About four years ago, I got off a train and walked past a smart looking man, who leaned toward me and whispered in my ear:
“God, you are fat”
Now, reader, be under no illusion, I am fat. He was merely reporting fact. My usual suite of excellent witty ripostes deserted me in that second. I stood and stared at his departing back letting the venom seep right into my heart. Then I cried.
I cried all the way back to Glasgow, and I was still crying when I got back to my cold little flat, miles from my family and partner, at 12.10am.
As a fat woman, I’m used to having insults hurled at me, usually from cars inhabited by late teenage boys, of seemingly both sub -par intelligence and taste in tracksuits. I take this on the chin, with a cheerful flick of the fingers – there isn’t actually much malice in what they are saying – Its just something else to yell, something to pass the time for them – they’ve forgotten me by the time they pass an attractive woman, or old person, or anyone that isn’t them.
But the guy in St Pancras really meant it. He wanted to hurt me.
He didn’t say it to make himself look funny, or clever. He wanted to hurt me, a stranger, someone who hadn’t taken up any of his space, or interacted with him in any way, for being bigger that he deemed acceptable.
I sometimes wonder if he thinks he was trying to help. Perhaps he thought that his brave intervention might shock me into action, and that in a year or two’s time, I’d be strolling through St Pancras, slim and lithe, see him, and thank him for saving my life. Instead, I did what I always do in times of deep sadness: I went back to my flat in Glasgow and ate my feelings in cake form.
I’m engaged in a constant battle with my body. It is able and willing and does all the things I ask it to do, almost without complaint, yet still I treat it with contempt.
Recently, I noted the new Nike mannequin launched in London, showcasing their plus size range. They had dared to display the clothes, designed for fat bodies, on a fat body.
The reaction was baffling. This piece from Tanya Gold, for the Telegraph, was particularly myopic:
The idea that fat people can barely stir their stumps to movement is laughable. I am fat – really fat – and I have witnesses over 30 in number who can personally attest that I have stood In front/behind/beside them every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday wobbling energetically away, shedding sweat and hair ties and mostly looking like a chunky Animal from the Muppets. I love exercise. I’m still not slim, because I still eat too much.
I consider myself incredibly lucky. I am blessed with a supportive family network and friends. Some of these friends have supported me in my quest to become fitter.
From Sam, who puts up with my bitching every Saturday morning, and she helps me to become stronger and stronger to Chantal and Chloe, who came with me to my first ever Clubbercise class, when I was too embarrassed to look anyone, even the instructor, in the eye.
3 years later, I was at that instructors baby shower, now able to count her as a friend (thank you Hannah!). Sharon, who I smiled at nervously through the dark, and who I am now planning a weekend away with.
Sara, Clare, Alison, Denise, Sam, Maxine, Julie, Judi, Sarah,Kim, Sabrina, Louise, Natasha, Rachel and Chrissy…just some of the women I have met at classes who have given me confidence and enriched my life.
I’m fortunate really.
I don’t face concern trolling on a daily basis, and I have never been turned down for a job for being too fat. I’ve never faced fatphobia in a professional environment.
My white, solvent privilege allows me to more easily navigate the difficulties of being fat. It won’t come as a surprise to learn that there is overwhelming evidence that obesity is a symptom of poverty, both in the UK and US. The cheapest foods, which keep well, tending to be higher in fats and sugars, with little to no nutritional density, have to be staple diets for many simply to exist.
Anyone who has tried to lose weight will know how expensive it is to buy fresh, unprocessed foods – usually prohibitively so for families on low incomes. In turn, their obesity is weaponised against them, denied opportunities on the basis of size, often conflated with health concerns, even if they are not actually present.
When fat people politely ask for the right to exist, dress themselves and not be verbally abused in the street, through the fat acceptance movement, pearls are clutched, and we are accused of ‘glamorising’ obesity.
I do not believe that anyone sees a fat person on the cover of a magazine and says “Yes! I must immediately take steps to become fatter!”; inclusion of fat bodies in main stream media is just that: Inclusion.
We aren’t asking you to be us, just that you treat us with the same human kindness you would show a slim person.
My quest to lose fat continues.
I won’t deny that I’d like to move through the world as a smaller entity. I try my best everyday, to be a good daughter, a good friend, a kind stranger, yet still I am fat.
Is that really so bad?
Me (right) being fat and sort of fit.