Face up to Fatshaming podcast transcript

Social Covers for SpunOut 2021Article Cover

Ciara Casey
Hi, everyone. My name is Ciara. I’m on the Northwest Regional panel with spunout. I suppose I have an interesting combatting fatshaming because I’ve been a plus size person for most of my life. I’ve had many experiences of fatphobia and joining with me today to talk about spunout’s Face Up to Fat Shaming is Emma

Emma Kelly
Hiya Ciara. I’m really excited to be on, but thanks so much for having me. I’m a social care worker and a fat fat-bodied person. I live in a large fat body, and I have done since my early teens. I talk about my experiences and share information on my Instagram quite a lot about it. And while I know Instagram can be quite problematic, there’s no denying that there’s a lovely community of people in fat bodies on there who are speaking out against fatphobia and fat shaming. And it’s just been brilliant for me to be honest with you.

Emma Kelly
I’ve learned a lot and been sign posted to some brilliant resources from there and met some lovely people

Ciara Casey
No, I love Instagram myself, actually, for that. I suppose the origins of fatphobia then fatphobia or fat-shaming can be defined as an irrational fear or aversion to or discrimination against people in fat bodies and includes the fear of being fat themselves. But where did fatphobia and fatshaming originate from?

Emma Kelly
So fatphobia, it’s relatively new as far as human history goes. It’s origins are very racist and anti black, which I think is really important to acknowledge and to start with. So it started during slavery, when black people were seen as inferior, and there was kind of a view that they had little control over their wants and behaviors, and it was seen as immoral. And so their bodies were, too, because they were seen to not be in full control of what they wanted to do, what their desires were.

Emma Kelly
So therefore their bodies were as well and particularly those with more shapely bodies. And this led on then to white people demonising in black bodies and bodies similar to theirs. There’s an incredible book, actually ‘Fearing the Black Body, the Racial Origins of Fatphobia’ by Sabrina Strings, which dives into this a bit more, well, a lot more. She’s just incredible. I’d highly recommend it to everyone and anyone. And from that then I suppose like that went on for hundreds of years and then in the mid nine 20th century, so in the 1950s, 1960s the body positive movement began that was started by fat black women to demand equal treatment regardless of their size.

Emma Kelly
We know this has been coopted and watered down by a lot of straight size white people. So we tend to use kind of when we’re speaking in body positive terms, we kind of tend to use more like fat liberation and body liberation. We would tend to use that more so now, like, if you look up the if you look up the body positively hashtag, it’s just completely and utterly whitewashed and a lot of people in smaller bodies who have just basically hijacked it.

Ciara Casey
I think a lot of it comes from, like, influencers that side of it, like influencers and they’re doing shopping hauls and then they’ll do like #bodypositivity and stuff like that. But it’s funny that they’re so fashion based because fashion is often so exclusionary to plus by people or fat people. Having grown up in a larger body myself, I’ve always struggled to find clothes that was like age appropriate or stylish. Like I was literally in business casual since I’ve been ten years old. I looked like an accountant to ten. Even social situations where my friends would say want to go out shopping.

Ciara Casey
And every shop we’d walk into, they’d be looking at the dresses, and I’d just go straight for the handbags because I knew that was my thing. There was no chance that say Zara would have a size larger than 14. So there was no point, but it limited me that way, even just to buy clothes for myself. And even recently, I’ve been job hunting, and I’m looking mainly at bar and restaurant work. And the first thing I thought of was, oh gosh, I’m going to have to get, like, work appropriate trousers now, and I couldn’t just walk into Dunnes or walk into wherever to get clothes to fit me for work.

Ciara Casey
I’ll have to go online and research that way. Have you had similar experiences that way with clothes and stuff?

Emma Kelly
I have had loads of experiences of this on so many levels, yeah I have. So I can totally feel you’re coming from on that I think, especially that we use those as such a tool of self expression and to represent ourselves. It’s just not available for people in fat bodies. It’s just not we don’t have that luxury, which shouldn’t be a luxury, but we don’t have it. That luxury and that privilege of being able to go into different styles, different themes, different, just different cuts of clothing or anything like that.

