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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