Weight

Making Peace with the “F” Word

Fat.

I am going to use that word repeatedly in this post and other similar words.  I know the word cuts some people like a knife.  I used to be like that.  I didn’t want to ever hear this word, let alone spend time thinking about it or possibly even applying it to myself, even when I was unquestionably, objectively fat.

So, I completely understand if you do not want to read this post, if the word hurts you.  But I will not apologize for using it.

“Fat” is a noun or adjective.  I am talking about the adjective, specifically as applied to people, aka “Fat People”.

I am not sure if I am a fat person right now.  Some people would say no, others would say yes.  For myself, I would say yes.  I identify with this group “fat people” and when people say things about “fat people” I feel that they are talking about me.  I identify with “fat people” more than the other people.  Perhaps this is because I have always been fatter than most people I know.  Even at my thinnest, when I was objectively thin (in my opinion) I still felt more identification with the fat people.  It was a strange feeling.

Now some of you have seen my picture and are thinking, “But you’re not fat.”  Actually, here’s a picture, so you can decide for yourself:

fat?
fat?

To me, saying “But you’re not fat!” presumes that there is a level of fatness that must be reached to be included in the group called “fat people” and I have not reached it at this time.  It also presumes that when I say I may consider myself a “fat person”, I mean something derogatory toward myself.  Perhaps because I am tall and I carry my body fat evenly everywhere, I am more proportional than people imagine when they think of “fat people” and therefore they find my body acceptable and do not include me in their own personal definition of that group. Interestingly, when I was my heaviest, I would have never identified myself as “fat”, although there was no objective question that I was indeed fat.  I thought that if I never thought or talked about it, maybe nobody would realize that I was this horrible adjective, or even if they did they would have the decency to never, ever, ever bring it up in my presence.

This word is so difficult to use.  It means something different to everyone.  To most people in the US, especially women, it’s the worst insult.  But to others, it is something to be celebrated.  To others still, it is not a judgment, just an adjective.  It is complicated.

Part of accepting myself and my body, to me, is accepting the reality of who I am and never again trying to ignore any part of me.  There is no objective way to say whether a person is “fat” or not, these days.  The medical establishment classifies my current size as “obese.”  Again, people will say “But you are NOT obese!” and to that I say: “Actually, I am.”  Because by the definition we have chosen to use, I AM.  The definition of “obesity” when you hear them talk about the “obesity epidemic” includes me.  Me personally.  I am one of those statistics.  If your weight puts your BMI over 30, you are too.  Now perhaps I can be “obese” but not fat.  My boyfriend is that.  He is 250 lb of solid muscle.  According to the charts, he is “obese”.  So was Arnold Schwarzenegger.

So maybe you think it’s ridiculous that I am “obese” but the fact remains, I am.  There’s no arguing that one, since there is an objective measurement for it, even if it is ridiculous.

I am also borderline, or perhaps “plus size” depending who you ask.  If I were a model, I would be a “Plus Size” model.  I wear a size 16.  Many stores do not carry my size.  I actually have a very difficult time shopping at the moment.  Plus size stores size 14 seems to be too big on me.  But most non-plus size stores don’t go up to 16.  So I’m stuck in this no-woman’s land of clothing options.  This too points to the fact that I am a “fat person”.  If I wore 2 sizes smaller, a size 12, as I have in the past, an enormous world of options would open up to me.   I don’t identify with the people who have all the options, I identify with the “fat people.”  And again, I have had people tell me “You don’t look like size 16!”  But… I do!  If I don’t look like what I am, then what do I look like?  I am very confused.  This is me, I’m “Obese” and “Plus Size” even if you think I don’t look like it, whatever that means.

Then you have a large segment of society to whom pretty much everyone is fat.  Kate Upton is fat, according to these people.  If Kate Upton is fat, then I am absolutely positively fat.

So I have this evidence that I am fat: I can’t buy clothes at a “normal” store, I’m “obese” by the BMI chart, I wear XL leggings, and I am twice the size of Kate Upton.

When I personally look in a mirror or at a picture of myself, I like my body.  I see a curvaceous woman.  Yes, I do have body fat.  I see a person who some people would call “fat.”  I’m okay with that.  I wouldn’t mind using the word “fat” about myself, if it didn’t always cause such a stir.

