Sometimes we have to cover the same ground. Sometimes the same things need to be said again and again. For example, there is not an end in sight to “Fat is not a moral issue” or “Health is not a moral issue.”

Which is why, when I read in different communities and blogs where someone has whipped out “you are not fat!” and they mean it in a complimentary way, I always have to say something.

The most recent occasion of this, the person was awesome about it. If only every time this came up things went so wonderfully.


But, see, it isn’t a compliment.

It’s a lie.

Unless you are not fat by societal standards and you’re using the term to mean “fatter than you were previously.” Which, you know, totally happens. In which case, you genuinely aren’t fat and might want to be a bit more precise with the old lingo. *grin*

But if you are fat and someone says you are not fat, trying to pay you a compliment, well, they may be trying to be nice and supportive and awesome but what they are really saying is that you don’t fit the mental stereotype of fat that they have – which is a negative stereotype – so you can’t possibly be actually fat.

This is where our power as individuals who define ourselves as fat comes in. Because, yes, actually, we ARE fat. And we appreciate that you want to pay us a compliment, dear, dear friend or casual internet stranger or anything and everything in between. But we ARE fat and that is okay because fat does not mean anything bad in and off itself. What are you really saying? That we are beautiful/you find us attractive? Thank you! That we aren’t smelly or lazy or morally decrepit? Thank you! Yes, we are wonderful people, so glad you noticed. And none of those things are automatically derived from fat.

I am the first to tell people that the proper response to a compliment is to say thank you. But that is not the proper response to a lie. Don’t thank people for lying to you.

And this isn’t to say you should be up in people’s faces in mega aggro mode unless that is really your thing in which case more power to you. It’s just to say that we let people get away with a lot of shit in the name of not causing a fuss, in the name of being polite, but you don’t have to make a scene to call someone on this.

I really, truly am fat. Telling me I am not supposes that I haven’t noticed the size of my own ample ass. And if you truly believe that then you don’t think highly enough of me to be paying me any compliments anyway.

This entry was posted in Action Plan, Body Image, Responding to Other Blogs. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. Posted October 16, 2007 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    Today, someone told me “wow, you’ve lost weight.” Since I happen to know that I haven’t lost weight since the last time she saw me, I said “I haven’t lost weight, but my body composition may have changed. I started swimming.” She insisted that I must have lost weight, but I stood my ground. “Tight pants,” I said. “Black IS slimming,” she said.
    Now, this person probably sounds like a jerk, and she’s not. She thought she was paying me a compliment. She may have been wanting to ask me what I did to lose the weight she thought I lost. I want people to know that if I look good, it’s not because my weight has changed, it’s because I’m happier in my skin these days, not because I’m swimming or eating differently, but life just happens, for a number of reasons, to be better.
    So, please add “you’ve lost weight” to the list of lies that I won’t take as compliments.

  2. DDK
    Posted October 16, 2007 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    I know you don’t like me around here but, well, I still read this blog now and then and today I’ve got my two cents for this one.

    I live in a 55-story building. You tend to take notice of the people you might encounter with some regularity, especially if you find yourself with them in the elevator, that bastion of obligatory smalltalk.

    For some people, I am now defined only by my weight loss. The only manner in which they will greet me is “Hi Skinny!” which I find embarrassing and disingenuous because it is not accurate. I tolerated it for a long time but now I will tell them that I am not skinny, I’m just normal. This response has gotten some people quite upset with me. They believed they were paying me a high compliment. But to me, they are repeatedly defining me by an exaggeration; their mental image of how I’ve changed and how much “better” I am now. This has happened in front of lots of other people, spreading around my personal business and is often accompanied by questions like “So, just how much weight have you lost?” Attempts to change the subject won’t work. I will be chided that I ought to be proud to talk about it—to anyone, anywhere apparently.

    Matters of weight and weight change are topics of fascination for some people and they become wrapped up in value judgments on many levels.

  3. Lexxy
    Posted October 16, 2007 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    My response to people who try to compliment me in this way, “You’re not Fat!”, is to say “Yes I am.” This shocks them and they will argue with me, as if I have not accepted their compliment. I try to explain that my attractiveness, unattractiveness is not based on my fat, but they usually get a glazed over look to them and that’s that. My favourite was when one friend said, “that outfit makes you look so skinny.” and I said, “Really? My fat ass isn’t making my ass look fat??” She thought I was being mean to myself, but I don’t think an outfit is a good one when it makes me look thinner, but when I love it and feel confident in it. And I am learning to love my fat ass, and buying clothes that actually fit it and don’t attempt to hide it, this may make my body look a little different, but certainly not skinny.

