Busting Myths about Fat Bodies

Originally published on Fat Heffalump and cross-posted here with permission.


I’ve been thinking a lot about the assumptions people make about living in a fat body. It’s important to say living IN a fat body and not living WITH a fat body, because we don’t cohabit with our fat bodies, we inhabit them.

These thoughts have been spurred on by repeated statements I’ve read from people decrying how we must be so miserable, uncomfortable and in pain simply because we have fat bodies, that we are so unhealthy simply by having fat bodies, that our quality of life must be just terrible.

I want to break some of those erroneous assumptions about living in a fat body down. I want to talk about how it feels to live in a fat body.

Of course, there will always be a certain subset of the population who will tell us that we are in denial, that we are lying or that we have no idea what it feels like to live in our own bodies. They’re dickheads, and I don’t care what they think.

But I want to talk to you, fellow fats, about thinking about how you feel in your fat body,

Now I can only talk about how it feels in MY fat body, because this is the only body I have lived in. How I feel in my fat body is influenced by my being a woman, by my whiteness, my cis-genderedness, my able-bodiedness, my heterosexualness and so on.

I don’t speak for anyone else’s body, but if I talk about how I feel in mine, I’m sure it will ring true for many other fatties and then you are all welcome to share your own perspectives in the comments (remembering the golden rules – no promoting weight loss, no general negativities about fat bodies and check your privilege).

So, what are a few of the commonly held assumptions about living in a fat body? I’ll come up with the ones I can think of, and you’re welcome to add more in the comments for me to touch on in another post. So here we go:

1. In every fat body, there is a thin person trying to get out. No, no there’s not. In every fat body, there is a human being trying to live their life in dignity and peace, with general respect as a human being. Many fat people will confuse this with a thin person, because thin people are usually awarded the privilege to live their life in dignity and peace, with general respect as a human being.

So they try to become thin to get that respect, dignity and peace, rather than demanding something that is already theirs as a human right. Mostly because we’re led to believe that thinness is something that can be achieved, that it’s something within our control.

Attempting to become thin won’t solve the problem of fat stigma, but ending fat stigma certainly will.

2. Having a fat body is like carrying around a 2o/50/100/whatever lb/kg sack of potatoes/dirt/lard whatever. Wait, the average adult skeletal structure weighs about 20lbs right? So is having a skeleton like carrying around a 2olb weight? No it’s not.

Fat bodies are not attached to us, like some kind of extra luggage – they ARE us. Our whole bodies hold ourselves up – bones, muscle, organs, skin, fat, everything – it’s all part of a complex machine that propels us around our lives. If you hand me 50lbs, I’m going to feel it’s weight, because it is not part of me. But 50lbs of my own body weight (or whatever number you choose) is part of me, and it has it’s own function in my body.

The only time I’ve felt like I’m carrying a burden is when I believed I was worthless because I was fat. That wasn’t the physical weight of my body, it was the weight of stigma.

3. Fat bodies feel sloppy and gross. My fat body is soft and warm, thick and both firm and pliant. There is a full firmness to my body, but at the same time, it gives and moves as I move and people or objects move against me.

To hug my body is to receive a hug of substance, or as a friend of mine’s toddler calls it, snugglehugs. My ex used to refer to cuddling me as being “bosomy”.

My body is pleasant and anything but “gross”.

4. Fat bodies are “weighed down” by gravity and it makes them unable to move properly. If this were true, none of us would be able to stand upright or move. If there was some kind of pound by pound ratio to how gravity pulls a creature down… how do you explain elephants being able to walk and run? Or something heavy but thin, like… a giraffe! Giraffes weigh over 3000lbs.

Maybe it IS true and fat people have super-human strength. I can jump, ride a bike, climb a ladder… I must be Super Fatty.

5. Fat bodies are always in pain from carrying around extra weight. No. I am very fat and I feel no pain except when I do something stupid, like lifting stuff at work with my back and not my legs, or kicking at a ball of paper and missing, giving myself that awful over-extended kneecap pain thing. (Yeah I know, I’ll cop to being fairly unco-ordinated!) I don’t suffer back pain, but I have a friend who is half my weight and he has suffered back pain since his mid-20′s.

Fat people who are in pain usually suffer pain because they have an illness or an injury, just like thin people who suffer pain. Nobody bats an eye at some thin guy with a bad back, he’s just unfortunate, but if a fatty complains of any type of ache, oh it’s because you’re a big fat lardy arse.

All of us will suffer illness or injury at some point in our lives, it’s part of living, and part of getting older. People of all sizes deal with back pain, sore hips, knees and ankles. (Another friend of mine is TINY and has the dodgiest hips I’ve ever encountered – she’s always sore.) As I get older, I am less flexible and take a bit longer to heal an injury than I did in my youth, but who doesn’t?

6. Fat people just sit around eating all the time. God I wish! I’d love to be able to stop still a bit more. But between work, socialising, my activism, and generally just living my life, I’m on the go most of the time. I’d love more time to sit and read, or catch up on the growing mountain of DVD’s beside my computer, or just snooze on my balcony. I have lived in my new home for over 4 months and I’m yet to have spent time sitting on my balcony reading, something I LONG to do.

Most fatties I know (and I know a lot of fatties these days) are equally busy. After all, try organising a get together for fatties – I can never get us all in the one place at the same time. As for the eating all the time – it has been proven that fat people eat no more than thin people.

We are not just stomachs with mouths – despite the mass media portraying us that way.

7. Fat must be burnt off the body. This one bothers me the most. My fat flesh is not something to be burned or cut off of my body, as though it is a parasite or an infection. It IS my body. It is part of who I am. It is as much part of me as my brain, my heart, my bones, my eyes. It is not excess. There is exactly as much of me as there needs to be.

These are just a few of the assumptions about fat people that I’ve been thinking about lately. So what myth about fatness bothers you? What myth are you carrying around that you could let go of?

Kath Read is an IT librarian by day, and a rad fatty feminist by night. Though she is finding that her sparkle cape and glitter tights creeping into her daily wardrobe more and more often! She writes at Fat Heffalump on the topics of fat, feminism, food and fabulous fatshion. Follow her on Facebook.