If You Could Magically Become Thin Overnight, Wouldn’t You?

Published May 23, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

Hands up if you’ve had this question.  If you’re a fat activist I’d say the likelihood is pretty high.  I hear it pretty regularly myself.

It’s usually followed by “Of course you would!” before I even get the chance to respond.  Which tells me from the outset that my answer to the question was actually irrelevant, since I wasn’t even given the opportunity to answer for myself.

I’ve just had another round of that question fired at me.  Anonymously of course, though it hasn’t always been so.  This time the asker hit me up in several places (Tumblr, Formspring, in the comments on this blog…) with the same question.  Seems they really want to tell me that “Of course you would!”

The thing is, it’s a redundant question.  There IS no magic way to become thin, either overnight, in a week, a month, a year, a decade.  The asker assumes that the concept is really worth entertaining because they believe that if I really, really wanted to, I could become thin.  But I know, and it’s becoming increasingly documented in science, that no matter how much a I could possibly want it (if I did), I can no more become thin than I can become a unicorn, the President of the United States of America, or marry Hugh Jackman.

Well, there is an outside, remote, very distant chance I could marry Hugh, but even that is more of a likelihood than my becoming thin.

However, there are some things I would like to happen, and I do believe are possible right now, without any magic, is for people with fat bodies to be treated with dignity and respect.  For our bodies to exist without being treated as objects of derision, fetish or ridicule.  And for fat people to be allowed to live their lives without the intrusion of strangers and the general public on our own private matters, such as health, sexuality and comfort.

I would like to see all bodies, regardless of their size included in all aspects of life.  I would like to see all bodies included in public spaces, on transport, in education and health without moral value being attached to them.  I would like all bodies to have access to clothing, furniture, safety gear and sporting/recreational equipment equally.

But most of all, I would like to see people in general focus on the wellbeing of their own bodies, rather than intruding on the wellbeing of other people’s – even fat people.

This is what could happen, without “magic”, and without wishing for something that is simply a fairytale.

32 comments on “If You Could Magically Become Thin Overnight, Wouldn’t You?

  • My reply is always, “If we’re talking magic transformations, can I get rid of the cancer first?” Yes, I want to be healthy. That does not equal thin.

    And, hey, ONE (Hollywood-)fat woman married Hugh Jackman! It can happen!

    • Indeed, cancer, AIDS, you name it – they all come before thin in the magic transformation wishes.

      And just to make it clear, when Hugh married the wonderful Deborrah-Lee, she was actually thin.

  • Lilacsigil is right–as are you. Healthy and thin do not equate.
    It is very sad that my knee jerk reaction answer to that question is yes. Why? Not because I think being fat is bad or ugly or wrong, but because my life would be so much easier if I was thin. I’ve got enough stigma as it is being mentally ill. Oddly I am at an impasse as to whether I would get rid of my bipolar disorder if I could have a cure, because if I did, would I still be me?
    The stigmas placed on body types sucks.

    • It’s a completely redundant question, where it IS possible for people to not be stigmatised. Far more worthwhile on wishing for something that is achievable.

  • I look at this magic pill question and all I can see is that people assume that conforming is always preferred, no matter what.

    I’m short, I’m fat, I’m left-handed. Every one of these things does make my life harder in ways small and large. But they also make me who I am. Hell, it’s easier on average to get along in the world if you have a penis, and really… I still don’t want one. Would I take the pill if I were gay and it would make me straight? If I were transgender and it would make me stop feeling that I’m in the wrong body? If I were black and it could make me white? No.

    Even if it makes things harder, makes me less popular, makes people blame me for the fact that the world isn’t set up for the short, the fat, or the southpawed, no. I am me. I love me. There are people who love me for the vertically-challenged, width-enhanced, backwards-wired oddball that I am.

    I was thin until my mid-twenties, and you know what? I still got random hate from strangers. I got it for being short, for liking music that wasn’t popular, for wearing clothes that didn’t step out of a magazine layout, for being clumsy, for laughing louder than is ‘appropriate’ for a woman, for having a Gilbert and Sullivan quote for every occasion.

    Yes, I had thin privilege and I’m in no way going to discount that. But the point is that if you fit in in one way, there’s still probably something about you that others will try to hate away.

