Last week my good friend and founder of Mamavation, Leah Segedie, wrote a post called “Being Called Fat Doesn’t Help Me Lose Weight Anytime Fitness” in response to a PR pitch for a book by a fitness author, a pitch that included the phrase “money is allergic to fat people.” Leah had a lot of support from her community following her post, but she also had visitors from people that bloggers call trolls, readers who stop by just to say hateful and hurtful things. The author of this book wasn’t writing a dissection of the sociological reasons for overweight people making less money or studying this disgustingly accepted form of bigotry. He was using the word fat to motivate people to buy his book and lose weight. Why is this still okay with anyone?
As I said in my comments on Leah’s post, I used to work in a middle school where my principal and fellow teachers would make rude comments about overweight students, sometimes loud enough that I’m sure the students must have heard. I stood by silently, not sure how to react, embarrassed by my perceptions about how I looked. Had they talked the same way about these eleven and twelve year old children, but instead mocked their race, religion, economic status, intelligence, sexuality, no one would have accepted it. Yet, “Good God, eat a f*$&@^$% salad, Fat Ass,” was met with laughter. I’m fairly confident that no one ever lost weight because someone told them to eat a salad already. Just a hunch.
Calling people fat is scarring. It is shameful and has little to do with the person being called fat. Last month I wrote about my inability to see myself as I really am after a childhood filled with people who called me fat: friends, classmates, family members. My weight from the time I was a small child to the time I graduated from college varied from underweight to at the most, ten pounds overweight. Ten pounds. I was never obese and in fact, at most times was smaller than the national average. So why did people call me fat?
After writing that post, a friend of mine pointed out that the word fat is a word used to shame and has nothing to do with a person being overweight. Kids call girls fat the way they call boys gay. Those words are in no way attached to actually being overweight or to a person’s sexuality, they are just words of hate used by people dealing with their own, unrelated issues. I was not skinny so when someone wanted to lash out at me, they chose the word fat. It said nothing about me. Nothing.
After having children, I became overweight, which seemed to fit the image I had of myself in my mind, the image put there by the repeated words of others. It seemed okay to allow myself to become what people thought I was. And it was not the words of the judgmental that turned this around for me, but instead the understanding of those who have walked the same journey that I have and were willing to walk it again with me. I am so thankful for women like Leah and the Mamavation moms who have stood by me as I’ve taken the steps to live a healthier life. Their words of encouragement have changed my life.