What a Fat Person Needs – A Life Lesson
You guys have seen me write A LOT about the problems of weight stigma.
I even developed a free short guide for practitioners on how to provide non-stigmatizing care. But I understand that terms are often thrown around and their true meaning can seem vague or unclear. You may have even asked yourself, “What does weight stigma actually feel and look like for someone in a larger body??”
Well a couple of weeks ago, I was talking with one of my clients and she was sharing with me the details of a particularly painful week where some hurtful comments had been made about fatness at her religious community group. We processed it and she decided to send a note to her community group. She then shared it with me and I was blown away by her wisdom and grace. With her permission, I share this note with each of you. May we all learn from her how to be better, more thoughtful, and kinder humans to one another.
At our last community group meeting, a couple comments were made equating fatness with negativity. As you all can clearly see, I live in a fat body. It is a body that I attempted for years to abuse into thinness, but the Lord has graciously been revealing to me over the course of recovery from an eating disorder that this body is exactly the body he meant me to have right now. Although I don’t understand heaven, I do think that when my body is made whole in the new earth it will still be fat. It is not the fullness (pardon the pun) of my self but my body houses my spirit, my body is what enables me to do God’s work in the world, and it is also a fat body.
I know it is not a normal occurrence that a fat woman doesn’t count calories or exercise in order to become thinner. I know this makes my convictions and behaviors around food and movement different than some of you. I am not trying to “convert” you to size acceptance. But I do want you to know that when negative comments about fatness are said out loud, it wounds me. It implies I, as a legitimately fat person, am bad or unattractive or lazy. Although I am sinful and sometimes ugly and sometimes slothful, none of these sins are related to my fatness.
I don’t think any of you intends for those words to wound me as they do. I feel deeply loved and valued by each and every one of you (I am so lucky!). But imagine your biggest fear (for me that my fat body will limit how I am loved by my community) implied by those in your community to whom you are closest. I’m not asking anyone to change their thoughts, or even to change their behaviors towards me on a permanent basis. But, for the two hours we meet for community group, before you make derogatory size-based comments I would ask that you think about how those comments might sound to me.
I know we all feel negatively about our bodies on a fairly frequent basis. I don’t want anyone to be silenced. But to say, “I feel badly about my body today,” is different than, “I feel fat.” To say, “I worry about my health,” is different than, “I don’t want to get fat.” One tells what you are feeling, the other equates fatness with badness.
I hope this makes sense. And of course, I am happy to discuss with any of you or with the group all of this. I know it’s a big ask, so really appreciate you all reading this and considering it.
So Much Love,
An important update: Deb let me know she received a very kind response back from her pastor! How beautiful to see her community’s ability to truly listen and express a willingness to change without defensiveness. Just WOW!
What has helped you become more aware of the language you use regarding size and worth? And in case you missed it, a recent blog post gives you some guidance on kinder and more inclusive language to use regarding body size. I hope it helps!