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What Being a Fat Woman Is Really Like

February 26, 2014

Two days ago Cosmopolitan.com published an article called “What Being a Fat Woman Is Really Like” featuring questions and answers from two self-identified fat women. Some of the feedback received was an enthusiastic applause at Cosmo’s inclusion of body-positive voices, ones often not seen and heard in mainstream media. Others felt offended by the ideas those voices offered. I saw some women say that these women were “just making excuses” and didn’t discuss the “tolls” that being fat had on their lives. The biggest argument was “these women don’t represent me.”

In defense of the original article, they formatted it as an interview, most definitely putting forth that these were two women’s perspectives. But we need these perspectives, and we need even more perspectives into this topic. Being a fat woman surely unites us in some experiences, but we are all individuals with different histories, beliefs, and ways of being. When I saw Claire ask on Twitter if other women wanted to answer the exact same questions, I jumped on board. We don’t need to feel confined or misrepresented; we can in fact speak out our own experiences to show the complexities of being a fat woman. (That said, I totally DO appreciate the perspectives those women in the original article shared).

Below are my answers to the same questions as the original article.

How do you feel when other women around you complain about feeling/being fat?

It used to really bother me. Now I notice it, and sometimes it gets to me and sometimes it doesn’t. I recognize that they are participating in a narrative that happens so much around the idea of fatness and body image. Sometimes people don’t even realize they are participating in this and that it may be hurtful to themselves and others. I know that really, in instances where non-fat people “feel fat”, fatness is being connected to other things, and this is the part that hurts. Almost always when someone says they “feel fat” it’s because they “ate too much”, are bloated, or their clothes are tight. “Fatter” than your norm may not equate being “fat” in society. Those that are fat and complain about being fat, that’s their feelings to feel, and as long as they do not ask me to have those same feelings about my body, then I don’t get personally upset (although I do hope everyone has a positive relationship with their body, and I’ll tell someone I can’t talk about bodies negatively or dieting). Actually I think the phrase that makes me the most upset is when people say they are “being a fat kid” or getting in touch with their “inner fatty” when they eat certain foods or have a lazy day. THAT makes me mad.

How has your body image changed since high school? College?

I’ve been fat my entire life, but my worst point of body confidence and body image was during high school. High school is also the time when I lost the most weight. In high school, almost every boy I liked did not return the admiration. My friends had smaller bodies and loud personalities, and I told myself that they were infinitely more interesting than me. This was partly body image and partly lack of confidence and lack of allowing myself to have and express my own interests. My cousin had a blog where she chronicled her ana experiences. I saw her lose weight, and I wanted to do the same. She was near 105lbs and every boy I liked found her attractive. My jealousy and idolization of her body definitely impacted my actions. I think I lost around 58lbs by skipping meals, working out, and limiting my calorie intake to sometimes 400 calories a day. Some things I learned from that experience: my friends’ moms were often the ones who noticed and congratulated me and I still had the same experience when it came to relationships and hiding behind friends. My body changed, but I was still fat, and I was hiding more of myself than ever. In college I gained the weight back plus some. I had more confidence in my other areas of life, but I pretty much ignored my body. I feel like I separated myself from it, wore my uniform of jeans and t-shirt and focused on my friends and school. It wasn’t until after college, at age 22, that I started being more reflective about myself, what I wanted from life, and what I could do. Grad school skyrocketed by confidence, along with finding so, so many fat fashion blogs. It’s odd how easy it is to find another person your exact same size or larger or differently shaped as attractive and pretty, but you hold that as “unattainable” to you. I started to photograph myself, and seeing myself and other fat women so often majorly impacted my body image. I started with “slimming” camera angles and editing out fat rolls, and now I’ve become so comfortable with what I look like, rolls included, AND I see beauty there. I recognize beauty in myself because I recognize beauty in others.

Have you tried dieting? What happened?

