Is It Ever Okay to Say "Fat?"

Is It Ever Acceptable to Use the Word "Fat?"

Young woman whispering secret into friend's ear, close-up
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The word “fat” has a reputation as the other “f” word. Some say it’s loaded with implications and should never be used to describe yourself or others. But others say that the word “fat” is accurate and the overweight population should reclaim it so that it’s not misunderstood.

Do you use the fat word to describe yourself? Do you use it when you refer to other people? Would you scold your kids for using the term?

Read what a few thought-leaders have to say about this controversial topic, then chime in below about whether or not you use the word “fat."

I’m Not Fat, I’m Plus-Sized

Bestselling author Jennifer Weiner has something to say about the word “fat.” Don’t use it. The outspoken fiction writer recently made a guest appearance on The Jeff Probst Show to explain why using the word fat is unfair. She said, “the quickest way to shut a woman down is to call her the “f” word.” She believes the word "fat" is loaded with implications that the person is lazy, sits on a couch all day, lacks discipline and lacks focus. Instead, she suggests using the word “plus-sized.”

Her beliefs are backed by research. In a study conducted online, researchers found that the fat word was associated with attributes like laziness. They also found that the bias was stronger among people who are thin. A separate research study conducted at Michigan State University found that anti-fat stereotypes exist particularly in the workplace.

Many workers believe that overweight employees are less conscientiousness, less agreeable, less emotionally stable, and less extroverted than their “normal-weight” counterparts. The research findings demonstrated, however, that there is no evidence to support the stereotype.

Is Fat Funny?

But then, sometimes, size is used as the subject of jokes.

Actress and comedienne Karla Guy uses the issue of her size in comedy skits and has participated in television shows in which her size was an issue. She recently starred in the reality television series, Dance Your Ass Off in which plus-sized contestants try to lose weight by dancing (occasionally on poles) for a panel of judges.

But despite her comedic angle, Karla says that she finds the word “fat” disgusting. I prefer to say "a little on the chubby side," it seems a lot nicer. I also like "a few extra pounds.”

But she finds it particularly bothersome when the word “fat” is used by thin women. For example, when a skinny girl says, “I’m so fat.” In those instances, if Karla points out her own size, she finds it frustrating that thin women often respond by saying “No, you’re not!” or “don't say that!”

“Do These Jeans Make My Butt Look Plus-Sized?”

But despite the controversy, some overweight thinkers say there’s nothing wrong with the fat word. They say that trying to use a euphemism is awkward and pointless. At blogger Rachel Richardson said she prefers the term “fat” to describe herself rather than euphemisms and synonyms. She writes, “for me, each time I use the word fat neutrally or better yet, positively, it chips away at the ugliness that has come to be associated with the word.”

The thought leaders at NAAFA agree. The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance uses the term liberally and respectfully in all of their literature. The organization states, “Our thin-obsessed society firmly believes that fat people are at fault for their size and it is politically correct to stigmatize and ridicule them.” In addition, they go on to say that their “message of size acceptance and self-acceptance is often overshadowed by a $49 billion-a-year diet industry that has a vested economic interest in perpetuating discrimination against fat people.”


Mark V. Roehling, Patricia V. Roehling, L Maureen Odland. "Investigating the Validity of Stereotypes About Overweight Employees." Group Organization ManagementAugust 2008.

Roehling, M. V. Weight-Based Discrimination In Employment: Psychological And Legal Aspects. Personnel Psychology, 52: 969–1016. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-6570.1999.tb00186.x.

Schwartz, M. B., Vartanian, L. R., Nosek, B. A. and Brownell, K. D. (2006), The Influence of One's Own Body Weight on Implicit and Explicit Anti-fat Bias. Obesity, 14: 440–447. doi: 10.1038/oby.2006.58.

The "Are you fat or *fat euphemism*?" Accessed: March 11, 2013.

NAAFA. About Us. National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance. Accessed: March, 2013.

Karla Guy. Interview. March 11, 2013

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