As a society, we are becoming more aware of our own privileges, including white privilege, male privilege, and one that you may be less familiar with: thin privilege.
Being aware of your own advantages that you have – those privileges that you have without having to necessarily work for them or earn them – is an opportunity to understand yourself and others.
When you discover your own privileges, you uncover the inherent power that comes with them. And you know what? This power gives you the opportunity to advocate for others and make this a better, more just world.
Let’s explore thin privilege – what is it?
What is thin privilege?
Thin privilege is society granting you positive assumptions about your body, eating, and health, whether or not they’re actually true, just because of your size.
Thin privilege is the opposite of fatphobia, where those in a larger body are deemed to be less healthy, more lazy, and even less beautiful than those in smaller bodies.
Our society discriminates against those in larger bodies in every arena, including in the medical field (those in smaller bodies are taken more seriously than those in larger bodies when they have a medical issue, pain, or a complaint) and in our workplaces (those in larger bodies are less likely to be hired and less likely to be promoted) and in our everyday life.
Everything from escaping bullying to being able to find a cute outfit in your size is more difficult in a larger body.
In either case – fatphobia or thin privilege – society is making assumptions about you based solely on your size, without knowing anything about you.
Having thin privilege doesn’t necessarily mean that you always feel thin…these are two separate ideas.
Is that the same thing as feeling thin?
Thin privilege has to do with how society perceives you, even if that is not how you feel about your own body and body size.
Poor body image can happen at any size.
And on the flip side: a positive, happy body image can happen at any size, too. Here is How To Overcome Negative Body Image.
Circling back to thin privilege –- who has it?
Who has thin privilege?
Let me ask you a few questions and keep track if you’re answering yes to any of them.
- When you shop for clothes, are you usually able to find a range of options in your size?
- When you book a flight, are you concerned about fitting in the seat or the glares of someone sitting next to you?
- Are you able to go out to eat, without worrying about if the seating will accommodate your body size?
- Do people tend to assume that you’re a hard worker?
And for this list – do you answer no?
- If you visit the doctor for a health concern, do they attribute most symptoms and concerns only to your weight?
- Do friends and family members suggest diet apps or diet plans for you?
- Is your size the punchline of jokes by friends and comedians?
- Have you been passed up for a promotion or job offer because of your size?
Yesses in the first group and nos in the second group are all indicative of thin privilege. (Note: It is possible to have some in both!)
Today I recognize my thin privilege but that wasn’t always the case. In my early years working as a Registered Dietitian I began to understand how some of my clients were experiencing different things than me. As I learned more about the health at every size movement and how toxic diet culture is I became committed to dismantling my own fat phobia and helping others do the same.
Is thin privilege related to diet culture?
It sure is.
Diet culture celebrates thinness…and is a 72 billion-dollar industry preying on your insecurities, promising the next best diet and then letting you down. But also making it seem like you failed, not the diet. It is BS.
I have two posts for you to learn about diet culture:
In my own journey to find freedom from diet culture, I embraced Intuitive Eating. Intuitive Eating has made my own life so much better, healthier and joyful and is how I lead my clients.
If you’re new to Intuitive Eating, welcome! Here is a great place for you to start learning about this model of self-care: What Is Intuitive Eating? A Beginner’s Guide
You may be wondering if it is a bad thing to have thin privilege – let’s explore that next.
Is it bad to have thin privilege?
Having thin privilege does give some folks (wrongly) a “leg up”. For example, this could mean their business could be more successful because they’re more likely to be seen as an authority figure. There are inherent privileges given to those who are thin, we can’t deny that.
What’s important is:
A.) recognizing thin privilege (like we’ve gone over) and
B.) taking this privilege and using it by becoming a fat ally (which we will go over in a second).
Above all, remember this: you know the expression, “You can’t judge a book by its cover?” Getting judged by your size – at any size – does not take into account the complex, beautiful, funny, intelligent, hard-working person that you are. You are so much more than your size and that does for if you live in a thin or a larger body.
Your size is the least interesting thing about you, really.
Is skinny-shaming a thing
So, what if you’re so thin you get bullied, teased, or made fun of?
If that is happening to you, I’m sorry: you don’t deserve ridicule, either.
Yes – skinny shaming is a thing.
Basically, society can find something to berate and belittle anyone, if given the chance. But I’ll also offer that being thin, even within the context of shaming, is still mostly a compliment in our cultural norms. Being fat is rarely used as a compliment.
Lauren Cadillac, another Intuitive Eating dietitian, made a really helpful post about the difference between fat shaming and skinny shaming right here.
So, if you do have thin privilege, why should you care about that?
Why should you be aware of thin privilege?
Let me first say that being aware of the privileges that you have does not mean that your life is without struggle.
And even if you do have some privilege, such as thin privilege, you can also have discrimination in other ways, such as homophobia or racism. One instance of privilege does not exclude you from other prejudice.
Thin privilege simply means that how people perceive your body, your health, and the ability to navigate your physical environment is not one of the reasons that your life is more difficult.
There are several opportunities presented by being aware of your own privileges and becoming a fat ally. Having a position of any power – and privilege is power – is an opportunity to speak up for those who have less power.
(And this is not like pie, whereas by giving some power and voice to others you have less…there is plenty to go around.)
What does being a fat ally look like? Let’s explore a few examples:
- Shopping at clothing stores that carry an inclusive range of sizes and styles.
- If someone shares an experience of fat-shaming, believe them. Don’t just shrug it off or call them “sensitive”.
- Speaking out against discrimination in your place of employment, medical offices and anywhere you see it.
- Not making fatphobic jokes and not laughing at others’ jokes. In fact, respond to the jokes and make the person aware of the issue and why they shouldn’t be doing that.
- Check in with the assumptions that you’re making about people as you meet them.
- Don’t compliment weight loss. In fact – don’t comment on body size, or changes in body size, at all.
- Skip fatphobic TV shows and social media feeds.
- Diversify your network – including your friends, your entertainment, and social media feeds.
- When spending time with those in larger bodies think about their comfort and ease. Does the restaurant you’re going to have seating options that will work for them?
There are SO many ways to become a fat ally. I’d highly recommend following Victoria Wellsby on Instagram as well as reading their blog post on becoming a fat ally: Can (And Should) You Be A Fat Ally?
These small steps, taken collectively by all of us, help to create a world that is more inclusive and just. One of my steps as a fat ally part has been to create The SociEATy, a diverse and inclusive group of women doing their part to say good-bye to diet culture and seek Food Freedom. You’re invited to join us!
Key takeaways: What is thin privilege?
Thin privilege is society giving those in smaller bodies the benefit of the doubt: they’re more likely to be viewed as healthy, hard-working, and beautiful. This may or may not be true and is the opposite of fatphobia: being judged and shamed for being in a larger body.
Thin privilege and diet culture are both woven into our society in numerous ways, but it is all a paradigm that can be dismantled if collectively, we work together to uncover and unlearn our own biases.
The truth is that we all deserve to have equal opportunities to live our lives without judgment or ridicule and without the terrible burden of diet culture.
If you’re ready to turn your negative body image into a positive one, I invite you to start that wonderful journey with me! My 5-Day Positive Body Image challenge is ready for you to start, right here, right now!
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