I'm just a fat gal with a blog and an opinion. Well, lots of opinions.

Having the Fat Conversation


We all have someone in our lives that maybe we’ve never mentioned fat liberation/acceptance to or perhaps they didn’t quite understand what that is or didn’t take it any case, there may come a time when the Fat Conversation must take place. Or maybe it comes from out of the blue, the unbearable urge to have it! Yeah, that’s where I’m at. Here I am, big ole fat activist and all, when suddenly my mother in law (MIL) flies into town all of a sudden (had 5 days notice?!) and right off the bat is some negative and weighty comment (no pun intended) about fat. *HeadDesk*

That happened last  night and I think I was somehow awestruck. I didn’t have a single word to say; it wasn’t directed at me anyway. And I let it sort of hang in the air awhile before even truly pondering it. And now we’ve hung out the entire day together and all I’ve managed to say after many body disparagement from her (about herself, her son, her daughter-in-law and her granddaughter…hmm, somehow no comment about moi?) was one line, “You know it’s Be Body Positive Day?” *NervousLaugh*

Mega-fail! What is wrong with me? Why didn’t/couldn’t I say anything? I get along with my MIL perfectly, like good friends. I’ve already have plenty of alone time to get this out of the way, so to speak, yet somehow I just don’t know how to start the, “you know fat isn’t bad or unhealthy” convo. How DO you start that conversation? She’s been inundated (and thoroughly invested) in the “science” and “wisdom” and all the diet industry has had to offer (or force feed) her entire life! How do you even begin to broach that topic? She knows how bad aspartame is (my husband is near religious on it’s evils and has explain them to her), but she still drinks the shit and says, “I know, I know!”

It kills me most when she says these things about her granddaughter/my neice. Even buying her a beverage and then going on and on about it’s 34 grams of sugar! The horror!!! Yet she has zero problem ordering her white bread and other such “bad” foods. I just don’t get it. But of course, I took the red pill…didn’t I?!

It is so hard. It’s like speaking another language. It’s like having this secret (secret of awesomeness!) that may make you feel like this other person will think you’re a freak for sharing. But shit, man, I don’t wanna keep this goodness to myself, I do want everyone to know about it. I have rarely ever had a difficult time talking about fat, so why is it so hard now?

I think part of the trouble for me is that she will be here for the next two weeks, all day everday. If something goes awry, we’re all kind of stuck together, right?! I don’t wanna offend or cause any trouble/drama, BUT!~!!!

I would love your advice/suggestions. How do I begin the conversation? What can I say to make it simple to understand? I want to share positive body messages with my niece, too. But when MIL remarked that her Wii character had a “big butt!!!” and niece responded, “WHAT?!” in shock and disgust? I feel like a damned alien in my own home! I love her dearly. She is a very good/kind person, would give you the shirt off her back in a blizzard, BUT?!~?!!

Thank you all in advance for your input on this. I cannot tell you how you’ve all impacted me in so many positive ways! If you read and/or comment on this blog, you are amazing and fabulous!!! <3

17 Comments to

“Having the Fat Conversation”

  1. On August 8th, 2011 at 8:03 am DivaJean Says:

    I start the discussion with a loved one along the lines of “I’d rather you not badmouth someone I care about- even if it’s you yourself badmouthing aspects of yourself.” Then I start the discussion into what were programmed to hate about our bodies, etc and how difficult it is to turn that around.

    If it’s someone at work- ie someone I might not be as invested emotionally with- I might respond with a joking (but not really) “Have you all ever seen someone fish so for comments about how their butt looks?” Then, depending on the reaction, I might turn the discussion to programmed body hate, etc.

    If it’s someone who’s crossed me (and this has happened before)- all bets are off. I once had a supervisor who was EVIL and nasty about body shaming. Her big kick was to put me down do she could feel better about her own body shame issues. When I failed to give her the rise she wanted, she kept re-upping. Things like flyers for exercise facilities, coupons for diet food, etc would show up on my desk, later to be accompanied by her brand of nastiness, usually calling into question my “willpower” and health choices. WHen I wouldn’t engage, she would get louder about how as a nurse (which I am), I was supposed to be the epitome of health. I would come back with- no, not really- my job is helping guide others to do-able changes that make sense in reality. HAES was not to believe by her standards. ANyhow, over time, I found out about her sweet tooth. And I made sure I kept tons of candy at my desk (not a trigger for me in the least- I am a bread person). Eventually, I put 10- 15 lbs on her. She moved on to another job somewhere else, but my sneaky, nasty revenge was sweeter than any candy I had on my desk.

