I was riding home on the streetcar the other day and overheard a conversation between two grown men. The one was telling the other about his hiking trip abroad. They both clearly loved hiking, and were swapping stories about people they met on the trail, their blisters and aching feet, and the stunning scenery they encountered. It sounded to me like a full-out experience, and had me thinking about hiking abroad too someday.
Then it happened (like it does all too often) - the conversation turned to weight.
Granted, I’m hyper-senstive to weight talk. Once you see fatphobia in our culture, you can’t unsee it. It’s like when you visit a city for the first time and come back home and start seeing images of the city you just visited, or mentioned on the radio or news. This new thing that before wasn’t on your radar, now is.
The comment was innocent enough. The guy who went hiking said he expected to lose weight from the trip. To which the other guy responded with enthusiasm “yeah, I thought you looked slimmer!” A convo then ensued about how he didn’t actually lose weight on the scale, but maybe that was because he built more muscle instead and blah blah blah. It irked me because our culture is so obsessed with thinness it seems no aspect of life is untouched by it. It colours everything in our lives.
When I got home I vented my minor irritation to my husband who then shared another, more irksome story with me about his streetcar ride home. His experience involved overhearing some young “bros” talking to each other with one saying in a mocking tone, “ha! yeah, she’s so fat”. We’re so trained to see fat as a bad thing that nothing else needed to be said. “Fat” in and of itself was a stand-alone jab. My husband, now also highly attuned to fatphobic talk (he can’t unsee it either), found it both sad and disturbing.
Fatphobia is everywhere. It infiltrates our lives and we learn it super young. Children’s TV shows are often fatphobic. We are so accustomed to worry about weight, and it makes sense - when almost everyone is afraid of fat, and judging each other because of it. This fear is emphasized by the medical community which is currently (and I say “currently” since I hold the belief that eventually they’ll see the error of their ways), a weight-based health care system.
I think we have to take a really hard look and ask ourselves: is fat really the worst thing we can be? (I know J.K. Rowling doesn’t think so).
And I don’t think so either.
So what can we do? How can we create a society where we don’t judge each other for how we look, and instead see people for who they really are on the inside? Like everything else when it comes to creating change - we start with ourselves.
It’s not an easy task when we live in a fatphobic culture, and we don’t have to go from A to Z when it comes to accepting fat. But we can start, and starting can make a bigger difference than we may think.
For additional resources on a weight-neutral approach to health and well-being, download my Body Acceptance JumpStart Guide.