Why bother with this, you may be asking yourself.  Why label yourself?  Why not just give up and be you without any words?

That may work for some people, but I am a blogger who writes about body size.  How can I write without words?  I also do not like the idea that we should just not talk about things we disagree upon.  I am tall.  Probably nobody has a problem with me saying that, although there are people in the world who are taller than me.  So why is the word “fat” so different?

I know the answer to that, it was a rhetorical question.  It goes back to the beginning of this post and the way most people feel about themselves and the word fat as an insulting, negative horrible word.  People who like me do not want to hear me call myself a horrible word.  People who have attached the moral judgment of “bad” to “fat people” don’t want to include me in that group, because to them I am “good.”  But I don’t feel that way about it.  Fat isn’t “good” or “bad” it just is.  You can call me fat and it will not hurt my feelings at all.  I will not cower in the dark because I am afraid of a word.

Sometimes, when I venture onto pages that promote Plus Size models, I notice that so many of the comments are the same “This woman isn’t Plus!”  or “She’s thin!”  or  “She’s not even big!”  I look at the woman, and I usually identify with her.  I’m the size of a lot of plus size models, and I know how it feels for people to tell you you don’t belong.  Well, we don’t belong anywhere, my fellow size 16 tall women.  We can’t say we’re fat, we can’t say we’re thin, we’re just… nothing I guess there is no word we are allowed to use to describe ourselves.  We’re invisible.  They aren’t using pictures of our bodies when they talk about the “obesity epidemic” of which we are a part, apparently.  And they aren’t showing women who look like us on television or in magazines, except as plus size models- and even then, people tell them they aren’t “plus” enough.  We don’t exist apparently.  People are either so fat they can’t get out of bed, so thin you can see all their bones, or they just don’t exist.

This is how I feel when I lurk on Fat Acceptance blogs or pages.  I am not fat enough to be accepted into this community.  Yet I am not thin enough to be accepted into the privileged thin-women group.  So, I guess I’m just me.  Thankfully I have my own community, so I don’t really need to worry about feeling alone.  But it does bother me sometimes.  If I am not allowed to define myself, if I am wrong in how I talk about myself, if I am always accused of seeing myself incorrectly or unclearly, how does that help me be at peace with myself?

I’ve been working on a cartoon character of myself and several people have told me I made her “too round” or that I think I am “big” when I am not really.   One person told me my legs are longer than this.  Yes, my legs are longer than 1 inch.

cartoon fat?
cartoon fat?

I feel that this drawing is very representative of me.  Yes, it is stylized and cartooned (that’s the idea) and the proportions are not realistic.  But I worked on the body shape for a long time and this felt the most honest.  After the “too round” critique, which confused the heck out of me, I Googled “cartoon woman”.  Ok, now I see the problem.  Pretty much every result was hyper exaggerated to be extremely thin or extremely hourglass.  Most of them looked very “sexy”.  Most of them were probably drawn by men.  Or teenage boys.

I was thinking about this.  If I represent myself in my cartoon character as somewhat “rounder” than I really am- this is not normal.  Most drawings of women are exaggerated in the other direction.  That’s not what I’m going for here.  I’m representing how I feel about myself, and I am not “sexy” that’s just not part of my normal day-to-day personality.  I’m fun.  I laugh a lot.  I’m smart.  I’m stubborn.  I’m pushy.  I find the idea of being “sexy” when going about day to day activities very strange.  My “sexy” part of my personality is between me and my boyfriend.  I don’t take it to work with me, or the grocery store, or the gym.

So, am I “fat” or do I just think I’m “fat” or am I really thinner than I think I am or what… it’s all very confusing.  I’ve changed shape and size so much and so many times, it wouldn’t surprise me if I was mistaken about what I actually look like.  But I like my body and I am comfortable with myself and I am comfortable with the word “fat.”  I would rather be “too round” than overly sexified or impossibly thin in my cartoon version of myself.  It’s “me” I don’t know how else to say it.

