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Finding the Woman Within: Just Say No to Fat Shaming

Are plus size women's bodies public domain? To be scrutinized and criticized?

Are plus size women's bodies public domain? To be scrutinized and criticized?

Here's something I bet you "regular" sized people didn't know: If you ever order any type of plus-sized clothing from one company, you will suddenly get catalogs from every other plus-sized company.

Yesterday I got one titled the "Woman Within," as if there is some skinny woman hidden inside my plus sized body, just waiting to get out.

Not the most inspiring name ever.

Plus-size women do not get a break. Ever. We are constantly being reminded that we are bigger. Different. Other.

We can't go to "regular" stores and buy clothes. We must find the "women's" stores. "Women" being a euphemism for fat.

While sports stores may gladly carry larger sizes in men's workout gear, the women's stops at a size 10. Stubbornly, Defiantly. The message is clear: If you're over a size 10, don't even bother.

Weight Is Complicated

Even in light of more and more research that explains that weight is complicated, nuanced. That eating the same food can have vastly different effects on different people, we are still shamed. We still suck in our stomach, try to make ourselves smaller in those already too-small airline seats. We eat less and we still don't lose.

We might even gain.

We avoid doctors because the first thing they see is weight, before any tests are run. (Tests that show that...shock...We may actually pretty healthy.) We are peddled shakes and salads and when those don't work we are shamed more.

It must be our fault. No one is bigger unless they are neglectful and slovenly. No one is big unless they willfully choose to live an unhealthy lifestyle. It's just so easy if you'd just try.

We hear that message everywhere, every day, and it weighs on us. On our value. On our worth as women.

Why is what a woman eats a part of public discourse?

Why is what a woman eats a part of public discourse?

Food Control

I recently had a conversation with a good friend who is far from plus size. But she has some interesting insights about weight.

She explained about her family, how she was raised to be conscious of every bite that went into her mouth. How a pound gained was a tragedy. She told me that as she got into adulthood she found herself echoing that philosophy by strictly choosing the food her family ate and obsessing over fat grams and calories. Until one day she'd had enough.

She decided to stop. She decided that it was making her life miserable. She described how she has discovered eating. How she is enjoying food. How she has gained weight and feels better. Her energy is there again. She feels better than she's ever felt.

Yet, in all that, she says that she knows as soon as she goes back to her doctor she'll be scolded for her weight gain, and she dreads it even as she is defying it.

Feeling good is less important than looking good. A message that's been handed to women for centuries and one that we have bought and embraced as our own.

Skinny Isn't Always Healthy. Fat Isn't Always Unhealthy.

Even as I write this I know there'll be the detractors. The ones with the firm tight abs, the strict workout regimens, and the healthy vegan diet. And there's nothing wrong with that path.

But what is wrong with a different path? What if I want to be able to eat regular portions of the food I like? What if my plus sized body is healthy? What if health is more complicated than a number on the scale?

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What if I enjoy a nice walk in the evening but have no desire for a three hour workout.

And why must my worth as a woman be boxed into shame for my body if it falls outside your outward definition of beautiful?

What if I have energy, health and happiness despite my inability to get below a size 14? What if I eat regular portions, exercise, and still don't lose weight?

Ideals of beauty change over time yet a woman is supposed to conform to whatever the current ideal is.

Ideals of beauty change over time yet a woman is supposed to conform to whatever the current ideal is.

Anytime there is an attempt to begin to define beauty beyond weight, there is the detraction, the fake sympathy.

  • "I just want you to be healthy and feel good."
  • "I do feel good and I am healthy."
  • "There is no way you can be at that size."
  • "But I am!"

And there is always the subtle reminders, like catalogs that suggest there is a "woman within" that remind me that I am other. I am a woman but an offensive version of one.

I have to struggle with limited clothing choices. Overpriced options that are cheaply made just because I'm a captive audience.

I have to endure the scrutinizing of my food choices. Should you be eating that? Wouldn't a salad with no dressing be better?

