Don’t tell people, “You’re not fat, you’re beautiful.” Fat isn’t the opposite of beautiful, it’s the opposite of healthy. Fat here means large deposits of fatty tissue over and between muscles and along the walls of blood vessels, you know? the thing it was supposed to mean. Not people who wish their waistline was just an inch smaller.
In this age where people derive purpose and significance out of inventing increasingly convoluted ways to get offended, taking the topic of one’s physical appearance is bound to ruffle feathers. It doesn’t mean one shouldn’t. It especially doesn’t mean one shouldn’t. Fight against fat-shaming is one of the many integral aspects of the ongoing feminist movement as a part of the bigger fight to look beyond the appearance of the woman, to grant access to women not just to one’s eyes but to the mind as well. It’s noble and needed. I don’t know what the universally accepted name is, we just used to call it the whisper game, I’m sure everyone has played it as kids, where you form a long chain and whisper one sentence to the first kid, who then passes it on to the next and so on until the kid at the end says it out loud. The final result often doesn’t resemble the original phrase at all. The extent of corruption worsens as the length of the chain increases. Given the feminist fight is one of every woman’s on the planet, which is a nearly 4 billion people-long chain, mispronunciation of a lot of parts is inevitable. It’s natural. What’s unnatural, almost a cruel joke played by the gods of probability, is that mishearing morons scream the loudest and hold the largest audience.
Fat needs to be not ridiculed, that’s body positivity, but never celebrated or encouraged, that’s a defence mechanism. Simply put, if you think you’re ugly because you’re fat, it’s not okay. If you worry you can barely play with your child for ten minutes before you get winded because you’re fat, it’s okay. Telling your friend he needs to stop being sedentary, get off his fat ass and go for a walk is okay. Commenting on a random woman’s latest Facebook display picture asking why she bothers posing in a bikini with that fat ass is not okay. One’s concern, other’s bullying. The words don’t matter, what you choose to communicate with them does. Works all round, not just about body shaming. The context and the relationship between you and the receiver matters. It matters if it’s your business talking about it in the first place at all. Denying someone a job without assessing their skills because of their stature, denying someone an opportunity because you think they aren’t capable purely judging from their looks is not okay.
Body-image becomes an even pricklier subject when it interferes in us finding a suitable mate. When you tell someone they are ugly because they are fat, it becomes a sort of universal label, something to define them with. That is not okay. However, stating that you aren’t attracted to them is perfectly fine, that is just your opinion and we are all entitled to our opinions. Technically, in the former case too, you are merely stating your opinion but it is least likely to be received as such just because people are more prone to having an emotional response to such comments than a logical one. Possible trigger? It is my opinion that personal tastes are involuntary. We are attracted to whatever attracts us, there’s no control. Some people like exclusively larger partners, some prefer them petite, some prefer tan, some prefer pale and others don’t have a physical preference at all. There will be outcries that state that ‘true’ love transcends physical barriers and see no size, shape or colour. Fuck that. True love or any sort of long-term commitment is just two people agreeing to stick by each other and accept each other as a whole, inclusive of all their gifts, scars and flaws but what they define as said gifts and flaws is entirely up to them and doesn’t have to fit into any broader definition of love. Physical compatibility is important, one needs to find their partner physically attractive just as much as emotionally to have a healthy relationship and in that respect, it is every person’s individual choice to reject those with the traits they deem unattractive, sometimes being fat is one of them. There are cultural aspects to it, there are larger changes in trends in the kinds of men and women that are deemed attractive. “I’m not going to date her, she’s too fat.” is okay (but do put it in a nicer way though, I’m just stating the idea of it) “I can’t be friends with her, she’s too fat.” is being an asshole. Don’t be an asshole. Everybody deserves respect irrespective of their looks.
