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Why being heckled for being fat hurts more than being heckled for being thin

As a skinny girl I hate the bones are for dogs comment. I am naturally skinny to the point I have to work very hard to keep my weight up and steady!!! I love being skinnybut it’s hard… it’s mean and hurtful when we are called skin and bones, referenced to attracting only low class guys, or called anorexic. It’s not ok to insult a plus sized woman so it shouldn’t be ok to insult a skinny woman. I have nothing against plus sized ladies. All that matters is you’re happy and healthy. And for the record, my fiancé is not a dog or anywhere close to it!!!!” -Facebook User commenting on a plus sized model’s photo.

Dear (Thin) Facebook User,

First, let me say that I agree. People should refrain from voicing hurtful opinions about the weight of others regardless of which end of the spectrum that person occupies, period. Generally, that person is aware of what their body looks like, and doesn’t need your input on the matter. Such commentary accomplishes nothing except for boosting the ego of the perpetrator by putting down the target, often in the guise of snide concern. Making fun of a fat person and a making fun of a thin person are equally condemnable. Neither is O.K..

real-womenHowever, the way this sort of commentary hurts a thin person is often very different from the way it hurts an overweight individual. Barring very low self-esteem, eating disorders, or other mental disorders that distort body image, most thin people are generally comfortable with their bodies even if they are not entirely satisfied. The above user said herself that she loves being thin. While this is becoming true for a growing number of overweight/fat/plus-sized/choose-your-adjective individuals, a vast majority of them (should I say us?) are constantly uncomfortable in their own skin.

Overweight people, especially women, tend to face a lot of imagery in magazines, television, and movies telling them their size is not only not beautiful, but not acceptable or at best, something to mocked. While there are a growing number of non-traditional models, big girls tend to have to seek out imagery that positively represents bodies similar to their own. On the contrary, thin women regularly see imagery that reinforces and reassures them that their bodies are attractive even if they hear remarks to the opposite effect. Being inundated with this sort of exclusionary imagery tends to make overweight women, and the men who are attracted to them, unnecessarily aggressive toward the idea of thin being sexy.  Often men attracted to fat women are seen as fetishists and the fat women themselves are seen as a fetish,  further increasing their defensive nature.

It is true that thin women still face the same pressure that all women feel: to have the perfect boobs, an exaggerated waist, and round perky buttocks. Disparaging remarks about our bodies hurt no matter what size we are; few people don’t inwardly long to change their appearance. The main difference here is that the remarks of peers regarding weight are much less likely to encourage or perpetuate harmful behaviors in the average thin person.

Thin women, because they tend to feel more confident about their bodies, are more likely to recognize the commentary as ignorant and hateful, label the person dispensing it an asshole, and move on. But it is fairly common for overweight women to already have an inner monologue that tells us we are unattractive because we are fat, and though we may hide it at the time, the commentary validates our negative self-image.  In women who are overweight despite vigilant diet and exercise, this can lead to starvation dieting or even encourage them to give up. In people who compulsively overeat, or eat for emotional reasons the implication is obvious.

In summation: Yes, thin Facebook user, the person who tells you to eat a cheeseburger or asks if you are anorexic is an asshole in the same way as the person who tells me I need Jenny Craig and asks me how I escaped SeaWorld. Yes, we both as women have to deal with insensitive assholes telling us that we don’t fit their ideal of beauty… But, unless you have a sense of worthlessness strongly linked to your weight…unless you have a loud inner-monologue that tells you that you are less than worthy because of how you look…please…don’t pretend you know how I feel.



A History of Fatness: Losing Weight the Wrong Way

In the last installment, A History of Fatness: The Younger Years, I cut to the root of my emotional relationship with junk food. I shared how I spent the latter half of my childhood in the plus-sized section, and how I began to lose weight.

At first, my methods of weight loss were pretty sane. I began losing sometime in March, and at the beginning of May my average rate of weight-loss was a manageable and healthy 15lbs per month or about 2 pounds per week. I kept a food journal, I walked between 2 and 4 miles each day, and I did body weight resistance exercises 3 times a week.

Then, with the help of weight-loss books, I calculated my frame-size (medium framed at 5′ 6”) which based on bone positioning and created a goal of weighing 130 pounds (the lighter end of healthy for my frame size)… by my birthday. At the time, I weighed 220 lbs. I wanted to lose 90lbs in 2½ months.


In these photos, I weigh between 220 and 230lbs.

After school was out for the summer, it was crunch time in more ways than one. I made weight loss my main goal. In addition to the body weight resistance exercises, I began weight lifting and walking longer distances. I began calorie counting. I ate 1,200 calories each day, about 500 less than was recommended for weight-loss according to my books. I was obsessed with creating calorie deficits. I wasn’t satisfied in the morning unless I weighed at least a pound less than I had the previous day.

By the end of May, I weighed about 180 pounds, 50 pounds less than I did at the beginning of the month. The women’s size 16 jeans I previously would lay on the bed to squeeze into fit perfectly. Some were even baggy. My friends and family were impressed. No one worried that the weight was coming off too fast. They made every effort to encourage me. I, however, had hit something of a weight-loss plateau and was still 50 pounds from my goal-weight of 130 lbs and a month andhalf from my goal-date of my 16th birthday.

