I’ve thought for a while about broadcasting my opinions on this topic to a larger audience. I realize that, by talking about it, I’m opening myself up to scrutiny. The comment section may just fill up with a bunch of hate.
But, sometimes you just have to stand up and say something. And, for me, that time is now.
The topic? Fat-shaming.
If you go to any YouTube video about self-esteem and loving yourself, or even just a really awesome and happy bigger girl, you inevitably find a comment section full of such immense vitriolic hate. This isn’t just YouTube, it’s everywhere.
It seems that “fat” is the last thing out there that people can be openly rude about. You’ll find those who are normally polite and respectful start talking mountains of hate when the topic comes to overweight people.
If it were just trolls spewing this stuff, I’d easily ignore it. But it isn’t just the trolls.
You’ll find comments like, “I don’t care if you exercise, you’re still unhealthy and killing yourself,” or “You’re just saying it’s okay to be fat! You’re raising a generation of people who think it’s okay to be this way!” or “Well, you wouldn’t be that fat if you knew how to lose weight. See, it’s all about calories/carbs/fat/gluten/exercise…”
I’ve had enough. Here are just some of the responses I have to fat-shaming:
1. High self-esteem is not the same as being “pro-fat.”
Everyone deserves to love themselves. It doesn’t matter if you’re 500 pounds or an amputee or haven’t lifted a barbell in your life. Everyone should strive to love themselves NOW, not “when I lose weight” or “when I get a better job” or “when I get a boyfriend.” Now. Everyone.
There is nothing wrong with a bigger person having great self-esteem or self-confidence.
For that matter, “fat” people also deserve outside love just as much as anyone else. It shouldn’t seem odd that an overweight person is in a loving relationship. I can be sexy, and be this size. Just because you don’t find a bigger person attractive, doesn’t mean that’s the case for everyone or that someone is weird for liking a bigger person.
And it’s never out of the realm of possibility for an overweight person to be loved by a skinny one, and vice versa.
2. You don’t know someone’s story just by looking at them.
One of the biggest things I hear is that fat = unhealthy. But really, you don’t know someone’s situation. Yes, I’m big. I’ve been gaining the weight back that I painstakingly lost. You might look at me and think, “She’s unhealthy and lazy. She probably just sits on the couch all day, eating Doritos and whole pizzas.”
But that would be wrong. I’ve run two half-marathons at this weight. Half-marathons that I trained for 18 weeks for and even won MVP for my training class the first time around. I’ve run 25 races in the last five years. I love exercise. I love vegetables. No, I’m not as unhealthy as you think I am.
On the same token, you may see a skinny person and think, “They’re healthy. Just look at them! How could they not be?” Yet that person may be the one sitting on the couch all day. Maybe they are that thin because they only ever drink coffee and smoke cigarettes. Are they healthier than me? No. There are so many factors that affect health, and how much fat you have on your frame is only one of them.
You can’t tell how healthy/unhealthy someone is just by looking at them.
3. No one is 100% healthy.
“Let those without sin cast the first stone” or “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”
Sure, I might eat too much. But what do you do? No one is living a completely healthy lifestyle. For that matter, those who try to be that healthy get a lot of flack and are told to “loosen up” and “live a little.”
Come on, guys.
4. I’m not fat because of lack of knowledge.
“Oh, you’re overweight? Well, here’s what you need to do…”
If you’re overweight, or have been overweight in the past, you’ve probably had some well-meaning friend/family member/stranger start that sentence. Guess what, I know how to lose weight.
In fact, most of us bigger people do. I’d hazard a guess that overweight people tend to know more about losing weight than people who’ve never been big. That’s because we HAVE lost weight. We just gained it back. You’ve never had to try. We’re not fat because we’re stupid. We’re fat for other reasons. Mine’s food addiction, but there are others, too.
5. It’s never okay to be mean to someone when it comes to their mental or physical health issues.
Imagine if someone posted a video on YouTube talking about their clinical depression and suicidal thoughts, and all of the comments were telling that person the same sorts of things that they tell people who are overweight? “Just get over it!” You know what, it wouldn’t happen. Shouldn’t, anyway.
Yet, for some reason, people think it’s perfectly acceptable to attack an overweight person because of the way they look. Let me tell you something: When you look at me, and see my size, you’re seeing my illness. My food addiction. Rather than being school-yard-style mean, treat me with the respect you would someone with any other kind of illness.
If someone started yelling these kinds of mean things to someone with Down’s Syndrome, they’d get beat up! Yet it’s okay to say it to bigger people? Unfortunately, our illness (whether it’s food addiction or emotional eating or a thyroid condition) is usually very apparent to anyone who looks at us. You look at me and you know I have some kind of problem, and that sucks.
6. You’re not telling us something we haven’t already heard.
One comment I see a lot, when it comes to body-positive videos, is “But they’re going to think it’s okay to be fat! That fat is healthy, blah blah blah.” That’s when mean people try to justify their meanness, saying that they’re really HELPING us by saying those things.
Newsflash: We already know. You’re not the first person to tell us we’re ugly or that we should lose weight or that this is unhealthy. We hear that from everywhere, whether directly or subliminally. Please don’t counter every body-positive thing or self-esteem thing with a well-meaning “But it’s not good for you!” WE’VE HEARD.
7. My body is none of your business.
“But I have to look at you.”
So? There are lots of worse things you could see than my ample, womanly curves.
8. Bottom line: Keep it to yourself.
Personally, I don’t care what you think of me. You’re free to think I’m a big, fat, ugly mess. You’re free to think every bigger person you see is a heart attack waiting to happen.
But, if there’s one takeaway that you should get from this entire post, it’s this: Keep it to yourself.
And, even better, follow Wheaton’s Law.