Fit, HWP, Takes Care of Herself

Small - Things you can tell by looking at a fat personI see a lot of mistaken euphemisms for being thin or, said another way, being “not fat”. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with being thin, just like there’s nothing wrong with being fat.  There are no inherently bad bodies.  There is something wrong with making assumptions based on body size. Let’s take a minute to clear some of this up:

Fit:  This one is personally annoying to me as a fathlete.  The idea that “fit” is a body size is ludicrous.  Obviously there are people of all sizes who are involved in movement, athletics, etc and there are people of all sizes who aren’t and all of that is fine.  We each get to choose how and if we engage in movement, our choices don’t make us better or worse than anyone else, and it’s nobody else’s business.

Takes Pride in Their Appearance: I’m told by reliable sources that this one turns up on want ads and job descriptions as a way to say they want someone thin and stereotypically attractive which almost made my head explode.  As if the only way to take pride in our appearance is to adhere to a social stereotype of beauty.

Height Weight Proportionate:  This is just annoying.  Proportionate to what?  This is one of those online personal ad euphemisms for people who lack the intestinal fortitude to say that they only want to date someone thin/not fat. Sometimes it’s helpful though since I don’t want to date anyone with so narrow a view of beauty not to mention lacking the guts to at least be honest about it.

Takes Care of Themselves: Another charming personal ad euphemism (charming here having the meaning of “bullshit”), this one plays on the oh-so-tired stereotype that you can tell everything about a person’s habits by looking at them.  It also perpetuates the myth that taking care of yourself leads to thinness for every person and that’s just not true.

Healthy:  Perhaps the most common and the most damaging.  Individual health is not a body size, is not completely within our control, is not a barometer of worthiness, is not up for public discussion, and can be a moving target. This one does a disservice to fat people by giving them the idea that the only way to be healthy is to become thin, and does a disservice to thin people by giving them the idea that they are healthy simply because of their weight, neither of which is true based on the evidence.

The theme here should be pretty clear – you can’t make assumptions about people based on their size.  The only thing that someone can tell from someone’s body size is what size they are, and what their prejudices and preconceived notions about people that size are.

Whenever you see or hear one of these it’s an opportunity for activism.  Many people don’t even realize that they are engaging in fat bigotry when they say these things and I’m a big fan of doing people the courtesy of giving them the opportunity to realize and change their prejudices.

One way that you can address this is by asking a global question, something like “I always wonder why people say fit when they mean thin, especially when there are plenty of fat athletes and plenty of thin couch potatoes.” or try some humor “Isn’t everyone’s height and weight in a proportion?”

Regardless, we don’t have to internalize these messages of stereotypes, ignorance and bigotry.

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Published in: on December 3, 2012 at 3:29 pm  Comments (17)  

17 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I take a GREAT deal of pride in my (size 20) appearance, thank you. Personally the only euphemism for fat I will use/allow is “zaftig”, because words that start with Z are cool.

    • Like!

    • Ok – I am going to start using that word!!

  2. That’s a really great post. The way we speak determines the way we see the world, and when people misuse language by creating cowardly euphemisms – rather than coming straight out and laying their prejudice on the table – it fouls up the thinking environment.

  3. Interesting. I would have assumed “takes care of themself/takes pride in appearance” in a job ad was referring to wearing makeup and high heels and that sort of thing. Which is also bullshit, and interestingly, would exclude me just as much (I’ve never worn makeup in my life, I can’t wear heels without spraining an ankle, etc).

    • I thought it simply meant “well-groomed” and “appropriately attired,” but I guess it shouldn’t surprise me if sometimes it means other things.

      I just googled “takes pride in appearance,” clicked on one of the links (, and read through. They talk about being clean, well-groomed, and wearing neat clothes, and then finally, at the end, say this:

      “I suppose I could also mention that you should work on staying healthy and fit, but I understand that there are some medical issues. The important thing is that you need to carry yourself to the best of your ability no matter your fitness level.”