I made my diet more restrictive. I cut my daily consumption down to 800 calories with two, 1,000-calorie “cheat” days. I would spend somewhere around 4 hours each day walking ( I covered an average of 17 miles) in addition to an hour-long anaerobic work out. I would go to sleep exhausted and hungry.

On my birthday I was 10 pounds shy of my goal-weight. Although I was glad to no longer shop in the women’s plus-size section, I was wearing the largest size most store’s junior’s sections carried at the time- a size 13.

It is worth mentioning that my perception of my size at the time was skewed in part to the arbitrary sizing in womens‘ and teen girls’ clothing and my own refusal to admit to being any bigger than a size 16 when I was younger. At 250 lbs I was squeezing into size 16 pants when I probably should have been wearing a size 22. When I weighed 140, I wore a women’s size 10 or 12, but that translated to a junior’s basically I perceived a loss of 10 dress sizes as a loss of 3. Also, since I was wearing the largest junior’s size in most stores, I must still be fat.

Because of this thinking, it seemed like my aunt Corrine was almost more excited about my smaller body than I was. She bought me a new wardrobe that summer, marveling over how cute and tiny everything was. Even though I weighed 110 pounds less than I did in May, I still wasn’t happy with my body. I still hated how I looked in swimming suits. My belly was still lumpy, my arms were still flabby.I cut my calories further.


In this photo I weigh 140 lbs.

When school started, I imagined kids would whisper that I’d gotten liposuction. That didn’t happen. There were (almost) none of the mean comments I’d grown accustomed to. For the most part, the boys didn’t treat me much differently, but I wasn’t prepared for how differently the girls would treat me.

Even among friends, I was suddenly part of the group; I was invited on shopping excursions to neighboring cities, to water parks. Girls who had previously snubbed me treated me with respect. The older girl I mentioned in the previous post who bullied me, despite being a year behind in math class, decided I had become her mortal enemy. However, the most threatening things in her arsenal were telling me I dressed like “a hippy” and that I would marry for love and be poor while she would be a gold-digger. As usual, my biggest obstacle was internal.

In general I felt more confident about my body, but I couldn’t stop comparing it to other, thinner girls. Unable to obsessively exercise, I cut my calories to 500 or less a day. This behavior continued for a little longer than a month. I only managed to lose 15 pounds, and squeeze into a junior’s size 9.

Finally, one of my friends who had been quietly observing my altered eating habits at lunch talked to me. She said that she had also been exhibiting anorexic and non-purging bulimic behavior, and that her mother had pointed it out to her.

“You are skinny, Claire,” she said. “You have to eat.”

I managed to keep the weight off for several years in varying degrees of health. However, I never was really happy with myself. Eventually, my body began to reflect it.

Next installment: The Weight Crept Back and Brought Friends!


A History of Fatness: The Younger Years

My most-used clothes are the ones I can hide in. Such as the large, soft black faux velvet shirt I am wearing in the photo below, and have owned since the summer I turned 13.  Although it is a little worse for wear, (it has oil paint stains, missing buttons, and a cigarette burn in the sleeve) it is still a staple in my wardrobe.


The bandanas are another article I love hiding in. I currently have 4 different ones, but this one is my favorite.

For me, the body-image thing started when I was 7 years old. Before then, I saw myself as pretty and had no second thoughts on the matter.  I can remember my dad saying that I was getting fat around then.  I am not sure if he was the first to do so, but it is my first memory of being referred to as the dreaded F word.

Of course, I knew from television and movies that fat people were a thing to be mocked, and at best could provide the quirky comic relief.  (The internet was not available to me outside of school for the majority of my formative years.)  It was obviously a BIG DEAL.   I responded by favoring over-sized clothes.

My mother did little to reinforce good eating habits ( and truthfully, I didn’t help, fussing over anything green);  we frequented fast food restaurants, my favorite of which was Long-John-Silver’s. To this day when I go there I always order extra crumbs. Before that, I favored a little mom and pop place (which closed, sadly) called the “Y Not Cafe.”  There were phones at every booth to order.  I always got a sloppy joe with curly fries and a chocolate milkshake.  The milkshakes were so good. They brought you the whole metal mixer along with your nice glass with whipped cream and a cherry, so it was like having TWO milkshakes.  I digress.  In any case, we ate out multiple times a week, had since I could remember, and it contributed to my waist-line.  

Third-graders can smell weakness. My baggy clothes andself-conscious posture made me a target for bullying.  I remember a boy on the playground calling me “Godzilla” and falling in time to my footsteps. Even through this, when I see pictures of myself from that time, I was only a little chubby.

I believe this photo was taken the summer I turned 8. The dog, Jack, loved to attack fireworks and running water.

I believe this photo was taken the summer I turned 8, and I entered 3rd grade in the fall. The dog, Jack, loved to attack fireworks and running water.

