Reducing Ourselves to Numbers: When More Is Less

Content Notice for Body Image & Eating Disorders

Once upon a time, society told me that my worth began and ended with my body. More precisely, I, like everyone else in my context, had been born into a society where other people thought that a designated-female person’s body held the beginning, the end, and everything in between when it came to her value.

I grew up in a particular version of Purity Culture where more was less in terms of how much of your body you revealed; the more you covered your body, the better of a person you were assumed to be. Women and girls were judged by the fit of their dresses, the opacity of their leggings and tights, the arch of their brows, the polish on their fingernails. Their faces were scanned for traces of makeup and religious teachers consulted about the Sharia legality of brown eyeliner on brown skin. A secret point system existed that was used to assess the merit of female human beings and decide how they were to be treated: Avoided, Befriended, Befriended Closely, Befriended Closely Enough to Ask for Marriage to a Male Relative.

In the broader context of society, the point system was more obvious, the scale by which my value assessed more literal. My awareness that less was more began with playground bullies, some of whom were relatives, and was later confirmed by doctors and other medical professionals. Before that, my higher-percentile height and weight were considered assets, signs that I was growing up healthy and strong and fast. At some point, the numbers began to weigh my value down, what once indicated success mutating into an a sign of failure. “Big girl” went from being a compliment to a slur practically overnight. Continue reading “Reducing Ourselves to Numbers: When More Is Less”

Reducing Ourselves to Numbers: When More Is Less

Self-Esteem Is Not Weight-Stigma-Ending Magic

Content Notice for Body Image & Fat Shaming

Self-love is a supernatural power that hides adipose tissue, apparently.
Self-love is a supernatural power that hides adipose tissue, apparently.

Once upon a time, someone asked me why I hate going out to clubs and meat-market-style bars. I answered honestly: I am not a fan of draining my bank account to acquire the overpriced drinks necessary in order to make hanging out with people with whom I have little to nothing in common more tolerable. She laughed at me and asked me why I was “stupid” enough to pay for my own drinks when men would buy them for me. Again, I was frank: Men I don’t know don’t tend to buy me drinks at bars because I’m not the type of person they see as desirable in that setting. She proceeded to tell me that it was my fault for not knowing how to “work it” and for not having “confidence.”

How “confidence” and “working it” would have stopped the many men over the course of my dating experience from saying some variation of “I like you a lot but just not…. physically. Do you have any smaller friends?” (and those were the ones who were being kind), to give just one example, I don’t know. Continue reading “Self-Esteem Is Not Weight-Stigma-Ending Magic”

Self-Esteem Is Not Weight-Stigma-Ending Magic

“You’re Not Fat”? You’re Not Helping.

Content Notice for Ableist Insult, Body Image and Discussion of Weight

After getting my body fat hydrostatically measured, I made the decision to stop obsessing over every little weight fluctuation and no longer use a scale. It’s been quite a boon to my sense of well-being to not start almost every day in tears over a few ounces gained or in fearful, tentative victory over a few ounces lost.

Of course, what would talking about a self-care victory be without a well-meaning person telling me that I’m not fat and shouldn’t care about it?

The tweet read “You aren’t fat at all dummy! Stop worrying!”
Continue reading ““You’re Not Fat”? You’re Not Helping.”

“You’re Not Fat”? You’re Not Helping.

BMI Is Bullshit, Even for the Decidedly Non-Athletic

[Content Notice for Eating Disorders]

I am a “good fatty” in the sense that I haven’t engaged in long-term unrestricted eating in many years and I make an attempt at an exercise regimen. I am a “bad fatty” in that I occasionally take breaks from my restricted eating plans, don’t engage in physical activity on a consistent basis, and am unapologetic about the fact that health can be attained even by those dubbed overweight or obese based on the BMI.

Recently, I discovered something about changes in my body composition that could be used to argue that I’m a “good fatty” — but I’m far more interested in its implications about BMI.
Continue reading “BMI Is Bullshit, Even for the Decidedly Non-Athletic”

BMI Is Bullshit, Even for the Decidedly Non-Athletic

You’re Not Fat, You Just Suck at Life!

