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.
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.
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.
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…