So the name of this post may seem peculiar, but it will make sense as I go on. I rarely write personal posts on this blog, but today I'm making an exception. This blog post is about being fat. Two things inspired me to write this post: 1) the cosmopolitan interview of lovely fat ladies and 2) the latest controversy surrounding Gemma Collins (apparently she wants to lose weight again).
I'll address the second point first, by saying I do not have any feelings towards Gemma Collins, I don't like her clothing range (especially the size range of it) and I do not watch her television programme. However, the chat surrounding her latest outburst about her weight got me thinking. There was some chatter about the way Gemma described herself, and how that when Gemma done this, she fat-shamed other women of similar size. (There was also a lot of chatter about the motivation behind this latest weight loss journey - mainly money/publicity but I don't know Gemma, and I can't read her mind so I couldn't possibly tell you) but the chatter surrounding this idea that when Gemma describes how she feels about her body, it applies to anyone else who is her size or bigger is just plain wrong. We can accept that individuals who suffer from anorexia and/or dysmorphia will only see the "monster" (metaphorical of course, and the word I've chosen for this essay) in themselves not in others. Can we possibly say that this cannot apply to a person who is obese?
I ask this question (and use this term) as I have gotten in to the habit of calling myself a monster of late. Sometimes, when looking in to the mirror and I see nothing else but a monster. However, I have never once projected that on to anyone else. I do not believe that other women who are approximately the same size as me are "monsters" (or bigger or smaller than me for that matter). There are plus size women who I find utterly beautiful, intelligent, enigmatic, charming and/or sexy. I do not project the way I feel about myself onto others. I am hoping at this point, you can understand why I have chosen this title for this essay/interview, and I am at the very least, making a small bit of sense.
In addressing the first reason for writing this post, I read the utterly beguiling Bethany from An Arched Eyebrows post (which you can find here) in which she described a group of fat women had decided to answer the Cosmopolitan article questions themselves. I thought this was a great idea, and considered doing it myself. (I did put the feelers out on twitter to check if this was an exclusive project, but I didn't hear from anyone, if there is anyone I should be crediting here, please let me know and I will immediately remedy the situation!) Of the handful of similar posts I have read about being a fat woman, all have been fat positive as a whole I was curious how this was sound from someone like me, who is fat, but doesn't love it. I've spent a long time thinking about it, and considering whether to take the plunge (as I'm nervous that it would be found by IRL people and used against me - wouldn't be the first time) but I'm taking the dive straight in. I would ask at this point to please respect that this is a delicate and raw subject matter for me, and to please consider this before commenting.
Without further ado...
How do you feel when other women around you complain about feeling/being fat?
I used to be incredibly upset. Until I realised what I just described above. There was this one girl I knew years ago. She was absolutely beautiful, the "ideal woman" in many a rom-com; tall, slim, blonde. I wasn't even that big then, but I was still bigger than most. She used to complain how huge she was and I used to get into a state, Why didn't she understand when she called herself fat she made me out to be a whale? One day I pointed it out, and I was surprised to hear her genuinely tell me how pretty and attractive I was, and how I had a lovely figure. She genuinely believed that just she was (as I put it above) a "monster". My thoughts started changing about what other people said about themselves right there, and nowadays I focus only on my own feelings, and acknowledge others opinions about themselves without giving it too much thought.
How has your body image changed since high school? College?
It hasn't. School was where I was anorexic, in college, I struggled with overeating and binge eating and now in university I'm struggling with the same thing. For as long as I can remember I have hated my body, even at my slimmest I was always the biggest girl in the room (in reference to my group of friends, not the actual room. I'm prone to hyperbole...) I think the only thing that's changed through time is at points is the ability to attribute some positive things to parts of my body. It's clear from the work I'm doing now on my own body image, that my ideas about it have been deeply ingrained over a period of twenty years, something that is not easy to change.
Exhibit -A and -B (I put it in after...) me in high school (orange bikini), then college...
Have you tried dieting? What happened?
Yes. I looked fabulous at several points in time (see exhibits A through C below) however any or all of the following symptoms occurred: obsession with scales (last time I had to get my mum to remove them), obsession over calories (thanks myfitnesspal!), physical exhaustion from pushing myself too hard, too fast at the gym, going days without food and taking pills to make me ill.
Do you think in your case your weight is partly or entirely genetic?
Oh I've love to say so. There's an old photo of the women on my Dad's side of the family. They are all (as we put it in our house) "built like the side of a hoose" but no I don't believe it is.
