Is there a right to reply that doesn't leave you feeling disempowered? self conscious or as if you are engaging in a conversation of which you have no interest. Here are my tips, identifying what I find are the most common environments for these exchanges and some ideas on how to deal with them:
Tip # 1 The Service Industry Fat Shamer-Kill them with kindness
From the shop assistant who gleefully shouts "she needs a bigger size" across the store (as you stand embarrassed in your bra) to the fairground ride attendant who tuts when you have to get off a ride because the bar wont fit over your belly, there is something about being fat shamed in public which can make even the most strident body positive warrior woman want to shrivel up and die. Its also often the trickiest to form a response to. I find sugary politeness piled high with sarcasm can help reset the balance.
As you exit the changing room/leave the fair ride/take the seat belt extender from the stony faced air steward stop for just a moment and say "Thank you so much for making what could have been a slightly awkward moment so much easier. Your customer service skills really are second to none. You are so kind" It will leave them unsure how to respond and frames you for that one second as a human being rather than just the butt of a fat joke. Its not dramatic or sweary but allows you to have the last say.
If you feel this is too nuanced and the situation is right you can also try "I thought I would just say, I am not all uncomfortable about my appearance so your words today didn't bother me at all, but that might not always be the case and your comments could really upset someone, just so you are aware"
Tip # 2 The ignorant but well meaning fat shamer-Patiently educate
We all have that one family member or friend who has read all the "obesity crisis" headlines and genuinely fears for your health. First of all cut these guys some slack, its taken me years to ignore the messages that my fat body is an ugly blight on society and I have some motivation, you know what with being fat so its unsurprising that people in our life may feel genuine concern over our weight. Here's the thing, the next time you receive the "I am really worried about you" speech take a deep breath and explain that every time they say"I'm worried" what you actually hear is "I'm disappointed" if the concerns are genuine address them one by one, be really honest about your health, your fitness and your happiness and then ask them all the same questions. Chances are the answers wont be that different, use this to illustrate how silly it is to use a persons dress size as a health indicator.Be patient but be firm, their concern is unnecessary and unhelpful.If necessary ask that it isn't referred to again and if it is cut it off at the legs "I'm not discussing this" usually does the trick, especially when followed by an offer of a cup of tea.
Tip # 3 The Health Professional Fat Shamer-Stay on message
Visiting a GPs surgery or hospital can make us all feel very vulnerable. We are there because there is something wrong with us which is beyond our ability to diagnose and cure. To this end it can often feel inappropriate, even arrogant to shut down fat shaming especially when the person doling it out has spent twenty years practising medicine and you cant even win a game of operation. First things first,Its important that you listen to what the practitioner has to say and don't just obsess on any element that refers to your weight. If however you feel your case isn't being taken seriously because of your size do not suffer in silence. Calmly listen to what they have to say and then respond with "I understand that my weight may play a part in this issue however I have been this size for many years and these symptoms are new. Could we discuss any other possibilities which aren't necessarily weight related as I very much feel this is a new development and would hate for something to go undiagnosed simply because I'm fat"
If no further help is offered ask for a second opinion, it been my experience that many health care professionals are actually great at looking beyond your BMI. Do not be shooed out of your GPs without the help you need. Move practises if need be (I did, best decision ever) or ask for a referral, your body deserves the best possible medical care, do not suffer because some numpty thinks you are a burden to the NHS.
Tip#4 The Online commenter-"I'm plussize myself but"
If you are a fat womn who posts pictures of herself on the internet chance are you will receive some negative comments at some point. I have a system for how and when I respond. If its downright abuse (you fat fucking whale) block, delete, move on. If its a misguided backhanded compliment "You usually look so nice but this style does not flatter your figure" I will educate, pointing out that I don't have to wear things that "flatter" me all the time and that actually I think it look great. If someone writes "Just horrible" or "I'm plus size but this outfit looks really awful" I will take that bitch down. I don't care what size you are, you don't get a free pass to be a snark-its important that others see you take no prisoners on this type of fat shamer. The "I'm plussize but" squad are a particularly dangerous breed. Don't let the fact they don't like themselves infect your self esteem.
Tip # 5 The Fat shaming part of you
Often the worst fat shamers in our lives are in fact us. Years of wanting to provide the punchline before someone else could make a fat joke or the insane need we seem to have to let people know "we know what we look like" means we make very unkind remarks at our own expense daily. Stop doing this. You deserve kindness, consideration and the right to exist without negative commentary including from yourself.
There are no right or wrong ways to deal with fat shaming-ultimately do what you need to do to ensure you are as unaffected as possible-these are just my tips-if it helps great, if its the total opposite to how you choose to deal with things that's great too, in fact please leave me your tips and responses below as I'm always looking for new ideas.
Stay amazing you lovely lot.
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