Lets start with this. Fat is not a bad word. Fat is just that, fat.
Do you ever catch yourself saying you feel fat in a particular outfit? Or saying you feel fat after a weekend of indulgent eats? I have. And I can guarantee you, I have heard every straight sized woman in my life say the same.
As I began to learn more about the fat positivity movement, and then of course fatphobia, I began to realize why this language around fatness is so harmful.
Here’s why it’s harmful to say that you feel fat, if you are not someone living in a fat body:
- Fat is not a feeling.
- It’s inherently fatphobic to associate fatness with negative feelings of self.
- You’re using the term fat to put yourself down and belittle your appearance.
- You’re trying to say you look ugly, gross, or less than, but are using fat as a synonym for those words
- You’re suggesting to the people around you who actually are fat that you feel as if you look like them, and like that’s the worst thing you could be.
Whenever I’ve called someone out on this they insist it’s never their intention to be fatphobic and that they don’t feel this way about others, just themselves. But the fact of the matter is, that just doesn’t make much sense. By associating your perceived “fatness” with something negative, you’ve let us all know that you look at fat bodies as being less than, and you believe fatness, is one of the most abhorrent things you can be.
I’ll be the first to admit, I’m guilty of this as well. Internalized fatphobia is just as big of a problem as overt fatphobia. Even for those living in bigger bodies, or who formerly have, fatphobia is incredibly common. Why? It’s a sort of internalized oppression, where fat folks begin to believe the negative messaging of their oppressors. Believing they’re less than, that they deserve to be mistreated, and that the only solution to this mistreatment is weight loss and not a total overhaul in how we regard fatness as a culture.
It is not your job to police the bodies of fat people. Just like it is not your job to determine someone’s health based on their perceived fatness or thinness.
Fat is not a bad word, so stop using it to describe yourself (and others) in a negative way.
Some ways you can change your language to not be fatphobic?
- Don’t refer to yourself as being fat when you overeat – this contributes to the unmerited perception that people in bigger bodies have no discipline with food.
- Stop saying you feel fat when you really mean something else
- Stop referring to yourself as fat if you miss the gym, or don’t exercise that day – this contributes to the idea that people in larger bodies are “lazy” or don’t work out
- Think before you speak! Unpack what you’re saying – why do you fear being fat? What will happen if you are fat? Typically the reasoning behind this, is rooted in fatphobia
Most of us can recognize that we have a little bit of fatphobia within us. After all, society has essentially conditioned us to be this way by associating thinness with health, and fatness with its opposite. This is an incredibly harmful association to make. People often will try to justify their fatphobia by saying they care about a person’s health, or that they don’t want to promote unhealthy lifestyles. Someone’s weight does not determine their health or their worth. And someone’s existence? Is not promoting any sort of lifestyle.
On a final note
It’s okay to admit that you have said or thought fatphobic things before. What’s not okay is to acknowledge this and then do absolutely nothing about it.
Learn from your mistakes, correct them, and keep moving forward from a better place.
And remember, there is no justification for fatphobia.