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"Fat" is Not a Feeling

"I feel fat"

Maybe that's true, to a surface extent.

But fat is a loaded word. It's no longer one to me, but I had to deconstruct it (and continue to do so) for years before it lost its potency. Diet culture generates its dominance and longevity by instilling the fear of fat and the idealization of skinny from the moment we can view a screen or read a headline. The body positivity movement worked to reclaim arbitrary descriptors such as "fat" and "skinny," but the deeply laden self-imposed hierarchy remains. The word "fat" is still used as a targeted insult, particularly against women who are so often weighed against one another depending on their aesthetic appeal.

So what does "fat" mean?

Well, take this space to answer that for yourself for a moment. What connotations does being fat have?

Ugly, undesirable, gross, unhealthy, rejected, failure, out of control, unlovable, subhuman, lazy, uneducated,

On the other hand, think of the connotations that come with the word "skinny."

Successful, desirable, elite, prosperous, healthy, in control, wanted, loved, accepted.

Let's focus on the idea of skinny as accepted, and contrarily, fat as rejectable. If that's the idea, and for a lot of us, that is the connotation that we know, then of course you're going to be afraid of fat. Of course you're going to chase after the thin ideal. One of those options involves way less risk of being outcasted, ostracized, and cut off from others. Human beings are social creatures. The basic desire for some level of acceptance or reassurance that we belong is innate and powerful. Problems arise when we prescribe faulty ready-made solutions to non-existent problems, like selling skinny to a healthy, happy individual.

And no, we're not "promoting obesity" here. In fact, we're not promoting any body type, but rather that notion that perhaps these words are not as powerful as we make them out to be.

I used to struggle with recurring, invasive thoughts related to my eating disorder that were spoken in whispers roughly every 10-20 seconds in my mind. One of them was, "you're fat." It was a simple statement, but I'd find my ED mind repeating this phrase at completely random times, several hundred times a day. Usually I would suppress it or replace it with another thought. I realized that I was still being controlled by a fear of becoming fat, and simply ignoring the comment only beckoned it back again. The next time that I heard my ED say, "you're fat" I answered back, "Yes. And?" The results of that simple rebellion were monumental. I kept going. Every 15-30 seconds that invasive thought would pass, and instead of swallowing it down or ignoring it, I would sit with it. I would sit with what I had been trained to believe was the worst possible outcome. What I quickly discovered is that the worst possible outcome was actually a completely arbitrary descriptor that bore no more weight then did "brunette."

Imagine how your larger friend feels when you're saying you hate feeling how they look. Your biggest fear is looking like them. The sentiment of fat phobia is very real and absolutely valid; it's a trained response, and one that we continue to perpetuate when we cave into the arbitrary social hierarchy of fat vs. skinny. What's harmful is when we allow that fat phobia to make us not only dislike our own bodies, but the bodies of other held in constant comparison. Fat people are not a scape goat for broken self esteem. They're not a designated last place, or a D.U.F.F. While you may experience fear and negativity around the word fat, to "feel fat" is to feel like you belong in that invisible inferior category, where real people exist and thrive everyday.

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