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How To Be A Friend To A Fat Person

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photo by Kelsey Kimberlin

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TW: fat hate, fatphobia in clinical setting

When I was 22 a therapist told me that maybe I should stop hanging out with fat people. I wasn’t fat at the time, but I was dating someone who was. And I was struggling with my mental health and had become agoraphobic. She suggested that the reason i was unable to leave my home was because the people around me aren’t motivated to stay healthy. 

I’m not joking. This is an actual thing a therapist told me. 

For years, the thing that has hurt the most about being fat has been that I know what people said to me about fat people when I was thin. And that now those people had to be faced with the reality of my changed body and everything they had ever once said. I don’t have a lot of the same friends I had when I was thin because those realities some times hurt too much. 

But there are a few people in my life who have made all that hurt melt away by being the absolute best friends and family anyone could ever ask for. They’ve shown me what love looks like, and how caring about accessibility can totally be a love language. 

I believe that there is an unspoken feeling in our society that people are responsible for creating their own accommodations for their bodies. But what would it look like if we all considered if our friends in wheelchairs could access all the places we could? What would our world look like if we considered our environment and how we exclude others with certain choices? 

Whether you have fat friends, disabled friends, elderly friends, or totally able bodied buds with a few needs for their bods – I want to tell you about the things that have made me feel extra loved and cared for. And maybe sharing these things can help all of us think more about how we show love and thoughtfulness to the people we care about. 

Seating Adjustments

A few years ago one of my best friends got married and when checking out her venue she realized that the seats seemed a little… fragile. She purchased chairs that matched the venues that were rated for a much higher weight limit for my partner and I so that we could be totally comfy at her reception and it was so thoughtful. I hadn’t considered that we would need that but she did, and it meant a lot. 

To be clear, she absolutely did not need to purchase the chairs for us for this to feel thoughtful. Even giving us a heads up, or offering to let us bring our own chairs would have been incredibly thoughtful and would have required no extra monetary commitment. Even better than making sure we had a literal seat at the table my friend made a point to talk to the venue operators about the chairs and point out that she didn’t feel they were as inclusive as they could be.

Seating is always a little tricky for fat people and disabled people alike. So what are we looking for? Sturdy seats that are neither too low nor too high, and plenty wide. Consider if a person’s whole bottom would fit on the seat or if they would hang over the sides, whether there are arms on the chair that would dig into a person’s hips, and whether or not your friend could easily settle into the chair while also being able to get up/out of the chair with ease. 

Making a reservation? Give the host a heads up that you have a fat person (you can say “larger bodied” if you’re uncomfortable with the word “fat” – but we should probably deconstruct why it makes you uncomfy at some point!) in your party who needs room to get in and out of the seating area and ask for sturdy seating. I promise once you do this a couple times it becomes second nature, and people in the service industry seem to really appreciate the heads up if a guest needs accommodations. 

Making Sure We Can Join You 

My bestie got a hot tub. And then my bestie’s husband started looking for stairs to get into the hot tub. And they realized that very few stairs for hot tubs are rated for 300+ pounds. So he got to work building accessible stairs for the hot tub (pictured below)! 

Now, again – this type of kindness is not something I expect! The point is that as people who want to host us and want us to join them in their home, our friends considered if there was a way to make one of their purchases more accessible and then acted on it. Now, not only do they not need to worry about us being able to hang with them in the hot tub, they also have a safe way to get their kiddos in and out of the hot tub, and if one of them were to be injured they’d know they can always have safe stairs for enjoying a nice soak. 

Making things accessible rarely takes away from anyone. Sometimes it means that you don’t have as many options aesthetically, but having more accessible belongings in your life is often beneficial to more than just a few people in your life – including you! Many of us forget that everyone ages – even those of us who feel like we’re still kids. And with aging bodies, comes needs for accessibility – so considering how to make your home accessible is not just good for fat friends, it’s also a sustainable approach to your future! 

Support Inclusive Brands & Get In The Know

For years my sister and I have been buying matching clothes, handbags, and shoes. We are our mother’s daughters and love a little retail therapy. When I began my blog and started talking more about how difficult finding plus size clothing was, my sister really listened. 

If you’re plus size you know that our options are lacking, if you’re thin you may not realize how serious the issue is. If I need a dress for an event there are zero options for me within an hour of my home – not even good ol’ Walmart carries my size. There’s no run to target, or a local boutique. If my closet doesn’t have an option that’s it, there’s nowhere for me to turn. 

As my sister has heard my complaints, she’s paid close attention to the brands that do serve people my size and she’s decided to start making her dollars count in a big way. She’s made a commitment to try to spend most of her clothing budget at shops that carry inclusive sizing – she doesn’t want to wear anything that I wouldn’t also be able to wear. 

That’s a big deal. Imagine the impact we could make if all of our thin friends and family members said “I would love to shop your brand, but you don’t have inclusive sizing!” to all the companies out there that have the ability to make plus size clothing but choose not to. 

Another great thing that’s come from my sister paying attention to what sizes brands carry is that our conversations about clothing are not one sided. She doesn’t recommend places she knows I can’t wear. And when I talk to her about how I want a cute jumpsuit and she remembers one she saw at an inclusive store she follows on instagram I am not bummed that it’s not in my size. It makes our relationship and our communication feel more thoughtful and considerate. 

Look, your fat pals aren’t asking for you to change your life for them. We want you to enjoy all the same things we do, and we’re just asking for that same consideration from others. I have incredible people in my life that show me time and time again what friendship means, and I can’t help but believe that you probably do too. Perhaps we all just need to share a little more about what would help us and give people the opportunity. 

Oh, right – that’s a big part of this my fat angels. You’ve got to accept the love people want to show you. You are not a burden, and people making adjustments to their life to include you is not a hassle. We are all here on this Earth to connect and experience love, and if there are uncharted ways that we can do that it’s up to us to chart those waters together. Showing our bodies love and reinforcing that every body is worthy is something that we don’t only do for ourselves – we can do it for others too. 

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