Recently, I demolished Carmen Maria Machado’s triumphant and strange debut story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, and then immediately lent it to my mother. She read the story, ‘Eight Bites’. It was about bariatric surgery, the horror and insidiousness of diet culture, and the difficult relationships between mothers and daughters and sisters, food and weight.
In the story the mother tries to lose weight by only eating eight bites of each meal. My mother said that she thought she might like to try the diet. ‘Eight bites,’ she said. ‘I think I can do that.’
I searched her face, trying to discern which poisoned well she had dredged this up from. ‘You can’t. It’s a story. You can’t take advice from a story. It’s a horror story!’
She shrugged. ‘No harm trying.’
Fatty and skinny went to bed
Fatty rolled over and
Skinny was dead— The Laugh Factory
At five, I was obsessed with one of my mum’s friends because she was thin and sleek and glamorous. She had blonde curly hair and pointed features. She rarely hugged.
Mum’s other friend was fat. She had round cheeks, thick body hair, thick glasses and dark, thick, curly hair. When she hugged me she hugged with her whole being, her flesh pooling around my small frame like a warm bath. But I felt a strong repulsion whenever she held me like that. Despite her unguarded warmth, I always wanted to hug the skinny friend. The one who didn’t want to hug me back.
New medical research shows that men and women have different food cravings
Men preferring meat and women preferring sweets
Scientists trace this back to cavemen days when
Men had to go out and hunt for food while
Women sat on their fat asses eating chocolate —Norm MacDonald
In high school, when my sister was mad at me she would call me ‘Broadella’.
The world is hostile to difference. The world is hostile to fat bodies, women’s bodies, black bodies, disabled bodies. Children as young as three exhibit anti-fat beliefs.
Does fat discrimination exist in the workplace? In a January 2019 article on The Conversation, Stephen Bevan writes that obese people are 37 more times more likely to experience employment discrimination. Women are 16 times more likely to report weight-related employment discrimination than men.
Micro-aggressions proliferate. Marginalised people bear the brunt. Sometimes they are so subtle that you don’t realise what they were till later. Careless words lacerate after years. Broadella.
This morning, I went to VicRoads to get a new driver’s licence photo. In the first photo I looked great, eyes twinkling, some real good climate crisis-industrial complex hot driver realness, but I had a double chin. Broadella. I made the woman take it again.
There is a website, aptly titled “Does the Dog Die”, which lets you know in which movie the dog dies so dog lovers can avoid them.
In its subsection, ‘Are there fat jokes?’ users can add to the list of shows/media/films which make fun of fatness, and describe them.
I must admit, looking at the list, I like a lot of shows with fat jokes in them. Sometimes it is funny to laugh at the cruelty of humanity, even if it just relieves some kind of stress. I don’t know if any films wouldn’t find themselves on this list.
Yo momma is so fat
That when she went to the beach a whale swam up and sang,
‘We are family, even though you’re fatter than me.’ —The Laugh Factory
Shallow Hal: an eighty-minute fat joke in which Gwyneth Paltrow, famed non-eater, wears a gigantic fat suit. Jack Black falls in love with her because he can only see her ‘true beauty’ beneath, but only after the film goes through like fifty different fat joke configurations before we get there: a seesaw gag, boat sinking, etc.
In the first Sex and the City movie, Kim Cattrall gets “fat” because her partner is too busy to have sex with her. Carrie points it out, and then says, ‘Honey, we’d love you at any size, but are you happy?’
‘In a recent survey of women in the United States, a majority of women claimed that they fear dying less than they fear getting fat’ — Debra Gimlin, Body Work, 2002
At 29, I write on Twitter that I am the fattest I have ever been, but also the hottest.
But am I happy?
In the recent Avengers, Thor has PTSD and a gut. Ha ha.
Was my mother taking only eight bites any better than when I asked my doctor about weight loss and she said that I should try the 5-2 diet, gorging five days and fasting two?
‘It doesn’t even feel like a diet,’ she said, before sending me back out to the waiting room to pay fifty-two dollars.
I felt my toxic well gurgling up from inside me. No harm trying. From my mother, and her mother, and her mother before me. An apple a day keeps the doctor… suggesting that you lose weight to solve literally any other ailment.
Shortly after the first SATC movie, Kim Cattrall played a sex worker in an independent film. The director asked her to add thirty-five pounds to her frame.
‘He was very adamant about me gaining a lot of weight. He wanted me to gain like 35 pounds! Really, just for health reasons I couldn’t do that,’ she said.
She eventually gained fifteen pounds: much more in her wheelhouse. She said it was terrifying.
‘Most of the time as an actress, you want to look desirable, you want to be pretty, you want to be sexy, you want to be lit properly — whereas here there were days when I didn’t even have any makeup on. There were days when they actually changed the light to make me look harder and more overweight or just more fucked up. I didn’t see the dailies on it because I thought, You know, I’ve made a stand here that I’m gonna do this in a very truthful way, and if I look at them they might scare me.’
The horror of the fat body. The horror of the uncontrolled flesh. The horror of getting fat, yet still being thinner than I am.
My body, my temple, grows a steeple. Becomes a fat-arse cathedral. Open the doors, see all the people. There’s a party in my mouth and everyone is secretly judging me.
‘Fat bodies and fat women’s bodies in particular are represented as a kind of abject that which must be expelled to make all other bodily representations and functions, even life itself, possible.’ — Kent, ‘Fighting Abjection: Representing Fat Women’.
Every woman can make time—every woman—and you can do it with your baby in the room. There have been countless times where I’ve worked out with my kids crawling around all over the place. You just make it work, and if it’s important to you, it’ll be important to them. —Gwyneth Paltrow
Losing the weight after my second pregnancy was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done — Gwyneth Paltrow
Yo momma is so fat,
I took a picture of her last Christmas
and it’s still printing. —The Laugh Factory
In a recent episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Kim’s sisters tell her that she is so thin she looks like she doesn’t eat.
‘Oh my god. Thank you!’ she says.
We say: impossibly thin. We do not say: impossibly fat.
Thinness on my body is impossible. Without constant, searing, exhausting anxiety, without taking pingers every weekend until my mouth is raw and my food unchewable, my body is big, my body is overflows boundaries, past acceptable sizes, into the realm of the abject.
Fatness is much more within my wheelhouse. I see food, and then I eat it. My body, my temple, grows a steeple. Becomes a fat-arse cathedral. Open the doors, see all the people. There’s a party in my mouth and everyone is secretly judging me.
Teacher: “Kids, what does the chicken give you?”
Teacher: “Very good! Now what does the pig give you?”
Teacher: “Great! And what does the fat cow give you?”
Student: “Homework!” —The Laugh Factory
In the story ‘Eight Bites’ the protagonist eventually undergoes bariatric surgery, and the part of herself she lost begins to live like a ghost in the attic, before vanishing completely.
What a fantasy. I strut down the street. My flesh is invisible. I am a floating dress, red silk, sashay away. I am runway ready.
It looks just like it does the mannequin. I do not take up any space at all. People walk straight through me and my silk just ripples with sheer femininity.
I feel no hurt; I feel no shame. I feel only thinness. I feel skinny and I taste nothing. No harm trying. No harm disappearing.
All that’s left is my hollow voice, echoing: oh my god, thank you!
But am I happy?