    Looking back on that caper, it certainly was not a finest moment in my life. But I did feel strangely epowered from then on to not take the BS when it is dished out.

  2. On August 8th, 2011 at 8:45 am Not Blue at All Says:

    @DivaJean: Wow, it sounds to me like she was personally attacking you at every turn! Fuck her! I totally understand. I like your conversation starter! I may just give that a try. Thank you!!!

  3. On August 8th, 2011 at 9:22 am Carol Gwenn Says:

    The key here is ” in my home”. The next time your MIL makes a body-shaming remark, you might want to head her off at the pass with, “In our house, we respect EVERY body, and don’t make disparaging comments, in the same way that we don’t single out others for their race, religion, politics, etc.” From there, once the door is opened, you can go on to explain WHY we don’t indulge in or tolerate this sort of thing. Am sure your MIL would rather fall into an abyss than make disparaging comments about black people, Muslims, etc., so help her to understand that we are no less sensitive to (and undeserving of) prejudice on that level. If she’s YOUR MIL & you get along, then she must be pretty bright – she just needs your help in getting to the truth.

  4. On August 8th, 2011 at 9:29 am Not Blue at All Says:

    @Carol Gwenn: Yes, you’re right. I just don’t want to come across too negative or stern or scolding. Thank you!

  5. On August 8th, 2011 at 10:56 am FattiBoombalatti Says:

    hahahaa I love you… “secret of Awesomeness” damn RIGHT it is!!! 🙂

    these Fat Conversations are so so hard to have or to start.

    I have a friend who I care about deeply and every single time we talk she makes a fat disparaging comment about her body. Most recently it was, “yeah I’ll extra so I can be the fatty at your wedding and make you look good.” uuggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

    Even in a 5 minute convo she can sneak them in. She is a beautiful blonde MAYBE size 12… its gotten to the point where I want to distance myself from her because its just so toxic. And everytime, I dont know what to say, or I say things like, you are beautiful AS YOU ARE.” or other some such comment. I keep hoping she will figure it out and get it without me having to GO THERE. But it looks like we are headed in that direction.

    This reminds me of some comments being posted back and forth on offbeatbride’s ning community for plus sized brides where one person was complaining that her talking down about her body has nothing to do with others in the group and its a free country and she should say whatever she likes about herself. Well of COURSE I had to respond… though admittedly its a hell of a lot easier online than face to face for sure.

    Let me know what you decide to do and how it works out!

  6. On August 8th, 2011 at 10:59 am Not Blue at All Says:

    @FattiBoombalatti: Yeah, for some reason if it’s a friend I have no problem telling them what I think straight off the bat. But I see now how much I have changed internally since I’ve last seen her. I’m out, fat and proud, dammit! Ha-ha! Thanks, hun!

  7. On August 8th, 2011 at 12:54 pm Twistie Says:

    I definitely second Carol Gwenn’s ‘rules of the house’ approach. People who will never in a gazillion years accept that you are swimming against society’s tide of fat hate will feel a proper horror at breaking house rules.

    Of course, it goes both ways. If she wants to drink drinks with aspartame, she is an adult and gets to make that decision for herself. You don’t have to get them for her, but she gets to drink them in peace. She’s heard the arguments, and decided they don’t bother her. You may not like it, but it’s her body and she gets to decide what she puts in it, just as much as you do.

    It’s sort of like the way Mr. Twistie and I handle our couple of friends who smoke. We don’t smoke. Anything. And we don’t allow anyone to smoke anything inside our house. I’m incredibly sensitive to smoke and Mr. Twistie already has: diabetes, hypertension, and congestive heart failure. The last thing he needs is second-hand smoke. But while we don’t smoke (and are more than willing to list the health reasons to anyone who asks), and we don’t allow anyone to smoke inside our house, we still respect the right of other adults to make a different decision. They may smoke on our front porch or in our back yard, if they choose to do so.

    You don’t use artificial sweeteners. You have reasons why you don’t, which you are certainly able to explain to others who wish to know. You can even say you won’t have them in your home. But once you’ve said that you don’t keep them and why, it’s up to your guest/relative to decide what she puts in her own body, even if the compromise position is that she has to keep them in a cooler outside.

    But whether or not she ever accepts your beliefs about weight, health, and the awesome that is FA, you can at least set – and enforce – the rule of no trash-talking bodies of any shape or size. Your house, your rules.