People used to be thin, normal, chubby and fat. Fat was the upper limit. Fat meant obese. Nowadays the scale has widened on both ends. We have obese and morbidly obese lying on the right of ‘fat’, size zero and thigh gaps, triangle gaps, hip bones and whatever bullshit is trending on Instagram at the moment to the left of ‘thin’. Either end is a red zone. But the widening of the scales has resulted in lots of misconceptions. On one hand, you have perfectly healthy people labelling themselves ‘fat’ because they don’t have flat tummies like their favourite ‘influencer’ and falling prey to dangerous diet pills, expensive surgeries, dumb contraptions sold on late night TV and literally starving themselves. Perfectly healthy men and women grabbing at the couple inches of protrusion over their tummies and feeling like a complete loser is just sad. Have people forgotten that the tummy is just a bag for food? Bags come in all sizes, but usually, take the size of what they hold at the moment. In the mornings your food bag is empty, even caves in a little. Right after a great meal, it is at full capacity. Depending on what you filled it with, it’ll stay full or flatten out throughout the day as it digests or fills with gas and acid. Bags are variable, you lie them flat they stay flat, you prop them on their side, they fold over a little. You can squeeze them, suck the air out of them and make them look smaller than they are, you can shine a light on them in a particular way and make their contours pop out. No abs stay abs after a good lunch. Stop poking the tummy. Just make sure you don’t put anything that breaks the bag or leave it empty.
On the other hand, you have dangerously obese women labelling themselves ‘curvy’ and ‘feminists’ preaching women to celebrate their fat. I don’t complain about the idea of plus-sized models, women of all sizes feeling beautiful is absolutely necessary. What I do have a problem with is that these photos are often hashtagged ‘fat love’, ‘big is better’, ‘fat is the new sexy’ and so on. Also, it’s almost always on the extremities of fatness. Not kidding, try those hashtags in your Instagram search bars. It’s these celebratory tones of a bad habit is what’s unsettling. The anti-thesis to decades of body shaming with impossibly skinny women is not the promotion of body positivity with ridiculously obese women. Ashley Graham, a prominent promoter of body positivity on Instagram was showered with hate comments when she lost a little weight once. People claimed to be betrayed by her because she wasn’t fat enough to be part of a body positivity movement any more. Um..WHAT ? People deny fitness models from calling themselves body positive, they are shunned should they post a before/after picture of themselves trimmed down. I thought body positivity accepts all bodies? You’re still preaching to a minority, still preaching to illness, to extremes. Body positivity won’t be achieved until the average person feels good in their average bodies. No extremes allowed. People speak about fat-loss workout routines along the same lines of the evils of gay-conversion therapy. Obesity in America is touted to be the second cause of cancer after smoking. Being gay never caused cancer. Michelle Obama’s “Let’s move it” campaign to end childhood obesity in America within a generation was vilified all over twitter by many claiming it to be fat-shaming. The recent surge in ‘women in fitness’ and models with actual abs from exercise and not starvation is a much-awaited change.
We are all too focused on the looks, on the aesthetics of these labels leading to all sorts of misconceptions. At the end of the day, ‘thin’, ‘fat’, ‘skinny’, ‘thick’, ‘tall’, ‘short’ are all just words. These words can either describe what a person is or how a person is. When someone uses them to describe the ‘what‘, it could come across as hurtful and become a problem, no arguments here. Some people are sensitive while others don’t care. It’s always better to err on the side of caution. However, it is perfectly justified to use those words to define the ‘how‘. How a person is, denotes their wellness and that is of ultimate importance. A fat person is medically unwell. A fat person is better off losing the fat, health-wise, always. Wellness is an individual dynamic. Some people have a fast metabolism, some have a sluggish metabolism, some have hormonal imbalances, there’s postnatal weight gain, some people are born with dense bones, some are genetically disposed to retain water in their cells – each individual is different. My ‘skinny’ looks miles different than my friend’s ‘skinny’ who was bestowed with a much wider bone structure when puberty hit him. When we do go off the wagon, my pants never tighten, my cheeks blow up. In his case his perfect jawline never disappears but damn, does his butt balloon out. We’re all different. ‘Wellness’ means differently to each individual. Considering all the perks and quirks you’re born with, considering your current age, the climate of the place you live in, your height and state of mind and a million other factors you cannot control, if the number on the scale makes sense and it isn’t functionality imperative in any way, you’re fine. No matter what the mirror says, or your own heart says, you’re not fat. You’re fine.