What Body Shaming Looks Like (10 Things People Said to Me Because I’m Fat)

what body shaming looks likeI’m officially fat.

Actually, I’m a lot of things. I’m a sister, daughter, mother. I own a company. I have one and a half Masters degrees. I do voluntary work in my local community. I try to be a good person and role model to my daughter.

I’m also fat.

My jeans are a UK size 16. My shirts a couple of sizes bigger, thanks to breasts that apparently didn’t realise when it was time to stop growing.

I’m okay with it. Some people are smaller than me, some are bigger. Most of them are taller.

It is what it is.

I’ve never allowed being a certain size to dictate my life. I never wanted to miss out on an opportunity to do something because of my size.

I’m happy to fling myself down zip lines, go cliff jumping, motor car racing, diving or whatever else. Life’s too short to sit on the sidelines and wait until I’m a size 12 to live it.

It’s easy to be brave when you’ve watched someone die in front of you at the age of 27.

When my brother passed away I realised that nothing in life will ever hurt as much as losing someone you love. If you can survive that? You can survive anything. I also realised, in the most brutal way possible, that life’s short.

My body works. It’s a living, breathing thing with four working limbs and five senses. That’s a blessing I don’t take lightly. Would it be nice to be taller, or thinner, or more tanned? Sure. But I’m happy with what I have.

It’s more than some people ever get.

So Why do Other People Care About my Body?

That said, it doesn’t mean I’m oblivious to the reaction other people have to my body.

I was thinking about this today after reading Jen’s post over on Mum in the Madhouse about body positivity. Jen points out that when slimmer women adopt the body positivity movement and its mantras, their privilege and visibility can end up crowding out the stories of the women it was created to empower.

I completely agree.

Most women have body confidence issues. We’ve grown up in a society with very persuasive images of what the “ideal” body looks like. But fat women have another layer to deal with – the body shaming and and daily micro-aggressions that you are exposed to, simply because many people think it’s okay to be rude to fat people.

It’s not, of course. The shape of my body is none of your business. Unless I’m actually sitting on you, then I’m fairly confident my weight has zero impact on your day. 

Today I thought I’d share just a few of the things that have been said to me over the years to hopefully give you an insight into what it’s like living in our society when you’re wearing an XL sweater.

why we need body positivity

10 Things People Said Because I’m Fat

  • At Tesco, I asked someone if she realised she was parked in a disabled bay. She replied, “What do you care? You’re so fat you should park at the far side anyway, you need the exercise.” 
  • I jumped into the swimming pool on holiday with Flea, to hear a man sitting at the side of the pool warn his family, “Watch out, tidal wave approaching!” 
  • At a theme park, Flea and I accidentally blocked someone’s view of fireworks. A woman holding her 3-year-old daughter turned and called me a “stupid, fat bitch”.  
  • A brand told me they’d love to sponsor an award for fashion bloggers but could I possibly ensure none of the finalists were over a size 14 because they would be uncomfortable with that.  “No offence,” they told me.
  • I made a video about tyre safety for a car magazine. At least 50% of the YouTube comments focused on the miracle of any car remaining intact after being occupied by my gargantuan body.
  • We visited a high wire tree ropes attraction in the Lakes, where customers had to sign a disclaimer confirming they were in good health and met the height/weight restrictions. I was the only customer who was asked to step on the scales (in front of everyone else) to prove my weight. Because I love the thrill that comes with throwing myself off a tall platform on a wire that isn’t able to safely hold my weight. Obviously.
  • A female colleague once patted me on the shoulder and told me how lucky people like me are because we never have to worry we only got hired because of the way we look.
  • I walked into a Levis store in San Francisco to be told by a sales assistant within five seconds: “We don’t make things in your size.” 
  • I was approached in a pub by a man who told me he wouldn’t need to rape me, because fat people are so grateful we never say no, but he’d need to close his eyes. I know, right? What a catch.
  • We cut someone up in traffic accidentally. Driver stopped at the next lights to roll down his window and call me a fat c*nt.

Why We Need Body Positivity

We need body positivity to counter how badly some people are affected by this sort of body shaming nonsense. I’m lucky that I literally could not care less about the woman who tosses a “fat bitch” over her shoulder while she’s walking away.

Although I absolutely WILL catch her up and ask her to consider the role model she’s being for her child, and whether she’s sure that was really what she wanted to say. (Just FYI, this will elicit an apology 9 times out of 10, and I hope means that woman is less likely to make the same insult next time she’s irritated by someone who happens to be overweight).

