Fat Shaming: Could we just not?

When I was in high school, I remember lying on the couch on my side. I was lighter than I am now, but not skinny by any stretch of the imagination. My mother came over to me, put her hand on my stomach, and grimly intoned three words that would stick in my brain for years to come.

“You look pregnant.”

That comment, along with a litany of others, rings in my head at my most vulnerable moments. When I’m standing in a store dressing room. When I’m deciding what to wear for the day. When I catch a glimpse of myself naked in a mirror. I am always hearing the voice of my mother in that moment. But I’m also hearing other people. I’m hearing my friends as well as strangers and the comments they make about women they see on the street.

“What business does she have wearing that?”

“Look at those thighs! They’re huge!”

“Why is she eating that? Isn’t she fat enough?”

“What a fat slob.”

Those voices and comments have stuck in my head to the point where they even make my efforts to lose weight difficult. When I go to the gym, for example, I feel the weight of the eyes of everyone around me. I have failed to go to the gym so many times for that reason. And I have one one occasion actually left the gym in the middle of workouts, near crying, because of the imagined gaze of fellow gym-goers.

The judgment that we aim at fat bodies is something we do so easily. It’s effortless. And it doesn’t get noticed by most people. It certainly doesn’t get called out most of the time. And while we are criticizing fat people as a society, we are making judgments about them, their lifestyles, and their bodies that we have no right whatsoever to make. Whether someone is fat because they eat a lot or fat because they have a medical condition, the bottom line is that it’s none of our business one way or the other. And judging them for their bodies is discriminatory and shitty.

The fact of the matter is that you can be an active person without being razor thin. You can also be thin and grossly unhealthy. Fatness and fitness are not mutually exclusive things. Just like thinness and health are not always concurrent bodily states.

I have been making an active effort in my life to criticize the people around me less. And not just when it comes to their size. The fact of the matter is that criticism and negativity have been truly damaging to me with regard to my body as well as to my sense of self in more ways than one. I encourage all of you to do the same. Fat shaming and other forms of unasked-for criticism don’t help anyone, but they do cause wholly unnecessary pain.


Featured image found here.

Internalized Fat Shaming

I have always been the size that I am. Somewhere between a 14 and a 20. Between 180 and 210 pounds.

My mother has always been thin. She and other members of my family never really understood what it was like for me to be the size that I was. They meant well, but they, like so many other people, would say things to me that just made matters worse.

“Thin is pretty.”
“You’d get more clothes if you could fit into a smaller size.”
“Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels.”
“You look pregnant.”

I really connected with those things. I thought that I didn’t deserve nice clothes if I was fat. I thought that being thin was more important that feeling nourished. I fostered a terrible relationship with food and a worse relationship with my body.

As damaging as it was to have people say things like that about my body, it was even more damaging to hear what they would say about the bodies of others.

“What business does her fat ass have in that dress?”
“Does she really think she’s pulling that off?”
“People that size should be banned from wearing bikinis.”

What I heard when the people around me said that was that I could never wear those things. Ever. And if I did, people around me were probably thinking and saying those things about me. I also learned that the bodies of women were free targets for aggressive judgment by anyone who felt like doling it out.

I resented the women around me who felt like they could parade around in clothing I had been told was forbidden. I resented their joy. I internalized the judgmental, fat-shaming behaviors of the people around me as correct. I felt shame within myself for the way that I looked, and I turned that shame outward to the women around me. I sat in judgment of women in bikinis at the beach who were my size. At girls in skin-tight dresses who didn’t give a fuck about their belly rolls.

I hated myself. And as a result, I hated the people around me who represented the things about me that I could not accept. I had internalized the messages of my fat-shaming friends and family and I was miserable and lost and angry all the time.

Three summers ago, feeling bold, I put on the bikini I kept in my bottom drawer for the longest time. I was holding on to it for when I got “thin enough.”

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The original caption for this photo 3 years ago was “SuperPhina to the rescue!”

I went to the beach. I swam in the ocean. I felt free and comfortable baring myself in front of the world.

I went home and fell right back into my awkward feelings of mingled self-loathing and disgust with my body.

It took me a while to realize what the problem was. I couldn’t really love myself or accept my body when I was still looking at others’ bodies and judging them. Every time I lashed out privately to friends or even to myself about how someone looked in this or that item of clothing, every time I laid into another woman mentally for how she looked, I laid into myself.

I drew myself into myself. I drew my body further and further away from my thoughts. I hated myself, and I turned that hate out toward other people.

I am coming out into the clear, now, to all of you. I spent years internalizing my fat shaming and then expressing it as if it was some kind of truth, ugly and terrible. The cure for that has been love for other people. The more I poured out praise and love, even if it was just in my head, toward the people around me who were like me, the more I came to love and accept myself.

Untraining that fat-shaming instinct has been really hard and really worth it. The more solid my love for others has become, the more I have felt myself emerge from the cocoon that has held me for so much of my life.

I no longer sit with a cushion over my stomach so that no one can see my rolls. I lean back, arms out, and claim the space that I am sitting in.

I do not sweat in long pants because I am ashamed of my legs. I wear short skirts and high boots and love how good and cool I feel in the summer sun.

I refuse to put on a sweater over my tank tops because I hate my arm fat. I show off my tattoos with bared shoulders and love the feeling of a breeze on my arms.

I am coming out of myself and into a world where I can feel free to buy myself nice clothing that makes me feel good and sexy and beautiful. And I can wear it without giving a single solitary fuck about what someone looking at me will think.

I cannot believe I spent so much time with all of that fat shaming nonsense inside my head. And even though I never vocalized any of this to anyone, I feel as though I need to apologize for my years of wrongheadedness. I am so sorry that I spent so long judging the world around me. I am so sorry I fat-shamed, even if it was just in my head. I regret every instance of it crossing my mind.

To anyone else out there who has had a similar experience, the cure for what ails you is love. Love the people around you and you will come to love yourself. Love the skin that you’re in. Love the body that you have. And don’t let anyone tell you that you are not worthy of that love for any reason.