At some point or another in our lives we’ve been that friend who was asked the dreaded, “Do I look fat in this?” question by a friend. And we’ve all had to quickly respond, “No” or make some offhand comment about the outfit itself to avoid any tension the honest answer would bring. As friends, we’re expected to be both honest but considerate, two traits that don’t always align properly and more often than not we take the route of least confrontation as a friend to avoid bickering about trivial things like H&M skirts. It has become expected of us to feed into each other’s delusions because embracing the reality of the situation would be too much for a person to handle.
It seems to me, at least, that being fat is still considered to be one of the worst things in society. It’s as if people who are the slightest bit overweight have to dress ridiculously to attempt to convince themselves and their peers that they’re thin and that those who are noticeably overweight have to constantly acknowledge and apologize for it. In fact, it’s almost as if fat people, just like some gay people, are closeted and unwilling to fully embrace themselves for who they are. And instead of living truthfully, they shortchange themselves by attempting to live as a person who is more socially acceptable but a whole lot more boring.
The media gives us conflicting messages regarding weight.On one hand, we’re told by people to love our bodies, regardless of what weight or shape we are. On the other hand, we have people telling us that we must admit that being fat IS bad for you and that accepting it simply promotes an unhealthy lifestyle. And with growing obesity rates and changing body image, it’s almost impossible to determine who is skinny, average and “fat” anymore. Which can be a blessing for some and a curse for those who wish they knew where they stood.
As someone who used to be overweight, I can say that you don’t know what it’s like to feel fat unless you’ve ever been it. And to an extent I’m not really qualified to speak to it because I’m not genetically fat nor could my overweightness be attributed to anything other than pre-puberty awkwardness. But what I do know is that the feeling of being fat never really leaves you. Even though I am much skinnier now than I was then, I still lack the self-confidence of my equally thin peers who have always been that body type. I still stare at my stomach every day in the mirror, I still become upset whenever I try on an article of clothing that doesn’t fit and I slightly obsess about caloric intake. It’s almost as if I can’t enjoy being thinner because of the overwhelming fear that I’ll end up fat again. But I have to ask myself- am I really any better or worse because of my weight loss?
I feel that we’ve given the word “fat” too much power. It’s become such a terrifying concept to some people that they’d reject the reality of their body and cling on to some dangerous and unrealistic expectation of who they are or what they could be. It’s a fear that’s driven people to constantly compare themselves to others and ask for answers they know people will give them out of common courtesy. Maybe if being fat didn’t have such a negative connotation, we wouldn’t have people trying to squeeze into clothing two sizes too small or posing a certain way in pictures just to look the slightest bit thinner. Maybe if being fat was just seen as a reality, we’d have more people rocking appropriate size clothing and further understanding that what you weigh is so unimportant in the grand scheme of things.
What people fail to realize is that often times are body types are solely based on genetics. Not everyone who is overweight is so because they don’t exercise or eat junk food constantly. In fact, there are some bigger people who do eat healthily and exercise regularly but still have a larger frame. Being large doesn’t need to be the be all and end all of things. You’re not going to burst into flames if you accept that you’re a few pounds overweight or 100 pounds overweight and you’re certainly not going to be a better or a worse person if that number changes. But enough with tiptoeing around the issue! We have to evaluate our bodies and ask ourselves- are we happy with them?
And I mean really happy with them. If you’re overweight and you have happiness in your life, who is to stop you from living the life you’re living? If you’re overweight and feel self-conscious or unhappy, find ways to achieve happiness. That may mean exercising more regularly and changing your diet- it may even just mean speaking with a therapist to talk about your feelings. While I certainly don’t advocate for people to be unhealthy and not take care of themselves, I know that I can’t dictate how people should be living their lives.
I firmly believe, however, that lying to ourselves isn’t a way to becoming happy. I also believe that we shouldn’t have other people lie to us as a way of protecting us from the reality of circumstances. If you’re overweight and your friend tells you you’re not, it doesn’t make you skinny and getting an answer to a question you already know isn’t going to make you happier. If you are actually in question of your body type or uncertain, go in search of a professional opinion from a doctor. Don’t rely on a peer with societal obligations to give you a certain answer. If you’re fat, embrace it- don’t spend your life trying to lie to yourself and to others. Because if you have a problem with the word “fat” or “plus size” you have to stop and ask yourself if the real problem you have is with yourself. Yes, I know that weight should be an unimportant thing- but it isn’t. At least to people our age. So instead of pretending to be skinny, just say “I’m fat. What about it?” and move on with your life. You’ll be surprised how little people have to say when confronted with someone they know is comfortable in their own skin.
By ignoring the truth we’re simply preventing ourselves from seeing our own true beauty. I mean I could still be acting like a straight man, but I know full well that I’m a lot more interesting and entertaining as myself, a gay man. The same goes for clothes- don’t buy the dress an ill fitting dress just because you can squeeze into a smaller size when there’s a larger dress that could look so much better on you. You don’t need to be small to be beautiful. I know that what I’m saying is certainly wishful thinking and that standards of beauty will continue to be highly influential in our society. My hope is that people will see the beauty in themselves in an honest way. My hope is that we will accept ourselves for who we are in a way that isn’t self defeating or egoistic. My hope is that we stop asking people questions for which they’ll have to lie to us. And lastly, my hope is that one day people just won’t give a shit about how much you weigh and judge you based on more important things- like who your favorite popstar is or whether or not you think OJ did it.