Sunday, February 26, 2012

The skinny on the F word

Today, I would like to write about something that is very close to my heart. I want to talk about size, weight, and body image.

While I was born with a weight of 3.1 kg, a steady diet of milk powder and cake crumbs ensured that I was  a fat baby, possibly by the age of one. I have always been fat. I have been called every euphemism {and dysphemism} in the book, starting with the very endearing 'chubby' to the very offensive 'elephant'{May have been by my obnoxious baby brother, but it still counts!}, and I have been innately trained to laugh it off. You take part in the joke. That is how you gain your first lessons in self awareness and self acceptance, or so I have been told. 

I have been lucky in that I have not been bullied regarding this. In a country where everyone has a hundred reasons to be bullied about, {such as poverty, skin colour, the marital status of their parents, the relationship status of their siblings and so on}, I had one - my weight. And it really didn't matter that much to anybody because it is a common condition - I was lucky.  However, I realized the enormity of the stigma attached to a greater than average weight, through media, namely through books and television. I grew up knowing that being fat was something that was typically laughed at and joked about. 

On the other hand, while I was not confronted much with the social implications of being fat, I was constantly reminded of the repercussions of it with respect to my health. I come from a family of doctors, and I also have a strong history of obesity in my maternal side. I do not remember ever {EVER} eating a piece of cake or a burger, without the fear of calories and disease looming over me. I always asked to be thin in all of my wish lists. This desire pervaded every thought and every action, and while this did not change my actions to the slightest extent, it was always something that was a part of me. In that sense, being fat goes so far beyond the physical - it becomes part of your psyche and your personality and effectively your being, and achieves a permanence of its own. In short, for me, while the connotations of being fat were not as shameful or negative as it probably is for a lot of people in the world, the fact itself, as well as it's implications, were huge in magnitude. 

For instance, I don't remember ever running after I turned ten. Somewhere, I knew that I probably would be laughed at for running funny, and I just chose to make myself believe that I didn't like running. Or exercising. Or moving at all. While attitude shapes behaviour, the reverse can also be true and this example is case in point. I believed that I would run funny and I stopped running. Now it must be noted that this fear was instilled not because someone had actually made fun of me; rather, it was a deduction that I had made from observing people in real life and in media:. Fat people run funny. Simple as that. Delusions that are created simply to protect the ego are the worst kind; they blind you from the truth and shape your behaviour in unnatural, grotesque ways. And that is such a tragic thing. 

I digress a bit here, but there is something else that I want to talk about. By now, you must be wondering how I can keep referring to myself and others as 'fat';, as opposed to one of those other more pleasing terms, such as pleasantly plump. Or fluffy. Fluffy is so endearing, right? I could well be a fur-ball of a dog with that title! 

The Dictionary defines fat as 'containing excess adipose tissue'. However, there are way too many negative implications of it, in common usage. These include 'laziness, ignorance, ill-health, gluttony, lethargy, anger, a lack of self control and willpower, a lack of ambition, ugliness, a lack of cleanliness, malodour, etc.' In common parlance, fat has come to be a derisive, jeering and taunting term for a bad / socially irresponsible person. 

To counter this, there is a growing list of 'synonyms' {euphemisms} for 'fat'. These are

A Few Extra Pounds, Ample, Big, Big-Boned, Buxom, Chubby, Chunky, Curvy, Cute and and cuddly, Fluffy, Frumpy, Full bodied, Generously Proportioned, Gravitationally Challenged, Hefty, Homely, Horizontally Tall, Husky, Juicy, Large, Matronly, Natural Body Type, Oversized, Overweight, Person of size, Plentiful, Pleasantly Plump, Plus-Sized, Plush, Prime Figured, Robust, Rotund, Rubenesque, Stocky, Stout, There's More Of Me To Love, Thick, Voluptuous, Well-Built, Wide, Zaftig
These euphemisms thrive because of the negative associations and implications of being fat, while in reality, none of these deductions are accurate. Being fat does not imply uncleanliness, lethargy, gluttony, misanthropy or malodour. It only means that I have 'excess adipose tissue'. Fat is an adjective that is as credible, valid and respectful as 'thin', 'naughty', 'pale','bright', 'bookish', 'worldly', 'blonde' or 'brown eyed'. It is simply a statement of fact, and of that fact alone, rather than being a pointer towards other supporting descriptors.

