The answer to that question is yes...yes, fat is really the worst thing you can be in our thin-obsessed, fat-phobic culture.
Especially if you're a woman.
From the time we're children we learn that fat is bad and thin is good. That having a FAT body should be avoided at all costs.
It's been woven so tightly into our subconscious that we don't even question it.
I didn't start to question it until 3 years ago.
From the time I was 11 until my late 30s, my life was dedicated to finding the perfect diet and exercise that would make me as skinny and beautiful as the girls in Seventeen magazine and Cosmo.
My commitment to being 'less fat' was my #1 priority.
I was terrified of gaining weight...the fear of taking up more physical space consumed every bit of mental space I had.
At the time, I didn't know any better. I thought that living in constant fear of fat and hating my body was just part of being a woman:
Aren't we always supposed to be watching our weight?
Shouldn't we be careful about the food we put in our mouths, and scrutinize every ounce of fat on our thighs??
I was convinced that if I played the game "right" (i.e. lose enough weight), I'd be able to claim the prizes that had been promised to me for so long: happiness, love, self-worth.
Here's the bad news: the trophies never came. Like many women, I found myself on a never-ending treadmill chasing a carrot that was always just.out.of.reach.
It was exhausting.
Why do we keep doing this to ourselves??
CULTURAL WEIGHT BIAS IS REAL
Take a look around.
Bias against large bodies is everywhere in our culture.
It's in ads for Weight Watchers ("Inside every overweight woman is the woman she knows she can be". -Oprah).
It's in articles about how to get a bikini-worthy body. ("Do a cleanse! Cut out carbs!")
It's when your doctor thinks "lose some weight" is the solution to every medical problem ("Drop 20 pounds and that hangnail will fall right off").
You get it. It's unavoidable.
We actively celebrate women for "achieving" physical smallness, while we stigmatize, marginalize and ignore those who haven’t.
We're constantly reminded that a fat body is a problem to be solved. Our culture is fixated on fixing fatness.
We suffer from a collective internalized fat-phobia. And it's doing more harm than you think.
Stigmatizing bigger bodies, no matter how blatant or subtle, does NOT work. It's an ineffective weight-loss tactic. However, it IS an effective way to cause significant stress, anxiety and even trauma to ourselves and our fellow human beings.
How arrogant of us to believe we can know the totality of a human being based on a dress size or a number on the scale?
Fat-phobia drives people deeper into hiding from life, trying ineffective (and sometimes dangerous) diets, and painful self-loathing.
Here's the truth: we weren't meant to all look the same and be the same size. It's ok to be fat.
Body diversity is a real thing and we need to respect it.
HOW CAN YOU LET GO THE INTENSE FEAR OF FATNESS?
You can start with a decision. I decided that I no longer want to inflict mental or emotional pain on myself or others.
Here are some other things that might be helpful:
- examine your own beliefs about what it means to be in a bigger body, especially as a woman
- practice compassion...both for yourself and for others
- stop judging and talking about other people's bodies, whether they're bigger or smaller than yours
- detox from social media, magazines, and social circles that encourage and reinforce the idea that being fat means being unworthy
- surround yourself with images of different body types
- use the word fat as a descriptor, and not a judgment or slur
- follow fat activists like Jessamyn Stanley, Virgie Tovar, Jes "The Militant" Baker, who all live great lives and aren't afraid to be visible
- get angry: understand that we've all been told and sold a bunch of lies. Then use that anger as fuel to create change in your life and in the world.
We all deserve to be seen for who we are...not for how we look.