Fat Describes Me. And Doesn’t.

I’m very consciously using fat, the adjective, to describe my physical reality these days.

For too long, I avoided the word fat. I pretended I wasn’t fat. The connotations of the word were too painful.

My friends would insist that I was not fat, and I know that it was because they, too, carried around the same feelings about the word and because they knew me as something more than just my physical being.

Just recently, I talked to someone who insisted that it simply could not be possible that I need to lose 80 pounds, that she just could not see that on me. I had to explain that even at my goal weight of 150, I will fall into the overweight category on the body mass index charts (which are a totally flawed measure of anything, but I was just making the point that I wasn’t necessarily striving for an unrealistic number).

People often get uncomfortable when I say something about being fat. Don’t worry, I always think, I know I’m fat, and I know you know I’m fat. And I know that you attach way more meaning to that word than I do. But I generally don’t get into denotation and connotation, because then they’ll start thinking, wow, fat and didactic.

I kid, I kid. But really …

I’m trying to divorce fat, the adjective, from fat, the judgment.

I used to pretend I wasn’t fat because that would mean I’d be admitting to being ugly, lazy, stupid, etc. But fat doesn’t mean ugly, lazy, or stupid, even though that’s the message I have internalized.

Fat doesn’t tell you what’s in my heart or soul. It only tells you that many of my cells are storing an excess of fuel that I’m not burning.

I believe that people can be healthy at any size. I know that some fat people are very fit, eat right, and exercise, and that some thin people eat junk food, never work out, and cope with all kinds of health problems. There are thin, lazy, unhealthy people and fat, lazy, healthy people, and all permutations in between.

I also know that very few people look at unhealthy thin people and think—or say—the mean, inappropriate, and just plain ignorant things they think about or say to fat people like me.

I say fat. I say it out loud. I do it to take the power back from the people who have wielded that word unkindly, unthinkingly, or with malice.

I say fat, but all I mean is that my body has larger fat cells than it could. That’s all.

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3 Responses to Fat Describes Me. And Doesn’t.

  1. paulbentley says:

    Unfortunately we (society) are very visual in our judgements. We see a fat person we see ugly we think lazy etc. We see a thin person, we may still see ugly but we don’t think lazy. Our physical size just adds more judgements to the mix, but hey, that’s their problem not ours. We need to ensure we don’t allow ourselves to attach the same labels. It’s hard I know, because the ‘accepted’ norms are stacked against us.

    The key issue (and you rightly nail it) is one of healthiness. There are unhealthy folk in every size and shape but that isn’t always seen, unless a healthy fat person and an unhealthy thin person jump on a treadmill. I’ve dropped from 391 lbs to 306 lbs and falling. to the man on the street I’m still just another fatty, but, underneath my fat are muscles that are growing and building. My son was 18 a couple of days a go and I am far fitter than he is right now. His words not mine.

    The important thing is that we are working at becoming ‘healthier’. You are doing just that.

    Well done.

  2. I wonder at the benefit of speaking frankly to unhealthy thin people about the way they look. When I met my husband, I was a size 4 at a VERY unhealthy 105 lbs. I was dying, but people raved about how great I looked. Bizarre, right? It was a roommate’s boyfriend being honest with me – he told me I looked “emaciated” – that woke me up. Learning to live healthy means doing exactly what you’ve suggested, here – removing all of those inaccurate presumptions from nouns like “fat” and “thin” and using them like the adjectives they are. Hooray for YOU!

  3. Andie says:

    It is hard to speak to someone when you are worried about their health – and how that health may be affecting their weight, either in the too much or too little direction. You have to hope, if you decide to say something, that the person will be ready to hear it and know what to do next. I certainly am guilty of being pissed at one person for saying something and being totally receptive and appreciative of another person making the exact same point about my health/weight.

    I have a very strong memory of a young friend of ours, when he was four or so, calling me fat. I could tell his parents were horrified, and that he was confused by their embarrassment. After all, I was fat, so why couldn’t he say that? He’s a teenager now – I wonder if he remembers? I’ll wait for him to get a few more years on him before asking. I think he’s tired of all of my stories about his salad days right now.

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