when people are doing their best to talk about weight they’ve unintentionally gained, especially during pandemic, because it can be a big change and force you to confront internalized fatphobia and body image stuff but you’re sitting there, as a friend, like…but oh my god? you look so hot? Like sincerely, truly, you look so hot? Like not even in a kinky way just like, wow but you are so pretty/handsome/gorgeous, like that is just facts? But it’s hard to tell someone that when that’s not necessarily what they want to hear in the moment. I think, and this is something I used to do when I was younger, what a lot of people are looking for is permission to “look bad” but it’s like…I’m sorry, I’m not the one who can give that to you and it’s mostly because kink aside, I truly don’t fucking believe that fat “looks bad” on anyone and I’m not going to lie to someone and tell them they’re skinny if they’re not. Skinny and fat should be neutral descriptors in the everyday.
I just wish I had more skills to bring in body pos outside of this community where fat and gaining weight is spoken about so freely, both as a kink/fetish but also just as a reality, but weight is such a difficult issue for so many people and convincing someone it’s not a problem isn’t really something you can just solve in a singular conversation. I really freeze up when people tell me, disappointed or frustrated with themselves, that they’ve gained weight. Like I can rain compliments something biblically fierce, but it can take time to come to terms and recognize that your value as a human and someone that people care about is just as inherent as when you were thinner, and that there’s so much joy and liberation within fat bodies.
I’m not saying it’s easy by any measure, but…yeah. I just want to work more on how to support fat liberation with people who feel like they’re starting at the beginning of that conversation, or don’t know where to start without y’know. Making it weird or inadvertently making someone feel worse.
tl;dr: chubby and fat is pretty/cute/sexy/handsome/gorgeous and more people should be able to celebrate that without stigmatization.
Personally I think about changing someone’s perception about something not as giving them information to try to convince them of my point of view, but about figuring out their fears and assumptions and helping the person question them. Fatphobia is linked to a LOT of other fears: social rejection, mortality, being seen as someone not capable of producing capital (lazy/lacking willpower), etc.
So when people bring up weight gain in a conversation, it’s often about something or a lot of somethings that don’t actually have to do with weight. (Because fat has a lot of different meanings attached to it in our society!)
If someone expresses disappointment at having gained weight, try asking “why do you feel disappointed in yourself?” They might say, “I should be taking better care of myself, even if it is a pandemic,” or “everyone else has been using the pandemic to be productive and get fit, yet I gained all this weight,” or “I’m worried about what people will think of me when I go back to work,” or “I’m trying to manage [health condition] and I feel like I’m failing at it,” or “I thought I had more self control than this!” or a thousand other things (or, yeah, maybe just looking for reassurance about their appearance).
You’ve already learned more about what’s going on for this person than if you just said “but you look great!” That can open up the door to deeper connections and conversations that can lead the person to question fatphobic ideas that are causing them harm if you continue down different lines of curiosity and compassionate listening with that person.
Even just repeating their assumption back to them can be helpful: it acknowledges their concern, but gets them to examine it more.
“I should be taking better care of myself, even if it is a pandemic.” -> “You don’t think you’ve been taking care of yourself properly?”
Answer A: “I mean, I’ve been staying inside 24/7 and isolating and eating like crap and doom-scrolling through the news and I’ve been crying every day, I feel awful!” -> Oh, this person actually has a lot going on, maybe the conversation should take a turn towards how you can help this person get the support they need rather than questioning their fatphobia.
Answer B: “Well, I’m getting fat aren’t I?” -> okay, maybe that’s more a ‘questioning fatphobia’ moment, like “what does that have to do with taking care of yourself?”
Either way, chances are it’s not really about the weight, but about what it signifies to that person, and the path of least resistance is to poke holes in fatphobia and let them come to their own conclusions.
If you don’t have the energy or skills for these kinds of convos, you can keep it really simple while still challenging fatphobia. I often respond to people with neutral things like “nothing wrong with being fat!” but a lot of times in these situations it can even be helpful to just nod or say “okay” while keeping a positive or calm demeanor if someone is mentioning their weight or weight gain. In most typical interactions, mentioning weight gain is probably going to result in the other person commiserating, offering advice, consoling, etc. so even starting from a neutral reaction will likely be a big change for some people.(Although that can come off as dismissing the other person’s distress, depending on the situation).
But anyway, you don’t have to memorize a bunch of social justice talking points to have conversations with people about weight & weight gain.