January 7th 2015 was, according to Steve Miller, self-styled “UK’s Weight Loss Master, straight talking motivator and mind programming expert” (according to his HuffPost bio) “Warn a Friend they’re fat day“. Yes, Steve Miller, the man who also thinks that Size 16 Mannequins are partially to blame for obesity because they’re “unhealthy, uninspiring and unnecessary“, thinks that out of concern for the nation’s health, we should all sit down with our fatty mcfatser friends and say “Look, I have to tell you this because I am concerned for your health. You are fat. I know this might come as a shock. But fat is totes bad for you, and I, as your totally concerned, disinterested friend with no hangups or issues of my own over fearing fatness and associating it with unhappiness and therefore projecting this onto all fat people, am going to take on the mission of telling you to stop being fat.”
Without even going near the whole mannequin debate, or how a man gets to tell women what we’re meant to find inspiring or necessary when chosing our own clothes, there is SO MUCH WRONG here I don’t even know were to start. But I am going to give it a go.
I have, I am
Fat is a substance. If someone is larger than ‘average’ (and that’s a whole other nest of piranhas) then it is not necessarily because they have a lot of fat. But yes, people we call ‘fat’ have fat. They have a larger percentage of body fat than other people, or perhaps more body fat than they ‘need’ to function. If you think about it, it’s a bit weird to be saying “did you know that you’re fat?” when what we’re actually saying is either “did you know that you have a lot of extra fat?” or ” did you know that you take up a lot of space in the world, and it makes me feel uncomfortable?”.
How can you tell that your friend has too much fat?
BMI gets thrown around a lot at this point to which I say BMI stands for Bullshit Measuring Index. Or maybe Basically Meaningless Innit. It’s particularly meaningless for athletes, most of whom end up being classed as obese if you use it. So let’s ignore BMI (FOREVER PLEASE) and move on to body fat percentage measuring. This, really, is the only way to tell if someone has too much body fat. And unless you carry the measurement equipment around with you everywhere, and are in the habit of measuring the body fat percentage of all your friends (because actually really quite thin people can be carrying around greater body fat percentages than their larger friends), and you can tell someone exactly how much body fat someone has, you can keep your opinion about whether they ‘are fat’ or not to yourself, thank you very much.
Why is having fat so bad?
Having all this extra fat doesn’t make you unhealthy. It puts you at greater risk of certain diseases and conditions. Well, playing Rugby increases your risk of concussion, but not every rugby player gets concussed in their career. Just because someone has extra fat, doesn’t mean they have all, or any, or even ONE of those diseases and conditions. In fact, there are some really healthy and fit fat people out there. A number of studies suggest that being fit is more important than not being fat, and the two aren’t necessarily mutually inclusive. Just watch any episode of “World’s Strongest Man”. All of those men are contenders for the “warn a friend they’re fat” treatment. And, I, for one, would quite like to see Steve Miller, UK’s Weight Loss Master, straight talking motivator and mind programming expert, sit down Žydrūnas Savickas, 2014’s World’s Strongest Man, and say “Buddy, I need to speak to you about your weight, because I am your friend and deeply concerned about your health and wellbeing”
No one is proposing telling the people who have less body fat than they need that they are at greater risk of ill-health – but they are. So this isn’t really about health at all, is it?
Fat is ‘other’. Thin is in.
You don’t have to think too hard to make the connections as to why no one is suggesting a “Warn your friend they don’t have enough fat day”. Put on the TV. Open a magazine. Watch a movie. Are there any awesome fat people there? Fat people represented as being active, with a full range of emotions? Fat people who are sexy, desirable, subjective people with wishes and dreams that are nothing to do with their size? Sure, relatable fat characters are *allowed* in movies, but they have to be funny. They don’t get to be the lead, unless the story revolves around them somehow ‘overcoming’ their fatness. And even those characters that are *meant* to be ‘fat’? Get out of here. Even our stationery products tell us that women are meant to be smaller and take up less space.
Science says: FAT SHAMING DOESN’T WORK
Ever narrowing the sphere of what is an ‘acceptable body shape’ for men and women will only cause greater difficulty with self-esteem. Fat shaming doesn’t help people lose weight. In fact it can actually make people put on weight. And however you dress “Warn a friend they’re fat day” up as an exercise in gentle concern for your sad, lonely, unhappy fatty friends, it’s STILL FAT SHAMING and it DOESN’T WORK.
What is ‘normal’ anyway?
While there’s less pressure on men to be teeny tiny than women, and I can think of more movies/TV shows where the positive male lead is not the ‘average figure’, there is an increasing pressure on men to have a ‘perfect figure’. What sort of crazy unrealistic expectations will we have of men, will men have of themselves, when even Justin Bieber, allegedly one of the sexiest men alive (I am too old to see it, personally, although I admit to a partiality to Lesbieberians) isn’t ‘perfect’ enough to pass muster unphotoshopped? Women have been subject to the same pressures for decades and we’re still not able to reject these messages. Sure, feminists have been pressuring for these unrealistic beauty expectations to bugger off, but we wanted this to stop happening to women. We never wanted the balance to be redressed by subjecting men to the same fucked up impossible standards as we are. We’re all unique, and different, and our bodies do all sorts of different things and we’re all just as valid as each other.
I’ve discovered myself that actively seeking out positive images of people of all body shapes significantly improved my own self image and self esteem. Just google ‘Fatshion‘ for a whole world of fabulous bloggers who are creative, beautiful, and – dare I say it – healthy and sexy. And FAT. You don’t have to be a standard size to feel beautiful, or be beautiful. Or even be acceptable.
Hey bro, do you even mirror?
If a person is large, I mean, if they have a lot of fat, so much so that you can actually see it without that body fat percentage measuring equipment that you carry around with you all the time, you don’t need to ‘warn them’ that they are fat. BECAUSE THEY FUCKING KNOW ALREADY.
It’s possible that they have been trying to do something about it, and your ‘concern’ is only making them feel worse; or they know and actually they don’t care. Or that they are happy with their body. Just because you, the concerned slim friend, oh so concerned about your friend’s health, aren’t happy with their body (or, more accurately, your body, because that’s what this is really about, right Steve Miller, UK’s Weight Loss Master, straight talking motivator and mind programming expert?) that doesn’t mean that your fat friend has to be. They might love every curve and swerve, every lump and bump, every delicious soft fold. And if they do, then maybe before you go around bringing other people down to make yourself feel better, you could shut up and learn a thing or two from them about self esteem.