I make an active effort to avoid 99.9% of mainstream magazines. Unless they’re about knitting, crochet or food, I’m not interested. They are normally full of ridiculous articles on how a diet of black coffee and cabbage will do wonders for your bikini body and shaming so-and-so off the tv for having an inch of cellulite or too many ribs showing. They make me feel completely shit about myself, plus the idea of obsessing over the details of lives of people I don’t know and never will makes my tummy feel a bit funny.
When I saw this article from Cosmopolitan appear on both my Twitter and Facebook timelines I was very skeptical. However, I should have learnt by now not to judge a book by it’s cover because this article was absolutely marvelous. It is the first article I have ever read in a mainstream magazine that is entirely fat positive. The interviewer doesn’t question the interviewees’ responses or pick fault with it, it’s not an article on how being fat has ruined their sex lives or how they can’t stand to be naked. It is just an honest and true representation of how hundreds and hundreds of fat women feel about sex and being fat which to my knowledge has never been portrayed in such a mainstream form of media before.
Claire from A Monkey Fasthionista had the brilliant idea of getting some of us together to answer these questions ourselves to see how they fared against the original interview. I did a similar interview a while ago for someone’s dissertation and I really enjoyed it so was eager to take part. I’m really interested to see the differences in our answers, on one hand it’s a wonderful exercise of solidarity but on the other I can’t wait to prove that just because we all share a BMI over a certain number we don’t all think the same.
Here we go!
How do you feel when other women around you complain about feeling/being fat?
It really depends on who it is and what the circumstances are. There have been so many instances in my life where someone who is no bigger than a size 10 and not a pinch of fat on them has moaned about being fat and looked around eagerly for someone to tell them they look fine. That naturally is incredibly irritating and makes me want to squeeze them with my massive thighs.
However, everyone is entitled to express how they feel and I completely appreciate that everyone no matter what size they are has ‘fat days’. but it’s frustrating having someone complain about how fat they are and how disgusting they feel when factually there are not fat and you are. Having to listen to someone do that is like having them say ‘you’re disgusting and the idea of being like you makes me feel sick’. Whether or not that person means that doesn’t matter. Words hurt. Even if I use a word to describe myself that doesn’t mean I give everyone else permission to. I guarantee that every single person regardless of their size has used a word to describe themselves before that if someone else used against them, would be completely heartbroken. The notion that fat = something bad is everywhere. It’s not easy to live in a world where you’re seen as disgusting and negative just for existing so it’s really hurtful if you’re having a conversation with someone and they reinforce that.
How has your body image changed since high school? College?
When I was at school people made sure I was aware of the fact that I was bigger than everyone else. Not necessarily fatter but always taller, with bigger boobs and bigger hips than most people and it wasn’t in a good way. I became a little more comfortable with my body as I got older and I started to realise that not all men were repulsed by my squishy bits which sounds awful but sometimes you need someone else to be fine with the bits you don’t like in order for you to be and men definitely did not have a problem with my big boobs or hips! However, I still didn’t actively like my body or deem it okay and the slightest negative comment or situation gave me the excuse to punish my body for being fat. It really has been only in the last couple of years that I can honestly say I have a positive body image. I don’t feel the need to compare myself to other people anymore or feel intense guilt if I’ve eaten something ‘naughty’ or buy clothes I want in a size smaller as an incentive, I’ve just accepted my body for the way it is right now. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to make changes to it because I would like to be healthier but I will hopefully love my body whatever it looks like.
Have you tried dieting? What happened?
I spent years flitting between Weight Watchers, Rosemary Conley and Slimming World and the same thing would happen every time. I would lose about 9lbs in the first month then gain a pound then lose it and yo-yo until I gave up.
Do you think in your case your weight is partly or entirely genetic?
Partly yes but a lot of it is down to my lifestyle and being insulin resistant.
Do you consider yourself healthy? Have there been instances where people have assumed you are unhealthy?
