I have a confession to make, and you might want to sit down for this because it’s kind of shocking. I a fat woman - that much is clear from any picture ever taken of me. But I’m also a fat woman who has no interest in losing weight. I am a “bad fatty”.
|"Glutton" by the amaing Natalie Perkins, |
available as a print from Fancy Lady Industries
If you’re not familiar with the terminology, this is the best primer I’ve seen on the subject. Even if you’ve never heard the phrase “good fatty” before, if you’re even a little aware of the unwinnable weight war that woman can get locked in, you’re guaranteed to be familiar with the assumptions this terminology describes. Fat people, and especially fat women, are supposed to be ashamed of their fat. We’re supposed to be aware of, and acknowledge, that our fat is a failing - of willpower, of morality, of character. We’re supposed to be either constantly willing to explain in depth, to anyone who asks, our excuse for being fat; or alternatively if we have no “acceptable” excuse, we’re supposed to be doing everything in our power to become a more “acceptable” size.
Me, I don’t have an excuse for the size of my arse, acceptable or not. I don’t have any medical conditions that I’m aware of that prevent me from losing weight. The women on my mother’s side of the family do tend to be bottom heavy, but my mother is tiny, so it’s not like my genetics are inescapable. I’m not an athlete, so I can’t attribute any of my kilos to muscle. I mean, I’m sure there’s some in there, and I’ve always had big muscular horsey thighs, but I would be seriously reaching to attribute any significant proportion of my weight to muscle.
I don’t actively do anything to reduce my weight either. I have no idea about the calories in anything I eat. I’m knowledgeable enough to know that cake has more calories than an apple, and that more protein than carbs in your diet is generally better, but ask me to get any more specific than that and I’m stumped. You see, I’m allergic to a ton of stuff - gluten, dairy, alcohol, peanuts, fish, and fake sugar - so if I find food I’m not allergic to that doesn’t taste like freeze dried straw, I’m gonna go ahead and eat it. If I find food that I’m not allergic to that actually tastes good, I’m going to eat the SHIT out of it. I guess my allergies could be my excuse for my fat if I wanted, but no one ever seems to really believe someone my size lives on a diet virtually devoid of junk food. In terms of exercise, I do make sure I have a little walk every day, for about 20 minutes or so. But that’s more to get my blood moving around so I don’t fall asleep at my desk than out of any interest in losing weight. I could exercise more - but I don’t want to. I’d rather be doing other things. I know it’s not great for my health, but I just don’t care enough about being in peak physical condition to do anything about it.
|Uuuuueeeeghhh...fuck it, let's have lunch.|
As a fat woman, when I say these things out loud, a lot of people are shocked. When I tell people that I’ve never been on a diet (apart from a very brief brush with disordered eating in my teens) they look at me like I’m claiming I’m an alien. In my personal life, it’s not a very frequent issue - I know a few people currently trying to lose weight or get fitter, but most of them have medical reasons for doing so, and more importantly none of them seem to judge me at all for not joining them at the gym. But in the workplace, among “normal”, everyday, general public type people, I struggle to find anything in common with the combative way my female co workers view their bodies.
The sheer amount of diet talk that goes on among women in the average office is just staggering to me. When I was younger I used to jump in and try and offer input like, “But you already look great!”, only to be glared down. It took me a long time, but I eventually learned that positive input isn’t welcome in these conversations - not without an accompanying negative statement anyway. It’s okay to say, “You look great! But me, man, I need to lose some serious pounds”. But when I offered positive input without then putting myself down, I outed myself as a weirdo, a freak, a woman who didn’t care about being thinner. I tried to learn the “diet talk” game, in order to get along better at work. I figured out the game is supposed to go something like this: “Have you been going to the gym more, you look great!” “Thank you, you’re too kind, I don’t think my new diet is doing anything. But you look amazing, you’ve definitely lost weight” “No, don’t be silly, I’m bloating like crazy today. But you’re definitely getting smaller!” and so on and so forth: compliment, self deprecation, compliment, self deprecation. However, I quickly discovered I’m a dreadful actor, and absolutely no-one was buying my impression of “normal”. So I learned to stay silent.
|No Diet Talk Brooch, once again by the amazing Natalie Perkins, and |
available from her site Fancy Lady Industries
Even when keeping my mouth shut whenever the topic of diet or weight comes up, I’ve still had a ridiculous number of lunch room conversations with co-workers where they attempt to offer completely unsolicited advice on how to make my lunch lower in fat or higher in protein. I used to reply honestly, that I don’t care how healthy it is, so long as it tastes good. The LOOKS I’ve gotten in this situation - seriously, some people respond to my statement that I prefer full fat over low fat milk with an expression like I’ve just confessed to eating babies for breakfast. You can see them biting back the response they desperately want to blurt out - “But you’re FAT! Don’t you want to be thin? How can you not want to be thin?!”
