Things That Are Not Always Compliments For Fat People

You Forgot Your BullshitA society rife with fat shaming and fat hatred means that often even well meaning attempts at compliments are a swing and a miss, and fat people have to deal with a lot of back-handed compliments.

There are those who feel that we should just be happy that people aren’t outright hating us, but I think it’s worth it to think this through a bit to help those who are really trying to be fat positive, but just missing the mark because they live in a fatphobic society, and expose those who are doling out back-handed compliments on purpose.

That outfit is so slimming!

  • What they might think they are saying:  You look great!
  • What a fat person might actually hear:  I think  you look better when your clothes create the optical illusion that you look smaller than you actually are because I think that smaller bodies are inherently better than larger ones.
  • What they could say instead:  You look great!

Good for you for starting a workout program!

  • What they might think they are saying:  I’ll encourage this fat person who is new to working out.
  • What a fat person might actually hear:  I make wild guesses about people based on their size, including assuming that this person is a beginner.
  • What they could say instead:  “Hey” while walking by.  Unless someone has a shirt on at the gym that says “tell me about your thoughts about my workout” or they are making all kinds of eye contact, just leave them alone.

You’re so brave to wear that!

  • What they might think they are saying:  You look great!
  • What a fat person might actually hear:  I have beliefs about what people your size should wear and you are violating those beliefs.
  • What they could say instead: You look great!

You don’t move like a big person!

  • What they might think they are saying: You are very graceful/athletic.
  • What a fat person might actually hear:  I have stereotypes about how people your size move, you don’t fit into those stereotypes.  I’m making you into an exception so I can keep my stereotypes about all the other big people.
  • What they could say instead: You are very graceful/athletic.

You have such a pretty face…

  • What they might think they are saying: Obviously fat bodies aren’t pretty but at least your face is nice.
  • What a fat person might actually hear:  I’m incapable of seeing the beauty in fat bodies, this is a backhanded way for me to say that.  See also “You have such a pretty face, it’s a shame about your body…”
  • What they could say instead: You are beautiful.  Or, compliment something other than what the person looks like.

If you have others, feel free to leave them in the comments!


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34 thoughts on “Things That Are Not Always Compliments For Fat People

  1. My favorite is when people comment on my food choices they see on the conveyor belt at the grocery store. I’m bent over trying to reach that last thing in the bottom of the cart and they are staring incredulously at my spinach and quinoa and say something like, “Wow?! Great choices there!” and I want to respond, “Oh, those aren’t for me. I’m fat, so all I eat if twinkies and frosting straight out of the tub, but my dog, he’s one healthy sone of a bitch!!” Or similarly I might think about saying, “You know what you seem to need? Bees Wax. I think they might have some over on isle 7, you should go check.” But I don’t usually say anything because it’s none of their business what I eat and I don’t own them anything.

    1. One time, at the grocery store, I got chastised for buying generic Cheerios. Reason: The cereal contained BHA or BHT or some preservative that was sure to do me harm.

      So, what was this do-gooder purchasing, you ask.

      Vodka and ice cream (Neapolitan). Both in large-sized containers.

      Conclusion: vodka floats beat out faux Cheerios as far as the health aspect of foods go. Wow! Good to know.

      1. I am concerned about Cheerios. They are now advertising themselves as gluten-free. Did they change the recipe? I hope not, because that means I’ll have to change my cereal preferences.

        I’m kind of afraid to spend money on testing them, now, frankly.

        Since I’m not gluten-intolerant, I have no reason to avoid gluten, and the things that are gluten-free usually, in my experience, just don’t taste as good. Well, if they never had gluten in the first place, like carrots and meat, they’re fine. But grains with the gluten removed? Noooooo, not so good.

        I mean, come on, Cheerios, give us a CHOICE! It’s fine to have gluten-free Cheerios available, but to say that NONE of the Cheerios have gluten, anymore? Way to jump on that bandwagon so hard you break the axels.


        I’m gonna eat shredded wheat.

        1. Michelle, the honey nut cherrios don’t taste different. I’m not sure about the plain ones. All that the company did was drop out the minimal whole wheat they used in the recipe. It was always primarily oat flour. I’m delighted to have back one of my favorite cereals! Hope my consumer comment was helpful.

          1. Actually, it’s great, because Honey Nut was my favorite Cheerio, anyway!

            And I’m really glad that gluten-intolerant people CAN eat Cheerios. I was just ticked off at the lack of choice, and the potential for ruining a favorite breakfast cereal.