    I don’t consider it my job to change for the benefit of the small-minded and the controlling. I consider it their job to open their fucking minds.

    • Beautifully expressed Twistie. It’s like asking someone who is a person of colour would they take a pill to make themselves magically white, or a woman taking a pill to become a man, or could we magically wake up rich.

      It’s a constant pressure to conform to the types of privilege – white, cisgender male, affluent, heterosexual, thin, able-bodied, and so on.

      I think I might use those last two sentences as a quote to share around on Tumblr!

      • Be my guest! Anything I say on your blog that you find useful is yours to play with. I know I can trust you to use my words wisely and well.

    • I should never have posted a comment on the article I linked above, now it’s a free for all. It is so amazing to me how people judge others by what they look like on the outside. Eat less, exercise more….the mantra of the thin world! I just do not understand how people can be so ignorant!

    • I am trying to avoid the articles (and in particular the comments) on that topic (I am on Metformin myself, have been on and off for most of my 30’s) because it makes me so angry, but I had a go at this one. I just couldn’t resist. I think I need to write a post about it, but I’m not sure I’m in the right frame of mind yet.

      • I know – I was kind of ugly on a couple of my comments and it wasn’t necessary. I won’t get anywhere that way. But, it really pissed me off. I’ve been on metformin for awhile as well and it works great and it works great for keeping my sugar numbers regulated, but I would never use it for any other reason. I’m not losing an ounce on this stuff either – so, it’s not a pill that should be considered for that purpose just because SOME people lose weight. Okay, I have to calm down now because I’m still pissed!

  • it is amazing to see what happens to an asshole when they get a bug up their ass… they sent you the question via three different channels? I would send them back a question, “If there was some magical way to change you from an asshole to a decent person, would you want to give up the foundation our your personality that makes you the perfect asshole?

  • I have an easy to answer to that question: Several years ago I became very, very thin. I had zero energy, I was cold all the time, I was depressed and I did not enjoy life. Now I am ‘overweight’ but I’m healthy, I keep up with my preschooler, I run marathons faster than I ever have, and I enjoy life every day. For me as for many people, healthy does not = thin. Unfortunately I have to remind people of this. A lot.

    • I was the same Tina. I wasn’t thin, but I was considerably smaller than I am now. I was depressed, suicidal, constantly sick, had no menstrual cycle and spent my entire existence thinking about how to avoid eating and add more exercise. I don’t ever want to go back there again.

  • Speaking as a thin person, this type of reasoning irritates the crap out of me. Who are these people to even consider questioning you so in the first place? What grants them the right to quiz you about your body or self image? It is as if our flesh itself is public property, like something on display in a glass case, to be scrutinized and criticized by the masses, poked and prodded, named and shamed. I am usually a tad more succinct with my commenting, but this time I am well and truly pissed.

    And no, magically becoming smaller would not alter your life by very much at all (1st world problems, eh?). You would still be open to ridicule and scrutiny, just of a different kind. Why do people tend to separate the flesh/fat from the human being nestled within it? It’s as if they take a leap of faith, convincing themselves that their pointless questioning will not cause real offense. I imagine someone asking me would I jump at the chance of being fat, magically, overnight – and I wouldn’t know what the hell to say, apart form ‘why the fuck are you asking me such a goddamn ridiculous,pointless question.
    Of course, our current culture decided somewhere along the line to demonize adipose tissue. It’s a fabulous scapegoat, ain’t it? Takes our minds of the real issues at hand (poverty, violence, injustice, capitalism), renders us nervous, guilty, a great form of distraction from what really goes on in this world. Kids are even encouraged to police each other bodies now, long before puberty. This whole thing terrifies me, and makes me even more hesitant to have children. The very worst aspect of this is when they insist that they are concerned about your health. They are not remotely concerned about your health! It is another form of control, an insidious form of abuse which renders us numb, creates a poor self image, and encourages us to believe that we are in constant danger. Weak, unquestioning, frightened people are easier to control. It is like a silent dictatorship, in my opinion, and so few people ever challenge it. I have only seen such a response to it via fat acceptance, and this is why I am involved, regardless my size.

    You should NOT have to excuse your body size or shape. You should not have to answer such intrusive and meaningless questions (and WHAT type of person even asks this!?). You should not have to feel ashamed of your lifestyle or habits. And you should not have to explain to anyone why you are fat, thin or otherwise.

