Fighting Fatphobia

 min read
April 14, 2022

December 12, 2019

This summer, several people replied to a random story of me, shirtless, said, “You’re getting fat.”

These comments might have absolutely wrecked me 8 years ago, when I was so very caught in my eating disorder. Online and in public, I was often terrified that anyone (most especially myself) would see me as overweight or fat or unhealthy.

Now when I read these comments, I notice pieces of old pain, but mostly, I have a soft conversation with myself. I think, “Yeah, maybe I am. Maybe I am getting fat. Maybe not. Either way, I am still me.” A cluster of old demons bangs at the doors in my head, asking to be heard. I worry if I open the doors, I might be consumed by them. But I do open the doors, and I tell them kindly, “It’s okay. I know you’re afraid my worth is in my body. Maybe other people do value me for my body. But I don’t. I, Schuyler, know that I am so much more than my body. I, Schuyler, know that my body protects my soul, cares for my heart, and allows me to live. And not only is that beautiful, it is also more valuable than anyone’s criticism.” The demons quiet. Sometimes they just need to be heard & comforted. After all, they are just trying to protect me.

A few more thoughts—

  1. I know these were meant as insults but they shouldn’t be. We all need to check our own fatphobia. Including me. Bodies are all different sizes, shapes, colors. And bodies change. Of course mine is changing!! I am no longer swimming for 20+ hours a week! And that is okay. The change is okay. Accepting this constant flux has been crucial to my recovery from my eating disorder & my daily peace.
  2. ‘Fat’ does NOT equal unhealthy any more than ‘skinny’ might. Fat is a descriptive adjective. I wish we could remove the judgment from this.
  3. To the individuals commenting things like this. I hope you read this caption & give your own body some extra love. I hope you allow just a tad more awareness of your own judgments — both to your body & others — so that you may understand how they harm you just as much as they harm others. I hope you read this far so you can read: Your body is worthy, no matter the size.

Fatphobia is not specific to fat people. It is everyone. We have a society steeped in fatphobia and diet culture. And it is everyone's responsibility to fight this. Fatphobia shows up in obvious ways like bullying someone for being fat, but also in far more insidious and sneaky ways like diet culture, and even in our compliments. See table below for examples:

Many folks often exclaim: "But there is a difference between fatphobia and concerns for someone's health! What about how fat people are unhealthy!" So. A few thoughts:

  1. Fatphobia is so insidious, we even see it in our compliments, as I illustrated above. “You’re not getting fat, you look so good!!” “No, you’re not gaining weight, you look healthy!” These imply that being fat is automatically bad! That gaining weight is unhealthy. The only thing automatically unhealthy or bad here are these belief systems. So. Be more curious about where these judgments come from and how harmful they are both to others and ourselves.
  2. The problem is not confusing fatphobia with health concerns. The problem occurs when people who are not doctors take other folks’ health into their own hands and then provide unsolicited ‘advice’ that ends up just shaming the person instead! Everyone’s body is theirs to change or not. My body, my rules. Your body, your rules! And I’m all here for the good intention that I hear behind these statements and the concern, I would just encourage folks to recognize that (good) intention does not bar (negative) impact.
  3. Being fat or gaining weight are NOT ACCURATE INDICATORS OF HEALTH. For example, with my height and weight, most BMI charts consider me overweight or obese. Yes, actually. But. My body is doing just fine — all my stats, my blood pressure, my heart, my cholesterol, are super good. But you know what. EVEN IF THEY WEREN’T, it still wouldn’t be anyone else’s right to tell me my body is wrong or bad except maybe a doctor but even then. I really mean it when I say this is my body and my rules. And you have your body with your rules.

Let’s be curious about where our judgments come from. Most likely it’s our media, magazines, friends, parents, coaches, etc. But that doesn’t make it okay. It doesn’t make it right. Check yourself & your friends’ fatphobia. Be kind to your body & others’.

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