The fact is, I don’t. Well, okay, sometimes in passing, I do idly toy with the idea of being thinner, in much the same way I idly toy with the idea of being taller. In the same way that it would be nice to be able to reach high cupboards without a stepladder, it would be nice to be able to find clothes that fit more easily. It would be nice to be able to make my lunch in the lunch room without people feeling the need to comment. The experience of being a fat woman in current society isn't exactly awesome a lot of the time. But on the whole, I personally don’t actually want to be thinner. Some days, I even look down at my belly and jiggle it happily. Some days I look at my big round arse and just think to myself, “Damn.” Not all days - I’m only human, and I live in a society that likes to tell me over and over and over how awful being fat is. Sometimes I would take up the offer of a magic thin pill in a heartbeat. But the vast majority of the time, the experience of living in a body my size is pretty neat, actually. It’s the way this body interacts with the society around me that makes me unhappy - not the reality of my jiggly arm fat.
Part of my disinterest in being smaller is the simple fact that my fat acts as a barrier between me and people I really don’t want in my life. I don’t get hit on by men who view women as trophies, because in the game of dating, a woman my size is often viewed as the wooden spoon prize. The barrier doesn’t just work against bad dates, but also against unfulfilling friendships. Very few people who are deeply personally invested in being at peak physical attractiveness all the time want to hang out with me socially, because my jiggly belly serves as a reminder of the awful fate that might befall them if they loosen their regime. That’s cool with me, because I don’t really want to hang out with them either. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with peak physical form being your ultimate driving goal - it’s just not something I can relate to on any level, so what sort of friendship would we have with anyway?
This idea of differing priorities is, however, what’s really what’s at the heart of my stubborn rejection of any effort to get thin. For some people, being conventionally attractive is one of the most important things in their lives, one of their highest priorities. As a fat woman, my lack of conventional attractiveness is supposed to be my highest priority, whether I’m excusing it or working to change it. But it’s not. It’s just not, and it never has been. I’ve been feeling the judging eyes in the back of my head for thirty three years over this shit, and I’m sick of it. I like my big butt, I cannot lie, and I’m sick of feeling like I should be apologising for it.
There are lots of things on my personal list of priorities - trying to be a good friend and a loving partner, not to mention keeping a handle on my mental health so I can be more help to the people I love. Writing and creating is my second priority, after people. It makes my blood pump, and my heart race. It means so much to me it steals sleep sometimes, and I don’t even mind. My weight, and any interest in changing it, is so far down my list it doesn’t even register. Happiness, friends, self expression - these things are my priorities, and I don’t think I should have to make excuses for that.
Your priorities might be different - maybe you prioritise attending church, or eating vegan, or getting another belt in your martial art. You might simply prioritise health above all else, and anything that’s not directly contributing to your overall health comes second. Maybe you’re fat like me, but getting thinner is your top priority right now for whatever reason is important to you. That’s cool, these things are all perfectly fine. It’s your choice, just as prioritising being happy over being thin in my choice.
I understand that people worry about my health - I’m very familiar with the “my tax dollars go to fund your unhealthy lifestyle” argument, among others. In response, I could go into all the studies that have debunked the idea that it’s impossible to be fat and also healthy; but honestly, I shouldn’t have to. I don’t actually owe you an explanation of how healthy I am or am not, “tax dollars” or no. Are you my doctor? If not, how is my health of any relevance to you? Do you expect thin people to explain their health to you? If someone fits into a size 6 dress, do you give them unsolicited advice on how to lower the fat content of their lunch, because if they have a heart attack it’s your tax dollars that will help save them? How healthy are you anyway? How many of my tax dollars might go to helping you if you have a stroke, or a car accident, or get infected with radiation? Do you drink more than you should? Do you smoke? Do you eat red meat? Do you know those things are all health risks, and you really should consider cutting it out? Oh, you did? And you do them anyway? Then shut up. Just shut. up. And if you're not willing to shut up, at the very least come out from the "health" argument smokescreen and admit fat people make you uncomfortable. Then we can have something like an honest conversation.
All I want is to be able to eat what I want for lunch without comment, to dance in a tight dress without fretting, to be able to love this squishy, funny body I’m in without feeling guilty. I want to be a Happy Fatty, not a Bad Fatty, and just I don’t understand why it’s so important for to some people to try and keep me from that.