Yes, there’s the example above that lasted for about 6-7 months of my life. When I was in the fifth grade I was on a diet after a stomach virus/ anxiety issue happened. That was for 6 or so months as well, and all I remember was that almost every single day I had toast for breakfast, half a bologna sandwich for lunch, and grilled chicken for dinner. I’ve also tried Weight Watchers in the past (lost 20-some pounds, gained back more after). In college, my doctor put me on a medication that was meant to dull hunger. When I went off of it after a month or so, I had so many heart palpitations that I had to rush to the doctor’s for monitoring. I had heart palpitations after that for a year or so. I haven’t been “on a diet” in 3+ years, and I am at my heaviest but also my steadiest weight.

Do you think in your case your weight is partly or entirely genetic?

All of my siblings are heavy. My dad’s side of the family is almost all heavier people too. There are more things that go into weight than that, I’m sure, but I also know that I’ve been heavier than the norm since I was 1-2 years old. While I’m sure it’s possible to be smaller than I am now, I’m not sure it’s possible for me to maintain a “thin” body.

Do you consider yourself healthy? Have there been instances where people assumed you were unhealthy?

I’m going to say the same as Woman B in the original article: “I could stand to be healthier.” I am not a green juice drinker or kale eater, and I like cake and such. Healthy for me is going to be finding the balance. The most doctor-certified “unhealthy” aspect of me is my autoimmune disorder, which is not related to being fat. As for people’s assumptions, I’m sure they exist. I’ve only had one person make it very apparent to me though. I was working at a tutoring center and eating a sandwich from the deli when a fellow tutor asked, “aren’t you worried about getting diabetes?” I can’t remember how I reacted, but I now think it was such an odd thing to say. I can’t ever remember a time when I assumed that someone’s body would get a disease/disorder/condition.

Are your parents both supportive of you at the weight you’re at? Have they always been?

“Supportive” could mean so many things. My parents do not force me to diet and do not act as though I cannot do things because of my weight. I think I’ve shown them that I am able to be successful, happy, and a good person. I’ve also shown them that I have goals for myself and have my own relationship with my body. Do they every once in awhile make a comment that shows me otherwise? Yes. Comments about what I need to eat or how I need to move come in small snippets. A comment about what kinds of guys will find me attractive came out a week or two ago. These are not things I haven’t heard elsewhere. I’m very aware of cultural narratives that people then take up themselves. I will say my parents are very supportive of my blog and know that my body is my own and I make my choices.

How do you think retailers can improve clothes for plus-size people?

Biggest fix: more size availability. So many choices for those size 24 and under, so few for those above that.

Do you think plus-size women are judged differently than plus-sized men are? How?

I don’t think I am around enough plus-size men to understand what they go through. Of the few I know, they are often made invisible, which is damaging in itself.

Do you think there’s an assumption made/stereotype that exists about plus-size people? How would you respond to it?

Of course! Don’t take care of themselves, overeaters, “let themselves go”, lazy, unmotivated, no determination/self-control, dumb, and many more. As much as these assumptions exist and affect people, in my daily life it doesn’t come up much. I think as soon as I speak to people, many of these assumptions are shown to be what they are. I honestly know SO MANY fat people that live life differently that these assumptions just seem ridiculous.

Do you think there’s ever a right way or time to express concern about someone’s weight?

No. I have to agree with “Woman B” again:If you’re thinking about confronting someone about their weight, is it really the weight that you have an issue with? Do they seem more tired or out of sorts? Talk to them about that. Do they seem really unhappy about themselves? Maybe compliment them about how cool they are. If you’re just concerned that someone doesn’t look as attractive to you anymore, the problem is you, not their weight.”

What are the worst things people have said to you about your body?

When I was younger it was things like “Brian said you’d be pretty if your butt wasn’t so big” and “who invited Shamu to the party?” When I was a teen, I remember one of my sisters asking why I wasn’t embarrassed to show my arms (because I have an obvious roll on each arm). As an adult, the worst has been at a party when a guy told me he was “drunk enough” to “even hook up” with me. On my blog I occasionally get a comment saying I’m gross or that I make them want to diet.