Do you consider yourself healthy? Have there been instances where people assumed you were unhealthy?
No I do not. I am not healthy, I suffer from a chronic illness (the irony being the anorexia could have caused something that made me bigger - the chronic illness). I am not fit, which is the biggest thing I hate about the size that I am now. I've never had people directly say "you're unhealthy" but one thing that does bother me is when people think they can be intrusive about my illness because I'm fat. I'm (in a thin veil of course) accused of not trying all the dietary related "fixes" for my stomach (it's quite fascinating how many people tell me the solution to my problem when even the doctors are mystified...). Additionally, doctors have refused to test me for certain illnesses and/or send me for further testing "because I am too fat to have that".
Are your parents both supportive of you at the weight you’re at? Have they always been?
My parents are not supportive of my weight, they are supportive of me. My weight is of no consequence to them (which took me a while to realise). There has always been fat people in our family (mostly women) so it's not the first thing they see (although I once and sometimes still believe that in my dopey head). Things got a lot better when I found a way to communicate to my mum that my head could muddle things up, and I asked her to stop talking to me about food or diet or anything related. She really has come around to seeing that what she says can sound different to me, and now she only discusses anything related to my weight when I bring it up, which I massively (giggle) appreciate. My parents are the best in the world.
How do you think retailers can improve clothes for plus-size people?
To be honest, no answer I give will sum this up better than Bethany. However, diversity is exactly what I want to see. Mainly because while I love looking at all the glorious fat ladies in their body-hugging shapes, I do not want to wear those things. However, that does not mean I want to wear something resembling a garbage bag, always too long and always completely devoid of shape. Even brands that do offer some diversity seem split into these two camps, if they offer any at all.
Do you think plus-size women are judged differently than plus-sized men are? How?
Oh, hell yes. I don't remember ever (in my 25 years on this earth) seeing a fat man being hollered at in the street or online whereas I've lost count of the times I've observed that happen to me and others. I know obese men who don't get it mentioned at doctors appointments until they're pensioners. There's so many examples of the different between plus-size men and women, but I say that's down to the patriarchy in our society. I don't remember the last time I saw a man of any kind's appearance being ripped apart in a beauty magazine, but with women it's happening on every page. I also think that makes a difference: beauty standards are completely different for men and women, again another product of a patriarchal society.
Do you think there’s an assumption made/stereotype that exists about plus-size people? How would you respond to it?
The main assumption is lazy. It gets me, it vexes me, it fucking pisses me off. I have three jobs (one self employment) all of which entails standing and running after children through my shifts, I'm doing a full-time university degree and I have two volunteer jobs. That's without mentioning a single other thing about my life. Tell me, how is that lazy?
Do you think there’s ever a right way or time to express concern about someone’s weight?
Yes. When they bring it up.
What are the worst things people have said to you about your body?
Oh god, where to even start answering that one. I've been hollered at in the street being called a fat bitch (out of nowhere) after I'd just lost a load of weight. I've had my myspace (oh yeah, remember that old chestnut) hacked by people I knew and had the titles under my pictures changed to things like fat whore. Those are two incidents that stick out, but are by no means the only ones. However, on the whole, the worst things that are said are said by me.
What have people said (or do you wish they’d say) that would compliment your body or appearance?
fuck other peoples opinion of me. I need to learn to love myself, even if I haven't achieved it, I know that now (although if you compliment my big fat ass you're onto a winner!).
Do you find yourself hanging out with women who are closer to your size?
not deliberately, I don't choose my friends based on their size. I hang out with awesome people who I hang out with because they are awesome. Exhibit D, me and an awesome friend;
How has your weight affected your sex life, if at all?
When you’ve been single, has your weight affected your dating life?
I don't particularly "get" this question. To answer it would be to assume I know why people didn't want to date me, I've never handed out questionnaires. I've been on plenty of dates and the longest I've been single since I was 14, is about a year.
Do you feel weird if the guy you’re with only dates larger women?
never been in that situation. I've been with guys like my fiancé who happen to have dated fat ladies, but it's not deliberate, he's not in it for the blubber!
Do you feel weird if he’s only dated slimmer women before you?
Yes but I also feel weird when he's dated anyone before me, I always have a lingering question of "why me?" in the background.
Exhibit E - a picture of me being fat and not giving a fuck (at that moment)...
If you would like to read the original article by Cosmo you can do so here.
If you made it this far, you may as well comment, you're a hero!