      I think it’s likely that “healthy and fit” are being used here as euphemisms for “thin.”

  4. I got in an honest to goodness OKCupid fight with a dude who messaged me specifically to tell me that he had looked at my photos, and that I was not, as I had described myself “curvy.” I normally do not reply to rude OKC messages but I bit the bullet on this one, and he explained that he meant it as a COMPLIMENT, because I am clearly thin and why would I do myself the disservice of describing myself with what is obviously a euphemism for fat. And I was like dude I have curves. My body curves in and out in various places. “Curvy” is, in my opinion, an accurate descriptive term for the shape of my body. If you disagree then I guess that is fine but why would I care? And also it is nice to know that using that descriptor is an effective way of screening out fatphobic guys, who I wouldn’t want to date anyway.

    He replied that he didn’t understand why I was taking his compliment “the wrong way” and then proceeded to ask me out anyway. SERIOUSLY.

    • Oh man, that dude needed a smack upside the head with a clue-by-four!

      • (jots) “. . . head with clue-by-four.”

        New favorite phrase.

    • I also got into a fight on OKC with a dude who told me I was pretty good looking, but he would love to see me 40lbs thinner, and what was keeping me from losing weight? I think I also choose “curvy” in my description, because their body type choices are one-only, and “fat” is not an option. I use the word a lot in my profile, though.

  5. A friend of mine recently ‘joked’ to me that ‘nudist/naturist’ is code for ‘person who should never be seen naked.’ When I got really quiet and didn’t laugh, she repeated it. At that point I told her I understood what she was saying… I just don’t laugh at body shaming.

    I don’t care if I get a reputation for being humorless. I laugh a lot. I laugh all the damn time. I just don’t choose to laugh at things that aren’t funny.

  6. See also ‘sleek’. The word used to mean something like glossy– hair with enough oil so that it shines, possibly especially smooth shiny hair.

    Somehow, it came to mean thin, and I suspect it really means ‘thin, but not like a poor person’. On the other hand, maybe it picked up the connotation of not bulky. In any case, a specific meaning got lost.

    • heh, for some reason sleek makes me think of seals, who are very graceful in the water but tend to have a very good layer of fat on them to help them survive and are generally clumsy on land.

    • Funny, as ‘sleek” in the horse and livestock world generally relates to having a glossy coat AND plump. An animal that is well nourished and makes good use of the nutrients in holding weight and making a good coat.

  7. I was talking with my 8 year old neice who was sitting on my lap. She said I was soft and nice to sit on. I said that’s cuz I’m fat! She said, oh no, you’re not fat! I wondered aloud what is fat then? (since I’m 270 pounds ;) She said I would need to look the way I looked when I was pregnant, then I would be fat. I just smiled thinking, no, then I would be pregnant… but at least the conversation was happening! I want her to not be afraid of the word fat and to be around people who can use it on themselves without shame. Of course, I do still love the term “rubenesque” :)

  8. I hate the notion that a normal state for everyone is thin, that by being fat we’re not normal, we’re off-kilter, out of alignment, away from the center. Just WRONG. HELL TO THE NO.

    Lemme tellya, without big women, the opera world would be a different place. It is true that big women can make small sounds, and small women are capable of HUGE noise–my first voice teacher was a tiny British woman who could fill a cathedral with her voice…could actually feel the soundwaves rolling against you–but in history, the ones who brought down the house were the big ladies. You need to throw weight behind that Wagner, need to have the huge lungs and chest to get that Puccini to soar. No one would tell Jessye Norman, “You’d be fantastic if you just lost 40 pounds…”!!

  9. The ragey-rage-rage that these terms incite in me is astronomical because I saw it all.the.time when I ventured into the world of online dating. (I have since ventured OUT). These words were even used in a meetup group, a social group, to watch movies and drink beer, used “attractive,” “fit,” and “in shape.” Not only is my fat body not good enough to date, apparently, it’s not good enough to drink overpriced beer with and play board games. Reset button on the human race, please.

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