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The “Good Kind” Of Fat

by Golda Poretsky, H.H.C. on May 13, 2013

the good kind of fatIt was only about 6 or 7 years ago that I thought that I could accept my fat if I could just be “the good kind of fat.”

I thought that if I could have that really hourglass figure that plus size models often seem to have, then, and only then could I accept my fat.

Of course, that got me nowhere since it’s pretty impossible to change your shape without a bunch of cosmetic surgery, and “elective surgery” is not really in my vocabulary.

Curvy Privilege?

I hadn’t thought about wanting a different kind of fat body in a long time, but this concept came up with a client recently. She said that from my pictures, she thought I had that “good kind of fat” body and worried that I might not understand what it’s like not to have that. This client is actually quite a bit thinner than me, but she thought that I was “very curvy” and therefore wouldn’t understand what it’s like to have a less curvy* fat body.

I found this very interesting on a number of levels, and I found myself reassuring her that I, indeed, did not have a very curvy body (there’s about a one inch difference between my hips and my waist) and that even if our body types are not alike, that I can still understand and empathize with her, since that’s what I do for a living!

But beyond that, I got to thinking about how “the good kind of _________” shows up in various minority groups, where the “good kind of” whatever is always whatever looks the most like what is prized in the dominant culture. If you have the “right” skin color or hair color or nose shape you might just pass for the dominant culture and get whatever privilege may be attached to that.

And so I think the same thing happens with fat. If you’ve got “curves in all the right places” and you’re fat, you may get snippets of thin privilege that would be denied to a fat person of relatively the same size but with a different shape. Of course, I’m talking about female identified people when I’m talking about curvaceousness. Perhaps it works the opposite way with male identified folks, but I’m not sure.

I recognize that I get little snippets of thin privilege myself — because my hips are relatively narrow, I don’t have to worry about things like sitting in airline seats, and I don’t have to deal with people looking at me with dread that I might (OMG!!!) sit next to them (the subway, however, is a different story). But I’m fat enough that I can’t ever “pass” for thin-ish the way I did when I was a size 14/16.

Going Forward

Going forward, I think it’s important to acknowledge the ways that these “good kind of fat” conversations happen, and do our best to be aware of it. I don’t think it does anyone any good to make body acceptance about imposing the same beauty norms from the dominant culture onto fatter bodies. We need to explode those beauty norms as best we can, by acknowledging the amazing diversity of bodies.

Your kind of fat IS the good kind of fat.

*This is one of the reasons why I hate the word curvy as a euphemism for fat.

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Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. To learn more about Golda and her work, click here.



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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenna May 15, 2013 at 7:27 pm

Being an apple shape I have def. felt marginalized. Finding jeans that fit me (i usually have to go to the pregnancy section) and even that is not a comfortable fit. I have a hard time with dresses because while the waist fits the chest is usually too big. The message I hear here is that I do not get fat as a woman should, even I failed in my fatting! I see men fall all over my friend who is several sizes larger than I while I smaller and applier, go ignored. I read comment boards where my shape is the more abhorrent, the most feared. Even in the fat community I do not see my type celebrated or even talked about that often. It is disconcerting and something I struggle with. I have largely given up on finding pants.

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karin May 15, 2013 at 6:54 pm

anything that stands out is going to get commented on; it’s all relative. own yr curves!

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Nan C. Izsëwküte May 15, 2013 at 9:42 pm

If you are an apple and have thin legs and no ass it’s harder to find plus size clothes that fit you well especially in the pants. I end up having to buy larger size jeggings to fit my waste so that they’re not too big on my arse and my legs. I’ve always felt the plus size clothing industry favored the “pear”.

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Susan May 15, 2013 at 4:57 pm

I wished for years upon years that I had an hourglass figure. You know, the whole itty bitty waist and a round thing in your face. (Thank you, Sir Mix-A-Lot.) I finally came to terms with it through the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, when I realized I’d be the sexiest Dwarf ever to lift a blacksmith’s hammer. Wouldn’t make a bad-looking Hobbit, either, but as soon as they realized what kind of a menace they had on their hands, the whole Shire would elect to put me in a basket, carry me up to Ered Luin, knock on the door, and run like hell. :D

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Avery Ray Colter May 15, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Actually, there’s a “wrong kind of thin” as well. I don’t have crisp and sculpted muscles. I have a ribcage and visible blood vessels.

