You Don’t Owe Anyone Your Discomfort

If there’s one thing that anti-fat discourse seems to all have in common, it’s that fat people are expected to keep ourselves in a constant state of discomfort.

Think about it.

Fashion

We’re expected to wear things that fit specific ways, whether or not we actually like them. The style “rules” don’t care if we feel comfortable in an outfit, as long as it makes us look slightly less like fat people.

Black and white photo of a lacy bra in a store with a hand taking it off the rack.

But more so than your personal preferences, we are expected to squeeze ourselves into all different garments to change the shape of our bodies. We’re supposed to wear “smoothing” garments, like Spanx, that bind us tightly and appear to flatten out our stomachs. If we wear a bra, it’s supposed to have a wire to make out chest sit up higher, or minimize us in the same way shapewear does.

(Note: some trans folks choose to bind their chests to feel more affirmed in their gender; my critique of beauty standards is intended to be separate from this)

Not only is shapewear uncomfortable — it can actually cause a variety of health problems. Unlike being fat, which is not conclusively proven to cause anything. But the haters just care about our health, right?

Food and Exercise

As we all know, fat people are expected to be in a constant state of trying not to be fat anymore. Starving ourselves, working out whether or not we enjoy it, we are only afforded respect if we hate ourselves.

Photo of blue exercise balls and dumbbells on a beige carpet.

We are expected to work ourselves ragged exercising. How dare you enjoy something more sedentary, or need a day off, or just prioritize other things in your life. That means you’re lazy, or you deserve abuse, or you’re ruining the planet.

That’s not to say you can’t enjoy physical activity. I love yoga. But I don’t do it to the extreme that fatphobes think we all should, and I’m not doing it with the goal of temporarily changing my body shape.

The same goes for eating. Don’t you even consider enjoying foods that don’t fit into the narrow definition of “healthy.”

The acceptable eating activity for fat people involves one thing: not actually eating. We’re expected to starve ourselves, and on the rare occasions we eat, we must adhere to rigid rules about what’s “good” and “bad” and if we don’t, we’ve failed. If we fail, we deserve whatever is coming to us.

Comfort Isn’t Failure

I’m about to blow your mind here: You can do what makes you comfortable.

You don’t have to force your body into tight, shaping clothes if you don’t want to. You don’t have to wear a bra with wires or tight elastic. In fact, you don’t have to wear a bra at all if you don’t want to. You can wear styles that make you feel good, shapes that are comfortable.

If you’re not interested in exercise, you don’t have to do it. You don’t have to adhere to widespread notions of “healthy” behavior. You can choose to do activities you enjoy, whether or not they’re physical.

You can also eat whatever makes you happy. Order the salad or the fries, it doesn’t matter. Have carbs, have dessert, whatever.

No one has to make themselves feel discomfort for anyone else. You don’t owe that to others; it’s not some kind of toll you have to pay for being fat.

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