I could definitely be healthier but I don’t have any health problems (aside from my brains which is completely unrelated). I saw a nutritionist a couple of years ago who did extensive tests and other than being insulin resistant I was completely healthy. People assume I’m unhealthy a lot, I’ve had people make comments about how it ‘gets easier and keep going’ when I’ve been swimming and shock when I tell them I really hate greasy food. When I was diagnosed with PCOS the consultant told me to lose weight and when I asked how he said ‘next time you eat a burger, have a salad instead’. Thanks, here’s your £70,000 a year.
Are your parents both supportive of the weight you’re at? Have they always been?
My mum is worried about my health and the affect my weight has on my body which is completely acceptable and fine, she did make me! In the last few years, as I’ve put on weight, she’s expressed concern about it as she has for her own weight gain. She was always very supportive of my body growing up and I don’t even ever remember her saying anything negative about her own body which I think is important for impressionable young girls.
How do you think retailers can improve clothes for plus-size people?
Stop taking plus size ranges out of shops and stop closing plus size shops. So many times over the last year I’ve gone into somewhere like H&M to be told that the plus size section no longer exists. To me it feels like another excuse to hide fat people away and make us ashamed by forcing us to shop online. Also, different lengths and fits would be magic.
Do you think plus-sized women are judged differently to plus-sized men? How?
I think there’s a bigger emphasis on women to be desirable and slim to attract men and the majority of diets are marketed at women but both men and women are judged for being overweight. Both sexes are subject to people making assumptions about them based on their size. There are also very, very few plus size women being represented in films and the media compared to plus size men.
Do you think there is an assumption made/stereotypes that exist about plus-size people? How would you respond to it?
Abso-flippin’-lutely. There is an assumption that all fat people are lazy, eat too much, don’t do exercise, are unhealthy, don’t look after themselves, dislike themselves and want to lose weight. It’s bullshit. I know so many plus size women who exercise regularly and don’t spend their spare time shoveling doughnuts in their face. I also know a hell of a lot of plus size people who like themselves just as they are and have no plans to lose weight.
Do you think there’s ever a right way/time to express concern about someone’s weight?
If someone you love and are close to is putting on or losing drastic amounts of weight in a short space of time, you can express concern in a polite and caring way that something else might be going on but I don’t think weight is an indicator of health.
What are the worst things people have said to you about your weight?
People at school used to make constant jibes about my size which was so damaging at the time. I also had a boyfriend tell me once that we couldn’t meet up with his friend and girlfriend because she was thin and I’d probably get jealous. He also told me that I’d be perfect if I lost a bit of weight. My uncle quite often tells my mum ‘it’s such a shame about Elena, she’s got such a pretty face’. Yawn.
How did you respond?
By turning their hate and negativity into myself and punishing myself for it. My mum did always tell me to say ‘I can lose some weight but you can’t change your personality’ to bullies but I never got the courage! Now I’d tell that boyfriend that he shouldn’t hang around naked men because he’d probably get jealous.
What have people said (or do you wish they’d say) that would compliment your body or appearance?
People compliment me a fair bit but for the first time I can actually accept it. I really clearly remember a friend who I was having a sort of fancy with (!) telling me she loved my big hips and small waist and for some reason that really stuck with me. I think it was the first time I saw those parts as something other than irritating!
Do you find yourself hanging out with women who are closer to your size?
Not particularly. My two best friends are quite a few sizes smaller than me but I also have a lot of friends I’ve met through the plus size community so naturally they’re close to my size. It really makes no difference to me either way.
How has your weight affected your sex life, if at all?
It hasn’t, at all. Despite not being hugely body confident when I was younger I don’t ever remember being self conscious when I’ve been naked infront of people I was sexually involved with. It’s really had zero effect on my sex life. I’m quite open about sex and am not shy at all so that probably helps.
When you’ve been single, has your weight affected your dating life?
I was only 19 the last time I was single but I had no problem meeting people and I had plenty of romantic and non-romantic…encounters haha!
Do you feel weird if the guy you’re with only dates larger women?
Not at all. Everyone has certain things they’re attracted to. There’s a big difference between a fat fetishist and someone who just genuinely finds a softer, squishier body more appealing.
Do you feel weird if he’s only dated slimmer women before you?
I think I might for a while just because I would want to make sure he genuinely finds me physically attractive and isn’t with me in spite of my size, but I don’t think it would bother me too much.
You can read the other bloggers’ responses here…