I am fat. This is not a secret. Aside from the pragmatic fact that I can’t hide this reality, it is something I have accepted about myself. I recognize the health risks, the lack of clothing options – I am painfully aware of weight limits on rides, of my hips on airplanes, how I choose to stand on subways. I am extra cognizant of sweat, of keeping my hair long, and avoiding sleeveless dresses like they’re the plague. I can tell you how many points, calories, carbs, sugars, and the fiber of nearly every common food.
Growing up as a fat child, I grew a very thick skin… pun intended. I was “baby beluga,” “fat ass,” “piggy,” and everything in between. I have been told “But you have such a pretty face,” “maybe if you lost weight,” and what I shouldn’t be wearing more times than I can count. I have avoided reunions and social gatherings; I have exercised until I vomited. I have tried juicing, drinking shakes, gone carb-less, went Meditteranean, counted everything under the sun.
The very topic of weight is my Kryptonite, but I have embraced this reality. That being said, it’s not something I want someone to offer to “fix” unsolicited.
It should be as equally socially unacceptable as if someone suggested, WITHOUT BEING ASKED, acne medication, hair growth treatment, anti-aging cream, deodorant, breast augmentation…. you get the picture. Nonetheless, people view my weight (and based on my conversations, not just me) as a gateway to promote their health business to me.
The top message is a private message I received to my business Instagram, and the bottom message was my response:
When I initially received this message, I was hurt, shocked, and quite indignant. While the hurt and shock dissipated, I remain indignant. As a professional and as a business owner, I was tempted to just reply “no thanks,” but I am tired of being considered broken. I am tired of being considered less worthy of respect than anyone else with an issue.
So many thoughts ran through my mind – Who is this person to think she has the right to believe she is better than I am? What level of arrogance does one need to impose her lifestyle on mine? Does she have any idea of who I am?
I am a friend, a daughter, a granddaughter, an aunt, a sister, a niece, a wife, a teacher, a soap-maker, a business owner, a colleague, a network leader, a community member, a dog-mom, a New Yorker, a home-owner, a tax-payer… I am so much more than my weight.
Yet, in one fell swoop, everything that embodies my identity came down to my body. My body that is not acceptable. My body that others believe I should change. Do I recognize all the repercussions of my weight? – Absolutely. Do I walk around and point out how others are flawed and recommend I should change them? – Absolutely not.
Body shaming in business, sadly, is nothing new. While not all marketing uses tactics that are so direct and personal, all body shaming approaches are equally grotesque. Every day we are blasted with before-and-after photos, with photoshopped images of celebrities, with idealized caricatures of people.
Even the champions of body image, like Melissa McCarthy, Chrissy Metz, and Ashley Nell Tipton have all suddenly embarked on a weight-loss journey. While there is nothing wrong with wanting to be healthier, and even wanting to be thinner (I know I still want to be thinner), there is something dreadfully wrong with the concept that we, as fat women, are not enough – as who we are, where we are. There is something dreadfully wrong with the idea that the solution for weight loss is as simple as eating less and moving more – even science has proven that the psychology runs far deeper.
There is something even worse with the movement for inclusion and “fatness” is still something to be ostracized, separated, and unaccepted. The idea that all “fat” people are lazy, sitting around eating fast food. I am fat and I work three full-time jobs and I haven’t had fast food in over ten years. When it comes to business, I should want to buy into whatever you’re selling, not be shamed into buying it.
But “It’s about health and living a healthy lifestyle” – yes, true, but it should also be about living life in the current moment. It should be about loving who we are at this very moment and not just what we could be, and more so, what others think we should be.