“I'm Not Pregnant, This is Just My Belly" — and Other Awkward Body Conversations with Strangers

It’s amazing what people will assume about you if you have a larger body.
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Laura Anne
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It’s amazing what people will assume about you if you have a larger body.
This is the body that garners a lot of comments.

This is the body that garners a lot of comments.

If there is one thing I hope to pass along to those of you reading this, it would be to not make assumptions about other people's bodies. We will never know where that person is on their journey in accepting or not accepting their body — and if for only that reason, we should nix this chatter from our conversations.

I know it's hard. Especially considering we are trained to critique arbitrary celebrity and civilian flaws via self-appointed body police. Even if you guard yourself from all the body-hating, you will inevitably find yourself walking behind two people talking about Selena Gomez’s weight gain.  

We now live in a state of free-flowing shame ring toss. I guess this is why it is nearly impossible for me to walk out of my apartment without someone assuming something about the state of my plus size body.

Doctors

Every time I go to a doctor’s office, there is this standard assumption that I have high cholesterol and diabetes based on my weight. I have a belly — so sue me. Usually the doctor will run their little test to find that I have perfect cholesterol, no chance of diabetes, and relatively low blood pressure. I’ve blown away many physician by being a fat person who is also in excellent health. “It’s interesting since your body levels are that of a fit person in their early 20s.” Call the freakshow people!

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been better about trying to move the conversation toward my cold or ear infection — but no matter how hard I try each session ends with, “You should really try to lose weight.” Ugh. OK. Not what I’m here for today.

When I was 18, I went to get an exam because I wasn’t getting my period. I stood in an examination room for 45 minutes waiting for the doctor to come in, and when she did she looked at me and said “Lay off the sweets, and your period will come back” — then walked out without saying anything else. Exam over. 

I went to three other doctors until finally one tested my hormone levels and concluded I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). Awesome.

This is not new. Fat people are constantly being misdiagnosed because of stupid body assumptions. And this is not to say that weight loss wouldn’t benefit me or other people — or that weight gain wouldn’t benefit me or other people — but to have a medical recommendation based on my body type is truly assumptive.

Food

These hips don't live in a fat-free world.

These hips don't live in a fat-free world.

Obviously I'm plus size. This is my life. I don't hide it, and find it comforting to be part of a loving community of other curvy babes sporting fatkinis and thunder thighs in public without giving a fuck what anyone thinks. 

However, when we ask for something we expect to get it like everyone else. When it comes to food, why is it that my order changes from the moment I request it to when it comes back to me?

I'm in a restaurant and I order a Pepsi but I'm brought a Diet Pepsi. I ask for a bagel with cream cheese, and I'm given reduced-fat cream cheese. Everyone gets a slice of cake during a celebration except me, and I've had waiters take back the table bread because: "Let's not let this tempt you."

So, let me get this straight. I am a larger person so I'm clearly on a diet, and you need to make my food choices for me. Got it.

The opposite of this scenario is when I order a salad or decide to eat fruit as a snack, someone ALWAYS says to me: "Good for you." My size isn't an indication of bad eating habits, and my healthy choices aren't available for you to say, "Oh my gosh, are you on a diet?"

Fitness

"What are your weight loss goals?"

"I don't have any."

"Why are you joining a gym?"

"To be strong."

I've been an athlete my entire life, and I've never lost weight. My body is excellent at sprinting, incredibly agile, and my recovery time is super quick. Of course, you wouldn't know that if I didn't tell you but would you assume that from just looking at me? Or does a large body read as not in shape or physically fit to you?

Picture this: A conversation starts up about a having people in the office run a marathon together. Six women are standing in a circle. I'm the only plus size one. The leader of the conversation starts pointing clockwise asking if they would run. "Would you? Would you? Would you?" Skips over me. "Would you?"

At least give me a chance to answer. Give me the respect of looking at my body for what it can do, and not what it can't.

Pregnancy

These comments happen more often that the rest — I assume it's because a proud, visible belly is a fairly uncommon sight on a female-bodied person. It hasn't been tucked away or smoothed out to fit a particular expectation.

Most of the time people point at my stomach and ask me if I want their seat on the train. One person insisted that I take the seat because "[he] couldn't live with himself if [he] watched a pregnant woman stand on a moving subway." 

Another good Samaritan offered me a seat on a particularly crowded train ride. When I refused she turned to her group, raised her arms in the air and said, "Ugh I tried! You all saw that I tried!" 

Last week in spin class, the instructor quietly came up to my bike and asked, "Are you riding for two today?" Women stop me on the street to ask me when I'm due, and bartenders eye me up and down when I order drinks.

Now, I'm not offended by the pregnancy comments. I am a little concerned that there isn't more awareness surrounding the differences between a belly and a pregnant, convex silhouette. However, this is not the issue. 

The problem is that the world seems to believe that the only reason a female-bodied individual could possibly have a larger stomach is because of pregnancy. Walking around with a fat stomach is apparently so abnormal that the only explanation for committing such a crime is to be pregnant. Fatness justified.

I could probably wear a shaper or stuck it in, but that is 1) super uncomfortable 2) not the point. I rock it because ... because it's important. Because if we only see one ideal body shape, we will assume that is the standard. If we see multiple, we will start valuing all bodies. 

Plus, there is that satisfying feeling when responding with a resounding teaching moment: "No thank you. I'm not carrying, but this is my beautiful stomach. Thank you for noticing it."

We live in a world where the majority of media fed to us is a body-hating, body-shaming news ticker that explores and dissect our every little "flaw." And we hang on those words — live by them, buy by them — without considering the fact we are just harming ourselves in the process. It's not enough to say, "Get over it" or to expect me change because of your assumptions. 

No, I'm not on a diet. No, I don’t want to be skinny. No, I don't feel uncomfortable wearing a short skirt. No, my chest isn't big because I'm breastfeeding. No, I don't stick out my ass to get attention — it's just formed that way. No, I don't want to sit down. No, I don't need help picking up that that piece of paper.

We are truly incapable of considering the journey we all take with our bodies. It's a vessel that literally carries us through this world, and all we can say about it is how we are going to make it ready for bikini season. Tragic.

Yes. I'm an advocate for being a cheerleader for your body — take up space, wear what makes you happy, defend against assumptions, but we need to start being each other's pep squad.