            Thanks very much!

          2. I didn’t know about that, I know that based on the ingredients, I could only eat the honey nut version (which tastes better anyway). I always found the plain ones blah, same as rice chex.

        2. If I recall correctly, Cheerios are made with oats. Normally, oats don’t have gluten naturally – BUT many of the oats in the US are processed WITH wheat – so even though they didn’t CONTAIN wheat, there was cross-contamination. To make oats gluten-free you just don’t process them with wheat products.

          Make sense? It’s like having a dedicated toaster – if you’re baking fish sticks, and then pizza, there are fish stick AND pizza crumbs on the equipment, even though your pizza doesn’t naturally contain fish. (And no, fish on pizza is not natural….haha)

          So making Cheerios gluten-free really wouldn’t change the recipe – they’re likely just made on “cleaner” (dedicated, possibly) equipment.

    2. “Oh, those aren’t for me. I’m fat, so all I eat if twinkies and frosting straight out of the tub, but my dog, he’s one healthy sone of a bitch!!”

      Now I have to clean my monitor. Thanks for this!

  2. I was one of those “pretty face” fatties when I was younger. At my current age (51) nobody compliments my appearance. Except when I lost about 40 pounds after my diabetes was diagnosed and I started taking Metformin and watching my carb intake.
    By the way, I was not trying to lose weight. I said as much when a well meaning co worker complimented my weight loss and I told her I did not wish to discuss my weight.
    My request went completely over her head as she proceeded to tell me how “healthy” I looked and added that she likes to give people compliments when they do a good job taking care of themselves.
    Point missed entirely.

    1. Same deal here, I was fat and healthy for a long time, and lost weight not by choice, but due to chronic illness. I make a point of schooling people when they try to compliment my weight loss, because in my case, when I start dropping weight, it’s because I’m having a flare up. And the comment I hate the most is, “I wish I would get that illness!” That one really sets me off – my response is, “So what I’m hearing is that you’d rather have a potentially debilitating incurable chronic illness which could impact your quality of life, ability to work – as only 30% of us who have it are able to work full-time – and can reduce your lifespan, just so that you can be thinner?” That line usually results in apologies and/or awkward stammering about how they hadn’t really thought of it that way. If the latter, I have another spiel about how messed up it is that we prioritize weight over health instead of health over weight, and have false beliefs about how fat people are all unhealthy. I always point out that when I was fat, I was healthy. I’m thin because I’m not healthy. I like challenging their stereotypes and assumptions because I remember the crap I took when I was fat.

      1. But there are still people who will insist that you could not POSSIBLY have been healthy when you were fat, because fat is, inherently, unhealthy, and it’s absolutely not possible to be healthy while fat, and only thin people can be a) healthy or b) unhealthy for any actual cause other than fat.

        If you’re fat, apparently, you are by definition unhealthy, and it’s ONLY because of your fat, and if you starve yourself thin, it doesn’t matter if your hair is falling out and your bones are breaking, that’s healthier than being fat and feeling fantastic.

        I swear, I haven’t slapped anyone since 1989, but these people are sorely tempting.

      2. Oh! I’m right here with you. 6 feet 1 inch tall, 310 pounds, healthy, happy, belly dancing, swimming, hiking, keeping up with kids, and full time job at 45 yrs old. Then my pancreas decided I’d abused it enough in the 70’s and 80’s with dieting so payback was a trip towards type 2 diabetes. Doc put me on metformin, had to lower the dose due to me pooping my life away (35 pound of the first month…scary) and ended up increasing me to the men’s diet allowances. I still dropped nearly 100 pounds fast! Oh the compliments I received! I felt the way you described. Three years ago add insulin to my regimen (no more metformin for me after that first year) and my body blossomed up to 340 in less than 6 months. Caught all kinds of crap for that. I’ve been through 7 surgeries to remove infected bones from my feet and for some odd reason, lost 60 pounds over four months last winter. No clue why. But, all of a sudden I’m getting mixed blessings…compliments woven into pity for the surgeries, but isn’t it better that your not trying to haul around so much extra.
        It’s enough to make a person postal!


        1. I want to be friends with everyone in this thread.

          My mother developed anorexia and bulimia linked to mental health issues. She dropped weight fast! She was pasty pale, had gaunt hollows in her cheeks and big black circles round her eyes. her hair was lank and falling out and she basically looked awful. When I saw her, I asked if she had been ill because she looked so bad and had lost so much weight so quickly.

