How to combat family member’s casual fatphobia

Written by Anonymous


Fatphobic comments can be a part of everyday life, but they are most jarring when coming from the mouths of those you love, your family. Whether the remarks are directed at you or not, it is still incredibly discouraging to hear. It seems to me that Grannies always have some comment to make on everyone’s body and how they are eating.

What is a fatphobic comment anyway? 

To put it simply, fatphobia is the fear or disgust of, and discrimination against, people perceived to be fat or those in larger bodies. It can also simply be the disgust towards any increase in body size or weight whatsoever. Often in society different sized bodies may not fit the mould that people view as the ‘beauty standard’. This fear and discrimination manifest themselves in the form of hateful comments or actions towards those that live in larger bodies. Oftentimes these comments may not be intentional or intended to cause offence, but usually, they do.

Fatphobia and Families

In society, we are slowly beginning to call out fatphobic behaviours when they occur in things like fashion and the media (even though there’s still a long way to go). But we often normalise, overlook, and sometimes accept these fatphobic comments when they come from the mouths of our family members. 

My family used to be notorious for the fatphobic comments in every part of the day and sometimes the comments weren’t even directed at me. “That top isn’t suited to her body”, “fat people are just lazy” and those are just off the top of my head. One that was uttered in my house almost daily was “this family should go on a diet.”

Words like these and others can be tiring and seriously affect mental health. It took me a while to even notice these comments were wrong and were making me look at my body in a very negative way. Once I learned about fatphobia I knew the only way to try and negate it from one part of my life was to talk to my family about it. I admit this can be daunting and may not be the right route to go for some people.

How and what do I tell my family about Fatphobia?

I first explained fatphobia which got some confused looks from my parents. I gave some examples, using comments they have said before or just general instances of fatphobia in our society like airplane seats or clothing sizes. Once they understood I think they gradually began to fix things they say and how they comment on things.

As we move out of lockdown and into the winter holiday season, we often have large family dinners with extended family members, many of whom we only ever see once or twice a year. This time can often be an epicentre for fatphobia amongst families. Sometimes you must pick your battles, but if you are able, it can be a great place to educate some family of fatphobia very casually. 

Fatphobia and fatphobic comments are difficult to hear but especially from family members. It may be difficult for them to understand at first and we simply can’t expect people to be aware of topics they may not be educated on. That is when communication and education should come into play. 

Artwork by Tara Fitzgibbon @tara.fitzgibbon

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