After my mom fell ill, I turned to many of the comfort foods I remembered enjoying with her. I did’n’t really do it consciously.  All I knew was that I wanted foods like chocolate, icecream, french fries, fried chicken, and lots of it! I recall my fourth grade teacher stopped me from going up for seconds telling me that I was too fat. (She really meant well, but it was in front of the entire school, essentially, and added to the teasing.) Other kids in the class would say that the one boy who was cubby in our class of 22 and I must like each other because we were both fat.  But honestly, what I remember hurting the worst was that after I had dealt with name calling and embarrassing public interventions, I had to deal with comments at home.

Although I was praised for good grades and a generally more mature demeanor than many of my peers,  ( I was constantly reading, drawing, or writing) school nurses mailed my dad notes twice a year to remind us that I was obese.  My dad would  say things like “We’re poor, and you’re fat.  It makes no sense,” and  My Grandpa would occasionally pat my belly when he saw me eating.  For her part, my Grandma Sue recognised stress eating when she saw it and tried not to give me a complex, shooing my Grandfather’s concerned, but condescending hand.

By the time I was 10, I was regularly comparing my body to the bodies of my peers and worse, women in television, movies, and ads.  The resultant depression led me to bouts of stress-induced binge eating.  I would frequently eat when no one would see me- finding the privacy for it wasn’t hard as I found it difficult to get to sleep and stay asleep. Given the opportunity,  I would eat so much that my stomach hurt, and then I would eat more.  By the time I turned 11, I loathed my body.  I mostly hid from cameras.  I don’t have a lot of photos of myself from this time. Bullying at school continued to escalate.


As you can see, this photo of me (which I think was taken the summer I turned 12) was neglected in the care of my younger self. I hated how round my face was, how bulgy my belly was, and how my thighs rubbed together.

If memory serves, my Uncle Clifford took the above photo while I walked across these rocks, pretending they were much higher, and miles away from the world of 35mm cameras.  I would often avoid mirrors.  My Aunt Corrine saw me struggling with my body image.  She helped as much as she could, taking me to the mall so I could chose my clothing from the same stores as my friends (whenever possible) and introducing me to new stores. It wasn’t all bad either.  I allowed myself to cut loose and quit caring with the right friends.


This photo is from my 13th birthday party. Myself and 4 close friends (including the one taking the picture) are playing balloon baseball.

  In the summer I turned 13, a month before my birthday, my Grandma Sue died.  I got bigger than ever.  If there was no junk food in the house, I cooked it.  ( I had been cooking for myself for a while before-hand and used to bake with my Mom.)   My mom’s twin sisters, my aunts Amy and Ann, took me on couple trips after the passing of my Grandmother, in part funded by my Grandpa. The summer I turned 14, we spent a week in L.A. and visited several family members living in California. I had a great time there despite getting an awful sunburn and having to wear a swimming suit on the beach (loaded with tar!).  I entered high school.

In high school, the bullying was different.  Most people didn’t bully me to my face, they just avoided me.  Some people would actually move if I sat near them at lunch.  Pairing off for whatever reason was generally difficult, especially in Gym class.  My most vocal bully was a girl a grade ahead of me, but in the same math class…to this day I don’t know why she decided to hate me.  I spent most of my time alone.

The following year my twin aunts and I went to Spain for a week, tagging along with a school in Omaha that Ann worked for just before I turned 15, but I don’t have many photos of myself there because I was so self-conscious.

Here I hid in baggy jeans and a t-shirt that came down to my elbows.   This is, sadly, the best photo I have of myself in Spain.

The girl on the left was named Rachel. We bonded over body issues. I’m the one in front of the fountain. I hid in baggy jeans and a t-shirt that came down to my elbows despite it being upwards of 90 degrees. This is, sadly, the best photo I have of myself in Spain.

The self-conscious theme continued through my sophomore year only I defended myself. I cursed more often at people who called me fat, including my own father. – “Oh Shit! Thanks for telling me, I thought it was an allergic reaction!”- I didn’t go out for any sports, or activities.  I did attend the occasional friend’s party, but avoided any situation where I thought I was likely to be picked on.  The bullying happened less frequently, but I still had problems finding a place to sit at lunch.  By then my internal monologue was worse than any bullying I received.  I would write disparaging words on myself, and at my worst, I would cut words and designs into my skin on places I never showed people.  ( Some of these, unfortunately, I still have today. )

I had gained a substantial amount of weight and crammed myself into jeans that were too small and hid everything else in giant t-shirts.  Then, toward the end of that year, when I weighed 250lbs, I came down with the flu.  Unable to eat or drink anything of substance for a week, I lost 10 lbs.   The prospect of weight loss suddenly didn’t seem so impossible.

I started keep a food journal, despite getting strange looks at school over it. In one of the nicer incidents, a girl in Spanish class was incredulous that I wrote down a small handful of m&ms  I won in a round of educational bingo.  One of my friends copied pages of beginner-intermediate body-weight resistance exercises from her mom’s workout book. They made me sore at first, but I did them.  By the time the school year was over, I had dropped another 20lbs.

I was determined to not be fat by the time I turned 16, and I would succeed.

To be continued (In A History of Fatness:  Losing Weight the Wrong Way)