    So, to cap it off, If i was asked this question, and I was a fat person, I would simply answer with a challenge to the questioner instead: “Wouldn’t YOU like to wake up one morning, magically transformed into a human being with empathy, intelligence and tact?”

    • You know, on the facebook post for this very blog link this morning, some stranger demanded to know why I am “hiding behind PCOS as an excuse for being obese when Posh Spice has PCOS and she’s really thin.” My response was “Why does my health matter so much to you and where did you get your medical degree?”

      I don’t know about anyone else, but I never knew Posh Spice was the yardstick all medical conditions were measured against!

      Fat people are considered public property. Even if we are sick, or have health issues (and who doesn’t?), our health is NO-ONES buisness but our own.

  • Gorgeous.

    I actually did “magically” become nearly thin once over just a few short months – lots of free time for athletic pursuits meant losing size without trying, and it TERRIFIED me. I thought I had cancer, and I didn’t have health insurance, so I just lived with that fear for months.

    • Rosa I have a friend who did have cancer and she lost a vast amount of weight during chemotherapy, to the point that it was touch and go as to whether she would survive. And believe it or not, people constantly told her she “looked great!” when she was in fact, on the verge of dying.

      It’s horrible that thinness is more valued than life.

  • No, but I would love it if I could magically put an extra hour in my morning during which my children would all magically stay asleep and not need anything and the cat would magically decide not to whine about his food bowl, so that I could exercise every day. I would still be fat, but I would be able to run up three flights of stairs.

    And while we’re at it, how about a remote control that would leave rude people flapping their mouths soundlessly right after they asked a tactless question like that? Or cause their keyboards to shrivel up and vanish?

  • Thank you for speaking about this side of it, Kath! I feel the same way. Whenever these what ifs get posed, it’s so silly, yet we’re expected to take it so seriously when we aren’t being taken seriously by the asker in the first place (or they wouldn’t even ask this). I’ve been the weird/awkward/outcast since before I was fat. I don’t see how suddenly being thin/acceptable would change that. It’s the whole Matrix paradox all over again. If you could, would you take the blue pill? Meh, no thanks.

    • Hon, you’ve really hit a nail on the head there. Why are we expected to take all this stupid questioning so seriously when we are being belittled, demonised, disrespected and discriminated against? Yet when you try to turn the tables… oh how DARE you pry into my health! It’s none of your business!

  • I think I found that magic pill before and it’s made out of self punishment, hate and eating disorders. The drug companies would get it approved straight away.

  • I answered the same question recently on another blog, and my answer was no. No, I would not take the skinny pill, because my body is not the problem.

    A few years ago I might have said yes, but only because I didn’t know where to find affordable fat clothes. Now I have both a bigger clothing budget and more knowledge, so that is no longer a valid reason for me.

    I would definitely take a pill to get rid of my asthma and allergies (I mean, I already do every day, so taking a pill once to get rid of them forever would be awesome), and I would hesitate (because eyeglasses are a big part of my self-concept), but I would take a pill that could safely, permanently, give me 20/20 vision, but my fat body is not a problem that needs to be solved.

    • It’s amazing how the answer to the question changes once you start to build some self esteem and confidence, isn’t it? I would have once said yes, simply because that was what was expected of me and I was led to believe that being fat was the worst possible thing a person could be. Ridiculous that people still genuinely think this!

  • I’ve fortunately never had this question asked of me. But if I did, the answer would be “no”.

    However, if ever there came a magic pill that made it so that I no longer got headaches with each small storm front that passes through my area, I’d probably at least consider it (and maybe take it if the side effects aren’t more horrible than the headaches).

  • I found your blog via Dances with Fat and just had to comment on this post.

    My initial response would be “It depends. What’s the cost?” As with several of the stories posted above, people have found ways to become thin very quickly. It generally involves the complete destruction of physical health to obtain that thin body.

    If there were a way to for me to drop about 80 lbs while maintaining my strength, agility, and all those other health factors at their current level, while also not having to pay some other high cost (Deal with the Devil, etc.) then I probably would take it. I can feel that my knees take a beating, and bad knees run in the family.

    It’s never going to be a decision I have to make because there never is such a perfect solution. My body works just fine the way it is. And I’m happy to have one that works this well. 🙂

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