Wednesday, 26 February 2014

What being a fat woman is really like

Thanks to Claire for this brilliant idea where lots of us give our personal take on the questions posed in the Cosmopolitan article.

How do you feel when other women around you complain about feeling/being fat?

Personally I don't care. I have fat days. I have days when I feel more bloated or lumpy or larger than other days. Think we all do. If it is someone who goes on and on about them being 'oh so fat', well, mostly it's fishing for compliments and the best answer is to ignore them. I'm not offended.

How has your body image changed since high school? College? 

I had little confidence about my body in high school, or indeed in the early years of university. This was really to do with the way that I had been brought up and I really equated my weight with my self worth. I should point out though that I was never bullied due to my weight, had lots of friends and boy friends too. All the negative feedback I received was from my parents. I used to feel like I had a life that I enjoyed and felt valued in while at university and then when I returned home during the holidays it would all be ripped apart and I would leave home feeling like I was completely worthless. I'd then spend my time with my friends and long term bf building myself back up.

Have you tried dieting? What happened?

I've tried lots and I've lost lots of weight on them; probably the most would have been about 100 pounds over a 6 month period. Weight returned over four years.

I started dieting with my Mother when I was a pre-teen. She was always on one and had very strange eating habits (can of diet coke for lunch only etc). I did lots of 600 calorie diets with her and remember once going on a 4 day walk/hike eating only that amount and feeling ill constantly.

When I was about 18 I spent a few months on diet pills, the speed ones. I went a bit manic and did lots of exercise and lost lots of weight while living at home and doing open university. My 100 pound loss though was done in a 'healthy' way, I joined a gym, ate low fat and was very driven to get thinner. I then got into competitive sport and while I did of course gain all the weight back, I still love being active.

Do you think in your case your weight is partly or entirely genetic?

I think it is a combination of a number of factors. Both parents were larger build, but my mother's issues with her weight and the impact it had on her self esteem was probably the biggest factor in determining my early shape. I developed really weird ideas about food and weight and would do things like secret eating and even stealing food.

But I am an adult now and I have control over what I eat and do in life. My weight is due to my eating habits. I'm active and like being physically fit, but I make food choices that could be healthier. However after being on a roller coaster of weight loss and then eating everything in sight and gaining weight, I've managed to be about the same size for the last 6 years by eating what I feel like eating and trusting that it won't always be chocolate cake and chips (although often it is).

Do you consider yourself healthy? Have there been instances where people assumed you were unhealthy?

I suspect my mother was a long term diabetic who wasn't diagnosed until quite late in life and she was always scared I would have the same health issues because of my weight. Because of my pregnancies I've been checked for this and other health issues and I'm apparently very healthy. I may have my genes to thank for that.

I know people who are thinner than me who have Type 2 diabetes who assume that I must too because I am larger. The most annoying instance was going to the doctors when I was at university complaining of a sore ankle and immediately being told it was because of my weight, not the hockey puck that had contacted my foot during a game of ice hockey. Found that attitude very annoying. I think people probably don't realise that I'm as fit as I am.

Being fat and pregnant also opens you up for a whole new world of medical professionals telling you that your BMI is going to led to health issues for you and the baby.

I have had two pregnancies (about to give birth to my second child) with, touch wood, no complications at all - weight related or otherwise. My way of dealing with consultants etc has been to get as informed as possible on the research out there into BMI and pregnancy, be open to discuss my weight and keep active.

Are your parents both supportive of you at the weight you're at? Have they always been?

I think you can probably guess the answer to this. Both my parents have since died but the awful thing is that when my mother died almost 5 years ago a part of me took a big sigh of relief and thought 'I never have to have another conversation about my weight where she makes me feel shit about myself again'.

How do you think retailers can improve clothes for plus-size people?
Simply, I just want access to what other women of my age and taste have access to. I want nice clothes, in good fabrics.

Do you think plus-size women are judged differently than plus-sized men are? How?

I think men can be bigger without it being such a factor on their 'pulling' power and so it's more acceptable. Men aren't so harshly critiqued on the way they look in general, as long as they have status in some other way. Women's status is related to the way we look and being fat is seen as low status.

