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.
I 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.
I 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.