The F Word
by Emily Fultz
Fat. Fatty fat fat fat fat. Similar to an American’s baked potato, the word “fat” has become quite loaded.
It’s an epidemic!
It’s killing everyone!
It’s a horrible example to set for our children!
It’s actually the result of many factors, none of which necessitate uninvited judgments from onlookers!
Hello, my name is Emily Fultz, and today I’m going to talk to you about the harms of judging people by their appearances, particularly people who society labels as fat, overweight, or obese.
I vividly remember the first time I was called “fat.” It was the first recess of first grade. In kindergarten, I spent my recesses with this kid named Justin, who was technically my kindergarten boyfriend. He sat by me on the bus every day, taught me how to hopscotch, kissed my hand, came to my birthday party, and even got me a Barbie. It was as serious as kindergarten relationships can get. So this first recess back from summer vacation, I went to play with Justin and his friend as I had always done. This time, though, his friend said, “You can’t play with us, Fatso.” Justin chimed in and said, “Yeah, go away. You’re fat.” So I said, “Well, you’re skinny” and left to play hopscotch by myself. (Believe it or not, many fat kids participate in and enjoy physical activities.)
This miserable childhood experience paved the way for my development as a young woman on many levels. It was the first time I was aware of my body’s appearance and was told that it was unacceptable. I have always been a chubby/fat/overweight/obese person whose weight fluctuates constantly (seriously, I can gain five pounds just by thinking about looking at a picture of cake). Despite this societal “flaw,” I feel blessed because the “unacceptable” condition of my body has led me to hone other parts of my identity to gain the approval of others. Growing up, I made a conscious effort to be kind, smart, funny, and I threw myself into words, art, music, and my education. These decisions helped me become confident enough in my painful adolescence to get by, and led me to become a self-sufficient woman who can successfully contribute to society in a variety of ways. It wasn’t until a few months ago when I realized with the sincerest clarity that: I AM FINE AS IS, AND SO ARE YOU (unless you’re a jerk, then work on that).
A few years ago, a guy I was seeing said he didn’t want to commit to a serious relationship with me because he wanted “to be with someone who would live a long time.” In other words, he wanted someone who wouldn’t DIE soon.
W. T. F.
Newsflash! Everyone dies, Jerkwad! Even skinny people die! Skinny and fat people alike can even die unexpectedly! Is this why fat people make others uncomfortable? Are we a looming reminder that death is inevitable? I mean, somehow the term “morbidly” obese caught on.
After this punch in the face with ignorance, I did some living and learned something important: Society will always find a way to make you feel awful about who you are, so you’ve got to find acceptance within yourself. People love to label others. Stereotypes are convenient and save people time and energy. However, once people learn how to think critically, they may come to understand that not all overweight people are unhealthy or disgusting. Just like how all thin people aren’t shining beacons of health. You can be vegan and subsist entirely on potato chips. You can never smoke and still get cancer. You can be thin and one day find yourself with heart disease or diabetes. There is no single way to live that guarantees a long and painless existence.
Every human being has reasons for being who they are and for looking how they look; it’s equal parts nature and nurture. Heredity plays a role. Choices play a role. To assume that every fat person has high cholesterol, never exercises, and eats doughnuts every day is pure ignorance. Refusing to buy into a society telling you that you need to have a certain Body Mass Index, wear a certain size of jeans, or be able to do a certain number of pull ups to be healthy or happy – now that’s thinking for yourself.
Fat-shaming is an issue in the United States today. This is interesting, considering our whole societal construct is stacked against making healthy choices. We live in a country where a burger costs a fifth of the price of a salad and a single order of pasta at a restaurant could feed a family of four. Convenience always wins over the number of nutrients in a food. My generation was raised on boxed macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, and Little Debbies; yet it’s our fault for choosing what’s been made available to us; for choosing what we’ve been introduced to through brainwashing advertisements and the fast food restaurants on every corner. We are faced with thousands of decisions a day, but we have to fight our own surroundings to make the best ones. There is something wrong with this. Before judging someone for their size, look at the even larger picture of the mess that we’re in and what every American is up against.
Judgment is the biggest issue when it comes to society’s perception of fat people. Recently, plus-size model Tess Munster posted an article about being comfortable in her skin. The feedback from the public was disheartening. Here’s a beautiful woman, courageous enough to share her confidence with the world, only to be flat-out insulted and misunderstood by thousands of people. Similarly, a news anchor in Wisconsin also underwent public scrutiny for her size and was accused of being a horrible role model for young people.
Individuals who are confident with themselves enough to get in front of others and share what they have to offer the world are role models regardless of size. Anyone who uses someone’s appearance as his only weapon against her is sincerely lacking in his own character. It is better to be a parent encouraging love and acceptance in children than to enforce that, to be a worthwhile human being, you must meet a certain ideal of what it means to be viewed as “healthy.”
“Fat” is a strong word, but even nutritionists have distinguished between “good” fats and “bad” fats. How about we leave it to individuals to determine whether they feel good about themselves or not? How about we let someone decide on her own if she is happy and healthy instead of doing it for her?
Confidence is beautiful. Confidence in the face of adversity is remarkably stunning. Encouraging people to have confidence in themselves as they are in this very moment, is what we should teach ourselves and our children. We must train ourselves to see the beauty in others as they are, and then nurture it.
If the only major complaint someone has against you refers to your appearance, you’re doing fine. Do what makes sense to you and what makes you feel good about yourself while positively contributing to society as a whole, regardless of what skewed obstacles are thrown in your way. And if someone tries to dull your shine, just kindly tell them to F off.