Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Big Fat Truth

Grandma called me the “husky” grandchild. Which is not only an insult, but a confusing one. Husky. Isn’t that a dog? Brothers chanted, “Hay is for horses, too bad you’re a cow.” My mother said I had a build like my father. My peers didn’t say anything. Maybe because they didn’t notice I was big. Maybe because I wasn’t big. Maybe because their parents raised them right. Maybe because they knew I would be merciless in return.

Fat people aren’t smart. Fat people sweat. Fat people wobble unattractively. Fat people have altered gaits. Fat people make the car sink more than others when they get in. Fat people only talk about food. Fat people eat at McDonalds. Fat people aren’t active. Fat people are easily winded.

I had two role models in the home. Mom, a runner who left carrot sticks and cucumber slices in the kitchen for the family to munch on. She would also go to the grocery store and buy a package of cookies. By the time she got home and sat in the driveway for a few minutes, more than half a package was gone. We don’t have sweets in our house. Dad, a 558lb private business owner, would buy the pizza, the ice cream, the ingredients, if I would pick them up from the store. He would never go through a drive thru and rarely went to restaurants – only the kind without booths.

Fat people shouldn’t wear sleeveless dresses or shirts. Fat people shouldn’t talk about hunger. Fat people shouldn’t say they are fat. Fat people shouldn’t ride on airplanes. Fat people can’t see their toes. Fat people can’t be in relationships. Fat people can’t move. Fat people can’t be healthy.

If you are fat, you have two options. You can be the dumb and pathetic fat or you can be the smart and funny fat. These aren’t my rules. This is what is portrayed in popular movies and television shows. They are reinforced by jokes and assumptions. And even in those quintessential coming of age story lines, where the chunky misfit (a whopping size twelve), whittles down to a svelt supermodel type, they reinforce that a size 12 is "gross." My response was almost Darwinian. I became funny fat to survive. I maneuvered through imaginary conflicts so not to be caught wordless.

The overheard passive aggressive insult…
“Look at her man, she’s huge! I wonder if her boyfriend can even find her vagina.”
“Pardon me, you noticed I was fat. I noticed you’re vapid. At least there’s something I can do about my situation.”

The family reunion intervention…
“We’ve noticed you’ve gained a lot of weight. Are you okay? Do you need help?”
“I noticed your marriage is falling apart. Are YOU okay?”

Imaginary situations. No one was ever rude enough to say things like that. Only quick glances with furrowed brows, which could have been genuine concern, but interpreted by my insecure, fat mind as social daggers of "how dare she be that big?!" 

Fat people should feel bad about being fat. Fat people are unattractive.  Fat people don’t like themselves. Fat people break chairs. Fat people will have heart attacks. Fat people are diabetic. Fat people can’t have sex. Fat people have thyroid problems.

People are nicer than they are in my head. If I say the word “fat,” even at my heaviest, peers would pacify their own discomfort “Oh, you’re not fat, don’t talk about yourself that way.” Fat is a bad word. Don’t say “fat.” It makes people uncomfortable.

Fat people make others uncomfortable. Fat people are offensive. Fat people order more food. Fat people smell. Fat people wear muumuus. Fat people take busses.

In letting what others think shape me, I made fat rules in high school.
1 – Never get in the car first.
2 – Always wear sleeves.
3 – Never talk about food.
4 – Never let them see you sweat.
5 – Do what’s possible to wiggle less.

Then I went to college.
Deborah Voigt at the SanFranOpera (size 20)

Fat people can date. Fat people can socialize. Fat people can dance. Fat people can help other people. Fat people can like themselves. Fat people can go to the gym. Fat people can be on stage. Fat people can laugh at themselves. Fat people can change.

Now I’m making the fattest rules for real life.

1 – Do what you want (includes dating, sex, exercise, reading, eating)

2 – Date who you want (includes athletes, nerds, musicians, poets)

3 – Wear what you want (includes the sleeveless and the short). 

4 – Talk how you want (includes fat, food, boys, weight, goals, thoughts)

5 – Love your body (include all of it). 

6 – Strive to be healthy (includes some wiggling, sweating and smelling).

Big Fat Breaking Patterns Love,


  1. Let's not waste our lives waiting for perfection. Remember that kid in school that everyone picked on and made fun of? That kid was a target because he/she was meek and wouldn't/couldn't fight back. The popular kids were the ones who had no fear; they were comfortable with themselves; confidence whether they should have had any or not. I see some of them today and they are pretty homely. We can be beautiful now and enjoy life. Be well.

  2. This post made me sad and then happy.... I am glad it ended on the happy note. We all have insecurities... even those skinny people.

  3. I learned manners and compassion from the inconsiderate name callers and haters in my childhood.

    I trusted fatter people, but admired slim girls who were not mean.

    The only salvation in my pubescent years up to 18 was athletics...but all my heroes ended up coming out as Lesbians in the 80's. I was already an adult and a bit disappointed they fell into the generalization. If I were younger I would of turned in my tennis racket and be oh so confused. Homophobia aside...I matured into the ability to be politically correct. Their sex lives should of never been a public thing to confuse their youthful following. They played damned good.

  4. This is my favorite thing that you have posted. I'm bookmarking it and coming back to it often to reaffirm to myself that these stereotypes DO NOT define me. Thanks for the reminder. <3

  5. I have recently been struggling with weight gain for myriad reasons. I was actually doing a Google image search to find "fat" pics to put on my fridge to remind myself to not spend my evening rummaging through the fridge and cupboards. The "Blending In" poster caught my eye and I found my way to this blog post. Thank you for your heartfelt and motivating post. I needed a reminder to not look down on myself!


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