So I am back at my "official" desk, at home in France.
In the bus gong to the airport to fly back, I started taking notes about some of the things that happened during these 4 weeks in the UK, and a theme emerged...
I came to realize that traveling solo, as an overweight and unfit fifty something woman… is raising some issues.
It’s like there are some unwritten rules… That this is not supposed to happen.
That old fat women are supposed to stay home and knit sweaters for their grand children.
Because you see, not only am I old… I am also fat (yes, daring to use this word and own it, as a reality, not a negative judgment) and, at the minute, not very fit.
Experiencing some issues launched me into research mode and BAM, I found something called Thin Privilege.
Which I had no clue about (if you can believe it).
As a GenX person, most of my education consisted of being made to believe that I could not count on any real help from adults around, who were mostly dealing with their own shit or simply punishing and grounding us. During my upbringing, parental supervision was often minimal. 911 didn’t exist. Older houses were often layered with lead-based paint, while schools were clad with asbestos. Children freely consumed unwrapped food. The quality of school lunches was very questionable. And oh, the dreaded gluten! My childhood experiences differed significantly from the hyper-protected upbringing observed among Millennials and GenZ, as we navigated a world that was sometimes perilous, very distant from the sheltered environments experienced by today's youth.
What that means is that I grew up believing that all my issues were mine to deal with, my defect; my responsibility alone. Nobody was there to explain, support or help.
Among which the being fat.
I grew up believing that it was a "me problem" entirely.
Until a few weeks ago (yes, seriously), when I learned about thin privilege.
Thin privilege encompasses the array of societal, economic, and practical advantages that individuals experience due to their thinness or smaller body size. Similar to other forms of privilege, those who possess it may not be aware of the benefits they receive, as it appears normal for them to navigate through life without concerns such as fitting into tight spaces at compact cafes, finding readily available clothing sizes, or eating in public without drawing unwanted attention. The design of public spaces and furniture, including chairs, benches, tables, bus and theater seats, primarily caters to smaller individuals, and we wrongly judge each other by body size and shape as if it were a measure of a person’s moral success or failure.
Weight and shame
Thinner people are often unaware of the fact that their body size comes with advantages, and that people in larger bodies are marginalized. While people of all genders experience the effects of thin privilege, society tends to pressure women especially to achieve a thin body and to put effort into maintaining a socially desirable appearance. For those who do not fit the thin ideal, internalized and external prejudice can lead to body dissatisfaction and shame.
Weight and health
Since thin bodies are also viewed as healthier, people who are larger are often discriminated against and labeled as being unhealthy or irresponsible.
"Being fat is seen as an expression of being dysfunctional or having an irresponsible lifestyle,” says Jürgen Martschukat, Ph.D., a professor of North American History at the University of Erfurt and author of The Age of Fitness.
Thin privilege is closely related to healthism, which views health status as a personal choice based upon lifestyle habits and erroneously claims that a larger body size is a modifiable trait that increases the risk of health problems.
Despite prevalent misconceptions surrounding the connection between weight and health, substantial evidence suggests that being in a larger body does not automatically equate to poor health or adverse outcomes. In fact, a recent study highlighted an important finding: regardless of their body weight, individuals who lead sedentary lifestyles face a heightened risk of mortality from various causes when compared to those who engage in regular physical activity. This research underscores the significance of promoting physical activity for overall health and well-being, emphasizing that weight alone should not be used as a sole determinant of one's health status.
Exploring the effect of thin privilege on me
Despite having been overweight most of my life and having no particular health issues related, I literally had no idea of the concept of "thin privilege". I was simply walking around the world feeling ashamed and guilty.
I still am.
I want to extent a formal and immense thank you to Kelsey Snyder, known on TikTok as Kelsamori, who defines herself as a Fat Positive Maker. She made me aware of the concept and sent me on a path of exploration regarding how I am affected by thin privilege, both externally and internally…
And for the first time in my life, I started thinking that there might be nothing wrong with me, that I maybe did not have to get rid of my kilos and/or hide my body as much as possible.
Let's explore the various ways in which thin privilege manifests itself, extending beyond interpersonal interactions and seeping into the very fabric of our businesses and infrastructure. Here are just a few examples of the many things that individuals with thin privilege often take for granted. Unlike me, as it became very apparent during my trip, "thin" people are able to:
- Shop for clothing without incurring additional costs for the "extra fabric" required to make plus-size garments.
- Board an airplane without the need to purchase an extra seat, squeeze themselves or request a seatbelt extender.
- Visit a doctor without worrying that the appointment will excessively focus on weight loss or dieting.
- Enter a gym and feel welcomed, supported, and taken seriously in their fitness endeavors.
- Share a photo of themselves joyfully indulging in food or engaging in relaxation on social media, without facing accusations of "promoting obesity."
- Dress like they like/feel comfortable without being judged … "I had no idea, when I was thin, that people responding to me positively when I was in sweats was a privilege" says Kelsey Snyder. As a fat person, dressing in sweats means I will get judged for being lazy, not taking care of myself, etc… almost never will I be simply ignored or complimented for working on my fitness.
- Eat in public as much or as little as they feel, without people watching with a silent reproach.
- Travel with a big heavy suitcase (or more) and get help and sympathy instead of a negative opinion or a blaming grin.
- Buy food without feeling a complex or the need to justify themselves to the cashier person.
- Sweat and pant like any peri-menopausal woman would, without feeling frowned upon.
- Find their size in any shop without having to ask for it (I found out that most "plus size" shops in the UK do not have High Street shops anymore… not even in London! … and just sell online, which both makes it easier for the fat people… and at the same time means that once again the plus size clothes are nowhere to be seen in the city...)
In my recent travel, I experienced so much of all that.
So much self consciousness.
All the time.
Like I have no self control.
No self restraint.
When sweating, panting or visibly having issues, no help offered to me ...
Hey! being fat is not a disability!
It’s a choice.
A fault almost.
I saw myself apologetic all the time.
Never ending story.
Taking too much space.
I did not let any of that stop me.
Nor will I ever.
From the world.
But again the voice in my head is the worse.
The most judgmental.
The most heinous and mean.
My own thin privilege inner critic.
And I know I need to stop her.
I know I need to strip myself of that fat biased bitch in my head.
What am I going to do about that then?
Well, to start with, I am decluttering my clothes.
Because, as Kelsey Snyder puts it: "Clothes are meant to fit our bodies, not the other way around".
So I am donating, binning or re-purposing everything that doesn’t fit TODAY, not in some distant future when my body "will finally look like it should" (hear that? I told you she was mean...)
Also I am going to keep on researching all that, at a deeper Soul level, to see what else emerges…
I will start loving myself more.
I will take better care of myself.
Day in, day out.
Using my very own Goddess Self-Care Oracle deck… find it here: https://isayabelle.com/goddess-self-care-oracle-sp
And I will keep you posted.
Living a Goddess Life.
In THIS Goddess body.
I would be so happy to hear from you about all that. Thank you in advance for your comment.
So much for today...
See you soon, for my next online adventures!
Until then I send you love, light and gratitude.
PS: about the pictures… I chose to share the first pictures that answered the search words "fat woman" … isn’t it so visible that our society has a very negative and judgmental view of weight issues? I had to search way more to find these last two… smiling fat women…