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Wednesday, 26 February 2014

What Being a Fat Woman
is Really Like...

Inspired by the recent Cosmopolitan article of the same title, Claire (of Monkey See Monkey Do Monkey Wear) asked on Twitter if anyone would be interested in doing a blog post with their take on the questions posed. I hadn't yet read the article, though I'd seen it and put it on my 'to do list'; I decided not to read the article in full before giving my answers so that I could be sure that I wasn't subliminally repeating what I had read.

How do you feel when other women around you complain about feeling/being fat?

9 times out of 10 I feel extremely annoyed. The sorts of comments this brings to mind tend to come from people half my size, although to be honest I don't often experience this these days (as in I rarely experience people commenting to me about feeling/being fat). To some extent it depends on the context and I can completely understand that if you've put on a few stone you might want to lose it, but to be frank I don't want to hear about it.


Having said all of that, (to me) there is a huge difference between 'complaining' about feeling/being fat and having one of those days where your body confidence and self esteem are low; I wouldn't want anyone who is feeling that they're having difficulties in that respect to feel that they can't talk to me about it.


How has your body image changed since high school? College?


My body image, confidence and self esteem has grown significantly since school. I was bullied throughout Primary and Secondary education; not always because of my weight, but mostly. There were very few of my peers who were around my size, or at least that was my perception; I was a size 16/18 around the time of leaving school, but I viewed myself as being a lot bigger. I felt ugly and abnormal because of my weight, as well as unfeminine and unattractive for lacking a 'womanly' shape. In addition to my weight I had acne, not to a significant extent but enough for it to play havoc with my body image. If you're familiar with me/my blog you'll know that my body confidence and self esteem have improved significantly over the years, but I'd say that my body image is still a work in progress.


Have you tried dieting? What happened?


I've been on either Weight Watchers or Slimming World at various points with various successes, although they've never really stuck. Some years ago I lost 1.5 stone and more recently (the latter part of last year) I lost over 2 stone (following Slimming World). I unfortunately found the return to university life difficult from a healthy eating perspective and gave up completely over the Christmas break, resulting in putting back on 1 stone or there abouts. Oh, yes, healthy eating - that's what I'm about now. No diets. No 'you can't have this or that', but tasty treats in moderation and plenty of nutritious fruit and vegetables. I say now but it's very, very hard to get back into having any kind of discipline over what you put in your mouth. But, it's for my own good; for my health, not for my size or my weight.

Do you think in your case your weight is partly or entirely genetic?


My Dad is fat, my Paternal Grandfather is fat, my Mum was fat and my Paternal Grandmother was fat. They've all been different sizes but predominantly fat. I believe that my body shape and size is genetic therefore my weight is at least partly genetic, however, the fact that I am fat is not (entirely) genetic. I'm sure nobody needs a Science lesson as to what fat is and how it forms, but a lot of it has to do with what I eat and how much I exercise.


Do you consider yourself healthy? Have there been instances where people assumed you were unhealthy?


I'm not completely unhealthy, but I could be healthier. People however, in general, assume that I am completely unhealthy because I am fat. You might catch me in a McDonalds once every 4 months but that single trip petrifies me because of the judgement imposed on me by society; many people seeing me eat that solitary meal will presume that is what I eat all the time. Even professionals assume I am unhealthy and that any new ailment is related to my weight; because of this (at least in part) I have been suffering with an undiagnosed and untreated sleep condition for nearly 10 years.


My difficulties and experiences are often belittled as being caused or effected by my weight. I'm also damned if I do and damned if I don't; going to the gym or exercise classes, or even exercising in a public space, could be a potential source of ridicule and have been in the past (I gave up doing PE at school for this very reason).


Are your parents both supportive of you at the weight you're at? Have they always been?


My Dad is as supportive as he could possibly be as an older male trying to relate to his 26 year old daughter; he knows that I do my best to be healthy but that it's not always my main priority in life. He supports me when I am trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle but doesn't ridicule me when I am not, although he may make the odd comment on my 'grazing' habits on the odd occasion (I eat a lot) they are not meant to harm me. As far as I can recall my parents have never been negative towards my weight, I mean they would be a bit hypocritical if they were! As with most children I was taught and somewhat disciplined to eat vegetables that I disliked and generally had a balanced diet.


How do you think retailers can improve clothes for plus-size people?


Stop segregating and hiding us. There is no shame in offering plus-size clothing, it does not need to be on the highest floor and in the furthest corner, that is on the rare occasion that it actually is available on the high street. Keep on trend but also offer us basics; why is it so hard to find a plain t-shirt that is the right length, fit and fabric for a plus-size woman?!


Do you think plus-size women are judged differently than plus-sized men are? How?


Look at the wording of this question and the original article and there is your answer. The magazine article chose to interview two women, not two men, or even a woman and a man. In addition, the question says 'how' which to me presumes the answer is yes. In my view, plus-size men are ignored and somewhat marginalised due to the acceptance of masculine fatness in society. It is presumed that plus-size men do not experience issues and that their opinion is irrelevant, but you would only need to look at the plus-size fashion options for men to see that there is very much a need for a discourse around what it is to be fat and male. Or at least that is my view, as a plus-size woman...


