Since When Did “Fat” Become an Insult? (Because I’m not always going to be writing about writing)

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In the past couple of weeks I’ve seen comments on Facebook from friends and acquaintances about going or being on a diet. I see this comments all the time, of course, but these past two weeks I’ve just seen enough of them that, together with my own weight loss struggles, has prompted me to think about one thing. When did fat become ugly? When did it become such a bad thing that some women say they’d rather have some sort of disability than be fat? Isn’t being fat simply a fact? You either have too much weight or you don’t.

But it’s not really the weight, if we’re honest. Any bodybuilder will be proud to tell you he weighs 80kgs for his 160cms of height, but that weight actually puts him in the obese slot on the BMI scale. Is it body fat percentage? Possibly, but not as such. Instead, it is in its physical representation: body shape.

Now this same body shape, before the nineteenth century, was the norm of beauty, what was desired, mostly because it meant wealth. This all changed together with the evolution of technology and the food industry. The reasons for the obesity issues of our time are well known and I am not going to go into them, because they don’t explain the stigma of being the wrong shape for modern times. And to be honest, I still can’t find the explanation, after all this time.

A few weeks ago my family and I were camping with a friend and his stepson. The nine year old boy is a string of a boy with a big smile and lovely blue eyes. My husband, jockingly, asked him “how are you, fatty?” Equally jockingly, the boy replied “I am not fat!” with the same energy as he would have said “I didn’t tie that cat to the lamppost!” I must say I was a bit annoyed, and I did tell him that there was nothing wrong with being fat.

I am not saying by any of this that being fat should be encouraged. It does have health risks that we are all well aware of and obesity can be considered a chronic disease, but there are many chronic diseases out there. We certainly don’t go around calling “you MS bastard” to the first guy with crutches because of his misfortune. Some would argue that obesity is self-inflicted, but the same can be said about alcoholism or drug addiction and I find people much more ready to be compassionate about their situation that they are prepared to be for a person who overeats. But meanness don’t even come to people who are big because they eat too much, but also to people who simply can’t help it, and this obvious in the media, social or otherwise. Stars particularly find themselves under huge pressure to get back to their hot selves after having a child. Stars who do not hit the gym a day after giving birth are highly criticized.

So why are people more understanding with other health and mental issues like addiction than with people who are shaped the “wrong” way? Is it because, even though they are a mess, they are still pretty? I don’t think so. Instead, I believe is an educational matter. For years now media has educated the population in the belief that addiction is an illness and we’ve all accepted and now agree with that. Food addiction is only a recent classification for excess eating, as such, there hasn’t been much education to the public about what’s involved in such issues. Maybe because they simply don’t know enough yet, although there is something to say about the weight loss industry, which is a topic I am looking forward looking into in the near future.

And what is all this leading to? A counter movement, a push in the other direction. Now women who are too thin are also criticized, they are a bad role model, even if they are naturally thin. And if they’ve just had a baby and dare share a picture of their gorgeous selves because they have been blessed with a great body and strong abs (which allowed their belly to get back to normal faster than you can say “southern fried chicken”) well, let me tell you, hell will open at their feet and swallow them whole.

The bottom line is, there is no right and no wrong, so why do we bother so much about our shape. I tried to think earlier about my own answer from this question: what would being thin bring to my life? After much thinking about it and removing the health factor, which is not something that is taken in consideration when stigmatizing people for their size and not even something that actually bothers me regarding my own weight, I realised the following: being thin would bring nothing to my life. And by that single thought, a tremendous pressure lifted off my shoulders. Yes, I still want to lose weight, but my whole life doesn’t depend on it anymore. I am fat, that’s what I am, not who I am. I am neither proud nor ashamed of it because it’s only what I look like, not what defines me and I bring more to the world than the shape of my body.

I guess what I am trying to say is that we are all different. In the same way we promote the tolerance of people of different races, sexual orientation, beliefs, etc, we should promote the tolerance of people of different shapes. Each human is not built to be the same weight and shape than everybody else. Each human has an ideal weight that is not measured by some metric (which, incidentally, was created to measure the weight status of whole populations, not individuals, but that’s another issue) spitted out by an online calculator. If like me, the first thing you would think about yourself is that you’re fat, ask yourself that question: what will being thin bring to your life? Like me, you might find that at an emotional level you can’t come up with anything, and hopefully, like me, that will help you more than any weight loss could.

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