I’m Biased Against Fat People and I Just Found Out: Especially Awkward Since I AM One

WELL, THIS IS QUITE A SHOCK, FRIENDS. Especially given the size of my butt. And also my thighs. And also my belly. All of which are, objectively speaking, according to science, fat. 

To be clear, I’m not using the word “fat” in a derogatory sense here. I’m using it in a factual sense. I’m not suggesting fat is unattractive or that it makes someone in any way inferior to folks with less fat.

Furthermore, I have been fat nearly all of my adult life. My weight has fluctuated in significant amounts — up and down by 50+ pounds. I have been healthy and active at a high weight, and I have been sick and inactive at a high weight. Same same for my lower weights. Fat, in other words, has not been an indicator of health for me, and I know it’s not always for others, either. I reject the BMI scale because it’s archaic and outdated science. I have fat friends, and I adore them and feed them cookies and carrots without paying a lick of attention to who’s eating what. 

I HAVE FAT PERSON STREET CRED is what I’m saying. And, as a result, I’ve considered myself unbiased toward fat people. 

I learned recently I was wrong.

IT IS AMAZING HOW BLIND WE CAN BE TOWARD OUR OWN BIAS UNTIL IT’S REVEALED TO US.

For me, the veil was lifted because of chairs.

I have a friend, Bee, who’s on a personal crusade to help herself and others disassociate fat from health. The relentless pressure to lose weight created in her a rather horrific eating disorder and decades of precarious health as a result. **Sound familiar, anyone??** Instead, she’s spent the last year+ eating food and releasing the worry about weight. She eats foods high in vitamins, fiber, and protein. Whole grains, lean meats, fruits, and veggies. ALSO, she eats pie and cookies and chips. She prefers — wait for it — real food made from real, naturally occurring ingredients. Butter over margarine. Nuts and seeds. Organic  fruit. Cheeses made with whole milk. ALSO, Taco Bell and Umpqua peppermint candy ice cream. She eats FOOD because bodies need it, and she enjoys it BECAUSE ISN’T THAT WONDERFUL? And she has not lost weight. Instead, she’s GAINED HEALTH. 😳 Her cholesterol is down. Her heart, which was ready to fail from all the starvation programs she’d tried, is functioning better than ever. She used to get sick ALL. THE. TIME. And since she quit dieting, she hasn’t been sick ONCE. ALMOST AS IF A BODY DOES BETTER WHEN YOU FEED IT. 

I’ve been cheering her on.

I’ve loved that she’s sharing her journey publicly.

I’ve learned SO MUCH.

And, because Bee came over a few weeks ago, I also learned I’m biased against fat people. 🤦🏻‍♀️ 

The chair situation at my house is this: I have an ever-dwindling supply of cheap, wooden IKEA chairs that are so flimsy a small child could break them. They’re a hazard and a liability risk, and we ONLY throw them out when they’re broken beyond repair. I’ve been sitting in them and standing on them to reach tall shelves for years. It’s like a fun game I play — will I crash to the earth? Will I break my bones? Will I end up in the Emergency Room explaining to the attending nurse that IT WAS ALL WORTH IT not to buy new chairs? Wheeeee! Free (read: potentially very costly) fun for everyone!

And, in addition to those heirloom pieces, I have 4 equally flimsy chairs I pulled out of my brother’s dump pile and two sturdy benches I picked up at a yard sale in 1997. 

For Christmas, I asked for and received 4 brand new, beautiful, metal Bistro chairs. HALLELUJAH! So I proudly discarded the IKEA mess for my new, improved chairs. 

Bee saw them when she came over and said, “I can’t actually sit in those.”

???

I was confused. 

They’re CHAIRS. For SITTING. 

She explained, though, that they have a rounded back with metal bars that connect to the sides of the chair, about 1/4 of the way up the seat. Meaning only butts that can fit within the bars can sit there. She demonstrated. She sat in one of the chairs sideways, perched on her right hip, the rest of her body tilted for balance. It looked colossally uncomfortable, which she verified was, in fact, the case.

”That’s OK,” I said. “DO NOT WORRY. I have a solution. STURDY BENCHES. No arms. No curved back. A place for you to sit!”

