I’m your worst nightmare
Many of you know by now that I’ve suffered with an eating disorder for over a decade now (in recovery two years). I am also a member of a couple of ED recovery groups, as well as being a moderator for a Body Acceptance subreddit. Between those things, I see a lot of fatphobia.
I mean a lot.
I don’t mean the cruel, mocking kind (though we get our fair share of trolls *cough*fitnesscirclejerk*cough*). I mean people literally terrified of becoming fat, terrified that they might be fat, and horrified that they are fat. I see a lot of “I ‘feel’ fat” from an awful lot of very thin people. So I want to address two issues in this post. One is the “I feel fat” and second is, well, the fact that I’m their worst nightmare.
I feel fat. When I see this I think of that Willy Wonka meme and think, “Oh, you feel fat? Please tell me, an actual fat person, about how awful that is.” I see this mostly on the Body Acceptance subreddit that I mod for and my response tends to always be the same. Fat is not a feeling, it’s a state of being. That’s right. Fat is not a feeling.
Fat is being the owner of more adipose tissue than the average person. Fat is not a size 6 woman having an extra helping of dessert and feeling guilty and calling herself fat. Fat is not because you went up a pant size. Fat isn’t just because you’re having something like a bad hair day. Fat doesn’t suddenly *POOF* appear on your body for 24 hours during a “Fat Day.” Being fat means living in a fat body all day, every day. It means dealing with constant stigma, oppression, ridicule, and abuse. Fat is a characteristic. It. Is. NOT. A. Feeling.
Calling fat a feeling erases the experiences — the actual lived experiences — of every fat person. More so, when you say you feel fat you’re telling us that fat is a bad thing to be. Not only is it incredibly rude to say this to an actual fat person or with actual fat people around, but your insecurity reveals a fatphobia. I’m not saying this fatphobia is your fault. We’re all programmed with various privileges and prejudices from childhood. But once you’re an adult it is your job to challenge these privileges and prejudices. How do you think it makes me (a size 22 fat woman) feel when you (a size 8 thin woman) say “Oh god, I feel so FAT!” as if your world has suddenly crumbled? You feel fat? Well I am fat and I assure you that it’s not the worst thing in the world to be.
Maybe one of the hardest things about dealing with the constant onslaught of fatphobia, however, is the fact that I know I’m these people’s worst nightmares. I am what they’re afraid to become. When I reply to these threads with, “Hi, actual fat person here…” people don’t know how to act or respond. They don’t know what to do with themselves. This is especially difficult in eating disorder forums. I am the reason for your disease. You’re so afraid of becoming me that you’ve put your life in danger. I often find it hard to seek help myself in places like this for that very reason. And before you say anything, I realize that there are often multiple compounding reasons for eating disorders. BUT we cannot deny that fatphobia plays a huge rule. After all, we know that dieting is a risk factor for EDs and that those who are overweight, or perceive themselves to be overweight, are also at a greater risk. And, of course, you just can’t erase the thousands upon thousands of posts proclaiming their fear of fat.
I wish I had a really great and brilliant solution for how to solve these issues. I wish it were black and white. Unfortunately I don’t know the answer to this problem, except to spread Body Acceptance and Size Acceptance as far as we can, as fast as we can. We have schools weighing children and we expect them not to obsess over their weight. They get graded on their BMI and we expect them to be safe from dieting. My son’s school has a Biggest Loser contest for staff and we expect it not to rub off on our children. We have a culture that villainizes fat and fat people, but we’re shocked when our loved ones are dissatisfied with their bodies. A culture of hate cannot produce love and acceptance (and boy does this go for any kind of hate). For me, I’ll keep helping these people, letting them know that there’s nothing wrong with being fat, recommending books and blogs and resources, and sharing my own experiences as a fat woman, and hope that I help someone, one person, realize that every body is beautiful.