Good Fatties, Bad Fatties, and why I keep talking about fat.

In the last week or so a very compelling hashtag emerged on Twitter, #notyourgoodfatty. The goal of #notyourgoodfatty was a space where “bad” fat people could share their rebellious experience. I am of the firm opinion that when  non-normatively bodied person loves their body and celebrates it, it is a political act. The people of #notyourgoodfatty did so with exuberance. We discussed wearing what we want (#fatkini), eating in public, enjoying food, enjoying physical exercise for fun and not weight loss, having sex, being sexual without shame, and generally celebrating, loving and caring for ourselves. It was inspiring and truly beautiful.

The notion of “good fatties” and “bad fatties” is a relatively new concept, for a long time all fat people were “bad” and that was that. Now there are “bad fatties,” which is more like “Oh, you bad girl, eating that cake! ;)” and “good fatties,” which is more like, “you’re having a salad and working out! You go girl!” Neither bad or good fatties are truly bad or good. There are inherent problems with both. Good fat people run the risk of feeling tied to their weight loss, feeling as if their value is determined by their ability to lose weight, and often these impulses can take away from quality of life. Bad fat people have to contend with the potential health risks, disapproval from society, and not “fitting in” or trying to. It’s a complex issue, and most people will fall somewhere in the middle, some things we do will be good, and some will be bad. Balance is crucial. 

I believe that fat people have the right to be fat, and that if they don’t want to lose weight, or dress to flatter, or cover up at all, that’s amazing. I find many fat bodies lovely, beautiful, exuberant. (Goodness knows I’m crazy about my own.) I don’t really care about the health of my fellow fat people, I only care about my own health. I may be an anomaly here, as I also think people should be allowed to smoke their cigarettes without being made to feel like monsters. I see “caring about someone’s health” in order to tell them how to live as a shitty and oppressive thing to do, and one that masks fatphobia behind false altruism. Ultimately, I believe that whatever body you’re in is beautiful and should make you happy. I also believe that if you’re unhappy in your body, it is your responsibility to identify that and change it, with or without help, in whichever direction. 

Many people on Twitter did not agree with, or feel positive about the bad fatties having such voice, and trolls and naysayers began to post in droves. The posts were hurtful, discriminatory, bullying, and personified what I dislike about the Internet. A space where people can be rude, cruel, hurtful and not care about the consequences of their behavior. The battle raged (and rages) between “fat haters” and “fat apologists”, “the healthy” and “the sick” and so on. Debates about whether dieting works, whether fat people cost the state too much money, whether they’re gross, lazy, slobby, mentally or physically ill dominated the scene. Many powerful fat voices emerged, both men and women, of various ages and various races. Many of them were health care professionals, nutritionists, and really knew what they were talking about (often proponents of HAES (Health At Every Size). The backlash was similarly diverse, a blend of genders, races, ages, and also a mixture of hateful thin people with former fat people, and fitness professionals. 

What is and was most interesting for me about this space is two-fold:

Firstly, both of these sets of voices ended up shouting into a vacuum. The people who need to hear what bad fatties have to say are sad fatties. Fat people who are suffering with diets, struggling to lose weight, and feeling emotional and psychological hurt as a result, these are the people that need the powerful, self-love rhetoric of #notyourgoodfatty. People who want to learn to love themselves, and find their own health. Similarly, people with fat children (you know, it sucks being the fat child to normal parents, I would know.) and fat family who need to understand how their loved ones love themselves. 

On the other hand, the people the opposition need to reach with their thoughts on excuses, and “living life”, “not eating yourselves to death” etc are the fat people ready to make a change. The unhappy fat people who want to be told to let go of their “excuses,” the people who do not want to live of the edges of society, and want to be the healthy they’ve always imagined. The fat people who have had health problems emerge, or who genuinely want to lose weight. Not being they hate being fat, but because they’re on the other side of the system. I believe the narratives of former fat people are some of the powerful, wonderful things one can engage with during a weight-loss process.

I saw both these sets of voices being wasted and only causing more unhappiness and frustration. 

Secondly, I am not a bad fatty, so I felt like a usurper speaking for them, with them. I felt like I’d done something wrong when I started working out vigorously, or when I want to lose weight. I realized this was a problem, both these positions where firmly demanding each person be one way or the other. It felt like there was a strong, “with us or against us” attitude. Now, I know I’m not a bad fatty, but I’m also not a good fatty, sometimes I eat things I shouldn’t sure, but it’s more than that. It’s that while I’m changing my body, I’m not solely in love with the “thin person” (I don’t think this person exists) I’ll eventually be, I don’t have to hate being fat to want to be different. I felt as if I was forced to think of my desire to change as repulsion, dissatisfaction. This is simply not the case. 

I realize that the whole concept is more complicated, my experience with my body is more complicated. While I may workout everyday and eat carefully, and on most days really relish each inch and pound of weight loss, it doesn’t mean I don’t like my fat body. I live under no illusions that my fat body might not be as healthy as it could be, but that doesn’t mean I hate it. Similarly, not hating my body doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy losing weight. Do I like my less fat self more than my fat self? Not really. I feel pretty equal (and great) about both. A lot of people will tell me this is an obvious lie, why would I try and change my body if I didn’t dislike it? Because I can, because I’m vain and I want to shop at J.Crew?

That might be all there is to it.