How did you respond?

When I was younger, I hid myself and tried to not be seen. The comment from my sister was spurred by her insecurities with her arms, but it definitely made me insecure about my arms. I actively tried not to wear sleeveless tops for years after that. When the drunk remark happened, I told him very publicly that his statement was horrible, and then I cried up in my room (sometimes you just need to cry when others inflict pain). The online comments on my blog get dumped in the trash and I go on my merry way. They are often posted anonymously anyway, so I don’t get to know/see who says it.

What have people said (or do you wish they’d say) that would compliment your body or appearance?

I most definitely get more compliments than negative responses. It often has to do with my outfits (I do blog about them after all). Often the most meaningful are comments or emails that are written by women my size or just plus size saying that they recognize beauty in my body/appearance and also recognize it in themselves. Men also say positive things, especially now that I’m older and willing to show full length pictures (in college, so many pictures were just of my face).

Do you find yourself hanging out with women who are closer to your size?

My local friends are all smaller than me and are thin. My sisters are bigger, but I am bigger than them. My friends online range tremendously, but I mostly talk with people who identify as “fat” or “plus size” on blogs and Twitter. I do actively seek out friends who are closer to my size, especially since so many of my interests are size related (plus size fashion, fat studies, fat activism).

How has your weight affected your sex life, if at all?

I don’t know. I think I’d have the same attitude/beliefs about my sexuality whether I was thinner or fatter.

When you’ve been single, has your weight affected your dating life?

I’m sure it narrows the people who will message me on online dating (which is pretty much where I meet people to date). That said, I’ve had more men interested in me this year than ever before, and I’m at my heaviest weight. I think the confidence and the photos I post are the most influential. I purposefully post full body pictures so they understand that I like my appearance. I do have additional concerns that others might not have: is the restaurant/activity that we are doing accessible and comfortable for me? I’m sure that impacts me going into unknown experiences.

Do you feel weird if the guy you’re with only dates larger women?

No, but I was recently confronted with these feelings and concerns. I realized that only dating or even preferring larger women makes me feel even more comfortable. I like that they are attracted to a larger body. However, a man that ONLY wants to talk about or see my body, that’s an issue. I don’t want to date a body. I want to date a person. I think ALL women of any size, shape, etc. will be approached by people who are only into their looks and not other aspects of themselves.

Do you feel weird if he’s only dated slimmer women before you?

I don’t know. I’ve never dated/talked to someone who only dated slim women before me.

I should say, though, that I actually don’t think I like dating much. Sometimes I feel like I force myself to because other people my age are dating and in relationships. I just have other things that take precedent in my life AND I am not attracted to very many people. This view is impacted by more things than just being fat, though.

I feel the need to disclaimer this post. I wrote it after 10 pm after a long work day. I hope it makes sense in the morning! Some things I noticed while answering, many of these questions have less to do with my body and more to do with my confidence and preferences. I will also note that having a positive relationship with my body has ONLY brought positives into my life. When I treat my body with respect and positivity, others follow suit. Also, the questions didn’t hit some of the topics I find important to my life, such as being fat at work. Being a fat woman means that I will sometimes see/hear people making side comments, and sometimes I know it’s associated with being fat and sometimes I assume it’s associated with being fat. For instance, on the first day of classes after walking in, I heard a student ask a fellow student if they’ve seen the movie Precious. I will assume that it’s because of my body. I’m not sure if other fat people would get hurt by hearing that, but it truly does not hurt me. I remember it, but I also know that 5 minutes after the comment I handed those students an introductory letter where a a third of the page is about me being fat (we study identity and writing). I don’t know if 4 years ago I would be empowered and confident enough to do that, but today I am.