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Susan May 15, 2013 at 3:57 pm

I’m not thin, but we can have visible blood vessels together. :)

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Nina Feldman May 15, 2013 at 9:36 pm

Hi, Avery! Thank you for all you do as a male Body Acceptance Activist in the San Francisco Bay Area!

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Shana May 15, 2013 at 1:34 pm

I definitely agree that “the good kind of whatever” is a dynamic that often plays out in groups outside the mainstream and I’m glad you’re talking about relative privilege. However, I also think that this can be a divisive illusion that weakens our community’s ability to fight back because we’re too busy comparing ourselves to others. I am an hourglassy pear-shaped fat woman who is definitely not being served by the fatshion industry. Out of my entire (sizable) wardrobe only 3 articles of clothing fit me without alteration, modification or special undergarments. Three. And they are all T-shirts. My friends with un-curvy bodies have the same problem.
When you feel ugly in the clothing available to you, when you can barely squeeze yourself into an airplane seat, when the person you ask out says no, we all assume that there’s something wrong with us, specifically. We must be the problem. But the real problem is the system that we should all be fighting, together, to change. For example, plus size clothes don’t really work for anyone. They don’t fit you because they’re poorly conceived and constructed…not because one is apple-shaped. They’re all build for some mythical person none of us are shaped like. Perhaps because the fit models are not actually plus-sized? Or because they’re just sizing up the non-curve-friendly designs from smaller sizes without realize that while few women are shaped like pre-pubescent boys, NO women are shaped like those boys with their bodies absurdly stretched out to a size 24. So, I may have a proportionally small waist but I still have a big round overhanging belly. Ergo, clothes do not fit me either. Stepping of soap box.

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Rakisha Kearns-White May 15, 2013 at 5:08 pm

I sometimes still long to be the “good kind of fat,” which would be an hour glass figure or at least, the less endomorphous apple shape that I do have. I don’t know about the word “curvy” being an euphenism for “fat.” I don’t think we will see n our life time someone saying “I love the fats all over your body” as opposed to the “curves all over your body.” I guess that’s just about taking the stigma out of the word.

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La Diva delle Curve May 15, 2013 at 1:12 pm

this is the first time I read someone say the same things I think and write, I never use the word ‘curvy’ for me, I don’t like to hear it or use it nowadays because it implies that only a certain kind of fat is acceptable. I used to be thinner than I am today at a certain point, but I was never an hourglass, still I have my kind of curves, and I don’t need to think ‘if only I looked curvier/thinner’ etc. etc. to undergo my inscurity. I’ve seen a lot of this kind of sub-discrimination among plus size women lately, some people spend a lot of time explaining the differences between ‘curvy’, ‘fat’, ‘plus size’ as if a simple lable would make any difference. I am really fed up with all this talking as it reminds me too much of fat/skinny discrimination.

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Nancy May 13, 2013 at 5:46 pm

I’ve got something called lipedema, which makes me many sizes bigger on the bottom than the top – my hips are about 30″ bigger than my waist. Talk about problems with airplane seats! My real problem with this kind of fat is getting clothing to fit. That’s where the hourglass figures have the advantage – it’s much easier to buy clothing when you are proportioned in a more standard way. As you say, changing our shape is pretty much impossible, so I am learning to accept it as well.

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The Real Cie May 13, 2013 at 12:18 pm

I have a comparatively small waist for my size, but my hips have always been too large and my bust too small to be “the right kind of fat.”
I’ve always hated my body. When I was younger, I would say “when I’m 18, I’m getting a boob job.” Then I realized that my modest size breasts get in my way as it is. What the hell did I need with bigger ones?
At this point, I no longer call myself names like fat ugly pig, but I don’t know that I’ll ever actually like my body. In my case, accepting it may be as good as it gets.

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