Do you think there’s an assumption made/stereotype that exists about plus-size people? How would you respond to it? 

We are lazy, with no self control, little education and most likely poor. On the plus side, we are funny, good friends and always have chocolate.

The one that really annoys me is the assumption that we are somehow damaged emotionally or suffer from some kind of mental health issue (the 'mad or sad' assumption). Yes my mother was a complete bitch in many ways, but I've always had a core of self confidence that has screamed 'I am a good person and I will love myself no matter what' and also 'I don't give a shite what you think of me'.

I'm not pretending to be happy or ok with my weight or what I look like. I couldn't really give a rat's arse mostly, I've got better things to worry about than the size of my thighs or someone else's opinion about them.

Do you think there’s ever a right way or time to express concern about someone’s weight?

Being a mother now myself this is a tricky one. I want my child(ren) to grow up the happiest way they can and so the truth is I don't want my daughter to grow up fat. I don't think that she is genetically wired that way and I'm going to try to ensure she doesn't develop the weird relationship with food or body image that I did.

I think really that once you are fat it is very very very difficult to lose and sustain weight loss due to a series of very complex biological and physiological factors. The easiest way is to never gain weight in the first place.

If however she does gain weight in the future then I would only be concerned if it caused her any negative issues - social, health or otherwise. It's got to be about her, not my hangups.

What are the worst things people have said to you about your body?

That I smell, because all fat people smell. That there is no point wearing nice clothes or make up if you are fat. That no one will love me if I have a body like mine. Wrong on all accounts.

How did you respond?

Because this feedback only came from one source it was easier to deal with it. I've perhaps been lucky, but I've had very little, almost no, negative comments from people on the street, strangers or friends. Perhaps some guys I fancied didn't fancy me back because of my weight, I don't know. Maybe some people laughed behind my back. I don't know and I don't care. If it wasn't my weight I'm sure people would find something else to critique me on.

I also call myself fat, openly and without fear. That sort of deflates anyone who might try and use it as an insult against you I think.

What have people said (or do you wish they’d say) that would compliment your body or appearance?

I've been described as 'strapping' and strong. I suppose because I'm relatively tall I carry my weight reasonably well. I've got big boobs which helps as they tend to be popular with the male population and I have always had a reasonably thin face so been complimented for both of those.

I've been told I dress well and have a good style. I like that because that is actually something I can have some impact on, rather than just the way I happen to be made.

Do you find yourself hanging out with women who are closer to your size?

Apart from friends I have made through plus size blogging, all my friends are mostly slim. I tend to find that regardless of weight, as women we still have the same hangups and body issues. I don't choose my friends on the size of their clothes but on how we get on together.

How has your weight affected your sex life, if at all? 

Um, I would say that I may have felt that I had something to prove about my sense of attractiveness in the past that meant that I may have slept with one or two people I probably shouldn't have... but other than that, not really no.

When you've been single, has your weight affected your dating life?

No, I was in a long term relationship at my heaviest and now married and dated in between. I think people are attracted to confidence and self esteem, they don't want to have to spend their time trying to make their partner feel good about themselves constantly.

Do you feel weird if the guy you’re with only dates larger women?

Don't think any of the guys I dated was into larger women as a 'thing'.

Do you feel weird if he's only dated slimmer women before you?

My husband's lust of choice is Winona Ryder. Er, so a bit different than me. But he married me. Statistically most men are going to have dated women smaller than me, why hold that against them?

Lots of other lovely bloggers have given their responses to these questions, please have a look below:

Becky Barnes


  1. Some of your answers made me really happy, because they were a bit like mine.... you really don't seem to have a chip on your shoulder about being plus sized! The stuff about your mums attitude to your weight broke my heart a bit though, what a strong woman you are to get past that and not push those hang-ups on to your own children. LOVED reading this! xx

  2. Lovely answers Gina. :) Your body is perfect. It has given you(or very soon) two children and that is nothing that can be taken for granted. Your love for yourself shines through in what you write and that makes me happy. :)