What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat

I have been reading the blog Your Fat Friend for some time now because of the articulate, thoughtful, insightful commentary on the experiences of being very fat in our society. I was intensely curious as to the identity of the author so I was excited that she finally chose to reveal herself as Aubrey Gordon when she was ready to publish her first book What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat. The book is every bit as good as the blog, maybe better because she is able to explore topics in more depth.

            She does a masterful job of interspersing research data, commentary on current culture, information about the harmful effects of weight stigma and her own personal experiences. The resulting narrative is interesting and engaging but also heartrending and infuriating.  People who live in slender, “normal” or small-fat bodies will find it extremely informative. Those with lived experience of overt discrimination based on their large bodies may find it validating or retraumatizing or both. 

            I particularly appreciated the “fat justice glossary” at the beginning, which includes an excellent explanation of the decision to reclaim the word “fat” as a neutral descriptor. She goes on to describe the social, economic and political underpinnings of weight stigma as well as the research showing that voluntary weight loss is not possible. “Despite extraordinarily small odds of success and a lack of proven nonsurgical methods for safe and lasting weight loss, Americans remain fixated on the dogged pursuit of a near-impossibility, a nation of Don Quixotes tilting at windmills” (p.62).

            She ends with a series of concrete, specific suggestions for making the world a place where all people, regardless of size, can live with safety and dignity. “The marginalization and public abuse of very fat people is so commonplace that it has become accepted, but that doesn’t make it acceptable” (p. 162).

            And, of course, there are lots of references. This is  great book for expanding your understanding of the effects of weight stigma, just be aware that it will probably stir up some difficult feelings.