In any case, I’m glad I feel like I can talk about this.  When I felt like I was hiding from the word “fat” I just gave it way too much power over life.  I’m tall, white, brunette, and curvy.  Those are the words I like.  I don’t mind the word “chubby” and I don’t mind the word “fat”.  I would take issue if someone said I was “thin” because if I was thin, I could shop for clothes.  I know, because I have been thin.  I prefer the word “curvy” but some people will say it’s just a euphemism for “fat”.  Sometimes I just want to say “I am fat” and be done with it.  I am one of the “fat people”.  Guess what, we aren’t all the same and we don’t all hate fat.

I am a fat vegetarian who loves hiking and yoga.  I am also a creative artist, a thoughtful asker-of-questions, and a ponderer of meaning.  I don’t let other people tell me how I should or shouldn’t define myself.  It’s not up to them to decide.

18 thoughts on “Making Peace with the “F” Word

  1. Thought provoking. I’m male, according to the medical charts and perceived wisdom I’m both middle-aged and overweight. I know empirically that my diet is not great. Yet I feel relatively healthy, I can run 10km in 43 minutes and managed a proper half marathon in 106. It has taken me a long time to realise that if I wanted to drop from 180lb to 160lb (I’m 5’10”), the sacrifices involved would not personally be worth it for me.

  2. Amazing, loved EVERY SINGLE WORD. I’m also in your club, too fat to be in the thin world and too thin to be in the fat world, I thought about making myself fatter to see if it would get me in the fatter world, but my head is too small and I just look weird, plus just like I can’t maintain thinner, I don’t appear to be able to maintain fatter either… damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t…

  3. I read your posts and think your an awesome person, and that if I knew you in real life as a colleague or acquaintance, I’d want to be your friend, and I would continue to think this no matter how much fat you have distributed on your body and in what places.

    It’s a shame that the media and social media and everywhere else put so much emphasis on the least important and least interesting thing about us.

    I used to be ‘overweight’, and am now ‘normal’ weight, and I felt fat then and I often feel fat now. It doesn’t help that even as a ‘normal’ weight pear shaped woman, I can still walk into a shop like ‘Guess’ and not find a single pair of pants that fit me. And I don’t mean a pair of pants that look good or suit me, I mean a pair of pants that I can get past my thighs.

    So I’m trying to work on this, and change the way I feel about my body, rather than the way my body looks. Because I have been lighter and I’ve been heavier, but my long term happiness has never gone up or down with this (although short term my happiness suffers), neither has my wit, my compassion, my values, my love, my empathy or my intelligence.

  4. Wow, this is me. 5’10” size 16. Obese according to BMI charts. I can’t shop in regular stores, but plus-size clothes are too big, it’s crazy. But I can also hike for 10 miles, do push-ups and arm-wrestle like a champ.
    I like being an in-betweener 🙂

  5. I felt like I was reading my own thoughts!! That’s for your blog. I feel like I am in a black hole of not fitting in plus or regular sizes! And constantly hearing “you don’t look your weight or size” makes me frustrated cuz I am that weight/size!! I do Zumba, soccer and am pretty active for someone my “size”. Reality of these clothing stores is disgusting . A size 14 is not even close to fitting me in most stores. While macys and sears are loose. Makes no sense! Thanks again!!

  6. Hi Kate! Great Post. And I agree with all of it. Fat is NOT a bad or shameful word. But I have a question- do you think the public perception of “fat”=negative will ever change? I love where you are in your self acceptance and I think you’ve probably just let go of public perception all together but I’m just curious…

    1. I think it will change someday. Someday it may even be in fashion. But I think it’s best not to hold our breath waiting for that day 🙂

  7. I am really short (4’11”) and “overweight” at 125. But I am beginning to accept that this is the size I am (I’m 53 years old; I lost a lot of weight a year ago, and this is where I landed). I can’t buy clothes because I’m short and not “petite”…I think what we need is to change the clothing industry, not the women. Men buy pants based on waist measurement and inseam. Why can’t we?

  8. Thank you for this honest exploration of the “f” word. It was (as you warned) hard to read at times, but I appreciate what you have done here.

