What’s wrong with the word FAT?

I’ve been coming under a lot of criticism for calling myself fat.  Apparently this is not the done thing.  People can’t understand why I refer to myself as the Fat Doctor.  They keep telling me not to talk about myself that way.

Why?

I am fat.  I am obese, if you want to use the technical term.  But Obese Doctor just didn’t have the same ring to it.

What’s in a name?

The meaning of the word fat differs depending on whom you speak to.  A nutritionist might tell you that fat is one of the three macro-nutrients, alongside carbohydrates and proteins. 

A zoologist might define it as the oily substance that is deposited as a layer under the skin or around certain organs in mammals.  Chemists would probably start using words like glycerols and esters.

[Chemists rock!]

The word fat can be used as a noun and an adjective.  As a noun it refers to any of the above.  But when you use it as an adjective to describe a person, things start to get a whole lot more uncomfortable.

Suddenly it takes on a whole new meaning.  Large. Heavy. Big. Stout. Portly. Chubby. Let’s face it. Nobody wants to be described as any of these things.  They all feel like insults.  But again I ask…

Why?

When did fat become such a negative word?  Once upon a time, larger women were considered beautiful.  In certain cultures, they still are (although less so thanks to television and the media). 

Somewhere along the line, fat became an insult.  So much so that my children refer to it as “the f-word”.  They’ve got no problem with the word f*** but if you call someone fat, they get upset!

Body Positivity

There’s a whole new movement nowadays that celebrates people with larger bodies.  Big is beautiful again.  Plus size models are becoming famous.  Curves are back.  Society keeps patting themselves on the back for being so liberal and tolerant.

Have things changed for overweight people?  Not really.  We still have the same issues and hangups as we always did, but now we can turn on the TV or open a magazine and see people out there that look like us. 

Aren’t we lucky?  Thank you world, for finally accepting that big people are beautiful too.  That was me being sarcastic, by the way. It actually makes me quite angry.

Photo by Anna Shvets

I imagine it is similar to how a black person feels when a white person shouts out “black lives matter”. Duh! They always mattered.  You’re just now figuring that out?

All bodies are beautiful in their own way.  One is not better than the other, no matter what society tells you.  That being said, there is no question that obesity predisposes people to a whole host of medical conditions.  To be blunt, obesity takes years off your life.

And that’s your choice.  Each of us have the right to do what we want to our own bodies.  You can tattoo your face, shave your head, pierce your nipples, get breast implants.  Hell, you can even change your race if you try hard enough.

Photo of Kim Kardashian at the MTV Movie Awards

[That last one was a joke by the way.  You can’t actually change your race, although Kim Kardashian seems to be having a good old go at it.]

Nonetheless, I find myself wondering more and more… Do I actually agree with the body positivity movement?

Body negativity

Here’s one thing I can say for sure.  Fat shaming is unacceptable.  Nobody should be criticised for their appearance.  If you still think it’s OK to make fun of someone because of the way they look, then you’re the one with the problem.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Fat is not contagious, but cruelty is.

I’m also sick and tired of being told that my body is supposed to look a certain way.  Especially since the perfect body is becoming harder and harder to achieve.  Of course it is.  If it was easy, then companies would have nothing to sell you.  And then how would they make their millions?

Photo by Anush Gorak

Under-representation sucks in all its forms.  It sucks for women.  For ethnic minorities and disabled people.  For LGBTQ+ people. And for fat people. I want to see more and more real bodies being used to sell products, and I know that I am not the only one.

But I also don’t want the world to accept obesity as the new normal.  No one can change their sexual orientation or their disability or their gender, but we can all lose weight if we try. 

Fat neutral

 So why are people getting upset with me for calling myself fat?

The answer is obvious.  They think I am putting myself down.  They still see fat as something negative, whereas I am simply stating a fact. 

I am fat. And this is neither a good thing or a bad thing.  It’s simply something I wish to change.

All these negative associations feed into a cycle of shame and self-loathing that prevent so many of us from achieving our weight loss goals.  But equally, there’s nothing positive about diabetes or cancer.  There has to be a middle ground.

Photo by Roghi Arabpour

Here’s what I suggest.  Let’s try to move away from the polarised points-of-view that divide our society nowadays.  Let’s try to steer clear of all the negativity AND the positivity.  Instead, let’s make the word fat a neutral one.

As I have said on numerous occasions.  I am fat and I am a doctor.  Both of these statements are facts, and both of these statements have virtually no bearing on who I am on the inside.

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