It’s only a three-letter word, but the word fat is a loaded gun. It’s often shaped like an insult, a handy tool for bullying that can bludgeon your self-perception. It has lasting effects on our physical and mental health. Size-based discrimination even controls most aspects of our daily lives. From the clothes we can wear to job prospects and healthcare access, the number on a weighing scale holds power.
And it shouldn’t. If you love someone who is fat, you don’t want to hurt them on a regular basis. That doesn’t mean you won’t inadvertently do it. Often, well-intentioned comments can be hurtful. Fat folk are frequently subjected to concern-trolling. From strangers, we can take it and move on. From loved ones, it hurts to see them actively harming us under the guise of concern, as if fatness is always conflated with unhealthiness.
So if you’re done hurting people you care about with thoughtless remarks, here’s a handy primer of things you can avoid saying to the fat people in your life.
1. “Have you lost weight? You look great!”
- [Image description: gif of a woman taking a deep breath and clenching both fists. via Giphy.com]
I know this is usually meant as a genuine compliment. The intention doesn’t matter as much if it doesn’t have the intended effect, though, and that is often the case. Saying something like this implies that you need to lose weight to look great or that being thinner and looking good are directly related.
2. “It’s not about appearances. I just care about your health!”
- [Image description: gif of a woman gesturing and saying, “I look better than you making your exit right now.” via Giphy.com]
Considering that the Health at Every Size theory was born in the early 1960s, the fact that people still equate weight with health is honestly tragic. Research clearly shows that not only are people born with different body types that have individual health requirements but that the constant pressure to be a specific size also causes physical and emotional damage.
Sometimes, even if you know that a diet is going to be terrible for your mental and physical health, you did it anyway because the lure of thinness is too strong to ignore.
So why are we still pretending that we care about health, when it’s really only about being skinny?
3. “Your life will be so much easier if you slim down a little.”
- [Image description: gif of a woman putting her head in her hand in exasperation. via Giphy.com]
You know what? Maybe fitting into the stereotypical ideals of beauty makes it easier for people to be appreciated and successful. But it doesn’t mean that the associated shame will automatically disappear, nor should you have to change yourself like that.
We’re not wrong for being fat. You are if you equate waist measurement to a person’s worth.
4. “You have such a pretty face!”
- [Image description: gif of a woman saying, “It’s shady.” via Giphy.com]
Alternatively titled: “You look great… for a curvy girl.”
When you single out a specific physical trait and then say someone looks good despite it, it sends out a very clear message. It’s like saying, “You’re fat and I don’t think that’s attractive, but you’re cute enough to make up for your fatness.”
And that is absolutely not okay. If you want to be nice, be genuinely nice or stop talking.
5. “Do you really gain weight that easily? Man, I wish I could do that, I’m so thin!”
- [Image description: gif of a woman pointing a remote and asking, “Can I mute you?” via Giphy.com]
I wish I was joking when I say this, but the number of skinny people I have heard say this is frankly, atrocious.
Sure, thin people have their own struggles, but it’s still a shady comment. Fat-shaming is a problem that everyone without the perfect slim, hourglass figure faces, from a chubby toddler to accomplished plus-size actresses and models.
If you make it sound like being fat is a privilege and you’re at a disadvantage as a thin person, just stop.
6. “Aw, your belly’s so cute, my little panda bear/baby whale/baby seal.”
- [Image description: gif of a woman making a vaguely disgusted face. via Giphy.com]
Stop calling people giant animals like it’s cute and endearing instead of offensive. Nobody wants to be called a baby whale or a chipmunk or a seal or whatever else animal you might decide sounds cute. It just makes fat people feel fat and nobody should be made to feel that way. It is definitely not cute.
7. “Are you sure that doesn’t look a little indecent?”
- [Image description: gif of the model Tyra Banks saying, “Kiss my fat ass!” via Giphy.com]
Alternatively titled: “Can you believe that fatso is trying to pull off a crop top? …oh, no, you’re not fat!”
Listen, Becky, if I could choose not to have giant bags of fat on my chest, I’d be there faster than you can say underboob swamp.
These things get seriously sweaty in the summer. But some of us may actually like our lumpy bits. That’s perfectly acceptable, too. If you think fat people can’t wear something but your loved one is an exception, that means you think fat people just can’t wear it. It’s easier to just stop being bitching about fat folk in general than constantly divorcing fat people you actually like from your toxic opinions about them.
9. “You’re working out? I’m so proud of you!”
- [Image description: gif of a woman wearily rolling her eyes. via Giphy.com]
Yep, thanks for that unnecessary validation, I guess. More often than not, fat women being active is seen as directly related to losing weight. It’s not. Sometimes, a person just wants to be strong enough to kick a racist into the stratosphere and doesn’t care about losing weight. The automatic assumption that fat people should work out to lose weight is borderline fatphobic.
Basically, don’t be this guy. Don’t talk about our bodies at all because it’s none of your business.
Honestly, it’s not even that hard.