Sunday, May 19Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

Taking Up Space (and Keeping it)

When Roxane Gay said that “weight loss, thinness really, was a social currency”, she hit the unfortunate nail on the even more unfortunate head. It’s a currency I lack, along with roughly two billion overweight others. Weight loss is a powerful industry and has the world within its grip; if it’s not fat-free yoghurt, it’s the brand new meal-replacement smoothie. If it’s not that, it’s fatphobia. Fatphobia is described as a “fear of fatness”, which is shocking enough itself. It gets more disturbing when you realise that the vast majority of fat people have had experiences with it.

Although there isn’t one specific cause of fatphobia, the media has played an important role in its rapid expansion. Quite frankly, the media is obsessed with weight. Rebel Wilson is on a diet? You can hear the fingers of journalists across the world pounding the keyboard. Adele lost weight without announcing it? A scandal. Most recently, we saw Tilly Ramsay be criticised on live radio for being a “chubby little thing”, and the uproar that followed it. 

There shouldn’t have to be an uproar. 

It leaves us to wonder where this sense of entitlement towards fat people comes from. Perhaps it started all the way back when the very first magazine featured a photoshopped image, or maybe it was in the 2010s, when waves of social media users began filtering images as if their bodies were little more than factory misfits. They reassemble their parts, they correct their proportions.

One of the goliaths of fatphobia is the dating arena, and more precisely, dating apps. Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, you name it. We hope that someone will ‘see through’ our weight and love us regardless, as if weight is the Everest of all obstacles. That little intake of breath you do before you swipe right, praying for a match – it’s a universal experience. If you don’t match, there’s always that nudging sense that it’s because they thought you were too fat. 

In order to ‘fix’ our weight, many experiment with horrifying weight loss pills, which are proven to have a staggering list of side effects, such as high blood pressure and liver damage. There is a particular time of year where these kinds of weight loss enhancements are advertised more than normal; namely, Christmas.

As we approach the festive period, we will undoubtedly be bombarded with commercials for Quality Streets, mince pies and other such treats. However, the moment that December 26th comes around, such ads will swiftly be replaced with women laughing into salads because they went to Slimming World, and now they can fit back into their pre-pregnancy jeans. 

In all honesty, it devastates me. Our bodies are meant to change. They are meant to cater to life events, such as childbirth and natural weight gain. So, no, I will never pay off my weight-related debt. Like many other overweight people, I will pay off little chunks here and there in the shape of gym workouts and apples, but I will accrue my fair share of interest. We are trapped by the widely pejorative use of ‘fat’, and burdened by fatphobia. I, like many other fat people, am trying to learn to reclaim my space, and keep it.