Phrases such as “I’m so fat” and “I feel fat” have been both normal and accepted by society for as long as I have been alive and aware of what people around me say. However, each comment is misleading and fatphobic in its own right.
I have been guilty of this in the past, too, as it has become ingrained in women and people who identify as women through the diet-culture-saturated reality we all live in, but that’s no excuse to keep using those phrases.
When someone, usually someone very slender or at a weight that falls under the beauty standard, says “I’m so fat,” it often makes people who actually consider themselves fat ask, “Then what am I?” It’s understandable to have insecurities about weight and appearance in a society with specific and unachievable beauty norms, but people who have a body that falls under the societal beauty standard invalidate people who do not fall under that same standard. Even if one does not think their body is attractive or perfect, it is invalidating to call oneself fat when there are people who do fall under the definition of fat.
The other worst offender in fatphobic phrases is “I feel fat.” The phrase in itself raises the question, “What does that feel like?” Most people who say this do not mean they feel bloated. Rather, they are equating fatness to ugliness, which is incredibly fatphobic. Everyone has times when they are insecure about their appearance, but that doesn’t mean that feeling of insecurity should be equated to being physically large in size.
Within the past year on social media platforms, such as TikTok, plus-size creators have called out people who use the aforementioned phrases. They have been hit back with comments like, “I have body dysmorphia and that is how I perceive my body,” and, “I’m allowed to be insecure,” among other comments that lean toward more fatphobia. However, as it has been pointed out on the platform, plus-size people do not exist to have non-plus-size people project their insecurities and personal struggles with their perception of their own bodies. Additionally, if your fear is being perceived as a large person, that is fatphobia. If you are relieved when comparing yourself to a person larger than you or after using a filter on social media that makes you look larger than what you look like, that is fatphobic.
Instead of using language that associates larger-bodied people with ugliness, just say what you really mean. It’s OK to say you feel bloated, feel like your clothes don’t fit the way you want them to or just generally feel unhappy with your appearance. None of those choices are fatphobic or invalidating to people who are larger bodied, and they directly address how you are feeling at an instance in time. Fatphobic phrases have been ingrained and normalized for a very long time, but changing our word choices and being conscious of how the things we choose to say affect others will gradually move everyone in a direction away from fatphobia.
Jillian Craig is a senior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Jillian know by tweeting her at @JillianCraig18.