What do you think of the Cosmo article? Want to see EVEN MORE perspectives of being a fat woman? Check out the following bloggers who have all answered the same questions:

Claire http://amonkeyfatshionista.co.uk/
Naomi www.diamondsnpearls.co.uk
Sian www.pickedfoundpassionate.com
Lucia www.ucantwearthat.com
Cass http://plumpparsnip.blogspot.co.uk/
Michaela cardifforniagurl.blogspot.com
Lolly http://lollylikesfatshion.blogspot.co.uk/
Betty http://www.bigfatbetty.com
Gina http://www.fatfitfine.blogspot.co.uk/
Debz http://www.wannabeprincess.co.uk/
Becky Barnes http://www.mrsbebeblog.co.uk/
Nat Www.awheelbarrowfullofstyle.blogspot.co.uk
Emma http://emmaatouchofsparkle.weebly.com/ 
Vicky http://therandomnessoftwee.blogspot.co.uk/
Michelle stageyourpresence.blogspot.ie.
Becky Brown www.doesmyblogmakemelookfat.com
Amanda http://cruellamcg.wordpress.com/
Elena
http://www.frivolousmrsd.com/

 Thank you, Claire, for organizing this!

17 Comments leave one →
  1. February 26, 2014 2:06 pm

    Hi Rebecca! I really like the concept of this post; hope you don’t mind if I put my twist on it in a post of my own!

  2. February 26, 2014 2:22 pm

    I just wanted to let you know how much I think you ROCK! I love this post and it has really brought up some stuff for me which is good because a great post should make you feel something! At 42 I still work on my self esteem. I’ve come SO far from where I used to be but working on one self is a race, not a sprint. So thank you for being awesome and real about who you are!

    • February 26, 2014 2:40 pm

      Thank you for such a sweet comment :). “working on one self is a race, not a sprint.” Exactly!

  3. February 26, 2014 2:43 pm

    Rebecca, thank you so much for sharing this. Your responses were so genuine and really spoke to many of the same feelings I have about my body and being plus-size. You are part of a truly inspiring community of strong women!

  4. February 26, 2014 2:55 pm

    Loved reading this!

  5. February 26, 2014 5:27 pm

    Loved reading this!!

  6. Teri Sturrock permalink
    February 26, 2014 8:25 pm

    I just wanted to thank you for this post and your blog. I’ve subscribed to your blog for a little while now, and getting your fashion posts in my emails every morning (I’m in NZ, so time differences) has truly inspired me to take more risks with my own fashion and embrace my body more. I’ve really enjoyed this post in particular, as I feel like it’s allowed me to get to know you a little more. So thanks for sharing your tips and, most importantly, your journey. From a fellow teacher :)

  7. February 26, 2014 11:05 pm

    Thank you. This post really spoke to me. I had to shove it into my sister’s face so she could read it too. I was nodding my head and whispering “exactly” the whole time. I’m new to the body acceptance crusade and you are an inspiration.

  8. Jacki permalink
    February 28, 2014 9:22 am

    I’m really glad you shared your perspective with these questions. Having known you since you were little, but not having much time to talk with you on a regular basis, this gave me more insight into your thoughts, feelings and beliefs. I’ve always struggled with my with my weight and body image. Even when it would not seem that I should have had any concerns. I realize as I’ve gotten older, so many things I allowed to influence my view of myself. Today, I struggle with finding good fashion no only because I’m the heaviest/largest I’ve ever been, but also because I’m older and my body is changing in may ways. I don’t carry the weight the same way I used to and I don’t know what would be most flattering adn comfortable for me, fashion-wise. Exercise and diet are conversations I get tired of everyone talking about. I would like to be able to do more physical things and I do think my weight keeps me from having the energy for some activities, but, like you, having tried some diets and gaining back more than I lost makes me never want to diet again. I just want to “move” a little more, and not use food for an emotional band-aid, which is what I often do. You inspire me to try and add more color and style to the clothes in my closet, but I think I need more guidance. With allowing my hair to go more gray, I find I need to add more pastels and bright colors and get away from my usual black, brown and gray. But the clothes are SO expensive and I still find that a good fit is difficult to find. I see what you and the other bloggers wear and they are so cute, but are they age appropriate for me? I am working on embracing who I am. It is now or never. Thank you for all your wonderful posts. I know you are an inspiration to many, and especially to me.