I have to deal with the mental anguish of finally working up the guts to go to the doctor for routine care only to leave in disgust after being peddled an MLM weight loss shake.

No physical exam was made. Just a number and a judgement. Blood tests only after the fact. Those same tests that let you know that I actually have really good numbers and appear to be rather healthy.

Looks matter more than health. Always. Don't forget it!

The Fun of Fat Shaming.

Fat shaming is fun. It makes the shamers feel better about any of their own flaws whether those are internal or external.

Look at how they live. Look at those choices. We laugh at the "People of Walmart" photos because they are not us. We don't wear those too-tight clothes or have rolls of fat hanging over our pants as we putter around the store in scooters. Thank goodness I'm not those people.

But we are those people. Every one of those people has a story. Yes even fat people are people. Putting aside the link between poverty and obesity, our willingness as a society to dismiss someone's humanity based on their outward appearance is not only prevalent, it's encouraged.

Some Resources For Body Positive Attitude.

  • The Body Is Not An Apology: This is a great website that fights discrimination of people for all kinds of reasons including weight and disability. It's about seeing people as people.
  • The Fat Nutritionist: Her message is simple yet inspiring. Health at every size. Among other things she calls for doctors to start understanding the true health of patients and not just their weight.

How do we stop making people, women especially, apologize for their weight? How do we shift the focus from outward to inward? How do we see health as nuanced and subtle? How do we make plus sized women not feel like "other?"

So, as Shakespeare says, "there's the rub."

How Can We Fight It?

I fully realize that we live in society that is external, where appearance is everything. Where it's okay to have curves as long as they are exaggerated and sexualized (ala Kim Kardashian and Nicki Minaj).

But there are little things you can do to emphasize yourself as a person and not a number on a clothing tag or a scale.

For one, you can surround yourself with better people. People that may be skinny, fat, short, tall or in-between but who see you as someone of value no matter your size. Find people who worry less about what you are eating and more about who you truly are.

While it would be nice if we could change media and their air brushed depictions of women, that's not likely to happen. Instead we should celebrate that people, as humans, are very diverse.

I'm not saying that there is anything wrong or bad about being a smaller sized person either. There are beautiful people. Gorgeous. Wonderful to look at. Makes you wonder just how genetics could come together that perfectly. And many of them are smart and talented and truly wonderful people.

And some of those people are thin. And some are not.

And there are other people. People who are not meant to be gazed at as if they were some type of art. But rather they are interesting. They are funny and smart. They make the best lasagna anyone has ever tasted. They can knit the most wonderful creations. They can write. They can teach. They can inspire.

I want to live in a world that just stops for a moment and realizes that diversity applies to not only ethnicity but also to size.

You can perpetuate the problem or be part of the solution.

The choice is up to you.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 L C David


Amy on January 10, 2015:

Amen sista!

Brandon Hart on January 06, 2015:

After having many kids my wife's body certainly isn't the same as it was when we were married. That being said I grown to love her for the sacrifice she's made. To me she still looks great. A lot of us guys prefer plus size women with their curves and appeal.

Michael Higgins from Michigan on January 05, 2015:

A well deserved HOTD! Very nicely written.

Suzie from Carson City on January 05, 2015:

Excellent hub. Wonderful message. I happen to agree with you wholeheartedly.

Genetics has so much to do with this matter what size we're discussing. We are who and what we are. Amen. Somehow the "perceptions" have got us all doubting that we are "OK" just as we are.

My own personal message to all my sister-grandmas out there: "You might have been slight & slender, dainty & thin as a young woman....but it is terribly unrealistic and disillusioning to think that we will ALWAYS remain that way. To tell you the truth, per mother nature, we're not even designed nor intended to be that way.

Those "additional" 30 to 40 lbs are in the stars for us. Genetics, hormones, activities, lifestyle....the day arrives, like it or not.