I felt like a Problem Solver.

A Champion Hostess.

A Good Friend.

And Bee truly could not have been kinder when she gently said, “I sometimes like to lean back, too.”

We finished our conversation, she left the house, AND I THOUGHT ABOUT THAT CONVERSATION NON-STOP for WEEKS afterward. 

Somehow, friends, my solution was, “Do not worry! You can fit your ass on this hard, backless bench. TA DA!” 

In other words, my solution was NOT, “OMG — what can I do to seat you, my beautiful and valuable friend, comfortably while you’re visiting my home?”

Implicitly, my bias was this: My chairs are not too small. Your butt is too big. This is YOUR problem. Not my problem. Not my chairs’ problem. Not a broader, cultural problem that we think chairs are a one-size-fits-all commodity. 

Did I think any of that consciously? Of course not. I was fully oblivious to my bias. 

And to make matters worse, I have prided myself over the years about the way we WELCOME ALL COMERS to our home. We’ve worked hard to create a hospitable, warm environment. We literally designed our house around our 4’x8’ farm table so we could BRING PEOPLE TOGETHER. 

AND, those bistro chairs? Aren’t comfortable for MY ass, either. But I never — not ONCE — thought, “Hey, Beth. You deserve to be comfy in your own home, sitting in your own chairs, around your own table. Maybe get some different chairs. Maybe treat your body and yourself like they’re precious and worthy of kindness. Maybe purchase something you can sink into and rest on while you eat dinner with your family.”

Nope. Never even CONSIDERED that. My only thoughts about my chairs were a) they’re pretty, b) I like how they look with my farm table, c) they’re sturdy — YAY! I’M UNLIKELY TO DIE TRYING TO REACH THE TOP OF THE BAKING CUPBOARD, and d) I really should decrease the size of my butt. 

Bless my darling heart.

Confronting bias sucks. Especially inside ourselves. But it’s SO IMPORTANT we do it anyway. It’s the only way to change the world. So let it be written, so let it be done. 

In conclusion, I’m keeping the bistro chairs — they’re going to be excellent supplemental chairs for children at holiday events. Also in conclusion, I’ve been on a month-long quest to replace my kitchen chairs with something comfortable for a WIDE (get it?) variety of people even though I detest spending money and extra detest shopping. Also-also in conclusion, IT IS VERY HARD TO FIND CHAIRS WITH WIDE SEATS that are sturdy and list a weight limit. Also-also-also, after several tries, I HAVE FOUND THE PERFECT CHAIRS

Love to all y’all, and waving, as always,

 

 

 

P.S. I haven’t been writing much in this space but instead of for shitty, mental illness reasons, it’s for healthy productive writing reasons. HOORAY! If I’m a touch quieter than usual, that’s why.

P.P.S. I’m not suggesting everyone go out and buy new chairs. But I am suggesting we rethink how we treat our bodies and others’. Because kindness matters. It’s the Only Thing

P.P.P.S. COME RETREAT WITH ME IN MARCH! 

One of my very, very favorite things to do is hang out with members of our incredible, worldwide community and offer rest and respite from our regular lives. I would LOVE to have you join me. Our next retreat is in MARCH at the Oregon Coast — a PERFECT time for a break after the craziness of the holiday season.

Click here for general retreat information. Or, if you want to head straight to the registration pages, you can register via my farm website, CAIRNS FARM:

P.P.P.P.S. This is my butt:

It’s glorious, I know.

ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
12 comments
  1. I crashed through the barstool/chair I was sitting on in front of my class two weeks ago. That was a fun moment for all of us. And my daughter LOVES that I keep offering to show her the bruise on my ass. It is REALLY SOMETHING, but she just doesn’t care.

    Fat bias is hard to overcome. It’s the last one to be somewhat acceptable to be open about in polite society (especially when aimed at oneself). I’m always impressed by the Kaiser waiting rooms, which have a range of heights and widths to their chairs.

    I love your dress. I wrote about kindness recently too.