  9. I also use the word fat as a descriptive word for myself. I am fat. I have to lose roughly half my body weight so just saying I am overweight is not corrrect. I am not using it to bash myself but to be accountable. I had a friend tell me, you are not fat, you are fluffy, Okay, no, I am fat. I hope to not be fat one day and I am actively working on it.
    I am glad you are talking about where you are because at some point anyone with a lot to lose will be where you are now and hearing your story will help me be able to be more prepared for that in between stage of being morbidly obese and knowing I need to lose and where people begin to say you are not fat. Only we can determine our weight and what is comfortable and acceptable for ourselves. Good for you standing up for yourself and what you want to weigh.
    I am glad I found your blog and look forward to reading about your weight loss journey. Thanks for sharing your feelings on a word that has become not potitically correct. We have to own that word I feel, to get where we need to go !!! It is not a word to hide from, but to embrace if we want to lose weight and get where we want to be.

  10. I hate the F word, I used to be called the F word all the time, I can still hear people saying it now, needless to say most of it came from men, it’s horrible how shallow some people can be. Thanks for sharing your thoughts

  11. I empathize with your comment about being invisible. I was at that stage about 22 years ago. After I’d lost nearly 50 pounds, no one even noticed. It really ticked me off, probably because I was working with dancers at the time. (If you work with dancers but aren’t one, you don’t really exist.) I’m glad you feel at ease with yourself just as you are. Happy Thanksgiving.

  12. “Fat isn’t “good” or “bad” it just is.” AMEN! Nearly 2 weeks later this post continues to resonate with me, Kate – I’ve been overwhelmed by the fat shaming of our culture for SO long (decades! a LOT of ’em!) but after reading this and thinking about it a bit, I vividly remembered how I felt about fat and fat people when I was a little kid, back in the 50s and early 60s. I was AWARE that some people were fatter or skinnier than others but it didn’t affect how I felt about them; if they were lovable, I loved them, end of story. There wasn’t the all-pervasive judgement of folks based strictly on their appearance – we accepted Nana, my FAT grandma with as much love as Helen, my SKINNY granny – maybe more – and it was considered rude to make a big deal about ANY of it! Having that little flashback the other day was such a relief, seeing as I’ve carried more than 100 extra pounds for most of my adult life. Now that I’m Nana’s age, maybe I can love myself the way I loved her – regardless of size. It helps to be past needing to be “hot” – but the biggest gift is to see and love myself right now, the way I am now.

  13. “Fat isn’t “good” or “bad” it just is.” AMEN! Nearly 2 weeks later this post continues to resonate with me, Kate – I’ve been overwhelmed by the fat shaming of our culture for SO long (decades! a LOT of ‘em!) but after reading this and thinking about it a bit, I vividly remembered how I felt about fat and fat people when I was a little kid, back in the 50s and early 60s. I was AWARE that some people were fatter or skinnier than others but it didn’t affect how I felt about them; if they were lovable, I loved them, end of story. There wasn’t the all-pervasive judgement of folks based strictly on their appearance – we accepted Nana, my FAT grandma with as much love as Helen, my SKINNY granny – maybe more – and it was considered rude to make a big deal about ANY of it! Having that little flashback the other day was such a relief, seeing as I’ve carried more than 100 extra pounds for most of my adult life. Now that I’m Nana’s age, maybe I can love myself the way I loved her – regardless of size. It helps to be past needing to be “hot” – but the biggest gift is to see and love myself right now, the way I am now.

  14. Yep, I’m in the same size range as you are. I lost almost 60 pounds very slowly and then stopped. I realized that during this phase, I’ve been eating more food than I actually need or even want yet I don’t gain significant amounts of weight. I’m celebrating where I am currently and funnily have been inspired to make changes in my diet. In the midst of all this, I filmed myself on my webcam recently and saw that I’m much thinner and prettier than I had imagined. So my conception of me is currently fatter than I really am and I believe my thoughts have a lot to do with the size of my body. Size 14/16 was a cherished goal for me at one point, because I didn’t believe that my body could get any smaller. I think it takes me a while to adjust to a smaller body before I can regroup and imagine being even smaller. This experiment of eating until satisfied and then waiting to see if I need more is really pretty fun. Your posts are thought-provoking. Thank you.

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