I’m very aware that within the “plus size” community, I’m considered “small fat”.

I can buy my clothes from regular stores, and fit into airline seats or rollercoasters without worry. I don’t have any major health issues or disabilities. But even at a regular, plus-size, I’m still surprised by how many people to treat me as though I’m some horrific threat to their own wellbeing.

There’s no big point to this blog post. Hell, is there ever?

I suppose I just wanted to say to other bigger women – I’ve been there, got the t-shirt, and it’s okay to mind.

And to smaller women – this is what life’s like when you’re a 16+. So when you’re shouting about body positivity, please acknowledge that for some women that’s a difficult rallying cry for them to join in with. They’re so used to being put down, it’s harder for them to speak up.

22 thoughts on “What Body Shaming Looks Like (10 Things People Said to Me Because I’m Fat)”

  1. I’ve had all manner of insults. I try not to let them penetrate now, but when I was much bigger and younger they worked to send me to eat more and go out less.

    But I know I am more than what others see, I am determined and will do what others say I can’t due to my size.

    I mean I ran a marathon…. lots of people thought I couldn’t because I am fat.

    I was so sad to read of women body shamed whilst running the marathon…. by those sat watching. I have no idea where my comment is going, but I felt I had to comment. Because people can be so unkind with no thought of the effect their words have. Thank you for writing this.

  2. I actually had this yesterday when I was out with Lily and my Mum. A window cleaner said ‘Choo, choo Thomas is on his way’ as I walked by and then turned and sniggered to his friend saying ‘Look, Thomas the Tank engine that one isn’t she?’ My Mum wanted to say something but it wouldn’t have helped and I’m used to being compared to a ‘tank’ or a ‘unit’ or likewise…*eye roll*

    I think that everybody has a role to play in body positivity and empowerment but I do feel even more shamed (which is my own problem, I know) when I read somebody who wouldn’t be considered plus size taking a stand and professing to ‘finally be ok with’ a body I would be over the moon to have. But everybody has hang ups and I get that, I really do.

    The whole body positivity movement is doing wonders for my self-esteem and I like to think that people are now more horrified by body-shamers themselves than my so-called hideous body!

  3. What awful remarks. People are so shallow!

    However for a shop assistant to turn around and say we don’t have anything in your size. What is that all about, especially, when they do!

    1. I honestly stopped caring the day my brother died and I realised having a body that’s alive and working is literally the only thing i care about.

  4. Wow Sally I can’t believe anyone has the gall to come out and say such things! Okay, I get it, that is shocking, and not something I’ve experienced – although I’ve been ridiculed for other things. Most memorably a moustache, which left me with such body confidence issues that I took my dad’s razor to my upper lip and gave myself a scar in the process that I still have today.

    I actually think the whole debate is much wider, and possibly even more than one debate. Clearly the way you’ve been treated is appalling, and it’s wholly appropriate to stand up against that kind of behaviour. But it shouldn’t stop slimmer women from talking about body positivity, because as we’ve established, that’s about more than size. So how do we marry the two? How do we empower women of all shapes, sizes, social classes and colours to talk about body positivity without risking sidelining people who feel it is about weight? Because we absolutely shouldn’t silence voices. Is weight a separate issue that we should address differently?

    What I think you’re describing here is judgement, and that applies to everything – intelligence, job type, wealth, what kind of car you drive, what school you go to, disability, and on and on… I’ve experienced huge judgement since my daughter was diagnosed with diabetes. Really, unbelievable things have been said and done because of it. That’s not about body confidence, because as people have said to me ‘she’s not fat’ so she doesn’t have that as an issue.

    As you can tell, I’m a little geared up about all this today…

    1. I’m going to have to respectfully *completely* disagree with you.

      The body positivity movement was conceived *by* and *for* larger women. It was a way of reclaiming some form of positive identity for a group of women who are abused, humiliated, marginalised and excluded.

      The challenge for those women is that when someone wearing a size 12 or 14 or 16 co-opts that movement as “not really” being about size, they become the “acceptable” face of body positivism. It becomes about being curvy, or chubby. And those women who are bigger, who are darker, who are disabled – they are even further marginalised and excluded, and this only serves to perpetuate the horrible way they are treated. Read this post – it puts it better than I ever could – https://www.bodyposipanda.com/2017/10/an-apology-to-all-of-fat-people-ive.html

      If you want to have a wider conversation about body confidence then hurrah! I agree 100% that most of us have body confidence issues and that’s something we need to talk about. I also agree that there’s a conversation to be had about judgment and kindness and basic human decency. We’re parents, many of us, how do we raise our kids to do better?

