Hi, I have a friend who is fat and very self-conscious/hates her body. It breaks my heart because I love her and she is wonderful and beautiful. Is there anything that I can say/do as a not-fat person that could help her feel better about herself/be comfortable with her body/accept her body? I want so badly for her to love herself instead of giving in to the fatshaming of our society. Thanks!
i mean, there’s not really much you can do to undo the dominant culture, and everyone has their own journey. non-fat people being like ‘you’re beautiful !’ doesn’t really mean much, because it often comes off as patronizing or insincere in the face of a dominant culture telling us we’re disgusting, unattractive, immoral, unlovable, subhuman, and/or a joke. don’t think of it as her ‘giving in’- we are trained to believe these things about fat bodies from birth, and the opportunity to break free from it doesn’t come to everyone.
be a good friend. don’t say bad stuff about your body or other womens’ bodies around her (or ever !). don’t focus so much on ‘beauty’ and don’t ever conflate loving YOURSELF with loving your BODY (because… loving your body is just plain not going to happen for lots of people). don’t engage her when she says bad things about her body, but don’t deny her the experience she has living in her body (ex. “you’re not fat, you’re beautiful !” or “don’t call yourself fat !!!”). be cool and hang out with her and consider how activities you suggest and things you say might sound to a fat person (for instance, if she doesn’t fit in clothes in most clothing stores, she might hate going clothes shopping with non-fat friends). more importantly, never, ever miss an opportunity to call out people for saying fatphobic stuff or making fatphobic jokes. as a non-fat person you have automatic unearned credibility (the p-word !) to call people out for stuff like this without appearing to act out of self-interest, so you fighting fatphobia every single time it comes up (whether your friend can hear/see it or not) is the most meaningful and powerful action you can take part in. if you already do all that stuff, do it more and harder and more visibly.
in short, there’s not really anything you can do to rescue someone from a really oppressive dominant message ingrained in them from birth, but you can make a small impression by being cool about other peoples’ bodies and by not making unrealistic demands of her to cast off the messages that have been drilled into her brain her whole life, and by using your privilege to fight fatphobia 100% of the time.
sorry if that’s not the kind of answer you were hoping for, but this whole ‘YOU GO GIRL, LOVE YOUR BODY @)##(@#(’ bullshit doesn’t gel with the reality that has been created for fat bodies, and we should instead be compelling other people to stop treating us like shit rather than trying to individually compel fat people to stop being crushed by that bullshit.
i received an anonymous e-mail this morning that said basically all the stupidest stuff someone can say when talking about plus size clothing and fat people. an excerpt (and the main point- the beginning was about how this blog is funny, ‘but…’ and contained a lot of depressing stuff about their weight and weight loss, which is why i don’t feel comfortable publishing the e-mail)
Maybe you should try to lose some weight. Its ridiculous to expect the industry to make clothes to fit you when healthy people are having trouble finding clothes now because of vanity sizing. Companies shouldn’t to reward fat people for their unhealthy lifestyle.
hey buddy, you are officially the worst and i present you the lane bryant drama top award for outstanding achievements in fatphobia and crappy manners and weirdness and cliches and stupid e-mails.
when people concern troll about fat peoples’ health, why is mental health not a factor? how does making someone feel shitty, embarrassed, and subhuman make them ‘healthier’ or make them want to be ‘healthier’ (and this is accepting the premise that being fat is unhealthy and being thin is healthy, which is a common fallacy and a premise i don’t actually accept)?
5 or so years ago, before i basically ‘snapped out of it’ (more on that another day, but the moment i stopped internalizing fatphobia and started uh, externalizing my anger at fatphobia itself), i was walking down the steps into the subway. it was pouring rain, and the stairs were extremely slick. about halfway down, i realized my shirt was riding up and exposing my belly, and instinctively took my hand off the railing to pull my shirt down. in doing so, i slipped, and almost fell down 28 (i counted) concrete and metal steps. it hit me like a bolt of lightning at that moment that something was wrong- i had been made to feel so apologetic, ashamed of, and afraid of my body that i risked serious injury or death to cover it up so no one saw a few inches of my fat. the worst part is, no one was even around. i risked my health, safety, and life to cover up my fat just in case someone appeared and saw it and was ‘offended’ by it.
and that isn’t the worst thing fat people, especially fat women, do to try to protect people from being offended by their existence and their bodies. we hate ourselves, are ashamed of ourselves, try to make ourselves invisible. we think horrible things about our bodies and our lives (i told someone the other day that i remember wishing i would get cancer to lose weight when i was SEVEN YEARS OLD). we live in a fog of fear and shame and confusion instead of living in our bodies. we starve ourselves, we torture ourselves with unhealthy diet after unhealthy diet, we exercise to the point of injury, we get surgeries that are much worse for our bodies in many cases than being fat, we desperately try to hit all the right notes of being a ‘good’ repentant fat person who is ‘trying’ to lose weight in the hopes that people will leave us alone, consider us human, consider us smart and worthy of love and worthy of respect, offer us adequate healthcare, let us fit into the world around us, consider clothing an obvious basic necessity and not a ‘reward’, consider us for jobs, trust us. and this takes a huge toll on our mental health.
so, fatphobic dorks who concern troll about fat peoples’ health: you are fucking with their health when you do this. we know you don’t care about our health. we know you hate us. we know you are afraid of becoming like us and think the fatphobic comments will distance you from us. health is subjective and health is a spectrum and health is not moral and ‘good’ health is not attainable/accessible/possible for all people and other peoples’ health is none of your business, but we know you don’t give a shit about health. you care about our fat, and you hate our fat, and you want us to feel bad that we are fat. we all know that, so you can drop the pretense. drop the pretense, or stop actively contributing to ‘poor health’ by fucking with fat people’s mental health.
love, a fat person who does not hate herself, will never apologize for the space she takes up, will never diet, and will never, ever feel obligated to disclose her health to you.