[Content Notice: fat hatred, body image]

I can put on a short skirt, a deeply-plunging neckline, appealingly “natural” make-up, high heels, and a sweet smile; wander in alone to a bar filled with allegedly-prowling men; and be left alone. I’d call it my superpower were it not for the fact that, the one time I’ve stayed until closing time, a man who had previously insulted me to my face and laughed about it with his buddies that night told me that I was going home with him (I didn’t).

Since I am not a fan of the bar and club scene, especially not for meeting people, it’s not a huge deal for me. In fact, it wouldn’t bother me at all… if it weren’t for other people. More normative-type people can’t understand why I would call a night out “expensive” because “you’re a girl!” MRAs declare free drinks to be “female privilege.”  Even articles that debunk the notion of “female privilege” assume that free drinks are a universal female experience.

I constantly hear about all the free stuff women automatically get just for being women — free stuff I’ve never gotten. Pointing this fact out leads to people engaging in some rather ridiculous mental gymnastics in order to avoid acknowledging that lookism and fatphobia exist.

Continue reading “You’re Not Fat, You Just Suck at Life!”

You’re Not Fat, You Just Suck at Life!

Pretty Little Lies: Why I Loved the Fat Lady Episode of ‘Louie’

A lot of people had Thoughts and Feelings about the “So Did the Fat Lady” episode of Louie. Here’s the part that made me fist-pump the air and exclaim “yes!”.

You know what the meanest thing is you can say to a fat girl? “You’re not fat.” I mean, come on, buddy. It just sucks. It really really sucks. You have no idea. And the worst part is, I’m not even supposed to do this. Tell anyone how bad it sucks, because it’s too much for people. I mean, you, you can talk into the microphone and say you can’t get a date, you’re overweight. It’s adorable. But if I say it, they call the suicide hotline on me.
I mean, can I just say it? I’m fat. It sucks to be a fat girl. Can people just let me say it? It sucks. It really sucks. And I’m going to go ahead and say it. It’s your fault.
Look, I really like you, you’re truly a good guy, I think. I’m so sorry. I’m picking you. On behalf of all the fat girls, I’m making you represent all the guys. Why do you hate us so much? What is is about the basics of human happiness, feeling attractive, feeling loved, having guys chase after us, that’s just not in the cards for us? Nope. Not for us.
How is that fair? And why am I supposed to just accept it?

Continue reading “Pretty Little Lies: Why I Loved the Fat Lady Episode of ‘Louie’”

Pretty Little Lies: Why I Loved the Fat Lady Episode of ‘Louie’

How to Stop Patronizing Your Fat Friend: Self-Loathing Edition

Trigger Warning for Body Image Issues and Eating Disorders

So you’ve stopped making the political into the personal when it comes to your fat friend. That’s awesome! Thank you so much for hearing what your fat friend has to say rather than your own internalized assumptions about her feelings.

“But sometimes,” you tentatively begin, “I hear her actually hating on herself. I hear her call herself worthless, ugly, and so on. What should I do then?”


Definitely, definitely don’t tell her to just love herself, ignore the “haters,” or otherwise pretend that your assessment of her attractiveness will make it all okay.

In addition to robbing us of our ability to discuss that which affects us, telling fat women to self-love away anti-fat bias asks quite a lot of us. Are we just supposed to turn ourselves into rubber and all of the fat-haters into glue? Ignore everything that we happen to see or overhear? Pretend that everything that is said to us was never uttered?

I’ve worked my ass off to feel good about myself but I have my down moments. A head-pat that frizzes up my carefully-arranged hair and a “you should give yourself more credit, hun” doesn’t help me in those moments. All the self-given credit in the world won’t change the fact that sizeism is, indeed, A Thing, and that my experiences are real. One person’s individual feelings doesn’t exactly change all of my external experiences.

The relentlessness of the message that fat women are repulsive means that fat women have to grow quite a thick skin in order to be confident at all. To make matters worse, confidence in fat women is often mocked and derided even more than their fatness is. One person’s declaration that a particular fat woman isn’t “actually fat,” that she is “proportional,” that she is worthy and beautiful, won’t magically make all that disappear.


What to do about your fat friend, then?

If she mentions any kind of positive feelings towards her body, you should be damn proud of her. She has managed to resist a pretty incessant message in favor of being happy with herself and living a full life. Direct some kudos her way.