    • April 11, 2014 1:43 pm

      Jacki, I know it’s been a little while since you made this comment, and I am not sure how old you are, but my advice is not to worry about “age appropriate.” Find something you feel good in and rock it <3.

  9. March 1, 2014 10:05 pm

    This was an amazing article and so positive. You have done some really good research. This is my favorite comment: Woman B: Plus-size retailers of the world: I am not a diva, so stop thinking my ass needs to be a bedazzled billboard for this non-fact. SOOOO true.

  10. Carolyn Agosta permalink
    March 5, 2014 9:16 am

    Some very beautiful answers here. I hope you know how proud of you I am, not only your many accomplishments, but what a thoughtful considerate person you are inside.

  11. Matt permalink
    March 29, 2014 2:21 am

    I think you are so nice and you are really cool and I am sorry that dude said that to you

  12. Beverley Ross permalink
    April 26, 2014 11:26 am

    Hello Rebecca, this is only the second time I’ve felt the desire to comment on a blog but I really needed to as you just seem so lovely. I’m the biggest person i know and I always have been, your picture of you as a child in the 90s could have actually been me and it was so insiping to see another person as I have seen myself so many times.
    MMFD has been an actual source of inspiration for me and I don’t know how far you are in the US but in GB we’ve finished the second series and had an episode when Rae reads Chloe’s diary and its strange to see the tables turned. This prompted me to have a conversation about bodies with a few freiends of mine and it was interesting to see that the times when I was thinking ‘gosh look at them, I wish i could be like that’ would be the same time when they did the same about me! we feel others have it made, but there are always ways people feel bad about themselves and I think when you are bigger (at least just for me) that’s what gets the blame.
    I’m also a teacher (at what you would call high school) and it is easy to think of comments being reflected at your size, but again only because that’s on your mind. I have read on here you talking about wanting to look your very best at school and I’m exactly the same, if they see a cute matching jacket and work dress then they are looking at my clothes and not me. But at the same time they are kids they love me becuase I’m a good teacher, because I care, becuase I eventually mark their work with positive comments! But if they didn’t like me I can assure you it would have nothing to do with being FAT, they might say that, at one school i got a ‘fat bitch’ comment, my actual response was ‘well I suggest next time you get a detention you come up with something more original, as yes I am both overweight and when you haven’t done your homework not very nice, neither of which is news to me!’ he shut up and appologised very quickly.
    As for drunks on a night out, I’ve had many of those comments or even worse ones too, but thank the lord I am bigger, as I could of ended up having one of those horrible grotbags ‘comming onto me’ and I fear that more, or getting with some guy who comments every time you gain a little weight.
    Anyway you keep being beautiful, lovely and an inspiration to others. I have found reading your blog and writing this comment enlightening, so keep up the good work.

  13. April 28, 2014 3:18 am

    Hey Rebecca! First, I just want to say I think you’re amazing, I love your blog. I have been so inspired lately to start my own plus-size fashion & lifestyle blog. I thought this idea was so awesome! I went ahead and answered the questions on my own blog! If you’re interested, you should check my post out: http://www.allisonmmcintyre.com

  14. Mandy permalink
    June 23, 2014 3:41 pm

    I just found your blog today so I’m a bit behind but honestly reading this and the cosmo article has helped me alot. I went through a period of time in high school where I realized I had a weight problem that most girls did not. I was so frustrated and sad and confused why I wasn’t given an Abercrombie body. In college I lost some weight and felt more confident than ever. Unfortunately I gained that all back and more when I got my desk job. Now I struggle with dealing with life and what to do about my weight. It’s so great to see women like you embrace their body. I’ve never been able to do that. I look in the mirror and pick all the things I hate. Hoping that the more blogs I read like yours helps me move past that. Thank you!

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