When it comes to taboo terms, there are few that spark more controversy than the term plus-size. And I should know. I’ve spent half my life as an overweight person.
During that time, I rarely ever felt like I was beautiful. And it was hard to see myself as attractive when the media bombarded me with images of thin women all the time. It was hard for me to accept how I looked when I was constantly pressured into going on diets to lose weight.
I understood that some people actually meant well when they kept encouraging me to shed a few pounds. But deep down, their advice actually stung and was part of the fat shaming movement.
Being told that I should take consume smaller portions of food when I was already starving my body on crash diets, or having people assume that I was incapable of doing certain things because of my weight was not only rude, but it also took a huge toll on my self-esteem.
What hurt, even more, was how others, including my own friends, would use the word fat like it was an insult. To the point where I started to believe that I looked unattractive because of my size.
Including the morning of my freshman year homecoming dance. That morning, after carrying my homecoming dress with me to school, to change into after theatre rehearsal, I was informed by a friend that I was too big to wear a cocktail dress. That I should stick to my school uniform instead. That I would look better that way. More normal, she said.
In that moment, I clutched my garment bag in horror. A dress my grandmother worked long and hard to provide had become my own personal horror. Because right then and there, was the first time I had been fat shamed.
I stood idly by while a group of young girls laughed in my face all because of my beautiful chocolate velvet frock. A dress I had so proudly chosen to wear at my first formal dance.
Because I wore a size 8, and she wore a size 0.
That night, I didn’t go to my homecoming dance. Or play rehearsal. I instead went home and studied and had my grandmother return my dress. And the funds from that dress? Well, my grandmother used that money to buy me my first SAT prep guide. A guide I used to gain early college acceptance. And that friend? Thanks to Facebook, I know she neither attended college nor stayed a size 0.
Worse still, I wasn’t alone. A new study found that 94% of teenage girls have been body shamed and 64 percent of teenage boys have been shamed for the way their body looks. And that 90% of adult women feel they have been shamed as adults by co-workers, friends, family, or online friends and colleagues.
Negative, critical, or humiliating comments about the personal appearance that can take a lifetime to shake.
Thankfully for me, through maturity and time, my teenage years spent in shame were over. And I eventually moved unto the realization that someone’s size does not measure their beauty nor their worth. I learned that, in spite of what society may think, you can be both fat and fabulous.
Now, if you’ve ever offended a fat person with a rude comment, then chances are, you probably don’t understand why your well-intended suggestions are actually hurtful. So please do take a look at these 11 phrases you probably didn’t realize are fat shaming:
“I feel so fat.”
I hear this phrase a lot. A saying that is more harmful and offensive than it actually sounds. Saying that you feel fat communicates that you see actually being fat as an insult. And you’ll have the added bonus of coming off as a pretentious, attention seeker who’s looking for sympathy and extra compliments.
What you actually mean is: I’ve just consumed a large meal. Instead of admitting I’m bloated, I’ll insinuate that others in my vicinity are fat instead.
Just because you suddenly feel like you’ve gained a bit of weight, don’t use the word fat like it’s an insult. Internalize those feelings next time sweetie, okay?
“You’re really pretty for a plus-sized girl.”
By telling someone that they’re pretty for a plus-sized or fat girl, you’re telling them that their size gives them a disadvantage in life. That their accomplishments pale in comparison to the superficiality of life. All because all plus-sized girls are generally not beautiful. Which is nothing short of insulting?
Don’t even question your comments. You were rude. Plain and simple.
“Stop saying you’re fat, you’re actually pretty”
Again, fat is not a synonym for ugly or unattractive. If a person is feeling bigger than usual, because they have gained a few pounds, saying something like this will only reinforce the idea that being fat is not beautiful. Instead, offer your friend words of encouragement. Be a workout buddy. Anything but a passive-aggressive friend.
”Are you really going to eat that much?”
Followed by, “Do you really want to eat that?” And ending with “Do you really need to eat that bread?”
Just so you know, this is just beyond rude. If you say this to anyone, plus-size or otherwise, you’re not being helpful nor considerate. You’re being sizeist.
If a girl wants to eat a big portion of food, it’s because she’s hungry. Focus on your own plate. Be grateful you have the opportunity to nourish your body. No one should have to starve themselves thin in order to impress others. Not even for you.
And remember, don’t be rude, cheap, and callous. Tip you’re the server 20 percent.
“You’re going to have health issues.”
Unless someone actually tells you that they have a medical condition, don’t assume that they have one because of their size. Contrary to public opinion, many plus-sized people are healthier than skinny people. In fact, some plus-size people have lower glucose levels, cholesterol levels, and may even be able to outrun you in distance events. Never assume that a person’s weight is just some unfortunate side effect of a medical issue. After all, what did you latest blood panel look like?
“Did you lose some weight? You look SO much better!”
What you’re actually saying is this: You looked so much uglier when you were fat. You know, the last time I deemed you worthy of my presence.
This is beyond offensive. Even if the person means well and they’re trying to praise someone for their progress, it’s insulting. What should be said instead: “You look beautiful. And I’m glad to see you.” No more. No less. Regardless of their size.
“I don’t think that item was made for your body type.”
Its bad enough of the size bias that many clothing chains indulge in. But should it really come from friends and loved ones too? Plus-sized can break fashion rules, be notorious, and still look fabulous.
”Are you sure you can handle that?”
Plus-size girls can be active. They are also capable of doing the same activities that thin girls can do. Perhaps even better than you.
“How did you get so fat?”
This overreaction speaks to the very entitlement people have because accustomed to in our society. So your loved one gained a couple of extra pounds? Who are you to cast disparaging comments against anyone else? It’s not like the person suddenly morphed into an enormous time traveling t-rex. You know, big body, little hands, no thumbs. Now that would be cause for concern.
“You’re weight is actually a big turnoff.”
When you say something like this, you’re basically telling larger women that they are undesirable because of their weight. Leveraging their disposition, personality, and self-worth against your feeble opinion.
People should not be defined by their weight. They should be defined by the context of their character. Especially for those who value looks over a person’s disposition in life.
Just so you know, you’ve actually done big girls of the world a solid here. We’re all better off not dating you. Kudos.
“Do I look fat?”
It’s the first question that most people ask when they try on something new, because “Do I look fat?” continues to be used as an insult. When it could not anything farther from the truth. So instead of asking others if you look fat, ask how does this make me look. Super simple. No self-deprecating comments needed.
So, I’ve said all that to say this: I’ve also known what it was to be victimized because of my weight. I also know what its like to feel loved. By myself. Not in spite of my weight but because of it.
Today, I believe in a more radical form of self-love. Reality. I believe in being healthy to the point I have energy and feel great about myself. I don’t feel the need to ask others how I look and find that their approval is unnecessary. I don’t judge others weight based on how I secretly hate myself. Nor am I afraid to admit that I am plus-size. And I encourage you to do the same.
Body positive starts from within.
Now I want to ask, have you been the target of size bias? Or have you been the one to consciously or otherwise say one of the above comments to others? I want to hear your stories.