Thursday, March 15, 2007

Word Association

I'm curious about our associations to "fat" and "thin," as it seems, based on the propensity of eating disorders, messages about ther perils of being "overweight," and public agreement upon what a body "should" look like that most of us are operating under a similar premise: "fat" is "bad and "thin" is "good." (Dr. Freud would have a field day, btw, with the fact that I first typed "fat" is "good". . . Hmm.) But, beyond "good" or "bad," what do "fat" and "thin" connote?

While I hesitated to ask this question--at least in a public forum, in which certain associations might be perceived as hurtful--I decided that not acknowleding our associations does not make them go away and does nothing to understand their derivation or allow us, ultimately, to arrive at a place with beliefs that are less toxic to others and ourselves.

So, with this in mind, what's the first word (or words) that pop into your mind when considering "fat" and "thin" and why do you think this is the case?

20 comments:

jeanette said...

Fat- me, unhealthy, uncomfortable, gross, ugly, misery

thin- grace, beauty, happiness, light

Diet Free Leesha said...

Fat = unsightly, lazy, unfit, ignored, sadness

thin = elegant, feminine, healthy, fit, self controlled, more worthy

I am amazed by my very obvious discrimination of fatness. Expecially considering I have put myself in this category for the majority of my life.

A very eye opening question.

PalmTreeChick said...

fat = me, gross

thin = what I want to be, though I'd rather be skinny.

I don't know why this is the case

Danyel said...

Fat= Miserable, Lazy, Disgusting, Unhealthy
Thin= Loveable, Admirable, Beautiful, Healthy
Why? From the point of me nearing puberty all the way through HS and beyond I was told "Don't get fat like me or you will be miserable, watch your weight and don't get fat." My family made sure to let me know when I was getting "chunky" also and imprinted it on my brain that thin was the only way happiness could occur b/c fat would mean I was just like the rest of my family- therfor I would be miserable. *sigh*

Sarah said...

Fat: me, lazy, worthless, ugly

Thin: easy, good, beautiful

littlem said...

Qualifiers - tried not to overthink this, just to say what came to mind (and so may reflect more of my environment inputs than what I try to think):

Fat - lazy, sloppy, unhealthy, tired, dumpy

Thin - snappish, spoiled, cranky, Xanax, Fashion Week

What I'm noticing:
- That we all seem to start with fat as the default (fat seems to be more frequently listed first). Does that mean that we more frequently see "thin" as something to work toward?

- That when friends say, "you're not fat", they may not necessarily mean that so much as they mean that they don't see you as those things we tend to negatively associate with "fat".

- That I'm the only one -- so far -- that's put something down that's negative for thin. (Also see obvious NYC influence :D) I think that might have to do with the fact that I travel a lot, and I'm at that size where in some parts of the country, according to other people, I'm "too fat", and in others, I'm "too thin". (You can't win, you can't break even, you can't get out of the game.)

Maybe that means that since everyone's going to judge us anyway, it might be more fun to just put our fingers in our ears Eddie-Murphy-in-Beverly-Hills-Cop style and say "lalalalalalaI AM NOT LISTENING TO YOU"

Anonymous said...

Wow littlem, you are so right! I think that's what people do mean when they say, "You're not fat!" Huh...never thought of that before.

Oddly, though I don't consider any of my fat friends as this, I think of fat as:
sweaty, physically unfit, heavy, lumbering, uncomfortable, unhappy, out of breath

thin: hungry, cold, admired, energetic

Anonymous said...

Wow, interesting comments. For me, the word "fat" has become really fuzzy in meaning, and could mean anything from a bit "overweight" (i.e., having "too high" of a BMI- which, I must add, I think is a totally B.S. number). People who are of normal weight but weight-obsessed will say "I'm so fat" meaning... what? Not bony? Fishing for compliments? People will respond to others saying "you're not fat", meaning... what? You're not obese? You're not normal weight? You're a stick? I just want to say something to make you feel better?

Some words that come to mind when I hear the word "fat": mistreated, misunderstood, self-confident, uppity woman, strong, defiant, fun, easy-going. I think all those negative words are what the fashion industry and the diet industry and the media WANT us to associate with "fat".

