It does not seem to matter how thin you are or how active. Any visible weight gain gives others license to lecture you about “letting yourself go.” Weight gain does not even have to be visible. All you have to do is engage in behavior that people assume will cause weight gain (e.g., eating a Big Mac at McDonald’s). Thin privilege is unique in that, while it exists and while it’s powerful in our culture, you never get to fully enjoy it. You are always this (pinches fingers together) close to losing it.
Now let us assume that you are that one perfect person who has never invited someone else’s criticism of your weight or your lifestyle. Or, alternatively, we can assume that you have been greatly blessed to have only the finest, most educated, most respectful people present in your life and, therefore, have no need to fear criticism. You still will not escape fat hatred for two reasons:
• People will assume you got to your thin, healthy, god-like state through fat-hating means and will ask for your advice.
• More commonly, people will ask you to reinforce their own fat hatred.
The second bullet is something I face every day. It does not seem to matter how many times I ask people not to discuss dieting or weight loss around me, or how many times I ask them not to lecture on the subject of health. No one seems to blink an eye when I tell them that my aunt had life-threatening anorexia and that I find diet talk triggering. They simply ignore it or they nod and say “Okay,” but then keep talking about their diet.
They ask me if they’ve lost weight. They ask me if I think their lunches are healthy or if they should skip their daily exercise. They insult themselves with fat-hating taunts, oblivious to the fact that I am several clothing sizes larger than they are. The bottom line is that my position is not respected by these people. Not at all.
As far as I’m concerned, we need to stop falling over ourselves to respect their position.
You are under no obligation to cheer someone on in their diet. You are under no obligation to respond to their fat-hating questions. In real life, staking out your boundaries is tough and you need to do it with some sensitivity, especially in the workplace.