I have been mid-sized to plus sized pretty much my whole life. I mean seriously, I even weighed over ten pounds at birth! Yes, I am fat… (See? I said it and it doesn’t bother me)… but in a lot of ways, my body was just built sturdier. No matter what I do, I will never be a tiny person.
Throughout my life I have found that one of the worst parts of being a plus sized person is receiving unsolicited advice from well-meaning family members, friends, and strangers. They give little nuggets of advice about how much better you would feel if you just tried such and such diet or wore a certain type of clothing. Apparently, when you are big, people have permission to comment on your body. (How did I miss that memo?) For real, one time I was out for a power walk in my neighborhood and a man pulled over, rolled down his window, and told me “Good for you! Jenny Craig worked wonders for me.” ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?!
The comments seem innocent or innocuous at first. You know, you are able to politely brush them aside and move on with your life, acting like they don’t bother you. But over time, those comments create an internal narrative that you are not enough… that somehow your body needs to be something else. And let me tell you, that narrative is completely damaging.
A few months ago, I watched an interview with music superstar and body positive champion, Lizzo, on CBS Sunday Morning. Something she said about those “innocent” comments really stuck with me. She told the interviewer, “Somebody’s like ‘well you know, you a big girl so you can never have short hair, you always gotta have big hair cuz you a big girl’ and they say that lovingly but I’m like that’s a little mosquito bite,” she explained. “You don’t even know it’s there but soon you look up and you’re covered in mosquito bites. I have all of these things, but they were so normalized, because they were so innocent. People meant well, but I had like to peel back a lot of layers.”
She is absolutely right… those comments are EXACTLY like mosquito bites! Tiny, annoying, itchy, and painful things, that when added up make you feel absolutely miserable. I started to reflect on the mosquito bites I have been swatting for years, and asked my friends to share the ones that really sting for them.
From really backward compliments like…
“That looks really good on you for a big girl.”
“You’re pretty for a big girl.”
“You have pretty eyes.”
“You look prettier now that you’ve lost weight.”
“You don’t look like you weigh THAT much.”
“When someone who’s trying to hit on me tells me they like the bigger women. Just tell me you think I’m beautiful and move along.”
“Anytime anyone tells me I’m brave. Whether it’s wearing a swimsuit or shorts, it’s so incredibly offensive. I’m not brave, it’s summer, I have skin and sweat glands, I’m hot. I’m human.”
To subtle comparisons to other people’s bodies…
“The word fluffy. That triggers me. Or ‘Pooh-sized.’ It just gets under my skin.”
“So and so has lost so much weight. They look so good/beautiful/amazing.”
“When people throw out a random number of someone who is ‘so fat’… and then I weigh much more than that.”
To unsolicited diet advice…
“Are you really going to eat that?”
“I have this great diet if you want to try it.”
“I know a few diets that can help you lose weight – it works for everyone”
“Hey Hun, how much weight do you want to lose in the next 3 months?”
To things that are just plain mean to say out loud…
“Why would you wear something like that? Big girls shouldn’t wear that type of clothing.”
“Congratulations, when are you due?”
“When a family member asks if your daughter is pregnant because she saw a small belly pooch.”
“Don’t you wish you looked like you did in high school again?”
“Are you really gonna wear that? I think you’re showing too much skin.”
Seriously, people, your words have so much power! “Kind advice” could be so much more damaging than you ever realize, creating a lifelong inner monologue of self-doubt and insecurity. Be thoughtful. Be kind. Share your thoughts about diets, ONLY when asked for them. Compliment without qualifiers.
For those of you who have felt the itchy sting of those mosquito bites, let me remind you, you are beautiful. Full stop. Let that salve soak in and heal your wounds. You are not your body… you are so much more. Learn to fall in love with all of the completely amazing things that make you who you are.
When learning to combat her own mosquito bites, Lizzo said, “When I’m looking at my body and I’m shaming every little thing about it, I have to look at all of those things that I’m shaming, and I have to find love in those things. And I think that is why I’m able to call myself fat. I can also feel healthy and still be fat. I can be healthy and be fat. I can be beautiful and be fat. I can be beautiful and all of those things. And I think it’s because I learned to actually look all of my insecurities in the face, call them by their name and fall in love with them.”
Swat those mosquitoes away and learn to fall in love with all the amazing things that you are right now!