Sister-to-Sister: Let’s Stop Fat Shaming

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By Brandi Green (@b_mariegreen)

You’re out with a friend and you unexpectently run into a mutual friend, and you notice that she has gained weight. Do you say something? Do you tell a mutual friend as you walk away? Do you ignore it? I’m sure this has happened to you before. It is a common scenario.

I found myself in this situation recently. I met a friend after not seeing her for a long time. I noticed that she gained some weight since I’ve last seen her. After our encounter, I fought back the urge to say something about my friend’s weight to our mutual friend. Ultimately, I didn’t say anything. I kept it to myself but I left the interaction feeling puzzled and upset with myself.

Why was her weight gain the first thing that entered into my mind when I saw her? Why are women always defined by their weight? I pondered these questions. So she put on some weight? So what? She is still an amazing and accomplished woman. I hate that I think like this towards another woman. I can beat myself up about this but I recognize that it is learned behavior and society is a great teacher.

Women are most often defined by our physical appearance, including our weight. We’re either too fat or too skinny. We’re the target audience for whatever diet fad of the moment. As black women, we’re stuck in between being desirable as a “thick” woman and not becoming another statistic in contracting health problems that affect our community at disproportionate rates.

In that moment after meeting my friend, I couldn’t perpetuate, and in turn affirm, society’s troubling obsession with weight. I think that’s why I couldn’t have that conversation about my friend’s weight gain. It’s bad enough that I was thinking about it but I was not going to let society win in that moment. Was discussing my friend’s weight productive in the larger scheme of things. No. I couldn’t play a role in reducing her solely to a number on scale. Society does that already so I don’t need to add insult to injury.

It runs deeper for me though. I, like most women struggle with my weight. Growing up, I’ve always been on the chunky side. It certainly didn’t help that my mother transferred her insecurities about her weight onto me. They manifested when she said hurtful things about my weight even after I expressed that I didn’t appreciate her commentary. She often told me not to get a second helping of food in front of people or told me to order a salad while she ate whatever she wanted. Her actions caused trauma that I’m still dealing with today.

Even now, I’m still enduring with my own silent struggle with weight— emotional eating. It happens at particularly stressful times in my life when I feel that everything is out of control. I’m aware of my triggers and am actively taking steps to deal with it. I’m also very intentional and vigilant about the things that I eat. I’m on a path to establishing a healthier relationship with food.

I think we, as women, need to jettison society’s views about weight and re-learn how to have a healthy relationship with weight issues. Most importantly, I think we need to not perpetuate these distorted views about weight to our daughters, friends, and sisters. We should also remember we’re waging our own personal battles with weight-- that’s what kept me from talking about my friend’s weight gain to another friend that I know is facing her own weight issues. I don’t want to perpetuate that cycle of fat shaming. I want to perpetuate a healthy lifestyle.

We’re bombarded by society’s tactics to make us feel less than in many aspects of our being, especially our weight. We can’t fight every fight against this but we don’t have to perpetuate these perceptions and affect the women in our lives. Let’s be positive and reject those thoughts when they enter your mind about another woman and her weight—we do have a choice.


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