This whole topic has been on my mind since, well, forever. It’s one that I have avoided because I know it can be very controversial. Fat is still very much a negative word to a lot of people. It still was a negative one to me not too long ago, but I have since joined the group of people who decided to take this word back and make it into a more positive term. Yes, I am fat. There’s no hiding it. It’s very obvious. I refuse to keep allowing the World to make me feel bad about myself because of this though. Yes, I am fat, but I am also short or average height, depending on who you ask. My skin color is very pale white. I am a female. These are all descriptors of my appearance, but none of them take away from who I AM as a person nor should I or anyone else be judged positively or negatively because of our descriptors.
Here’s where I am going to get controversial. Privilege. Yes, the word “privilege” tends to stir things up, even though ALL of us have some form of privilege. Some of us have a lot more of it than others, but if you’re alive right now, you have some privilege. Your privilege may only be that you’re alive right now when so many aren’t so lucky to be OR your privilege could be that you have a great job and are financially stable. I can’t look at you and tell you every privilege you have because not all privilege is something that can be clearly seen. There are some privileges that I CAN look at you and know you have though, and THIS is the area where people can get very heated. If I tell you that because you’re white, you have an extra privilege that those who are NOT white have, you MAY get offended. I am at a place where I accept that I, as a white person, DO have some privilege that those who are not don’t have. Just simply because I have not ever worried if I am being judged by people negatively based on my skin color is a privilege.
There’s another privilege that seems to be even more difficult for people to agree with though, and honestly, I feel like a lot of it has to do with the fact that diet culture is so incredibly pervasive in this world. I know bringing this up will bring mixed results, but I ask that anyone reading OR listening to this blog (on my podcast), please take the time to listen first. The privilege I am referring to is called “Thin privilege”. As I have joined more fat positive groups, I have seen so many mixed opinions and responses toward this, but as someone who is considered a “large fat” or “super fat” based on all the charts I’ve seen, I believe that I can speak on this topic from a place of knowledge that those smaller in size than me aren’t as able. I’ve noticed that sometimes other fat people don’t even agree with me on this topic, but that’s usually because of what I believe are 1 of 2 main reasons, 1) while they are fat or have been fat, they have never been a large fat, therefore, they haven’t experienced the same kind of hardships as those of us who are larger have, and/or 2) they have been so indoctrinated and brainwashed by others that they find it hard to admit that maybe those who fit the stereotypical idea of thin DO have more privilege than they do. Now I completely understand body dysmorphia and how it can make someone who is thin look in the mirror and see themselves as a lot bigger. While this can sometimes mean a thin person could be undergoing just as tough of a time accepting themselves as someone like me, it doesn’t affect the way others perceive them. When someone else looks at a thin person, whether that person thinks of themselves as fat or not, they are seeing the true outward appearance of that person. They are NOT seeing what their body dysmorphia is showing them. Vice versa, even if I somehow looked in the mirror and saw myself as smaller than I am, the second I go out into the world, I am going to quickly find out just how wrong I am.
When I go anywhere with chairs, I try to find the biggest possible option for me to sit in. I go to sit, and sometimes I may not fit the chair or sometimes I end up squishing my fat into the chair or basically sitting on top of it. Then I worry if the chair might break on me. When I was younger and smaller, I never worried about the chair not being able to handle my weight. A thin person with body dysmorphia might think they can’t fit in a chair, but they will be able to. Maybe they will worry about breaking a chair? I don’t know…but I guarantee you that even if that somehow happened, those around them would quickly assure the person that that chair must have had a problem or it was already broken, etc. As a fat person, I have broken multiple chairs. Yes, people have been nice about it, but I am not dumb. I know what the scale tells me, and I know what the average weight capacity of most chairs are, and I can put 2 and 2 together and get 4. That’s another thing… no matter what I want to believe about my size, the scale is always going to tell me the harsh truth. I personally choose to avoid scales as much as possible for my mental health, but I still know my number pretty closely.
I was involved in a conversation last week on Facebook where someone brought up getting their blood sugar tested frequently to check for diabetes, which I agree is a good thing, but I brought up the fact that as a fat person, I don’t NEED to ask them to check it. Every time I go to the doctor, they want to check my A1c because as a fat person, they always assume I’m either diabetic or will be very soon. I’ve never even tested prediabetic, but that doesn’t matter. To health professionals, fat means diabetic. The girl who had brought up the post turned out to be a very thin individual who encountered doctors not listening to her about her concern for diabetes because THEY assumed thin meant healthy. That in itself is a problem. We have a world where people generalize a person’s health simply based on a number on a scale or the size of clothing you wear, and this is a very dangerous thing to do. This young woman could have died because they assumed she was too thin to have diabetes. Likewise, as a fat person, I am assumed to be unhealthy BUT the unhealthy is simply generalized as everything is due to her weight OR she has diabetes, nothing else. I go to the doctor for a cold? It’s cause I’m fat. A headache? Oh, you’re fat! My balance is off? You’re top heavy! My heart is acting funny when I lay down? Well, you are overweight… Yes, these are ALL true responses! And the amount of women I have heard from that were misdiagnosed due to their weight is insane! While thin people DO encounter doctors who think they are healthier then they possibly are, in most cases, if they go to a doctor with their symptoms, the doctor is going to go down a natural course of checking what the problem is. For me and so many other fat people, our symptoms get pushed off as because of our weight OR as a reason to check for diabetes. And for those who ARE fat and diabetic? A lot of their issues are blamed on both their weight AND diabetes. I was diagnosed officially with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease in 2019, which should have been diagnosed so much earlier, but when I think about what would have happened if I had had diabetes, it makes me sad. CMT is a disease that affects the peripheral nerves in your body. What other disease causes peripheral neuropathy? Diabetes. In fact, when I had my EMG that lead to my diagnosis, my motor and sensory deficits pointed to diabetes. When I told the physiatrist that I didn’t have that, it afforded me the ability to see a neurologist, who when I brought up my family history of CMT, actually listened and sent me for genetic testing that confirmed my suspicions. If I had had diabetes, they would have said my symptoms were that, and I would be clueless right now in what was going on with my body.