Emma Kelly
We just don’t have that. Things have very slightly improved from when I was a teenager, like I just wouldn’t have had access to clothing choices at all. And it would have been a case of just getting anything that would fit me. So it was tended to be black pants and a jumper most of the time or a men’s tracks you know, that kind of thing. But what I wouldn’t have given for the opportunity to kind of explore my clothing style a bit more. There’s a small bit of improvements, but I suppose the case is that a tiny number of shops have some availability of extended sizes, but they’re often more expensive and at a much smaller selection.

Emma Kelly
There’s been steps backwards, too, as you say Ciara, like the vast majority of closing of clothes shopping for people in fat, bodies is online only, which presents so many limits and even the likes of buying sustainably, which is quite topical. It’s near impossible for people in fat bodies. It really is. It’s almost not even an option. Full stop. Sustainably made options in plus sizes and particularly larger plus sizes are just not available. They’re just not available then, I suppose, like the larger the size then as well, the less and less likely you are to find pieces that fit you and pieces that you might actually like.

Emma Kelly
If I see one more butterfly print or hanky hem or cold shoulder. Don’t get me wrong. I have some of them in my wardrobe because my choices are limited. But it’s a minefield. To be honest, there’s so many barriers, like affordability, personal preference and style, like a lot of people might need alterations if they do find a size that will go on their body. But, yeah, there’s so many different body sizes, shapes and abilities it’s the minefield. And then don’t get me started on charity and vintage shops.

Emma Kelly
It just affects so many people in fat bodies.

Ciara Casey
Okay, it’s just clothes, it’s just fashion or whatever, but it’ll touch so many aspects of your life, like, kind of even. Okay, you’re going out to a night club. Oh, my God. What am I going to wear? Going out with your friends? Going to work, like clothing is important. They have functions, even when it is, it could just be style or whatever, but it’s very limiting for fat people.

Emma Kelly
Absolutely.

Ciara Casey
And then I touched on briefly before but like friends and fat shaming, like most of my friends growing up, were average size or normal size, and they never directly point out my weight or like my body. But there was always these subtle little things that would make me uncomfortable. There was this one time I was at a sleepover, just, for example, I was at a sleepover with my friends, and we were all taking turns telling each other like, “oh you have the best, I don’t know, figure you have the best this you have the best that”.

Ciara Casey
And I knew mine was going to be face based. The minute it came up, I was like, I’m going to have lovely eyes. But, yeah, there was one particular occasion where I had one of my friends say to me, “God, you’d be so pretty if you lost weight”. And it was just things like that that they’re not like, if you heard it, you wouldn’t necessarily go straight away. Oh, that’s kind of abusive or that’s mean or that’s fat-shaming.

Ciara Casey
But it is really painful still, later on. Have you had friends treat you differently? Do you think because of your weight or your size?

Emma Kelly
Oh, absolutely. I’ve had friends, family members, workmates, strangers. I’ve had so many experiences like that. So many people can be entirely unaware of how a couple of words can be so hurtful and so cutting like, even if it’s meant in a like, I’m doing quotation marks here when I say helpful, loving or innocent. The intention cannot be irrelevant when the effect is hurt and pain and discomfort and despair. I’ve had the “such a pretty face” comment so many times or “such a pity, like if she lost weight”.

Emma Kelly
I’ve had a friend years ago, telling me that they pitied my mother because she must worry about my weight so much. I’ve had a family member now not an immediate family member say that I must cry myself asleep every night because of my weight, because they would. And those are the milder side of things. They’re not innocent comments. How someone can think that that’s okay to say to somebody. Those things cut, they really cut.

Ciara Casey
And it’s like it’ll affect, like, romantic relationships and stuff. But even in the workplace, even at the very basic, like your doctor, I’ve had really dodgy experiences with doctors, and ever since I was young, I could go in with the cough and they’d be like, “okay, will you hop up on the scales there and we’ll see, is it different the last time?”

Ciara Casey
But I knew it became a pattern where it would be this big lecture, this big shaming experience. And afterwards “you should really eat less.

Ciara Casey
And you should really do this. Or would you like to go to a dietitian?”

Ciara Casey
I didn’t feel comfortable going to my doctor anymore because even though I’d be sick, I’d be like, I don’t want to hear the same thing over again, which it was debilitating, like, really, it actually put risk to me in a way where I was like, I don’t want to hear this.

Ciara Casey
I’ve always had an issue with my menstrual cycle since it started, but I was always told by the same doctor, “oh it was just rough because you’re a big girl that happens.”