          A couple of years later, after a lot of intensive therapy, my mum was able to talk to me about her life then. The worst thing she told me, and this haunts me to this day, is that everyone else told her she looked great for losing weight, and I was the only person in the world who saw that something was wrong.

          Because my mum was obese, everyone else thought it was okay for her to look pale and weak and ill, just as long as she was also looking slimmer.

    2. I know exactly how you feel! I had a stroke last year and found out it was Factor V Leiden. I stepped up my exercise regimen and started eating healthier foods because I don’t want to have any more strokes. I’m losing weight, but that was never my goal. I’ve always liked my body, so people who want to tell me I’m more attractive (or healthier) now than I was can kiss my entire ass!

      1. The “issue” there is that they will say you don’t wanna talk about it due to the fact that, deep down, you know it is unhealthy and are becoming defensive because you know it is true. I am at a loss for words when people say this.

        1. Perhaps, “The reason is irrelevant. What IS relevant is that I asked you not to discuss it and you went ahead and did it anyway.”

          And if they still push it, they are not worth talking to.

          1. My mother used to do that. Want to talk about my weight and when I’d ask her to stop she would say “I’m still your mother and I have a right to say what I want to you” ( I was in my 50’s!).
            What finally cured it? We were shopping together and she was telling me the fat and sugar content of everything in my cart…loudly…in public. So I very loudly and in public told her to go wait in the car!
            She felt embarrassed enough to stop. I wish I had spoken up sooner.
            Another thing that has really helped is asking her to follow your blog with me. You are a God-send!

  3. “But, Ragen, what if the compliment really IS about the face?”

    Well, make it specific.

    “You have excellent bone structure.”

    “I love your cheekbones.”

    “Your nose is adorable. I just want to boop it, but I will restrain myself, because I respect your bodily autonomy. Unless you want me to boop it, in which case, I will make sure my hands are clean, first.”

      1. I really am a nose-booper. My youngest nephew doesn’t like it, so I don’t do it to him. My sister, on the other hand, gets booped plenty. I boop my own nose.

        IMO, specific compliments are more “real,” if you know what I mean. I trust them more. Also, when you’re that specific about the good, I tend to not think “Well, what’s wrong with the rest of me?” because I think that the specific thing you’re citing is my BEST part, best among many good things.

        But just “you have such a pretty face” is far too vague and makes me think, “What about my bodacious boobs or my smoking bottom? They’re so much bigger, you’d think you’d notice them, too.”

        1. That is totally adorable! I agree that specific compliments mean way more.

          For example, I feel especially good about my eyes because they have been complimented.

  4. Possible trigger warning below!

    Can someone please explain to me why a man would go on a page that is for large women (it has the term “BBW” in the name) and then insult a woman for being large, saying he is tired of seeing people who look like me? I got quite the “compliment” there.

    Did he mistake “BBW” for something else?

    1. Some trolls seek out unsuspecting people in “safe” places, specifically to troll them, and make them feel horrible.

      Then they brag about it. “I just spent a couple of hours trolling. HAHAHAHAHA!”

      I like it when they brag about trolling, though, because then I don’t have to actually witness the trolling to know that they are awful human beings, and should be avoided. Saves me a lot of time and trouble, when jerks announce themselves that way.

      So, no, he did not mistake BBW for something else. He sought it out, and targeted you. Ignore him. His words are poison, but you do not need to consume them.

  5. I once got told I was quite fit, for a fat bird.

    I’ve also been told by a drunk friend that although she loved me as a friend, she also hated me when we went out to bars and clubs because I got too much male attention and I was supposed to be her fat friend, not her fat competition.

    She isn’t my friend anymore.

    1. Clearly, you are going to the right bars, filled with the right men. They have good taste.

      And I’m glad you broke up with your “friend.” Ick. She was just using you, and didn’t see the good in you. I don’t care if she saw you as her “fat friend,” or “ugly friend” or “space alien friend,” she didn’t actually think of you as a friend, at all. She saw you as a tool to use to attract men, and probably meant to use them, too.

      It’s stories like this that make me actually grateful for my fat status, because it does help to weed out some of the jerks in the world.

  6. “Your not fat” or “your not that fat” when learning I am fierce fatty and advocate for large people. What I hear is “you must be passive aggressively complaining about your size. I will instead assert that you do not possess what I deem a negative atribute to make you feel better.” Just say “that’s great”

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