Now everything’s cool as long as we’re getting thinner…

I had thought that the world being turned upside down might put a dent in diet culture. It seemed that having a real and very serious health issue to contend with would get our collective perspective in order. Turns out that was naive.

If anything, it’s worse. The fat phobia has amplified. It’s coming from new & unexpected directions along with all the regular ones. It’s demoralising to realise how quickly all those supposed body positive allies throw the fatties under the bus. People I respected didn’t take long to start posting the weight gain jokes. Support for my own & other fat activist’s work has begun to feel like a part of a cultivated image. One that cracks under any pressure at all.

When you joke about the horror of gaining weight in public forums it isn’t harmless. Not only does it perpetuate stigma towards fat bodies; you’re also telling fat people what you really think of them. If you like your smaller body I’m delighted for you. Enjoy it. However, if your only response to inhabiting a slightly larger form is mockery or revulsion, you are not a Bopo ally.

This applies even more in the current crisis. During a deadly pandemic that grinds entire countries to a halt there are many things to fear. If top of your list is weight gain you might want to reassess your priorities. I am the after picture in those hilarious memes. Looking like me is not the worst thing that corona virus could do to you.

Barber before & after quarantine meme

When I’m not disappointed by folk I expected better from I am bombarded by the diet industry. The weight loss world has never missed an exploitation opportunity. Diet plans & work out programme ads have multiplied. Disreputable influencers can’t wait to wring some cash of out skinny whatever collaborations. Millionaire celebs holed up in mansions are giving us food plans to guard against stress eating. Meanwhile regular people struggle to cope isolation, lost income & fear of critical illness. The focus on the waist line is gross.

I’ve saved the worst for last. The truly terrifying part; medical discrimination. In the wake of covid 19 fat has been pathologised to an even greater extent. BMI has been incorrectly identified as a risk factor for both contracting the virus & suffering more severe symptoms. Weight has been used as a disqualifying factor when resources are scarce. In other words, fat people have been deemed dispensable. I know we’re not alone. Other marginalised groups (some I also belong to) have been marked cannon fodder too. I am ready to fight for the rights of all those people. It’s startling how many members of those groups do not reciprocate my solidarity.

If you’re thinking the jokes & fears have nothing to do with the medical discrimination, you’re wrong. By partaking in the toxic diet conversation you help create a society that considers fat bodies to be less worthy. We live in a world that permits Drs to ignore research on weight & its implications. We accept inaccuracies & damaging advice because the majority still believe that fat is bad. Fat phobia is profitable and fat people are paying the ultimate price.

Black & white photo of plus sized women in knickers holding her breasts

And I can’t help loving myself…

Let’s start the year with my annual reminder, shall we? As we head into peak ‘new year, new you’ territory let me assure you that weight loss is not self care or improvement. Decreasing your size will not decrease your problems. Changing your diet will not change your life. You do not have to atone for any Xmas indulgence. Punishing yourself with a diet that won’t work anyway will achieve nothing. Even if you don’t believe that diet culture is harmful to you, believe me when I say it is damaging to the fat people in your life. Every time you talk in disgusted tones about how fat you are you tell us what you really think of our bodies. Trust me, we’re sick of hearing it. This is my body and it is good enough exactly as it is. I am fat and attractive and happy. Whether you agree with me or not doesn’t matter. I’m so much more than flesh & skin anyway. It’s sad & frustrating that people still need to be reminded of this.

Snapshots of a fat body

Easy ways to support your fat friends…

I think most people want to be loving & supportive of their friends. Whenever I discuss body positivity (online or in person) most decent straight sized people are mostly in favour of the theory. I’m often congratulated & told it is important to spread the message. I suspect these people would consider themselves supportive of their fat friends.

Whilst I agree that they are well intentioned & aim to be supportive I still hear the same complaints from the fat friends over & over. It can be really hard to address these face to face. So, here is a handy to guide to help thin folk support the fat people in their life. I’m starting with the basics; 5 easy steps that anyone can manage.

Don’t tell me you feel fat.

Fat is not a feeling. When you describe your feelings of inadequacy or unattractiveness as ‘feeling fat’, your opinions on fat are very clear. In addition please don’t complain about how fat you are when you are half my size. What I hear is that you think I am repulsive.

Don’t include me in your diet talk

Diets don’t work. That is scientific fact. Studies show time & again that almost every diet actually results in long term weight gain. I believe that diet talk is toxic. I can’t tell you what to do with your body, but please don’t involve me in it. I don’t want to know how many calories are in my or your meal. Keep your weight goals to yourself. Food has no moral value, you’re not being good when you order a salad. You can follow whatever regime you please without telling me about it.

Don’t expect me to always be ok with trawling around shops that don’t carry my size.

I can’t tell you how many shopping trips I have been on where there was no chance of me buying anything. I’m not even sure that most straight sized people are even aware of this. I’m not saying I’ll never help you pick out a new frock, but please try to be aware that it isn’t all that much fun for me. There are limits to how much time I want to spend sitting in waiting rooms holding your coat.

Don’t laugh at/make fat jokes.

Whether it’s a character in a film or a disparaging comment about that bitch you hate at work when you include their weight it stings. When you find Thor in a fat suit hilarious you’re laughing at my actual body. If you can’t criticise Trump without mentioning his weight you are telling me that him being fat is part of what you dislike about him.

Don’t comment on weight loss/gain

The aim of my body positivity is reach a point where body size is neutral. I would dearly love for my bulk or lack there of to just not matter. With that in mind, please don’t comment on my weight fluctuations. Weight loss is not inherently good. Any changes may be unintentional. They may not even be benign. The size of my person requires no discussion. In the same vein don’t expect me to congratulate or castigate anyone else’s weight change.

I know some readers will be thinking this is all very demanding. No doubt the, we can’t say anything anymore mob, will have lots to say about my suggestions. Remember, though, they are only suggestions. No one can stop you from saying anything you feel you must. I’m simply letting you know that when you do, it hurts. It comes down to respect. The choice is yours.