Other things that someone like me has to deal with that thin people don’t? I can’t just go on any ride anywhere without bothering to try a test seat or look at weight limits. In fact, at my size, I pretty much just don’t bother with rides anywhere! When I picked out a car, I had to find one I could fit into without feeling squished. Back when I was applying for jobs, I saw others getting hired right and left with the same or less experience than me. The only difference was that I was fat.
I went to a cardiologist recently and was told there was nothing else they could do at the time because I was over the weight limit for additional testing. Though I now feel as if my more recent heart issues were due to stress and seem to have gotten better, what if I had or have some serious problem that EKG and ECG failed to notice, which IS possible. If I were smaller, I would have been able to find out sooner rather than later, if ever. I can still fit in an MRI machine, but there are those who can’t. We are in a group that people consider unhealthy because of our size, but medical equipment is NOT made to fit all of us. If I flew on an airplane, I would have to buy 2 seats. I skip going to concerts or any kind of stadium because the seats don’t fit me. At my last niece’s college graduation, I had to ask for a folding chair and sit with my Mom at the top of the seating instead of with my other family. There are very few, if any, stores I can go in and buy clothing for myself anymore. I know I have thin friends who have a hard time finding clothes, but at least they could still find something and possibly have it altered. It’s a lot easier to take IN clothes than to ADD to them. Companies like to advertise that they fit ALL sizes then they stop far short of that goal, leaving many to feel like they are not included. Don’t even get me started on the “one size fits all” craziness.
There’s a new trend apparently in buying thrifted clothes to repurpose them. I think this is a great idea, but I’ve also heard that thin people have been buying plus size clothes and bragging about how many outfits they can get out of this. Well, I can imagine if you’ve never been fat that you may be thinking, well, that’s great, they are making something into a ton of things. Well, yes, but you may also be a person who has issues with companies like Shein (which yeah, their sizes don’t go THAT big), but plus size people are on a budget too, and plus size clothing can be extremely hard to find in thrift stores. Why, you ask? Well, fat people tend to wear their clothes out because since it can be hard to find clothing they love in their size, they wear clothes until they either can’t fit them anymore or until they are unable to be worn anymore. This means less clothes end up in thrift stores for other plus sized babes to buy. So when someone who is NOT plus size buys up plus size clothes to either have a baggy look or repurpose into several thin garments, us plus size gals have even less options. As it is, even the options we have out there can be fairly expensive. And again, there are tons of boutique owners who just LOVE to cash in on plus size gals without being truly inclusive. Buying out our sizes online to resale at profit doesn’t help either.
And finally, something I don’t personally struggle with, but I feel for those who do. Eating disorders. Eating disorders don’t discriminate based on what size you are, but they definitely do show themselves easier on those who are already thin. As a fat person, I’ve heard my fair share of people saying that it wouldn’t hurt me to skip a meal. I’ve seen articles where people actually think a fat person could starve themselves for days and be just fine. That is a lie. No matter what size you are, you NEED food. You NEED nutrition. You can die just as easily by starving yourself for days on end when you’re 500 pounds as you can at 100 pounds. Just because you have extra fat stores in your body doesn’t mean an eating disorder is not dangerous for you. But the bigger you are, the easier it is to HIDE that eating disorder. As a fat person, I can just not eat in front of people, and they usually will believe me if I say I’m not hungry or ate earlier or whatever. When you’re thin, people want to see you eat. They encourage you to eat MORE, in fact. I know thin people can find this annoying, but at the same time, other than my husband, no one encourages me to eat more ever. If I wanted to, I could easily starve myself without it being noticed for a long time. I don’t do this, just in case I am concerning anyone, but there are those who have. Fat people who go through eating disorder recovery have it doubly tough too because everyone around them, including the medical field, is pushing them to lose weight, but losing weight is what led to their eating disorder.
So I have written this long post to put a focus on a side of privilege not every one sees. I am sure not everyone who reads this through will agree with me, but maybe it will make some sort of difference. Whether you’re thin or whether you’re fat, you are going to encounter struggles in life. No one is arguing that. In fact, your mental health even as a thin person could put you in a place where you are indeed struggling harder than someone out there who is fat and proud and says screw you to the world. However, at the end of the day, as a thin person, you STILL never have to worry about people not hiring you because you’re fat, worrying about what chair you will be able to fit in, if any, not being able to get medical care because of weight limitations, having every medical problem blamed on you being overweight, having to buy 2 seats instead of one on an airplane, not being able to ride with your friends and family on amusement park rides, having to look at weight capacities on things you order online, like chairs, a cane, a walker, not being able to find clothes in person that’ll fit even on one leg without ripping them, falling down and hurting yourself in public and needing strong men around to help you up and oh, I hope they don’t break their backs!, not calling an Uber ever because what if I don’t fit in their backseat?, etc, etc, etc. I could literally go on forever.
Yes, I believe in thin privilege. Maybe you don’t, maybe you never will. That’s ok. It’s there whether you choose to believe it or not. You may be able to pretend it’s not real and go about your day, which in itself is a privilege. For me, I live every day with the truth that as much as I try to feel good about myself in the skin I’m in now, I live in a world where very often, I truly don’t FIT in. What can I do to change that? Well, I can speak up about it and hope others will speak up about it. Maybe one day we all truly will be able to FIT in this world, not just all sizes up to 3x or whatever, either, but ALL of us.