On the flip side, if she mentions anxieties about her body, blaming her for not being confident enough is a rather jerkface move. Think about just how hard she would have to work to never once internalize the message she’s constantly being force-fed. Give her some of that credit you think she isn’t giving herself in her moments of self-hate and refrain from blaming her. Instead, offer the truth: that you feel she’s a worthwhile person and that you’re not sure what you can do to help her feel better, so until she indicates otherwise, you will offer a friendly ear, sympathetic murmurs, and a hug if she wants one.

How to Stop Patronizing Your Fat Friend: Self-Loathing Edition

How to Stop Patronizing Your Fat Friend: Fatphobia Edition

Trigger Warning for Body Image Issues and Eating Disorders

Ah, fat — that charged, overloaded, connotation-carrying word. There is a lot I could say about the word, but for the sake of my point, let us fast-forward past the debates over fat-shaming, Health at Every Size, thin privilege, BMI, and so on. Let us make even more haste as we zoom right past people who simply hate fat people for whatever (or no real) reason.

Oh, and for the love of all that is creamy and delicious, let me acknowledge that I am aware that thin women face incredible amounts of body-shame, body image issues, and lookism as well. My discussing issues related specifically to being a fat woman does not invalidate thin women’s problems and pain. As a lifelong fattie, I simply cannot speak for them.

I want to focus on the well-meaning friends, relatives, and lovers of fat people who, in their haste to reassure the people they care about, can’t see the difference between discussions regarding external reality versus talk about self-image.

Over and over again, well-meaning people take away fat women’s ability to discuss the issues that affect them. Often, when a fat woman dares to mention anti-fat bigotry in society, she is told that she should “accept herself” or some variation of that sentiment thereof. Alternately, she might be told that the person in question finds her attractive. What happens is that the assumption that all fat women need to be cheered up and reassured takes precedence over anything the fat woman in question is actually saying.


Some of the most confident, self-assured ladies I’ve ever had the pleasure of encountering are lectured about self-esteem and self-acceptance instead of having their thoughts acknowledged when they speak of anti-fat bias. How incredibly condescending it is to insist that someone is talking about personal sadness when they are describing the reality of their lived experiences. How disappointing it is to the lady in question to find that others’ perceptions of her self-image automatically override the words coming out of her mouth.*

Although I’ve lost a decent amount of weight in the past 18 months, I still firmly qualify as fat, especially here in sunny, superficial Southern California. After years of self-loathing followed by years of working on my self-image issues, I’ve come to a few conclusions, conclusions about which I speak only using the most carefully-curated of words. No matter how much I try to denote exactly what I’m saying, I still get well-meaning but wholly misguided people attempting to soothe me where I needed no comfort in the first place. Worse, their focus on what they perceive to be the issue, i.e. my self-image, robs me of the power to talk about a real issue that affects me, i.e. fat-hate.

I do not think that I am ugly. Au contraire. Why would I spend so much time and effort on buying fun clothing, experimenting with make-up and hair products, and hunting down cute shoes that fit my size 10-11 wide feet — because I think I’m not worth looking at?



There was certainly a time when I thought I wasn’t worth much at all. I shrouded myself in dowdy clothing and applied overly-thick black lines around my eyes, hoping to bring attention to what I thought was my only good feature. That time is well behind me, thank you very much, and I’d like to be treated as the woman I am, not the self-loathing girl I once was.

Though the personal is often political, the political is not always personal.

So if I don’t think I’m ugly, why bring up fat hate? call myself fat or a fattie? mention anti-fat bigotry that has been hurled in my direction?

As good as I feel about myself most of the time, that I don’t live in denial of fat-hate doesn’t mean that I think of myself as unattractive, it means I acknowledge my reality and my lived experiences. I direct attention to society’s hatred of fat people for the exact same reasons that I clamor for attention for unfair discrimination of any kind: in the hopes that people will recognize what they’re doing and, you know, work to change it.

I’m talking not about any perceived ugliness in myself, I’m talking about how ugly society can be.

So, how exactly can you stop patronizing your fat relative, friend, or lover when she speaks of that kind of ugliness? If she mentions society’s shitty treatment of her, you can stop denying her experiences and instead say, “Wow, that is really shitty!” Even better, when you see shitty behavior, you can call it out or at least not participate in it.

* If she is actually hating on herself, that’s a different matter, one to be addressed in a future post.

How to Stop Patronizing Your Fat Friend: Fatphobia Edition