Long story short, to me, there is nothing shameful about being fat. I am brown eyed, creative, lazy, impulsive and fat. And I am alright with being called exactly that. And while I will continue wanting to lose weight because I am unhealthy right now because of my weight and also because I possibly will look better, I no longer believe that everything in my life depends on it and I refuse to call myself pleasantly plump in the mean time. {Anyone who has ever been called pleasantly plump will understand what I am talking about. You just have to take our word for it.}

I want to take ownership of my 'fatness', so to speak, and reject all the other negative connotations of it. {I most certainly refuse to believe that I am ignorant or angry or lethargic because I am fat!}And that is why I am able to boldly and without shame, call myself fat.

Now, getting back to the earlier discussion, here are a few oft quoted facts on body image and weight.

  • 80% of children are afraid of being fat. 8 out 10 women are not happy with their reflection. 
  • Twenty years ago, models weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today, they weigh 23% less than the average woman.
  • The American weight-loss industry brings in at least $55.4 billion in revenue per year. [Marketdata Enterprises, 2007]
  • In a survey of adolescents in grades 9 through 12, over 18% of girls and 8% of boys had gone without food for 24 hours or more to lose weight in the last 30 days. Of the girls, 11.3% had used diet pills and 8.4% had vomited or taken laxatives to lose weight. [Center for Disease Control, 2004]
  • Eating disorders are 18 times more likely to develop in adolescent girls who dieted at a severe level than in those who did not diet. [Patton et al., 1999]
  • In one study, white and African-American girls (ages 10 to 17 years) threw a softball as hard as they could against a distant gymnasium wall. The researchers found that the extent to which girls viewed their bodies as objects and were concerned about their bodies’ appearance predicted poorer motor performance on the softball throw. Self-objectification, it appears, limits the form and effectiveness of girls’ physical movements. [Van den Berg et al., 2007]
  • If Barbie was a real woman, she’d have to walk on all fours due to her proportions. She'd be 7 ft 2" and 101 lbs. Her head would be the same circumference as her waist.
  • About 7% of 12th grade males have used steroids in order to become more muscular.
  • If GI Joe were human, he’d have larger biceps than any bodybuilder in history.
  • Almost half of all women smokers smoke because they see it as the best way to control their weight. Of these women, 25% will die of a disease caused by smoking.
  • In 2007, there were about 11.7 million cosmetic procedures performed in the U.S. Ninety one percent of these were performed on women.
Can I tell you something interesting pertaining to my blog?

The third most viewed post in the history of this blog {There are 352 published posts on the whole.} is this nondescript post with only a photograph of a pillar. Why? Because the title of the post is 'There was. A girl. So tall and thin and fair.'. Search engines pick up 'tall, thin, fair girl' from this and produce this post as a result. Interesting, huh? 

Therefore, while it is important to be of a healthy weight and have a healthy and attractive body, it is equally critical to keep all this in mind. 

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Britney Spears volunteers before-and-after pictures to be shown in schools to help students overcome body image issues.
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Faith Hill before and after. 

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Life Sized Barbie Draws Attention to Body Image Issues and Eating Disorders

And as for Kate Moss's incendiary claim that nothing tastes as good as skinny feels, I bet that she said that only because she has never tasted butter cream or chocolate mousse. 

Poor little thin girl!

And I can't help but leave you with this.

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Tina Fey is da bomb! La bomba!

All images can be found here.


  1. Tina Fey is the bomb. I just started reading her book on the plane this week. It's hilarious. Body image is such a tricky thing...the air brushing has got to stop!

  2. I adore Tina Fey! Also, being fat is not fun. And the worst part is that people who are thin solely because of metabolism take some pride in it. Not like they hauled ass to get skinny.

  3. LOVED this post! LOVED!

    1. Thanks Jules! I cannot even tell you how difficult it was to write this... Means a lot to know that you I am not being insane, rude or mean with what I am trying to say. :)

  4. nice one... Its definitely not about fitting a certain body image... but about being the right weight for your height. Thus helping you become your healthiest best....

    1. Absolutely. But it is so difficult to maintain this attitude! Somewhere, it becomes all about your appearance and hardly about your health! Like it did for my wedding. That is so pointless, coz you actually end up looking terrible too...

  5. I just finished reading "Bossypants" by Tina Fey where that quote is from. Really good, fun read.

  6. Oh my, this just made my day! Thank you so much hahaha! That Tina Fey quote is priceless!! Now I'm off to have nightmares of a wrinkly Madonna.



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