Dealing With Fatphobia – How To Practice Putting The Problem Where It Belongs

There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.Fatphobia, weight stigma, and weight-based oppression are not in our heads – they are real and fat people experience them constantly in everything from fashion, to travel, to working out, to medical care and more.  The more fat we are, the more oppression we experience and things are even worse for those who are part of multiple marginalized groups.

One of the things that we can do to combat this is to make sure that we’re always putting the problem where it belongs – which is on fatphobia and not on our fat bodies. This is a skill that can take some practice, especially since internalized fatphobia can often make blaming our bodies a nearly automatic subconscious response to experiencing fatphobia. here is a three-step approach to shifting things to make sure you are putting the problem where it belongs.

Step One:

Acknowledge the Fatphobia (or weight stigma, or whatever word works for you – I’m using fatphobia in general here to mean any situation in which fat people cannot expect to receive the same treatment, accommodations as thin people)

Step Two:

State What’s Happening, Putting The Blame Where It Belongs (on fatphobia, not your body)

Step Three:

Choose Next Steps

Let’s look at some examples:

You want to go on a trip but you realize that the size of the plane seats means you’ll need two seats.

Step One:

This is fatphobia. The airline industry is extremely fatphobic.

Step Two:

They knew fat people existed when the built the planes and yet they choose not to accommodate us. The airline sells travel from point A to point B, and that travel requires a seat that accommodates the passenger. I only want what thin people are already getting which is travel from place to place in a seat that fits me.

Step Three:

Consider the alternatives, perhaps you can fly Southwest (the only airline who gives passengers as many seats as they need.) Perhaps you can go by train or car or another method of transportation. You may choose to buy the second seat. You may choose to contact the airline and complain. Whatever you decide is a valid choice. While this has become your problem it is definitely not your fault.

Your doctor ignores your symptoms, doesn’t listen to anything you say, and just keeps pushing weight loss

Step One:

“This is fatphobia. Weight stigma is rampant in the medical community.”

Step Two:

I deserve compassionate, evidence-based care. This isn’t it. Weight loss isn’t evidence-based medicine, and the most likely outcome is weight gain. This doctor is committing malpractice and putting me in danger.

Step Three:

You might decide to try another doctor. You might ask this doctor to respect your wishes as the patient and/or discuss the evidence basis of his claims (I’ve created some free cards to help you to that, they are currently available in English and French) You might ask your doctor what they would prescribe to a thin patient with your health issues.  If you are in a situation where that’s not possible you might lie to your doctor and tell him that you’ll attempt weight loss, then ask him to please address your health issues with the other available options in the meantime. Again, whatever you decide is valid, you should never have been put into this situation in the first place.

Your friend or family member makes a negative comment about your body/suggests that you should lose weight etc.

Step One:
This is fatphobia – in a fatphobic society, these comments are seen as acceptable.

Step Two:
The person talking to me has been duped by fatphobia and they are visiting their bigotry on me. I don’t have to agree with them, center their feelings, or be ok with them talking to me like this.

Step Three:
Your response here will take a lot into account, including the way that your family/friendship works, if you are relying on this person etc. I wrote a post giving some simple steps for boundary setting and some sample response, you can find that here.

You are sitting on a chair and it breaks

Step One:

This is fatphobia, I should be able to expect chairs to work for me in the same way they work for thin people.

Step Two:

It sucks that this place didn’t want to bother to get chairs that actually accommodate everyone.

Step Three:

This one can be rough because the urge to self-blame can be so strong. You can say something like “Shoddy ass chairs” in whatever tone you like (angry, laughing etc.) You can decide to leave, you can loudly asked for a better-constructed chair. You can leave. You can ask the people with you to advocate for you. And remember that you have every right to be upset, because this situation is upsetting, but you didn’t do anything wrong.

Fatphobia is not our fault, though it very often becomes our problem. Reminding ourselves that fatphobia, and not our bodies, is the problem can help us to handle these situations in ways that honor our bodies and keep us in the best possible mental space.

If you have other scenarios please feel free to leave them in the comments.

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7 thoughts on “Dealing With Fatphobia – How To Practice Putting The Problem Where It Belongs

  1. Wonder how it will work with COVID-19. They have stressed people with “pre-existing conditions” are at greater risk. Diabetics, heart disease… Which must mean fat people… Somewhere someone is hoping this latest coronavirus bumps off the people they don’t like. I just smile, do my shopping and wash my hands…frequently.

  2. >>While this has become your problem it is definitely not your fault.<<
    Thank you, for this frequent reminder. I really needed to hear this today.

    In other news, I was in a waiting room at a clinic for a long time today while my mother was being taken care of. They had 4 of the extra wide chairs which are great and I need them and I was comfortable. I noticed thought that thin people were choosing them as well. Now, it wasn't crowded, and I didn't see anyone inconvenienced. I was certainly the largest person there. Even still, I practiced in my head what to say if, on the couple times I had to step away, I came back and a larger chair wasn't available. "Excuse me, but may I ask if you would be willing to take one of the standard size chairs so that I can sit without pain?" Glad I didn't have to use it but I think that works.

    Also, something new I've seen in clinics, are extra tall chairs with foot rests. Good for tall people and folks with bad knees. They are the regular width, not wide, but still, good news.

    1. I adore that my doctor’s office has a wide variety of seating options. It’s such a welcoming, friendly, comfortable room.

      The only thing missing is a children’s section, but he doesn’t treat children, so patients who have no choice but to bring their children with them just have to be responsible for entertaining them, themselves. But that’s very rare. I’ve been going there for years, and never saw a child in the waiting room. But I’ve seen a WIDE variety of adult bodies.

      Yay, for consideration and accommodation!

  3. I once read an article, written by a man and addressed to men, all about how to gaslight their girlfriends, because, as we all know, all men always need to gaslight their girlfriends, in order to keep their girlfriends desperate with the idea that no other man will ever love them, and that THIS jerk is as good as it gets, and that he’s better than nothing, and so she might as well stick with him, through hell and high water, because otherwise, she’ll simply drown, because if she’s with him, and he feels generous, when the hellish high water strikes, he might just deign to throw her a rope, or allow her to cling to the side of his lifeboat.

    Yeah, it was that kind of article.

    One of the suggestions was to saw one of the legs of your chair in half, but not all the way. Just saw enough to weaken it, but leave enough of it intact that the chair will remain upright, if nobody, of any weight, including the dog, sits in it.

    Next step – invite your girl over for a home-cooked meal. Because grilling is manly, dudes!

    Step three, be a gentleman and escort her to her chair. This way, you come across as a good host, AND you can make sure she takes the sabotaged chair.

    Step four – optional – catch her as she falls.

    Step five – optional – give her first aid for her wounds received falling down, including bruising, splinters, and possibly sprains or broken bones, depending on how she falls and what she hits on the way down.

    Step six – NOT optional – chide her unmercifully for breaking your expensive and/or heirloom furniture.

    Step seven – DECIDEDLY NOT OPTIONAL – do NOT, under any circumstances, allow her to see the chair leg, because it will be obviously sawed through, and not broken with irregular edges and sharp pointy bits.

    Step eight – again, not optional – remember to bring up the chair-breaking, every time she seems like she might actually be comfortable with her own body and/or identity.

    Should you look up this article online, do NOT read the comments.

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