Just remember to continue to like YOU!!!."......UP++++ Peace, Paula

savvydating on January 05, 2015:

One of the best hubs I've come across, ever! Absolutely fabulous. BTW, I didn't realize a 14 was plus size. I thought it was average. Well, anyway, who cares. I hope all the fat-haters and naysayers read this hub and feel ashamed. Luckily for me, my mom was fat. I never thought anything of it and I've raised my son to feel the same way. Never will you hear him lecturing someone who is "overweight." It's all about the love people. Of course, size 14's can be healthy---and curvy too. Thanks for writing this excellent hub of the day, and congratulations! Up, awesome.

Eileen from Western Cape , South Africa on January 05, 2015:

Love the message you bring across ; congrats on HOTD !

twoseven from Madison, Wisconsin on January 05, 2015:

Really well written. This is such an important perspective and you point out something that all of us women can relate to whether we are plus size or not: Why is what a woman eats a part of public discourse?

This is such a huge issue, and I think you present it in a really accessible way. I agree the focus should be on health and how much energy and happiness a person feels, not how people think women should look.

Thelma Alberts from Germany on January 05, 2015:

Congratulations on the hub of the day. Well done. I was once thin and I used to hear that I was sick because of that but I was healthy. I felt great. I gain 5 kilos after marriage and those "friends" still said I was thin. LOL! Now, I know. They felt fat themselves when they were with me. It was not me, sick. It does not really matter how heavy you weight, it is how you feel and happy you are.

Amanda Glass from Arkansas on January 05, 2015:

Awesome article! Thank you so much for writing it. I'm a plus size woman myself and I can identify with a lot of what you said. We are all beautiful in our own way!

Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on January 05, 2015:

You did a marvelous job with this topic. You definitely deserved HOTD. Keep on being you.

poetryman6969 on January 05, 2015:

Sometimes it's who you choose to listen to. Just as we should not hang around negative people, I think we should probably avoid negative websites and such. For instance, on Facebook I follow the folks who post things about curvy girls or plus sized models. They are always positive and the models looks sexy and great!

There is a problem though if you look at too many sexy big girls. Sometimes, if you go on pinterest and look at what all the young woman are pinning it can be almost horrifying how skinny the models these young women are trying to look are. You kind of wonder how any mentally balanced woman could want to look so emaciated.

Shasta Matova from USA on January 05, 2015:

Congratulations on HOTD. I am short, so I completely understand. There is less space for the distribution of fat on my body, so my portion sizes have to be smaller than someone who is taller. I think that it is good to try to be healthy - eat healthy foods, exercise, etc., but you're right, people shouldn't be judging other people based on their weight. Even on TV, it is perfectly acceptable to tell fat jokes.

pcharboneau from Oklahoma on January 05, 2015:

I love your humorous writing style. You are right, women can be plus-sized and healthy. I work out and am overweight, but men still find me sexy. A lot of it is how you feel about yourself, too. If you feel good and have a lot of energy, don't worry about what others think.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on January 05, 2015:

Great hub and congratulations on the HOTD.

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on January 05, 2015:

Congrats on HOTD. What a great message! I need to lose about 30 lbs, and I berate myself every day. I needed to hear this. Sharing!

Lisa Marie Gabriel from United Kingdom on January 05, 2015:

Awesome! As someone who has a genuine big frame size - feet, head, hands, shoulder width etc etc - I fully relate to the problems here. Well stated. No amount of shaming will combat genetics and a big boned muscular body type.

Mary Hyatt from Florida on January 05, 2015:

Congrats on HOTD! I come from a long line of overweight women! Even my four daughters battle constantly over their weight. They are forever on diets, and that worries me. I'd rather see them happy and overweight than unhappy and overweight.

I even battled the weight problem until I went through menopause. Now I eat anything I like without gaining weight.

So, be happy with yourself and enjoy life.

LongTimeMother from Australia on January 05, 2015:

Hi LCDWriter. Congratulations on HOTD!

