Combatting Fat Talk

Published October 5, 2009 by Fat Heffalump

In a comment on my last post, reader Maria raised the issue of how to combat fat talk from others, without being annoying or pushy about it.

I think that’s an excellent topic to talk about tonight.
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So, how do we go about it? How do we combat fat talk from other people? In particular, other non-fat acceptance people? It’s fairly straight up if you’re hearing it from someone who is working on fat acceptance, because they’ve already got a head start. How do you work on it from family, friends, co-workers, your boss, neighbours, shop assistants etc?
It’s a tough one. Some people will listen, let you explain. However it’s unfortunate that lots of people are so deeply immersed in fat loathing that they just can’t see any point but the one that they’ve had presented them to their whole lives.
Family is probably the toughest. I’m certainly no authority on how to do this with family as I’m estranged from mine. I no longer have to deal with it from them. But if you do have your family in your life, and in fact they love you, you have to deal with the often well intentioned fat talk.
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Then there are the friends. Close friends are one thing, but what about the wider circle of friends? Do you talk to them one on one or as a group? I am a bit of a brazen bitch, so I tend to just jump on in when it happens. Not everyone is quite as extroverted as I am though. Often it’s subtle fat talk you get. Comments about their own bodies or how bad they’ve been with diet and exercise.
What about the workplace? I don’t know about yours, but mine has all kinds of “health and wellness” initiatives, most of which boil down to diets and weight loss. I actually participated in one, back in my obsessive, fat-loathing days, and in hindsight I can see how insane it was. A big ra-ra club for “let’s lose weight fatties!” You actually had to be obese to qualify for it, like some kind of exclusive club. There are constant emails about exercise and healthy living circulated in my workplace. Some of it is very much fat talk, and I find a lot of it perpetuates the poor body image in employees.
Of course, closer to home are the colleagues who love to talk about what diet they are on, how fat they are, how they can’t eat this or have to exercise to pay for that. The worst place for it is the lunchroom table. People comment on each other’s food, they comment on their own food and how they’re “being a bit naughty today” or “Oh, I can’t have that, I’m being good.” like food has some kind of morality attached to it.
Even when you compliment someone, they often toss back some fat talk. “That’s a great dress, you look lovely!” gets the response of “Thanks, I’m having a fat day, this hides all my sins.” or similar things.
Shop assistants are a biggie. This is one that I refuse to accept. I used to be terribly hurt and heartbroken by shop assistants either ignoring me or being rude to me. Nowdays I let my dollars do the talking and refuse to shop there. I always love the scene in Absolutely Fabulous when a snobbish shop assistant is rude to Patsy and she looks back and says “Why are you looking down at me? You work in a shop.” I will straight up tell a shop assistant that they’re rude and what they can do with their merchandise these days.
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So there you have some of the areas that you will hear fat talk. I don’t know the answers, I just know that it’s difficult and there are a lot of factors in the way you handle it. If you’re confident, or close to the person, I think it’s easier for straight talk, but otherwise it’s very difficult.
Here’s where I throw it open to you, my dear readers. How do you combat fat talk? Share a story of when you’ve really been able to nail it and open someone’s mind. Or maybe share one where it’s gone horribly wrong. What is the hardest type of fat talk to combat? Have you broken the fat talk cycle yourself, or are you still learning.
The floor is open…
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7 comments on “Combatting Fat Talk

  • Still have my "L" plates with the fat talk, it's so invidious, you don't even realise you saying it or thinking it or commenting on it. Especially with the moral food talk – ooh its good, oh it's bad, ooh I'm naughty – yada yada yada. But I am being more aware & conscious about it….

  • I never got the rude shop assistant thing. When I worked in retail, I was desperate for people to buy things so I could keep my job. You don't have to actually care about someone, you just have to pretend to care, help, and take the money. It's not hard!