  2. Love this post!! My ample derriere is why I always prefer booths over tables in restaurants. (I hate being shown to one of those combo tables where one side is a booth seat and the other is a chair. Because I feel like I have to be polite and ask whomever I’m dining with which side they want when I ALWAYS want the booth!)
    Your post made me realize I’m self-indulgent because, in my house, I’ve chosen only chairs that are comfy for big butts!

  3. I am fat by BMI charts, but was very fat (I also decided to just eat real food and have lost 250 pounds). I also have physical limitations as a result of a car accident. My seating needs have changed, so I have 4 VERY different seating options in my living room. I need to work on my dining room chairs though since my current selection is yard-sale chic! I have a wonderful old wood rocker with a wide seat and broad arms that is great for my shorter friends, but hard to get up from if you are tall and have bad knees. A lovely glider that has a higher seat, but is tricky if you are unsteady on your feet, a hideous loveseat that will cheerfully accommodate my 600+ pound friend with no worries or insecurities, etc. One solution will seldom work best for everyone, all we can do is try.

  4. I have the same problem as your friend. We went to Huey Magoo’s for dinner the other night. You would think a place that specializes in fried chicken tenders and french fries would have AMPLE seating. But no, they had the same chairs you have. UGH! Anyway, I use these chairs in my house: https://www.walmart.com/ip/Mainstays-Vinyl-and-Mesh-Task-Office-Chair-Multiple-Colors/44488686. They are comfortable, the roll, and they fit people of size. Oh, and they’re less than half the price you’re paying…

  5. You, my friend, are glorious. Butt and all. And you made me laugh again and take more steps forward in this slow journey back to the light. I needed that badly today. My loss was weighing me down like a boulder and the dreams were *real* in the past few nights. Not last night because I drank my few-times-a-year glass of wine so I could sleep, but the trade off is the sad just hangs around and lingers even when I’ve slept.

    Keep being your glorious self. You’re shining a light.

  6. Beth! I have had my eye on chairs like this for a while now. I found a vintage set at an antique store in Seaside, 6 of them all in different colors & I fell it LOVE with how comfortable they were! So so so comfortable. I chose not to buy them because I was trying to be responsible with my money & I didn’t need chairs (because I have very quality, beautiful, fits-all-sizes, albeit hard-as-rock chairs), but I regularly dream of those 50’s diner chairs & know I will continue to mourn not buying them. Definitely you should buy those chairs!

  7. You are honest, warm, and just downright lovely. It is awesome to have friends that can be that open with you, and shows great trust in them sharing. You are absolutely beautiful in every way. ♥

  8. Also your flowery dress is absolutely lovely, and you in it!

  9. Hm, maybe I should sort out my dining chair situation too. A while ago I got enthusiastic with my friend’s staple gun and reapholstered the cushiony part with a shower curtain (easier to clean… not that we do…). Two of the seats didn’t screw back on properly because the wood crumbled like Weet-Bix and since then friends and family alike have been subjected to sudden seat insecurity. Must find a way to fix that. Your new dining chairs look great, well done for prioritising comfort as well as aesthetics! The effort of shopping was a kind and thoughtful act. Also kudos to your friend for being honest, and saying out loud that people with wide butts are worthy of comfort too! May she continue on the path of focusing on health and joy, not size. May we all get a little further with that each day!

    1. Oh Sharon, we were lazy about screwing the seats back on once, and an 80+ year old bishop almost fell onto our dining room floor. My priest would never have forgiven us if we’d killed his best friend/father figure. Yikes!

  10. I will tell you I am shocked by the number of people who have uncomfortable chairs. There are some home decor people I follow and inevitably there will be a room with chairs or benches or other seating that looks so uncomfortable. Comfort is a priority for me and also? I love those chairs you found on Amazon.

  11. Love the new chairs, but you should also check out auctions. I bought a couple of wooden chairs at auction about 4-5 years ago ($10 each) that reminded me of the chairs in my grandma’s kitchen. Sturdy, nostalgic and cheap, FTW. (And you might actually find original chairs like the ones you got new!)

    Also, for Christmas 2018, which was held at my niece’s house, I brought my own wooden chair because the previous time I was there, I had a folding chair that I was afraid to sit in. So yeah.

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