And the more I read blogs and articles and news stories, the more negative and the less positive the word "thin" has become for me. I agree with spoiled, also superficial, looks-obsessed, shallow, self-denying, no-fun.

sondrad said...

Fat- Looming, overpowering, Not feminine, lumbering

Thin- Graceful, Feminine, Coordinated, Perfect

Anonymous said...

I have a few dear, close friends who could be considered "fat", so I cannot have any of those negative connotations in connection with them. They are warm, caring, selfless, self-confident, fun people who seem to lack weight obsession. I admire them.

Stefanie said...

I found your blog through mamavision. I am very fat-positive and believe in "reclaiming" the word. So to me, fat is sexy, powerful, warm, rich, beautiful.

Nor am I negative about thinness. To me it suggests grace, lightness, quick motion.

tracy said...

Its very complicated and family related. I have one younger sister who is to this day very thin, never broke 100 and is 5'2...and my mom was 5'3 and 105.

To me that is what represents 'thin'

I'll just say I was taller and outweighed my mom by the time I was 10 and it was clearly something she didn't approve of. To me this is 'fat'

Without getting into alot of family bru-ha-ha... The fat/thin debate always brings me back to a lonely, outside feeling where I was in a club but could never be a member of it.

Every year I would look in the back of magazines at these ads for kids diet camps.... and pray my parents would send me to one in the summer but they never did. I asked one year and my mother told me 'just cut down'. I had no idea what it meant.

lee

Stella said...

Fat as an adjective is synonomous with lazy, unhealthy, embarassing, taboo, sloth-like... As a noun I think of it is an essential part of biological processes and cells, but this is certainly not what I think of when I hear someone refered to as "fat".

Thin: disciplined, structured, organized, sexy, desirable, loveable yet unobtainable.

Big Girl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Big Girl Pride said...

fat = me
thin = hungry but lucky

Now, I know all thin women are not hungry. And I know there are waaaaay more things to associate with fat than my body. But those are the first things that come to mind.

After years of working on my attitude, I can say that thin and "right" and fat and "wrong" are no longer my immediate associations. But I will admit that its still much easier for me to accept another fat woman and think she's beautiful than it is for me to be that kind to myself on a regular basis.

As a teacher I know says, A LUTA CONTINUA...the struggle continues.

Tash said...

Fat= Yuk, yuk yuk.

Thin=possibly yuk, yuk, yuk

To me an untoned body no matter how thin and who cares how fat is repulsive. Thin people still have rolls of fat spilling over their jeans, fat people have more and toned up people regardless of size look the best. I'm in the fat and untoned category.

Anonymous said...

The words you should consider thinking about the implications for are the words used on the bmi charts: obese (or worse---morbidly obese), overweight, and normal. Obese is a terrible word and morbidly obese is downright frightening. It makes overweight sound good. And normal is just plain insulting... especially because "normal" in this country is getting far from normal... As someone who has worked her way down the chart (a chart that I HATE, by the way) I've had a lot of time to think about those words. The weight loss industry and medical profession have a LOT to learn!
Cindy

April said...

Fat = avocado, olive oil, flax oil, almonds, hazelnuts. The thing I have trained myself to eat after recovering from the low fat nineties. That which makes my skin soft and my hair shiny. Two days without my flax oil in the winter and I go back to having dry, cracking skin. Two days back on the flax oil, smooth and soft again.

Thin: more polite than "Skinny"

a

Elizabeth said...

On a Bones episode this season, she made everyone stop calling this guest character "fat". She said "Fat is a tissue, this woman is overweight". She's right fat is a tissue, but like most on this board to me fat = lazy, failure, unlovable, missing out while thin = elegant, happy, desirable, can have anything. I've been in therapy for a long time and still think this even though I "know" it's wrong. I don't think there is a way to not believe it.

Anonymous said...

Thin: awkward, able to fit through cramped spots, child-like

Fat: round, comfortable, bulky

I say that thin is awkward because I am thinking of the area where th arm meets the shoulder. On very thin women, this area looks so awkward and ugly, but makes a gorgeous, smooth line on plumper women.