  • Had this happen just this evening actually, my best friend, of all people. She has put on some weight, but she's still well within healthy range for her height. She's 6'2'' and weights about 68 kilos at an estimate. I commented that was looking really well, because she was glowing and looked really healthy. She said that she'd put on weight, I said that yeah I'd noticed and that it looked really good on her. She's been thin to the point of just about skeletal before, due to various factors. She started complaining that she hated her thighs, because they now touch. Told her not to be so stupid, she has fantastic legs. This is a woman who is a size 10-12 and has a model's figure. She's tall, slim and has stunning curves. It kinda scared me actually, because although I know she loves me and thinks I'm beautiful, the fact is she thinks its almost a crime to put on weight.
    As for the fat-talk, it is so ingrained in female and now to a certain extent, male, culture. Oh I shouldn't eat this, I can't eat that, this makes me bloat up etc etc etc. Its ridiculous! All food provides nutrition, just to different degrees! It really REALLY gets to me when people act like you've done something absolutely major by losing 10 kilos. Don't get me wrong, I know weightloss and body image are struggles for so many people. I also know how tough it is to try and lose weight. But the thing is, what these people who go on about how much weight you've lost, they're not congratulating you on your achievement, for working hard and doing something for yourself. They're congratulating you for becoming more like some ideal they hold or more like them. The people who sit in the lunchroom and discuss weightloss programs and how many points their lunch is worth, I have an insane urge to just scream and bang their heads together. It's not like they're discussing how best to end world hunger or something truly important! OK rant over.

  • Well, being a really big fattie for all of my life….I can attest to the fat talk. The thing is, it's hard to break out of the cycle. I have been told that I am fat and ugly since I was a little girl. It's tough to break out of that idea of yourself. This website and others like it give a person like me hope – wait a minute….I really am as good as that beautiful blond with the perfect figure. Maybe someday I will actually feel that way. In the meantime, I will just confront the issue as it happens. My favorite question from friends and family is….."can you eat that?" I always say… "can you?" Damn, that irritates me.

    As for the dieting…I had just been trying to eat like a "normal" person for quite awhile. Unfortunately, I have gained a lot of weight, developed high cholesterol and diabetes. I basically feel like crap. So, I am probably going to be forced to at least make an adjustment to my carb intake. I really hate that I can't eat like other people and actually stay alive, but I am going to have to do something. I have a son and a husband that I would like to stay alive for. I guess bread (my favorite!) and cookies aren't worth the price I will have to pay. I don't want to be insulin-dependent and sick for the rest of my life. This is a real bummer for me because I really made up my mind to get off the diet treadmill and get myself together. Looks like I'll be thrown back on!

  • Thank you all for your comments and stories.

    Katagal – it's not just fat talk too, it's all kinds of body image talk. And please don't think that even we that are deeply immersed in fat acceptance don't slip from time to time too. I still find myself doing it regularly. Referring to food as "sinful" is one I'm really having trouble training myself out of.

    Ms. Heathen – I love finding shop assistants like you. I don't want them to be my best friend, just respect me and help me make a purchase with etiquette. I did notice that it's nowhere near as bad in the US as it is here – I think that customer service is far more valued over there than here.

    Amber – I think we need to tell women who complain about their thighs touching that they are SUPPOSED to touch! Only the very rare percentage of naturally narrow legged people are like that – and there are very few people with legs naturally that lanky.

    lahorton – You can eat like other people when you cease to restrict yourself. That's what intuitive eating is – stop restricting yourself and considering ANY food type to be "bad" for you and you will naturally fall into the right patterns of eating. When I was restricting carbs, they are all that I ever wanted. Now that I have no restrictions, I no longer crave them constantly. Occasionally they pop up in my mind, but now I crave a huge variety of things. Including SALAD! When I was forcing myself to eat nothing but salad, I never wanted the bloody stuff.

  • Sleepydumpling….you sure are right about the US and the clerks in stores. I live in Florida and I have actually been told…. "we don't have anything for YOU in this store!" Can you imagine that people have the nerve? When I was pregnant with my son, I went into a maternity shop and actually had a meltdown. It was like my third maternity shop and there were no plus sizes in any of them. I just started yelling….don't you people know that fat women have babies too???? I ended up having to bigger sized clothes. Then the shoulders would fall off, etc. When will society accept us as we are?

    Also, the news programs kill me here in the US. They are always talking about the obesity crisis. Then, they have footage of people with big giant stomachs and rear ends. I've actually come to recognize them – even though they have no heads. They use the same footage for every obesity story (and they have them EVERY day). Cracks me up – there goes the guy in the striped shirt again!!!

    I am waiting on my book about intuitive eating. You are right…I don't have to "restrict" myself. The more I restrict, the more I crave. That is absolutely true. I just had this bout last week with a high blood sugar reading that I've never had before. It was 334 – I've been insulin-resistant for many years, but this high reading scared me to death. And I felt so awful. I couldn't think straight.

    Then the doctor says the dreaded words…."if you don't change what you're doing, you are going to die!" That's enough to freak anybody out. Especially when you have a kid that's still in school and you want to be alive to at least get him to adulthood. It's all a work in progress.

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