Not many of us mean to fat-shame.
But sometimes both people with and without thin privilege can ridicule, insult or shame those in larger bodies without realising.
Of course, this isn’t intended and most of us are sensitive to other people’s insecurities, but judging others based on their body size and shape is ingrained in our culture and society which means sometimes we fat-shame accidentally.
But even when it isn’t intentional, a passing comment can still have a huge effect on the recipient.
With this in mind, we spoke to Darrell Freeman, Founder and MD of female plus-size clothing brand CurveWOW, about the ways you could be fat-shaming without realising.
“Feigning concern for an overweight person’s health is a fairly transparent way of telling them they should lose weight, and that’s not OK,” Freeman explained to The Independent. Many people automatically equate being overweight with poor health, but this isn’t always the case.
“Assuming that someone who is overweight is unhealthy, has a poor diet or is lazy is prejudiced and insensitive,” Freeman says.
“There may be underlying health issues, and they may actually be living a perfectly healthy life. Either way, they don’t need to tell you about it and, unless they bring it up, you need to stop asking.”
According to Freeman, acting surprised or even congratulating someone who is overweight for doing exercise is a form of fat-shaming. “Just because someone is overweight, it doesn’t mean that they can’t partake in activities that involve being active,” he says.
Of course, overweight people can still do all sorts of types of exercise, so don’t patronise by congratulating a larger person for working out and don’t exclude your overweight friends when making plans to do something active.
Suggesting to a plus-size friend that they might be more comfortable in jeans or joggers than the tight-fitting dress that they have picked out is at best unhelpful and at worst rude and insensitive.
“By doing so you are implying that they are unable to pull off certain outfits and must dress in a particular way because of their size,” Freeman advises.
“Be helpful and honest but don’t decide what they can and cannot wear, and try to avoid taking them shopping to stores that only stock petite sizes, as it is likely to make them feel self-conscious.”
What someone else chooses to wear, do and eat is completely up to them - it’s not your place to decide your friend doesn’t need dessert, seconds or full-fat yogurt.
“Even if you think that your friend needs to lose weight, pushing that conclusion upon them is likely to actually deter them from taking action and make them feel unnecessarily self-conscious,” Freeman says. “How is anyone supposed to feel happy and confident with themselves if they are constantly pressured to go on a diet?”
Using the term ‘fat’ as a negative
Despite the growing body positivity movement, “fat” is still often used as an insult. “This can be particularly damaging if said in front of a larger friend, because it is likely to be damaging for their self-esteem,” Freeman points out.
And you also need to be careful when paying what you think are compliments - remarks like ‘you look so good now you’ve lost weight’ and ‘you’re not fat, you’re beautiful’ both imply that you can’t be both overweight and beautiful and can only be one or the other, which simply isn’t true.
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