Representational image | Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg
Representational image | Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg
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Fat shaming often rests on rotten ground and unfounded beliefs that lead to unwarranted biases and trauma.

I grew up from being a fat child to being a fat woman. To proclaim freedom is often not the same as living it, and maybe that’s why Kerala-based travel vlogger Sujith Bhakthan’s video about the fat-shaming his wife, Shwetha, faces hit home. He voiced so much of what I had been thinking of, and did it without being patronising or condescending.

I also grew up hating the word ‘fat’ because it was, at its crux, the essence of everything that was wrong with me. A single word was the judge, jury and punishment because it was allowed to overtake and consume every other identity I built for myself. So much of this fear came from the expectation that I had to, eventually, look for companionship. I had to ‘settle down’. I had to make myself a certain way because somewhere, sometime down the line, a man would deign to offer me the honour of his companionship – only if I shrunk enough to allow him the space to be the bigger one, of course.


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While waves of body positivity and self-acceptance swarmed my internet circles and self-love became the mantra everyone swore by, the quiet nagging emotion of ‘but… will someone else love me too?’ refused to die. It’s easy to claim that you don’t care what anyone else says or does, but when you’ve been conditioned to think of romantic companionship as the lynchpin of all your success, it’s difficult to disengage.

As the world grapples with how it understands obesity in the face of what is called (rather hyperbolically) an ‘obesity epidemic’, one thing stays constant: how the Indian middle class speaks of and interacts with fatness. Middle class morality, which often confuses its privileges for its authority, is especially vicious when it comes to anything that threatens its perceived ‘betterness’. A lot of this fatphobia often rests on rotten ground and unfounded beliefs that lead to unwarranted biases and trauma. Research has corroborated these observations, whether it is about discrimination at the workplace or terrible medical care. Fat discrimination is often masked under saccharine sweet coats of concern and worry, and comes from incredibly close quarters.

People who attack fat people don’t want the ‘best for us’. They just want to feel righteous in their own bodies and contexts. Nothing else. Their ‘concern’ doesn’t stem from care for the fat person, but care for the contexts and perceptions that the fat person’s fatness disrupts. By categorising a fat person as an aromantic, asexual creature, people are comforted by the privilege of their conventional bodies. Considering fat people are visibly different, it’s easier to other us. This othering is incredibly successful and dehumanising.

When Fanney Khan debutante Pihu Sand spoke about how she was fat-shamed, an outpouring of support and commiseration came her way. The pattern was heartbreaking. Successful, creative, talented individuals have to keep justifying their existence because they don’t find their size on a ‘normal’ store’s rack. They’re reduced to their weight because that’s the easiest way to dismiss a person.


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Body-shaming doesn’t forgive anyone. Women’s weight, men’s height and everything in between is apparently fair game for self-appointed custodians of morality and rightness, who can gauge a person’s worth by estimating their body stats. It’s easy to slap labels like ‘lazy’ and ‘hedonistic’ on people who don’t look too much like us. What’s difficult is to hold a mirror to society and expose the double standards.

To say that fat should be ‘accepted’ or ‘celebrated’ might be a leap too big, but is asking people to mind their own business too much? It would be nice to take public transport, for example, and not have someone ask me ‘have you tried this particular fat burning capsule?’ (I’ve tried everything, but that’s a column for another day). It would be nice to live in a world where I don’t have to constantly seek permission for my body. It would be nice if people around me made the effort to let me be.

The author is a poet.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. Have you ever seen a skinny woman with a fat husband in the Western countries? Why is that a fat man has never been on the cover of such articles, or even as inspiration?
    In India, both parties, generally, fatten up after marriage and earn the badge of “khate Peete ghar k log” which is blatantly unhealthy.
    Obese children are called cute and other cheerful names in their childhood and when they end up being obese in their teens and adulthood are called names by inconsiderate peers and people.
    Being fat is not healthy and shouldn’t be acceptable at a societal level. Fat-shaming is a rude way to tell fat people of their shortcomings.
    Normalisation by asking for acceptance of obesity, advocating “it’s okay to be fat” and silencing everyone with accusation of “fat-shaming” and “mind your own business” is not the way forward either.
    Fat people should form their support groups including dieticians and others to get rid of obesity in a supportive manner.

  2. Yeah — Obesity is a result of number of failures, Institutional and Failure. We ought to not generalize since we aren’t aware with each case.

    However, “it takes 2 to tango” so it’s not righteously-wrong to criticise those without neglect and resources for the same — including the third-parties who helped them become one.

    Saying to not blame obese patients whatsoever is asking same as to not laugh at a BDSM person crying “rape” when it can’t be proven.

  3. The day is not far when people will write articles about “smoke shaming”. How people who are not smokers should not “shame” chain smokers.

    If you are not born fat or suffer from some kind of illness, then you have nobody else to blame but yourself.

    Like author I have been fat most of my life but I don’t wear it like a badge of honour. Luckily I was tall so it helped hide most of it until it didn’t.

    It’s not like I woke up one morning gained 20 kgs. I ate and drank my way through this. Drinking and eating unhealthy food for 10 straight years is responsible for me being fat not the society.

    I am trying to change. Hope that the author put her own health first over first world concocctions like “fat shaming” before its too late. And no this not “concern” but selfish behaviour on my part. It has to do with insurance rates, fuel in flights among other things.

    • @Rohit Singh, I have always felt the rudimentary difference between smoking and being fat to be that if you were to stand next to a smoker, you could potentially get cancer. But if you stand next to a fat person it’s highly unlikely, scientifically, that you can get a cardiovascular disease. Smoking is everyone’s business, because everyone is affected when one person smokes. It’s called passive smoking, maybe you’ve heard of it? Whereas a person’s body shape is their business only. People do not exist for the sole purpose of pleasing your eyes. So why don’t you turn your talents and judgement to the smokers who are polluting the atmosphere and giving you and all bystanders a deadly disease, instead of attacking people who are a little overweight?

    • @Rohit Singh, I have always felt the rudimentary difference between smoking and being fat to be that if you were to stand next to a smoker, you could potentially get cancer. But if you stand next to a fat person it’s highly unlikely, scientifically, that you can get a cardiovascular disease. Smoking is everyone’s business, because everyone is affected when one person smokes. It’s called passive smoking, maybe you’ve heard of it? Whereas a person’s body shape is their business only. People do not exist for the sole purpose of pleasing your eyes. So why don’t you turn your talents and judgement to the smokers who are polluting the atmosphere and giving you and all bystanders a deadly disease, instead of attacking people who look a little unseemly to your eyes?

  4. I have seen obese patients struggling to even move in their beds. The health and financial costs of obesity is high. Diabetes, hypertension, cardio vascular diseases are some of the conditions associated with obesity. Eat less, work out more, maintain healthy weight and live happy.

  5. Consider the other way round too – people that are too skinny are often targetted. My own wife was accused, during her pregnancy, of being negligent in diet as she wasn’t deemed “plump enough”. BTW, she is a doctor!

    It isn’t about fat, tall, thin, dark or whatever. Just that, somehow, people go after those different from themselves to feel better about themselves. No one is really spared.

  6. Old enough to give people good – if unsolicited – advice. On both diet and exercise, we can do more to stay fit. In countries like Britain, obesity has become a major problem within a generation. Indians are genetically inclined to heart disease and diabetes. What lies within our control, we should work on it.

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