Published on July 18, 2020
When an overweight person is complaining that they feel fat, what is an appropriate and helpful response (vs. just saying “no, you’re not!”)?
Some people think that it’s always 100% wrong to ever admit anyone is fat and have a confused notion that to ever agree with anyone that they are overweight is to become one of society’s oppressors. If someone who is actually overweight says, “Oh man do I need to lose some weight,” or “I feel fat,” these people’s knee-jerk reaction will be, “Oh no! What are you talking about?! You’re totally fine the way you are!” without even looking at them.
This happens the most when someone is just slightly overweight, like by 15 or 20 pounds or so, because that segment of the population — and mostly referring to slightly overweight women — is the one we think needs the most coddling in terms of self-esteem, the most prone to spiraling into self-hate and anorexia at the slightest provocation. For some people, body image is a very sensitive thing, and a lot of tact is needed, but many people are actually quite capable of talking about being overweight as a matter-of-fact problem, like if their roof was leaking or their car broke down.
It can be a bit condescending when this kind of handle-with-care attitude comes from people who know you really well and know you’re not a fragile flower who needs any comment about their appearance addressed with gentle euphemisms and patronizing reassurances — especially when they’re the one who brings it up!
If someone you know very well and care about very much — and who is in fact over-fat — complains about “feeling fat,” (and usually these are the folks who always complain about feeling fat), here’s how to respond:
Ask them what they’re going to do about it.