      But what we don’t need – with the best will in the world – is for average sized women to tell us that body positivity is nothing to do with size, and a movement for everyone.

      That said, your feelings are your feelings and there’s not much to be gained getting into a debate. I can respect where you’re coming from and your good intentions, and I’m happy to just say I view it a bit differently x

  5. Those comments you’ve received give me rage. I had little idea of the origins of the body positivity movement, so thanks for that. I think I somewhat naively assumed it could be for ‘anybody’ who wanted to talk about feeling confident in their appearance. But I can see how that can be disempowering for larger women and takes away from the original message of the movement.

  6. Agree with you Sally that we can all have a think about what we are teaching our children and see if we can do it any better – and get schools involved too? Am sad to read about those comments you’ve had; none of them are acceptable, ever. And I have also seen how short life can be and share your attitude about that 🙁

  7. Now imagine being a size 32 and trying to live in this world. It’s not a nice place at all. For some reason being fat is the worst thing that anyone can be. It’s no wonder many of us hide away from society.

  8. I can totally believe it all, as a larger woman I’ve been there and had some of them too. Is it an outrage that anyone thinks it is their business.

    I’m really split on the body positive movement being just for larger woman though. As someone who went to Overeaters anon for quite some years and met many tiny bulimics and anorexics, it was clear that they had just as many issues as me, just in a different size body. Mich x

  9. My worst experience was a guy I dated for all of 2 months at the start of 2017. I was in bed as he got out of bed, eyeballing my stomach he held his own and asked how much weight it was my new years resolution to lose. I had already said I don’t “do” the new year, new me bulls#!t, so that made me uncomfortable. A few weeks later he held his stomach and said he was fat and again all the while eyeing mine. Then he called me a fat c@#t when he was drunk, after which we parted ways. He messaged me to apologise in October, so presumably he wanted his leg over and decided I would do, but I guess he didn’t bank on my not replying.

    Until him I had been quite happy in my bubble, he knocked me a bit but now I am back to my old self. Same size as you, quite literally 16 bottom, top half bigger due to boobs. I guess I am lucky to never have heard those comments, although no doubt they will have been made.

  10. We also need to tackle the erroneous folk wisdom that a fat person is obviously a lazy glutton. Dodgy nutritional advice, the poison food industry, and certain medications have ruined the health of large numbers of a whole generation and put the blame on the people themselves. Whilst the general opinion is that fat is a problem you can easily solve with a bit of self control, it will continue to invite abuse. How long will we allow the blame for years of mistaken policy to be thrown onto the people who have suffered because of it?

  11. I’ve been at both ends of the scale (literally) as I’ve been shamed for been too thin when I was exercising heavily when I was at uni. I would get told I was “Too thin, anorexic looking, all skin and bone”
    Now I’ve had a child I’m the opposite end I’m a size 16 and now the shame is about being too big. Well I don’t remember a time when anyone wasn’t shaming me for something or another.

    I completely agree body positivity needs to be a mindset towards other people as well.

    Katie xx

  12. I’m fat. And fine with it. I’m trying to be healthier, rather than necessarily thinner. I also agree that life is short and have suffered a similar loss.

    I always feel that when people make such comments, rude ones that are usually based on appearance, that it just shows they lack the imagination to come up with something better. I mean come up with an imaginative insult at least… I can clearly see I’m fat. I’d be much more offended if they said I had shit clothes or bad eyebrows.

    A lot of people who make vile comments on the internet usually do so because their own lives are crap. I know as I used to be bitter and hate my life too. Now I love it and I always seek to uplift people.

    You might be fat. So what. Doesn’t mean you’re a crap person does it! I know LOADS of thin twats. Love this post!

  13. I am absolutely shocked by the things people have said to you – people really are horrible. !hat the man said to you in the pub… he would have had a knee in his cajones. Fat shaming is just not on at all, it doesn’t make anyone feel better – the person who states it nor the person on the receiving end… neither feels good and there is no need for it. I’ve always been on the bigger side, I’m my own worst critic too which doesn’t help – but a friend who is tiny, who has I body I would love, has major hang up’s of her own. We all just need to realise we are beautiful in our own way and rock it! Christina Hendrix is a total inspiration, she has amazing curves and knows how to rock them, I wish I had half her confidence!x

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