  8. On August 8th, 2011 at 1:11 pm Not Blue at All Says:

    @Twistie: Thank you! I get it, I will see what happens over the next few days. Thanks for telling it like it is, as per usual. =0)

  9. On August 8th, 2011 at 3:04 pm Twistie Says:

    Just doing my job, ma’am. ; )

  10. On August 8th, 2011 at 5:38 pm Chutti Says:

    I was so wishing I had some sage words to impart, but I confess to mostly changing the subject with my mom. Weird how she used to be totally cool with just being fat when she was younger. Now she likes to try and talk about low fat and diets and good and bad foods, etc. I think she’s lonely so thinks this is a way to talk to more people now that she has to work hard at social interactions.
    How can I argue with that? She’s right on that one.

    But I absolutely agree with the house rules comments. Have tried that for obnoxious language, excessive texting, smoking and other sticky subjects. It’s just the rule. We actually made people put their cell phones in a basket in the closet for a while.

    Hmmm. Wonder if there is some kind of ritualistic “fat basket” to temporarily hold body policing/shaming that could happen. I am actually liking the idea of some kind of sign or welcome mat. If people can announce their religious preference, that “an old crank and a fun person live here” or whatevs, why not some kind of fat positive portal designation….?

  11. On August 8th, 2011 at 6:02 pm Not Blue at All Says:

    @Chutti: A sign or welcome mat? I’m loving that idea!!! Thanks.

  12. On August 8th, 2011 at 7:32 pm Rubyfruit Says:

    I still don’t know how to bring up the Fat Thing with some people. I’m not that good at talking statistics and studies, not at all. That and frankly…I have words in my head, but I can’t quite get them out of my mouth in the way I want them to.

    At least with family. It’s easier for me to tell, say, a stranger, to go take a flying leap off the High-Level Bridge, than it is to tell my mom and my sister that it makes me kind of twitchy when she conflates fat with ill health and unattractiveness. When Diet Talk happens I just walk out of the room, because, again, I tend to be lost for words. Or rather, I have no idea how to put the words together so that it comes off as smart as they sound in my head.


  13. On August 9th, 2011 at 10:00 am Not Blue at All Says:

    @RubyFruit: Yes! That is how I felt, too! Like I wanted to slink out of the room, but it’s My house! Ugh! I also felt strangely victimized by some more big butt comments last night. Again, she and my niece spoke of everyone’s butt except mine. Like I was this big pink elephant? That’s how it felt. When I expelled an audible, “Ugh!” my husband didn’t know what was wrong and I just didn’t have the words. I need to think on this a bit more I think. Thanks so much for your thoughts.

  14. On August 9th, 2011 at 1:39 am Kath Says:

    You know, I still get stuck with the fat conversation. I had it today with a couple of colleagues, and as much as I talk about this stuff in “fat world”, in the everyday world, it never seems to get easier.

    It is easier when it is a fellow deathfatz. But still hard to broach. When it’s people who are smaller than me (which, let’s face it, is most people) it’s really difficult because I think they have this idea that I want to “convert” them to be as fat as me. But what I really want is to be able to live my life without being someone’s cautionary tale, without being shamed for being who I am, and without having to live to other people’s standards.

    It shouldn’t be that hard!

  15. On August 9th, 2011 at 10:02 am Not Blue at All Says:

    @Kath: Yes! I try to phrase it as free of judgment and judging oneself, too? Not sure that came out right. Ha-ha! Gotta keep trying on this one I think. =0)

  16. On August 9th, 2011 at 2:24 pm catgal Says:

    I have this issue with my own mother. She is always complaining about how fat she is and how her belly is so big and hard to hide. For a while, I was all, Mom, you are not fat! One day she explained that I had to understand that for her and her life experiance, yes she was fat. I can get that. Now if I can just get her to stop talking about it non-stop. It really irritates me when she talks about how she can’t do something becuase of her big belly to my Nephew and Niece. My Nephew, once informed me very matter of factly that I was fat. My response was, yes I am, is that OK with you? He said yes. The subject is yet to be brought up again. I just don’t want her filling these young minds 5 and 3, with body politics.

    So I know this does not help to answer your question, but at least you know you are not alone in trying to bring up the subject.

  17. On August 9th, 2011 at 4:42 pm Not Blue at All Says:

    @catgal: Thank you. I know I’m not alone, but when I feel so fearless talking about all things fat with nearly everyone else in the world? Yeah it seems more lonesome. Ha!

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