Fat Shaming

IMG_5633I want to talk about fat-shaming.

I have been fat-shamed.  Lots.  In some cases I remember incidences specifically. In some cases it’s more like hashmarks tallying up the number of times something happened…

I hear lot of stories about it too, from a surprisingly wide variety of people when they choose to get vulnerable and tell us their stories. Men and women, just to be clear. They try to be casual or funny.  They’re not.  They try to tell me it was parental/relative ‘love’.  It’s not.  They try to tell me they deserved to be the butt of a cruel joke.  They didn’t. They try to tell me they’re over it, they’ve dealt with it; then their face crumples.

You can’t ‘un-hear’ things said about you.

I have tried.  And tried. And tried.

The point of this post is to raise self-awareness and propose some action.

I’m actually kind of tired of trying to define it, explain it and wrap my head around all of the phrases/off-shoots/hashtags/movements.  I think I found one way to cut through the crap and change the tide. And if this isn’t the way – at least it’s action while we re-group… 🙂

This all starts with individuals being kinder, gentler to themselves and those around them that are struggling with weight, body image, food issues…

That simple. (And hard…)

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I’ve enjoyed some amazing support. The one person who knows my whole heart, whole story?  My sis. 

Fat shaming is about actions and words.

Equally devastating.

The actions range from elbowing someone’s fat rolls if they sit next to you on a plane, not hiring someone for a job because you don’t like how they look, making pig sounds as they walk by….  Need I go on?

 

Words  What you say to someone can stay rattling around in someone’s brain for years.  (And years….)  We all know that.

{Use your powers for good.}

I’ve written this before; but the old ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’ childhood rhyme is utter bullshit.

Words wound. Words create. Words fill your heart with joy. Words build. Words destroy.

Words matter.

Deeply.

At the core fat-shaming – defined by Psychology today is ‘An act of bullying, singling out, discriminating, or making fun of a fat person. The shaming may be performed under the guise of helping the person who is overweight/obese realize they need to lose weight or they will die, become ill, and/or never succeed in life or relationships. Fat shaming is an individual bias against people who are considered unattractive, stupid, lazy, or lacking self control.”

For me the fat shaming started early.

Middle and High school were predictably the worst.

Now they would have called it bullying.

The worst was coming out to my car my Junior year.  Popular back in the day was the bumper sticker that said some version of ‘No Fat Chicks’.  A doctored version with the ‘no’ removed was stuck on my car.  I was being called a ‘fat chick’.  I suspected people thought it — this removed all doubt. I was a farm-girl in the middle of LA and I was fat.  I was an oddity no matter what… But my farm girl side had the tools; I pulled out some silver tape, covered the bumper sticker and drove home. A car full of high school boys were laughing and pointing and taunting. I knew all of them. My mom, both of us in tears, helped me scrape it off my car. We never told anyone. To this day it can make me cry if I think about it long enough. The tears then were for the cruel act.  The tears now are of sadness that my mom is gone, coupled with the deep gratitude and love for the woman, beyond that of being my mom, who knew what it was like to be ‘unacceptably large’ in our society.

Back then; my friends, relatives and most of the responsible adults around me just turned a blind eye.  I was told to ‘lose weight’ and the ‘mean comments’ would stop. So hard for me sometimes to accept friend requests on social media outlets from people who said things that 25 years later I still remember.  However, I friend these high school ‘friends’ because the only way to change the tide on ANY of this for ME is to forgive and do what I can to make things different for myself and others as we move forward.

You can’t embrace your future if you’re busy clinging onto useless bitterness tied to your past.

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My mom.

Workplace.  Dating.  Stores.  Restaurants.  Travel.  You name it — I have a story that relates to being embarrassed, belittled, made fun of, hurt. And before someone suggests it; these were not times where I was being overly-sensitive or reading too much into something. These were pointed comments and situations that were clearly aimed at me being fat in their space, them trying to ‘save me’ or simply ‘stating the obvious’.

I would bet solid money that most of you reading this blog have some stories that you could also share.

I also have the stories of having lost weight and people making comments that assure me they like me much better now…  In and of itself another form of emotional upset. “You’re pretty now!’, ‘Why are you still single?’ and ‘You must love your life now!’

I’ve been diving into this topic with both feet trying to learn what can be done to change the tide. And trying to learn how to help other men and women who struggle.  If you would like a little side-trip to understand just how pervasive this issue is, or you’re still not clear exactly what constitutes fat-shaming….  Google fat-shaming and click on the option to view images.  It should break your heart.

Fat isn’t the only thing shamed. Anything we deem ‘not normal’, ‘not acceptable’ with help from marketing and social media is fair game — right?  Since I was the former 392 pound woman; fat shaming is where my heart and brain lie. I can talk about being morbidly obese in the US.  And no longer being obese.  I can talk about both.  And I do. All the time.

It’s not like you can hide being fat/overweight/obese.

It’s not like I was fat/overweight/obese to piss anyone off, or make myself a target.  There were some really complicated dynamics behind my weight — as with ANYONE — and being shamed for it never drove me to do anything other than eat, hide, cry…  It never provoked the need to change.  Only to try to hide and to avoid people…

So you’re wondering what to do?

So am I to be honest.

I think we just have to start somewhere.  The following list is the best of the advice I could glean from the tumble down the rabbit hole of the  interwebs/books/podcasts/experts; so this is where I am going to start…

  • Be kind to MYSELF.  The worst, most destructive, most hateful fat-shaming is the shaming we do to ourselves.
  • Shut other people down when they say mean things about themselves or other people.  Support the positive.
  • Stop commenting on anyone’s food and clothing choices, how their body looks.
  • Comment on and praise actions, kindnesses, abilities, rather than appearance.
  • Don’t re-post, like or comment on mean-shit on social media.  It’s NOT funny.  What if it was ME, YOU or someone we loved the picture was captioning?
  • Don’t assume. I don’t know what someone else journey is, why they eat a certain way, what they’re facing, what health challenges exist in their lives…  Take one breath, one moment, adjust my thinking about the fact that maybe I don’t know what’s best for them.  Or what might hurt them.
  • Taste my words before I spit them out.
  • Use my ‘powers’ for good.

What have I missed?  What else would you add to this list?

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