Ciara Casey
And then it progressively got worse. And I got more worried about it. And I kept going back to the same doctor, and I’d be told the same things. And it was because of my weight. And they never said there was basically no other possibility to this doctor. It was just my weight, and she literally prescribed weight loss to me. And I did try that, but it just didn’t work for me. So I changed my doctors because I was getting tired of the same old conversation and this new doctor when I told him all the symptoms and I kept detailed records of it and everything.

Ciara Casey
And he literally just said to me, oh, my gosh, you’ve textbook PCOS symptoms. He’s like, you’ve listed them. I was like, ‘what’s PCOS’; polycystic ovary syndrome. So it was like this experience where I was completely vilified. But had I not changed, it would be an issue that I’d never have addressed because I just feel like, okay, I have to wait to fix this problem. But I’ve since been referred. Have you had something like that then with your GP’s?

Emma Kelly
Oh, I have. Yeah, absolutely. I’ve had again on so many levels, on specialist levels, like on a nurse level, GP. I’ve had it in so many different areas, like from my own experience and many experiences of many people. Honestly, it seems to be quite rare for medical professionals not to jump to blame weight for everything when they encounter a fat patient, it’s only to be honest, the last few years, and I’m so very lucky for this, but only in the last few years with my current GP that I feel any bit supported and confident attending appointments with her because I know and I trust that my weight will not be a topic with her.

Emma Kelly
And we’ve discussed that before. She’s been excellent. She’s been in my corner for a lot of things, like it’s such a rare occurrence, and it’s horrendous that it’s rare. Like yourself actually, I have issues with periods and actually have been diagnosed with PCOS twice. And I’ve had that diagnosis revoked twice.

Emma Kelly
Yeah, I don’t have it. But as you know, they can often blame weight for PCOS and vice versa. And it was an easy diagnosis to give me because of my weight. And again, prescription, go off and lose weight, try to lose weight.

Emma Kelly
Like, I don’t know, they jump to it a lot. Actually, it just occurred to me there. I was in a car crash two years ago and it was in the middle of the night and I went to see the emergency GP at my practice the next day. And it wasn’t my regular GP. So I had a lot of kind of bad bruising and was in a lot of discomfort and in the middle of the exam, he said. And I assume you’re working on the way, yeah. And then he said “of course you are”.

Ciara Casey
Like that’s anywhere relevant.

Emma Kelly
Nowhere near relevant. I was quite shaken from the crash, so I don’t think I even answered them, but that’s just why people in fat bodies, avoid going to medical appointments because of the stigma and judgment. And you have to be in nearly fighting form to go in, because when you’re ill, when you’re sick, when you’re not feeling good, you’re often not in that headspace to be dealing with that to be battling that. And that’s why people avoid it. And it is so dangerous. It is so dangerous.

Emma Kelly
There’s been so many medical misdiagnoses. It’s medical gaslighting. And I know people from a lot of stigmatized groups experience that. It’s so wrong and it’s so dangerous, so dangerous because there’s not one ailment that only affects fat bodies, there is not one.

Ciara Casey
And then I suppose we should probably talk then about media with fat shaming and fatphobia. I think it’s rampant in say magazines or comparing celebrity bodies or weight loss or diets and all this type of thing, especially every January that comes around it’s chat shows the diet, plans, the regimes and the recipes. But one of the most notorious fatphobic programs we have in Ireland is Operation Transformation. We’ve spoken about it before and I think you have the passion to talk about it.

Emma Kelly
I could talk about it for hours on end, months on end. (both laugh)

Emma Kelly
I know we’re laughing, but my God, it’s no laughing matter. Operation Transformation is massively, massively, fatphobic and it’s completely outdated in it’s approach. I’m so grateful for the work being done by people, particularly Sinead from Intuitive Eating Ireland. She’s doing a lot of work to bring awareness around it and point out just how harmful it is because it is so harmful. Equating weight to health, it’s just such an outdated disproven standpoint on health. I’d love to see an overhaul being done on it. I’d love to see them transform themselves, transform the whole show.

Emma Kelly
Like if weight, calories, any kind of numbers people have to tot up or stick to or anything like that. If that was taken out of the equation and focus was put on actual health-promoting behaviours like sleep and rest like rest is a massive one, mindfulness, movement that brings you joy, creativity, nourishing yourself as you need, learning to be in tune with your body. It could bring it right up to date and remove numbers and these ridiculous limitations because they only cause harm long term for the vast majority of people and they have a knock-on effect then by people witnessing that.