Do you think there's an assumption made/stereotype that exists about plus-size people? How would you respond to it?


Lazy. Unhealthy. A burden on the NHS. A plague on society. Unattractive. Undesirable. Unwanted. A fetish. Desperate. I could probably think of a lot more if I sat down and really thought about it. I respond and I don't; it depends what it is, when it is, who it is, the context, how I am feeling at the time and probably 101 other things. For example, it is easier for me to challenge a random person that I don't know, than it is to challenge a friend, or to challenge a professional. However, sometimes I feel that 'random people' are not worth the time or the effort. Sometimes I am of the opinion that it isn't my responsibility to educate the world. Sometimes I really cannot be bothered. When you've had a lifetime of labels and self-fulfilling prophecies, it isn't easy to be that strong, educated, empowering person that you want to be.


Do you think there’s ever a right way or time to express concern about someone’s weight?


No. Someone else's health and/or body is not your concern unless that person asks for it. I'm also pretty sure that the majority of people are aware of their weight and how 'concerning' it may or may not be, but I'm also pretty sure that whether they are or aren't aware expressing your 'concern' isn't going to help. My body, my rules.


What are the worst things people have said to you about your body?


I honestly couldn't specifically tell you anything that people have said, in my view the negativity is more to do with how people have made me feel. Equally, the majority of negativity that I now experience is indirect and is mostly related to the perceptions of fat people by society and my own perceptions of my body in conjunction with previous patterns of behaviour.


How did you respond?


See assumptions & stereotypes, the answer is pretty much the same.


What have people said (or do you wish they’d say) that would compliment your body or appearance?


Being complimented on my body or appearance is a strange concept to me and something that I have only recently started to accept; I am not very good at receiving compliments relating to anything to be honest. I'm not sure what people have said or what I'd wish them to say, I'd have to think a while on that, but I can tell you what not to say...for the love of all things please do NOT say that I'm curvy. I do not take it as a compliment because I am not/do not view myself to be curvy and I feel that saying it is purely trying to make my fatness fit in to yet another socially accepted norm/standard.

Do you find yourself hanging out with women who are closer to your size?

Yes, but predominantly through fat activism and blogging. I socialise with many fellow plus size bloggers, fat activists and fat people in general; particularly as I attend two fat-friendly club nights (Club Indulge and Big Girls Paradise) and run a monthly meet-up (fatchat). However, I do not choose my friends on the basis of their size and I will not necessarily be friends or get on with every fat person that I meet (in case that was not blatantly obvious), but I can certainly say that there are certain aspects of being fat that it is positive to share with other fat people.

How has your weight affected your sex life, if at all?


Before I moved to London and started meeting new people and pushing myself out of my comfort zone, my dating and sex life was somewhat limited. Actually, my dating life was non-existent and my sex life sporadic. This was mostly down to a lack of confidence and issues with my body image; looking back it makes sense, as how could I expect anyone to find me attractive with such a negative outlook and perception of myself.


I wouldn't say my sex or dating life was perfect now or as active as I'd like it to be, but it's getting there. I feel more confident and beautiful than I have ever done so before and I am also starting to think about and own my sexuality, femininity and other such traits. Really it's not about my weight our about me being fat, but the effect that has had on my mentality.


When you've been single, has your weight affected your dating life?


See above, I don't think there's much point in separating the two.


Do you feel weird if the guy you’re with only dates larger women?


Do you feel weird if the guy you're with only dates smaller women? I rest my case. (That means the answer is no, by the way. I don't feel weird or think it is weird at all).


Do you feel weird if he's only dated slimmer women before you?


See above. If someone finds me attractive, they find me attractive, end of.


The end! I'm not sure if I lost the will towards the end of this or if the questions were just straight forward for me. Anyway, I'd love to hear your thoughts and own perceptions! I'm really looking forward to reading the answers given by the other bloggers taking part, too. Here's the links so you can take a look as well:



Claire
Naomi
Lucia
Rebecca
Michaela
Lolly
Gina
Debz
Becky
Nat
Emma
Vicky
Becky
Amanda 
Elena
Anne-Lise
Steph
Cass

4 comments:

  1. I had a near identical response about the plus size men question. There definitely isn't as much of a focus on them or their experiences as there is with women.

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    1. I really need to read everyone else's responses! There isn't, they're somewhat forgotten which is quite sad...

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  2. I totally agree with you and Michelle as men should get more out and talk about how they feel. You are a great writer Betty and I'm looking forward till my English gets even better so I can get more colorful in my language. You're a colourful person that has made a big impact on me. I'm proud to call you my friend and I can't wait to give you a big hug on Saturday. :) Great post!! :) xx

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    1. You always say such lovely things Mookie :) thank you. Can't wait to see you too x

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