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Fat On the Inside

Russian doll inside othersNo one has ever called me fat.

A boy named Howard called me “bean pole” and “Mother Goose legs” in the 5th grade. I was skinny and my legs were long, in case the Mother Goose reference confused you.

(It still confuses me. I thought Mother Goose was an old woman who was not particularly tall. Tell me if I’m wrong.)

But I’ve never been called fat. Not even once. Unlike millions of other people, I bear no scars from fat-bashing bigots.

So why is it that whenever I see a person being humiliated, shamed, or otherwise treated badly because of their size, I feel outraged to my core?

Why do I rush to intervene when someone makes a disparaging remark to a stranger about her body?

Why was I offended by the ridiculously tiny bathroom on a recent domestic flight? I managed to use it, but there are plenty of people who would’ve had to hold it till we landed, because there’s no way they’d fit inside.  

If that doesn’t strike you as wrong, we need to talk.

“Fat on the Inside” Manifesto

I am fat on the inside. And I’d like to believe I’m not alone.

If your friend is rude to a fat person in my presence, I will have words for your friend.  You might want to warn them that not every fat person is identifiable on sight. Some of us travel incognito. And we will stand up for ourselves and each other.

If you feel the way I do, please speak up when you witness discrimination.

Complain when things are too small, whether in clothing, bathroom stalls, or anything else that should make life more (not less) pleasant.

Don’t stand by and watch someone be insulted, ignored, or otherwise disrespected. Be an advocate.

If you’re thin and you dislike fat people, please educate yourself about obesity. If its only cause were a lack of self-discipline, you and I would be as big as houses. It’s not that simple.

If you’re fat and you dislike fat people, you’ve been brainwashed. Self-compassion, along with education about the complexity of weight gain and loss, may help. They’re a start in the right direction, at least.

Please try not to bash your own body, or anyone else’s. I know it’s hard to resist in a society that demands punishment for being fat. But every time you fat-bash, even yourself, you’re upholding a reprehensible system. 

If I’ve offended anyone by claiming a status I have no right to claim, I understand and I’m sorry. I just don’t know how else to convey the strength of my solidarity. Calling myself an ally doesn’t quite capture it.

I expect to get hate mail for this post. There seems to be a lot of hatred aimed at fat-positive messengers.

I wonder where all that hatred comes from.

 

About Tina Gilbertson

Tina Gilbertson is a psychotherapist, speaker and author based in Denver, Colorado. She specializes in supporting parents of estranged adult children through therapy, consulting and other resources, and offers assertiveness training and executive coaching for organizations. The author of "Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings by Letting Yourself Have Them" and the "Guide for Parents of Estranged Adult Children," Tina is often featured in the media as an expert on communication and relationships. Her blog on PsychologyToday.com is called "Constructive Wallowing."

7 Responses to "Fat On the Inside"

  • Snowburst
    January 7, 2017 - 6:14 pm Reply

    I agree with you 100%, Tina. In fact for some strange reason, I was just thinking about how my
    X-husband used to never be happy with my weight even before I had children. At that time I weighed between 135-140 lbs., about 5 lbs. over what my “normal” weight should have been at the time. He frequently told me that “if I could pinch an inch, I weighed too much”. It seems to me that sometimes people (like my X-husband and another male that I used to be close friends with) tend to focus very intensely on some things they keep under very tight control; (like their weight or money) and yet have very obvious hang-ups that they seem completely unaware of.
    And in the case of these two gentlemen (who are both quite far from being gentle people) the very thought of pointing out their out-of-balance points of view would immediately shut me down. And still does, if I were to be around them. Which fortunately, rarely happens.

    The reason it happens to me is that when I met and knew each of them, I was in a very vulnerable and dependent state. Namely, not able to care for myself with a job and/or a place to live. I was vulnerable and henceforth, I was victimized. And the reason I was vulnerable was because of the severely dysfunctional family structure I grew up in. Not to blame anyone in my family although I would certainly like to, that is just the fact of the matter. The unhealthy apple does not fall far from the unhealthy tree.

    I think the trigger may be from the more than unkind mockery in general, perhaps? Other people get mocked in a similar fashion: people who wear glasses (especially kids in school), have a physical disfigurement, a less than average IQ, a stutter, use a wheelchair or some other kind of assistive device, wear braces, etc. My personal pet peeve is that of deriding, dehumanizing, and/or humiliating homeless, alcoholics, and the addicted. While I have not personally experienced those things myself, I have been up close and personal with it over the course of several years with my bestest friend ever who was homeless, an alcoholic, and addicted. He was also a right-leg amputee and had bipolar disorder, adult ADD, a traumatic brain injury, and PTSD.
    Many people might say I should not go near the guy but the love, acceptance, understanding, and patience he had for me and my personal foibles was priceless.

    What has slowly but surely helped me to find more understanding for those with (proverbial) long, pointy fingers is to remember that those unkind, mean, and sometimes very cruel remarks are a reflection upon their own insecurities, misunderstandings, blindness, short-sightedness, etc. When I think about how those issues are preventing them from having a strong, healthy, and mature self, it kind of makes me fee sad. After I am done being angry with them.

    As far as the outcry goes, absolutely!! I am working on remembering that when I have the “gall” to publicly call someone on the carpet, it is THEY who have been the rude one when they most likely fire right back at me. Subduing myself to intimidation has cost me a great deal in my life but sometimes, I believe in certain circumstances, it is the wiser thing to do.

    It intrigues me that the “fat” issue was such a trigger for you. Could there be any kind of an opposite correlation since it was “skinny” remarks that were said to you?

  • Snowburst
    January 7, 2017 - 6:29 pm Reply

    PS ~ I’d like you to expound on, if you want to, what you mean by being “fat” in the inside. That is very interesting!

    • Tina Gilbertson
      January 8, 2017 - 6:51 pm Reply

      Thank you for your comments, Snowburst. I always appreciate your insights.

      Thanks for your excellent question! By “fat” I mean that I’m vulnerable on the inside. I’m exactly the same inside as the person who’s bullied for their weight. I share their humanity, and their vulnerability to shame and denigration.

      I should have been clearer about that in the post, so I really appreciate your asking. I hope I’ve answered it despite the brevity of my response but if not, let me know.

      Thanks again for being there.

  • Edith
    January 8, 2017 - 7:41 am Reply

    I have been fat and I have been thin. Being heavier has made me emphatic to how our society subconsciously values conformity. I appreciate your post, if we could all just celebrate each other and make space in all situations for each other, what would our world be? Definitely happier, more peaceful.

  • Snowburst
    January 14, 2017 - 2:34 pm Reply

    You’re welcome, Tina. Your sharing your own thoughts and feelings and questions on all these topics inspires me greatly and allows me to become more aware of my own. Thank you, too!! 🙂

  • Maryanne
    January 29, 2017 - 12:25 am Reply

    And you stand up when coffee shops say it’s 16oz, but it looks like 12oz. Injustice stands no chance in the face of Tina!

    • Tina Gilbertson
      January 29, 2017 - 11:10 am Reply

      You’re never going to let me live that down, are you? I’m still not sure they weren’t stiffing you. Let’s go somewhere else next time I’m in town, since I’m not convinced those were chocolate chips in the cookies, either. 😉

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