Emma Kelly
Children watch it. People watch it with their families. People experience like being roped (in). I suppose it’s happened a few times in workplaces. They do the operation transformation thing and people are roped in and people in bigger bodies are kind of judged and looked at and scrutinised even more so when this is on and it needs to change big time, it just really needs to change. I think we’re past it.

Ciara Casey
You mentioned intuitive eating there. What is intuitive eating

Emma Kelly
so intuitive eating

Emma Kelly
It’s a lovely framework. It helps you to get back in tune with your body and reject dieting and restrictions which teaches us to ignore our body’s cues and fight against our bodies with restriction

Emma Kelly
Intuitive eating then is based on ten principles which encourage you to relearn your body’s cues and signals and it takes shame out of the equation and gives you tools to engage in really health promoting behaviors that suits your body and you listen to you.

Emma Kelly
You don’t listen to anyone else. For me it’s been life changing, to be honest, I am on the path, hopefully fingers crossed, to becoming an intuitive eating counselor because I feel that there’s not enough representation of people in fat bodies in the field. But I think the people who are in the field are still doing excellent work. It’s amazing. It’s been so life changing. There’s no membership fee, it’s not a business, it’s not a diet, it’s not a plan and it’s nothing to try and change your body. You can’t do it wrong and the amount of headspace and energy it frees up while you learn to respect and nourish and honor your body.

Emma Kelly
Your body, just as it is, is really wonderful. It’s just about what’s best for you and your body.

Ciara Casey
It sounds really positive. It sounds actually refreshing.

Ciara Casey
Because when you read ‘Intuitive Eating’. I went, oh, my God. ‘Eating’. Oh, Lord, yes. It sounds like revolutionary, to be honest.

Emma Kelly
Yeah, I don’t think it is. I know it is, because it has been for me. And it has been for so many people. We’re born intuitively, knowing what we need. We cry when we want food. We know what nourishes us. It’s society that puts good and bad labels on everything, really on food, like labeling things as unhealthy, healthy, treats, cheat days, ‘diabetes on a plate’ and all this kind of nonsense. And it is society to put that on us. And this kind of brings it back so much.

Emma Kelly
It frees up so much headspace. It really does and just learningit’s, it’s amazing what you can ignore after years of being taught to ignore with your body, it is revolutionary. You’re right. It is.

Ciara Casey
What do you think we can do then? To combat fat shaming.

Emma Kelly
Two of the main things that I really think were key for me in starting to kind of combat fatshaming and combat my own internalized ideas of how my body should look we’re language. So just being aware of how people word things, how you word things, how we speak about our bodies. We tend to apologize for our bodies and apologize for taking up space, and it’s unnecessary.

Emma Kelly
We don’t need to do that.

Emma Kelly
But we are conditioned to do that. But it’s amazing, you take note of how people speak about themselves and how they speak about others. And so much of it is judgment based around appearance or someone’s gained weight, they’ve lost weight. We just don’t need to comment on anybody’s bodies at all or our own, which is easier said than done. And then the other thing then is social media. So in an age where most of us are on social media at some part of the day, it’s what we’re exposing ourselves to.

Emma Kelly
So anybody. What I think is just such a great practice is unfollowing accounts or muting accounts that cause you to feel bad about yourself or your body. And following accounts of people of all sorts of bodies just being themselves and body similar to yours. Body bigger, bodies with less abilities. Bodies with different abilities. Bodies with loads of different kinds of people. It’s really good to expose yourself to that and you start to see, oh, there’s somebody now with a body like mine. They have a fat body.

Emma Kelly
They’re wearing what they want. They’re smiling. They have a good time. If they’re not smiling, if they’re not having a good time, they’re talking about it and they’re highlighting what we can do and what’s wrong and what’s right, what’s good and what’s bad for them. You kind of get a sense then of what’s good and what’s bad for you

Ciara Casey
That’s great.

Ciara Casey
Thanks so much, Emma, for talking to me today about Fat Shaming and Fatphobia. I really enjoyed it and I hope people at home did as well. And hopefully they feel a bit more informed now about fat shaming and its effects. If you’d like to learn more about combating fat shaming, you can visit spunout.ie/FaceUpToFatshaming

Related articles
Skip to content