I’d hear things like “Yeahhh, but Amy is smart.”

Yes, but Amy is also beautiful. And so is her body.

This created a really unhealthy relationship between being smart and being worthy of affection and praise which I still struggle with to this day. Over time, I distanced myself from family gatherings and barely keep in touch now but I feel much better for it. There’s only so many times you can be made to feel like shit before you just take a bow and get the fuck out of there.

So how can you deal with fatphobia?

  • Fatphobia is frankly out of fashion, but we still have a way to go to get fat people represented fairly. Reportedly 45% of British women are dress size 16 or more**, and yet plus size models and celebrities are few and far between. One way you can fight fatphobia is to demand space. Demand representation.
  • Join a fat positive community like the Anti Diet Riot Club, who inspired this post. They do regular life drawing sessions online with fat-positive and LGBTQ+ positive representation. Surrounding yourself with people who do not judge you and acknowledge you as a person before they treat you like your only value is shown by what your body presents to them.

    Related post: Being a plus size life model
  • We don’t owe people education – tell them to educate themselves! If you feel able, challenge the thoughts of those around you and push back the false theories they’ve been told. Tell them they may need to do more research into this subject because, as a fat person, you have the authority to speak on the experiences of a fat person more than they do. Encourage them to understand that they can acknowledge others without passing judgement.
  • Unfortunately there is no quick fix for fatphobia, just as there isn’t any fix for any other kind of discrimination. Arm yourself with the facts, keep your head held high and treat yourself like the absolute royalty you are!

*Dr Joy Cox – Discussion at the Body Riot Weekender

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