  4. Posted October 17, 2007 at 12:28 am | Permalink

    The other day I got the “You’ve lost weight!”.. uh… “compliment” from guy I work with… I just smiled at him and said. “Nope, I weigh the same… I just look especially beautiful today… you must associate beauty with thinness.” at this I recieved a very blank stare then we said “Your right beautiful, I ment to say you look beautiful!” to which I replied “Thank you!” Now, in the end I recieved a compliment and accepted it. The compliment giver just needed some direction on the proper way to give a compliment.

    I’ve noticed on the days that I feel my most confidant are the days I get comments like… “Have you lost weight?” or “You look thinner. Are you dieting?” I think it just might be my confort with my own body that brings on these comments. I usually am too busy to correct their compliment issuing style so I just say thank you and continue walking but, sometimes I cock my head to the side and look relatively concerned and say “Why? do I look ill?”

  5. Posted October 17, 2007 at 1:57 am | Permalink

    I’ve never received a “You aren’t fat!” compliment, but I am lately familiar with “You’ve lost weight!” when I’m seen by people I haven’t talked to in a long while. I know this doesn’t make me the nicest person, but I admit to taking great pleasure in the way their expressions fall when I tell them I’ve only lost weight because I’m sick.

    I mean, as if they couldn’t find something *else* to say about my appearance that’s nice – “Your hair’s longer! You got new glasses! What a nice blouse!” First of all, you’re right – it’s a slight on my intelligence and force of personality by telling me I’m not fat – or that I’m not as fat “as I think I am.” Secondly, on a more personal level, it shows exactly why I haven’t talked to these people in a long time – they have no freaking idea who I really am if they think that kind of compliment will get them anywhere with me.

    Seriously, is it so hard to imagine that a fat girl would appreciate a compliment that has nothing to do with telling her that her fat ass doesn’t make her fat ass look so… fat? *sigh*

    (And for the record, since I heard you say this a while back, I’ve started always replying “thank you” to real compliments instead of being stupid and self-deprecating about them. It feels way better.)

  6. Posted October 17, 2007 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    “Compliments” like “you’re not fat” and “you’ve lost weight” are as flattering as saying “You’re not blond” or “You shaved your head.” Inaccurate and strange and just plain silly.

    Preach on, sister.

  7. Elle Chernobyl
    Posted October 17, 2007 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Today, My counselor told me I was not “Fat”; As in, “Its all in your head!” Psshp. So, my DOCTOR has refused to treat me when Im Ill (Because its ALWAYS diagnosed as Attack of Teh Fats), My Parents are badgering me to attain that Thin-ness Nirvana Thats apparently waiting at the end of every diet, I cant shop in MANY normal stores and SUDDENLY, at the END OF THIS QUATION, I am officially NOT FAT?

    PSHSDHSDIK!!!! Im going to spontaneously combust very soon.

  8. Posted October 18, 2007 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    As a pre-FA youngpuff I was repeatedly asked by folks who hadn’t seen me in a while if I’d lost weight; sometimes told in the strongest possible terms that I’d definitely lost weight, despite my assurance to the contrary.

    At the time it gave me a total complex because I thought they must always remember me as being fatter than I was. However, looking back at it now, I realise I might have given them the idea I was fatter than I was myself because I was always whingeing about my fatness, (which, ironically, was quite minimal in those days), hence the idea I’d take such comments as a compliment. I didn’t though because, to me, it signified that the first thing they thought about when they saw me was ZOMGfat! Of course now I know most people think about weight – their own and everybody else’s, plus their own in relation to everybody else’s – all the frigging time. Perhaps they say it because they really want someone to say it to them?

  9. Posted October 18, 2007 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    I get the “You look great. Have you lost weight?” thing a lot, too. I always wonder if it’s because the commenter remembered that I was heavy, but forgot that I was good looking, because somehow – in their mind – the two just can’t coexist.

  10. Posted October 18, 2007 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    deeleigh – that made me laugh — the idea that they forget that you are also good looking — the two of course coexist.

2 Trackbacks

  1. [...] The Rotund » “You Aren’t Fat” is not a compliment [...]

  2. By Look familiar? at BABble on February 5, 2008 at 6:05 am

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>