I’ll “Fat Talk” as Much as I Gorram Please

What I take issue with in this video is the labeling of self-hatred as “fat talk”.

Trigger warning: fatphobia, silencing, diet talk

Someone shared this on Facebook yesterday. It’s a video by Special K about “fat talk” — their special term for “self-hatred”.

(Content warning: may cause indescribable rage. Also fairly fat-shaming, and definitely silencing.)

It was shared via Upworthy, the content aggregator with the emotionally manipulative titles. The title for this video was “First These Women Were Offended. Then They Realized Who Was Being Offensive.”

Are you rolling your eyes yet?

There is a MASSIVE problem with this video. HUGE. You could even say it’s a FAT problem. So let’s talk about it.

First, let’s get this out of the way: self-hatred — whether it comes from internalizing the kyriarchy’s unreasonable expectations of you or from mental illness — sucks, no matter what form it takes. If you’re hating yourself, you should work on not doing that any more, because self-hate harms you. You’re worth feeling better about yourself. You’re worth good things. Self-hate is not a good thing.

What I take issue with in this video is the labeling of self-hatred as “fat talk”. The assumption that any time a woman/person socially-classed-as-woman says she’s fat, she’s hating herself.

This not only reinforces the idea that fat is always bad, it also polices how other folks self-hate. If a woman says “I’m so skinny,” as a form of her own self-hatred, she’ll likely be met with cries of “I know! You’re so LUCKY! I wish I were that thin.” Yet a woman saying “I’m fat” is met with “Don’t be so hard on yourself! You’re really pretty!”

As if fat and pretty can’t go together. (News flash, they can, and they do. So do fat and fabulous, or fat and gorgeous, or fat and sexy, or fat and smart. I am a prime example.)

Partners in Crime (Doctor Who)
Ok, so it’s less neutral in Doctor Who. Still, wasn’t the fault of the baby Adipose! Besides, they’re totes adorbs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fat’s a neutral term, folks. Ok? It means “abundance of adipose tissue”. Ask any person who actually knows something about the body and they’ll tell you: adipose tissue itself is not a negative. It’s a necessary part of the human body. We need fat to survive.

(And no-fat diets, by the way, are basically the worst thing ever for you. Just so you know.)

Is too much fat bad for you? Maybe. Maybe not. The truth is, we don’t actually know the full truth there — there are a lot of correlations between being “overweight” (why that word bugs me) and health issues, but they aren’t actually causation. (For more about fat, disease risk, and correlation vs. causation, read this post.) What is likely quite bad for you is a heavily sedentary life and a lot of processed food, which is related to weight gain, yes, but not the sole factor.

This doesn’t mean fat is always unequivocally bad. Nor does it mean that fat is unattractive.

Yet by labeling self-hating talk as “fat talk” exclusively, this video says that fat is always bad. Fat is always unattractive. Fat, in fact, is the ONLY thing that’s bad about you — go on and self-hate about anything else and we’ll cheer you on! But don’t fat talk, ladies. You don’t want to call yourself fat, do you? Why would you want to be a fatty fat fat fatterson? That’s bad.

Think I’m reading too much into it? Direct quote from the video:

Reversing the fat talk. Making it positive talk.

They are outright stating that fat is negative. Always. Videos like this make it harder for fat acceptance activists to do what we do.

This video is being hailed as some sort of amazing breakthrough on body image. Sorry, no. It’s more of the same old bullshit that continues to throw actual fat people under the bus. This is glaringly apparent with the phrase that shows up on the screen midway through the video: “You wouldn’t talk this way to anyone else. So why do it to yourself?”

Oh, huh. I guess all the fat-hatred I’ve had lobbed my way over the years is my imagination? Because, you know, no one would EVER talk that way to ANYONE else. I guess I was hallucinating.

The video ends with a big silencing fest. Women literally shushing each other, and the camera, saying “Let’s fight the fat talk!”

I had no idea that silencing other women was supposed to be a big win for women and body image. This video is saying “Shush anyone who says they’re fat.” Thanks, but no thanks — I get enough of that already from “well-meaning” folks. I really don’t need another source urging people to fight us fatties on our own damn territory. I mean, how very dare we reclaim a word that’s been used to marginalize us?

After the video, Upworthy has a credit note, and they make this comment:

So this is just a bit hypocritical coming from a food company that runs ads that ask “What will you gain when you lose?”

No, Upworthy. It’s not hypocritical at all. Special K is, in fact, saying the same thing they’ve always said — FAT IS BAD. They’ve just put a different spin on it, and you and the rest of the internet have bought it, hook, line, and sinker.

Eating Disorders and Losing Weight (trigger warning: disordered eating, mental health issues, fatphobia)

I suppose I’m continuing in a somewhat depressive vein, here, but it needs to be said.

I’m a fat-positive activist, and I believe in HAES — Health At Every Size. Fat people are still people and should be treated like human beings, instead of like second class citizens or monsters who live in catacombs below the opera house. Which, yeah, is how we are treated.

There are also different levels of fat, and if you’ve never been above 200 pounds you have no idea what it’s like to be 330 pounds (just like I have no idea what it’s like to be above 400). There’s a different set of oppressions for each level: under 200 pounds can be seen as socially acceptable fat, whereas the higher you get, the more you get slotted into “deathfatty” and seen as an animal. There are very few clothing options the higher up on the scale you are. If you’re a size 14 and you’ve never been higher than a size 18, you may be considered fat by society, but you still have no idea what it’s like to be a size 26, 28, 30, 40.

Now that that’s all said.

I am fat as fuck and hot as hell. And I’m okay with that. But my health is suffering. Because I don’t eat as well as I should, and exercising is painful. Part of this is related to health problems that have nothing to do with my obesity (chronic back pain, for one). But losing extra adipose tissue would also help these health problems get resolved. At least to a point where I’m not in pain every single minute of every single day (is there such a state of existence?). This is not true for every fat person; it’s true for me — so I’m not going tell you that losing weight will help you get healthy, because fat is not an indicator of general well-being and I’m not a fucking doctor. (Pro-tip: all you people who are so concerned about my, and other fat people’s, health, aren’t doctors either. So stop lying to us; we’re fat, not stupid.)

So I want to lose fat and gain muscle. I also want to eat healthy and exercise.

But I keep on running into road blocks.

Last summer I tried to do this. I tried to count calories, and exercise. Almost immediately I fell into a death spiral of anorexia nervosa and binge eating. As soon as I start counting calories, I go from eating a healthy amount of food to eating almost nothing each day. I looked at my measures of calories per day and realized what was happening — I’ve gone through anorexia before, and it was much worse than it was last summer. Fat anorexics do exist, and I’m sick of hearing “anorexic” as a synonym for “thin” because it erases us.

Continue reading “Eating Disorders and Losing Weight (trigger warning: disordered eating, mental health issues, fatphobia)”