“But you have such a pretty face!” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that backhanded compliment, complete with a not-so-discreet glance over my body. It doesn’t matter that I’m a nice person, intelligent, or kind—I’m basically not a whole person because I’m fat, apparently. Unfortunately, that’s not the only offensive thing people have said about my weight over the years…
- “Have you tried losing a bit of weight?” Nope, it’s totally never crossed my mind. It’s not like I grew up constantly thinking the only way I would get anywhere in life was to be thin or anything. It’s not like I saw every woman around me on a diet ever since I could remember. I mean, WTF? I knew I wouldn’t get the same respect as “normal” people because I was short, fat, and female, but I also didn’t think I’d be constantly reminded of it either.
- “Which bit of yourself would you change if you could?” This was a popular discussion at my school growing up, so all the girls already had a pre-planned answer. If you weren’t thin, it was expected of you to say you’d change all the fat parts of you. For me, the hardest part was narrowing it down to just one or a few; I hated my stomach, my arms, my thighs, everything about my body. I hated it because that’s what I thought girls were meant to do. If I said I liked any part of my body, it could only really be my nails or hair. I became obsessed with those parts because they were the only ones I thought I could make pretty.
- “Who do you wish you could look like?” Oh, the time I’ve spent comparing myself to celebrities and other people I don’t even know—people who are airbrushed, have make-up artists and personal trainers. Again, it’s always been a question we were expected to know the answer to because just being yourself wasn’t acceptable. I often wondered if boys asked each other the same question. I’m betting not.
- “It’s probably just puppy fat.” Are all puppies fat? This is a weird saying. It’s as if chubbiness is cute on a little girl but as soon as she’s old enough to be seen as a sexual object, it’s gotta go. I heard this lots of times as a kid from various family members to supposedly reassure me. It’s the kind of thing a weird uncle says along with something awkward about you “becoming a woman.” Shudder.
- “Bigger girls can’t wear…” The list is so long: shorts, short skirts, sleeveless tops, strappy tops (at least not without a coverup for your arms), crop tops… Didn’t you know that if a fat girl wears a crop top, anyone who looks at her will spontaneously combust? Can you imagine if a plus size woman showed her upper arms or a slight bit of belly? What would really happen is that a couple of judgemental people would give a few disapproving looks, but that’s it. If somebody gets upset about a little extra skin on show, they need to get a life.
- “Why don’t you just go on Slim Fast?” Ah, Slim Fast. I wanted to say that this was one of those ’80s/’90s fad things, but it appears that it somehow still exists. The idea was to replace a meal with a gross milkshake-esque drink vaguely resembling the taste of strawberries but containing no actual fruit. This was seen as way healthier than eating an actual meal. Mm, how appealing. I’d still be hungry after one, of course, and then would turn to a range of snacks resembling cardboard to try to fill myself up. Yum. No thanks!
- “A second on the lips, a lifetime on the hips.” Let me stop you there, Aunt Sandra. Your lips or my hips aren’t any of your goddamn business. Can’t everybody just stop speculating about the health of fat people? I don’t do this to thin people, or anyone for that matter. I’ll look after my health, you look after yours.
- “But you’re not that fat.” Oh really? What is that fat then? It seems that in order to be a good fat person, you have to not only be not over a certain size but actively trying to diet and lose weight. We’re taught to compete against each other for the attention of men. I was taught to compare myself to other girls in this way and to believe that it wasn’t that bad if there were other people that were fatter than me or around the same size. It’s almost like this justified my existence.
- “Wouldn’t you be happier if you were a bit thinner?” Only thin people are happy, it seems. You’re not allowed to be fat and happy, no way. If thin equaled happy then no thin person would ever have anxiety or depression, or any problems at all for that matter. Life would be perfect for all thin people, and we all know that’s not true. Your happiness doesn’t depend on how much body fat you have.
I grew up thinking that I wouldn’t get as far in life because I wasn’t conventionally attractive. This might’ve been the case, but it was because of my damaged confidence and self-esteem issues resulting from being bullied that truly held me back. I realized it was not my fatness that stopped me from doing things, it was the people that were judgmental towards my fatness. It’s taking a long time to unpick all that negativity, but over time and with a lot of hard work, it’s gotten easier.