How to Support Your Fat Friends, as a Straight Size Person
Fat people don’t need more diet talk and body shame — we need straight size friends who speak out against anti-fat bias
I was late for staff meeting. It was one of my colleagues’ birthdays, and I’d slipped out to buy his favorite chocolate chip coconut cookies from a neighborhood bakery. I arrived just in time to sing happy birthday with the rest of the staff and send the box of oversized cookies around the table while we worked through our weekly agenda. Most colleagues happily took a cookie or quietly passed. Halfway around the table, though, the cookies stopped with Dave.
Previously fat, Dave had found the gospel of calorie-counting and was hell-bent on conversion and penance. His diet talk had taken over the office, and it became evident that anyone who needed to talk to Dave would have to endure lengthy monologues about the perils of car culture, the dangers of saturated fats, and an endless stream of reflections on the relative virtues of whatever foods were in the room. Few of us had the fortitude to eat lunch in his presence. His comments lingered in the no man’s land between diet evangelism and diagnosable disordered eating. Regardless of their etiology, Dave’s comments regularly involved cruel and vocal judgments of the bodies of those around him.
I was the fattest person in the office, which meant I heard the most of Dave’s diet laments and food critiques. He lingered in my doorway, warning me about trans fatty acids and the dangers of “visceral fat,” gesturing toward my stomach. “That thing’s gonna be your death sentence,” he’d said one day, pointing at my wide, soft belly as I tucked into a stir-fry. Since then, I had taken to closing my office door or walking to a nearby park to eat, just to save myself and my meal the unwelcome scrutiny.
But on the day of our staff meeting, we were celebrating. Our director was sharing updates when Dave interrupted her, mid-sentence, to weigh his birthday cookie options aloud.
“I had my last 150 calories two hours ago, and I’m not supposed to have my next 150 for another hour and a half,” he announced, voice cutting through the director’s. 20 pairs of eyes turned to him. He continued, seemingly…