Opinion | Being the fat friend

Published by Sarah Anderson, Date: March 24, 2022
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I am set on a personal mission to help destigmatize the word “fat.” It’s an adjective, nothing more and nothing less. We as a society have demonized what is simply meant to be a descriptive word.

To clarify, you don’t have the right to call your friends “fat” just to describe them, that is a personal boundary that you need to define on your own. But next time your friends, peers or someone you know talks about being fat (as a statement, not in a self-deprecating way) don’t jump in and offer words of comfort.

“You’re beautiful the way you are.”

Who said I wasn’t?

“You aren’t fat, you’re ____!”

I’m what? I know damn well I’m not skinny.

You may be wondering what defines someone as fat. Online, specifically TikTok, there is a lot of discourse about the various degrees of fatness. Personally, I don’t see this to be effective. Everyone is always too busy needing a description that they lose sight of the harm of using these words to describe people.

I will not sit here and try to say that body dysmorphia doesn’t affect people. Surprise! Fat people experience body dysmorphia. But there is a strong trend in people who aren’t fat, or even plus size, using “fat” as a way to describe themselves.

Could you imagine the worst thing you are is fat? Could you imagine waking up every day in a fat body knowing that people fear and dread the possibility of looking like you? It’s not so nice. Especially when smaller-sized people can’t help but call themselves fat.

I won’t try and speak from the perspective of being skinny. I don’t know what that is like in today’s world. I won’t deny other people’s struggles, whatever their size is. There is able to be a unity found that so many people experience some degree of body dysmorphia.

According to John Hopkins Medicine, body dysmorphia can be described as being upset about the appearance of your body that it gets in the way of your ability to live normally. For me, personally, there are days where I see myself as skinnier than I think I actually am, days where I am two hundred pounds heavier than I actually am and most of the time I really have no clue what I actually look like.

Shopping day with friends? That’s my definition of my own personal hell. Being in a sorority, and being a fat girl in a sorority, it is so hard to feel like I belong.

There’s a theme for a get-together, everyone goes out to get clothes for it and I can’t just go do that without dropping at least $100 at the plus-size stores (such as Torrid, which is fat people Hot Topic, or Lane Bryant, which is for women over 50).

I’m lucky to be able to find a shirt that will fit me at Target. Finding a pair of pants isn’t even in the question. It’s exhausting to not participate in an activity that so many of my friends, and people I am with every day, can do with no issue.

The last seven years have been a constant uphill battle with my appearance. Since going on birth control at the age of 13, I have been rapidly and constantly gaining weight. Birth control was a tool to help incredibly painful menstrual cycles and cystic acne that had made my face painful to the touch.

Every year, it seemed that I gained more and more weight and it wasn’t until I was in high school cheerleading that I realized how bad it got. No uniforms fit me, no one was the same size as me and my abilities were doubted by everyone.

There are two specific incidents in high school cheerleading that stick out to me.

The first is one cheerleading practice mid-summer, we had been on our high school’s empty track field since it was the only vacant area that wasn’t our AC-lacking gym. The football team was walking outside for their practice at the stadium, and they had to pass the track to get there.

A freshman boy had made a comment to my boyfriend at the time, not knowing that he was, about the “fat cheerleader.” I don’t remember the specifics of what he said because quite frankly, I don’t want to. I just remember the rage of my boyfriend at the time, and the hurt that I felt that day, and anytime we cheered for the football team then on.

The second incident that is stuck in my head was during the end of junior year and I was on the fence about continuing with cheer. It was something that I was good at and enjoyed, but there was something about being the token fat girl that was mentally exhausting. (Shocker, right?)

We had gotten an announcement that they were no longer going to have a junior varsity team, and everyone raging from freshman to senior was trying out for varsity only and they were having an emphasis on tumbling skills.

I don’t know if you know this, but fat girls are not typically aerodynamic.

It crushed me and made me so upset and angry because, although I was frustrated with being a part of it, knowing that me being fat was going to limit my ability to do an activity I enjoyed for so long was crushing.

I was always a band kid since elementary school, so I did have that to continue with once my passion and drive for cheer had gone away. My high school marching band had summer-specific uniforms which consisted of music department t-shirts (which were very nice, I will admit) and a pair of Dickies work pants.

I hate Dickies to this day. The word makes me shudder.

As I mentioned earlier, being on birth control since I was 13 made me regularly gain weight. And anytime I had to change birth controls because of one issue or another, I’d gain more weight. So, it was a never-ending cycle basically.

The previous year, my junior year, the cursed Dickies pants I had did fit me. I didn’t realize how much weight I had gained until it was a week before a parade we had and I tried my pants on and realized they would not button.

Have you heard that wrapping saran wrap around your stomach helps you lose weight in your stomach area? I hadn’t heard that until one of my best friends suggested it. Looking back, it’s crazy that at 16-years-old we knew that hack and tried to do it at all.

Writing this opinion piece has made me realize how messed up growing up in today’s society is. How messed up the world is to regularly put kids down because of their weight.

Unfortunately, it isn’t just when you’re growing up. I thought I had left high school when I came to SRU. Although I’m fat, and I know that makes people treat you differently, I didn’t think I would be borderline assaulted.

A few weeks before spring break, I was walking to my car which was dreadfully parked in the football lot. While crossing the street, I saw a car in the distance that seemed to be speeding up rather quickly. I scurried my stubby legs across the street and successfully made it into the parking lot.

Without getting hit.

By the car.

I was walking up the steps and felt a burning in my lower back. While processing the pain, I heard coming outside of the speeding car, “Fatass!” as they drove away.

I didn’t know what I was hit with. I didn’t even know what happened until I made it to my car and realized what the hell happened to me. After twenty minutes of crying, calling my friend I was going to meet, telling my dad and telling my sorority sisters (and getting a load of messages ready to fight the stranger in the car), I finally went to drive my car past the spot it happened.

A honey bun was sitting at the bottom of the steps I had previously ascended. I have a few questions for whoever did this:

  1. Why do this to someone?
  2. How did they have access to a honey bun so fast?
  3. Do you play baseball? Because that was good aim. But I really think you should have some sort of consequences for being an asshole.

The fact that this happened to me still hasn’t been fully processed. It honestly feels like a horrible dream. The anxiety I experienced walking around campus for the following week was unreal. I couldn’t get myself to eat, not even inside the privacy of my own dorm.

If there’s a day I’m feeling very not good about my body and how it looks, the anxiety rises through the roof and some days I can’t get myself to leave because I am so scared of something like that happening again.

I do want to note that the day this happened I was wearing a baggy hoodie and flowy leggings, so my clothes weren’t even skin-tight, revealing how fat I actually am.

Being fat sucks. Hating how I look sucks. Being fat because of a medication I’ve been on for nearing a decade really sucks.

Nobody wants to be seen as undesirable. Nobody wants to have things thrown at them or called names in public.

It’s not about being fat or being skinny, it’s about treating people decently, no matter their size or what they look like. It’s about just being a decent person, please.

P.S. Not all fat people like honey buns.

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