I am not plus-size, but I would also be offended if I received anything titled 'Woman Within'. I am the woman I am - as are you. :)

mySuccess8 on January 05, 2015:

Worldwide, the proportion of overweight women (and men) have been increasing. You have provided an interesting look at obesity (or overweight) in women from different perspectives, other than becoming major global heath risk factors. Plus-size women can also be successful, happy, and beautiful, as long as they are healthy. There are many natural ways to look and stay good, other than weight considerations. Really enjoyed reading this well-written Hub. Congrats on Hub of the Day!

North Wind from The World (for now) on January 05, 2015:

@bravewarrior - I just read an article that studied Japanese people who live long and it was discovered that those who lived to be ripe old ages were somewhat overweight in their fifties. Just a tidbit that you might find interesting.

@L.C. David, I have to say that I do not generally read the HOTD but your title was intriguing and here I am. Society has become focused on the outside rather than on the inside and I believe that women and men, regardless of size, struggle with the pressures of how they are supposed to look outside a lot more than the average person thinks. You would be surprised to know how many people hate themselves because of their looks and they are not overweight either. It could be something as simple as a scar or it could be a nose. It does not matter. That is why plastic surgery is so successful. People just want to feel accepted by the society that tells them they have to look a certain way.

The result is an obsession with the superficial and not the everlasting which is a great shame.

I appreciate you sharing your experience.

Very interesting hub!

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on January 05, 2015:

Well done. It is so sad to see the ugly that comes out in folks who see someone who is overweight. Sadder still to see the little ones with them who hear what is said and model it!!! Heart breaking.

Congrats on HOTD

Angels are on the way to you this morning ps

Lisa Vollrath from Euless, Texas on December 26, 2014:

If there's a skinny woman inside me, it's because I ate her to shut her up!

I come from a long line of short, round, Italian women. All of my cousins and aunts have the same body shape I do. Yes, I could lose a few pounds, but I'm never going to be a size 2. Healthy and thin, I'm still a size 10, and I'm OK with that.

My doctor is OK with my size, as well, because I'm vegan, and my cholesterol numbers are good. I'm really lucky to have found a doctor that understands that one size doesn't always fit all.

Jacqui from New Zealand on December 14, 2014:

I really really like this hub! Thank you for writing and sharing it.

I had a gastric bypass almost 10years ago, because I was unhappy with where I had got to with my weight, and nothing I tried would shift it - and I know that you'll understand when I say "believe me, I TRIED".

I lost quite a bit with the surgery, and kept it all off.....for a bit. I'm now probably a bit heavier than I 'should' be, but I'm happy, I'm healthy, and that's all that matters. Sure, its nice to see a smaller number on the scales (should i feel like stepping on them), but it really doesn't matter anymore.

BUT the thing is - I still see myself as overweight, fat if you will - not in the mirror so much, but in my mind. Funnily enough, my mother has had similar surgery 31yrs ago, but she said she still feels the same.

I think fat and skinny shaming needs to stop - shaming of those who need to point out difference should start.

Caren White on December 08, 2014:

I'm sorry that you are made to feel badly about your appearance. You are correct. It's not your fault. I see from your photo that you are a young woman. I am much older than you. When I was a child, people were much thinner than now. Food was healthy and mostly prepared at home. Calorie laden convenience foods which make up most of today's diet were scarce and very expensive. And portions were much, much smaller than now.

Fat shaming is nothing new. It existed when I was young. My parents were raised during the Depression when food was scarce, so they forced their children to eat more than they should. Seconds were mandatory. Hence I was heavier than my peers and teased about it every day. When I moved out of my parent's home, I went in the opposite direction and became anorexic.

Food has been a battleground for me for my entire life. I love to cook, but I don't enjoy eating.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on December 08, 2014:

This is awesome, LCD. I was thin and trim most of my life. Now I'm 30 pounds overweight. I'm also in my latter 50's, which has much to do with it, I think. My friends don't treat me any differently, but I hate the way I look. I'm not used to the change. I'm trying to adopt the it-is-what-it-is attitude, but find it difficult. Something I need to work on, for sure.

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