Content warning: Fat trauma/shame
Why fat trauma is so alluring.
Preface: I am not a therapist, but I did run this past a trauma therapist before posting. 😊
Here is the thing, a lot of authors that write fiction that includes fat main characters do a deep dive into fat trauma. I get why it is alluring to read that, because it might be easier to identify with a character that has experienced some of the pain that you have been through. It’s there, especially in YA which is understandable but complex.
There is an insidious element to be sure–whether we admit it to ourselves or not–there may be a lingering mindset that the character being traumatized deserves it. Internalized fatphobia is often not a conscious thing. When I try to let my mind even land on the idea that I accept her trauma because I think she deserves it, I have instant recoil. I obviously don’t think such things when I am in control of my thoughts, but that is why I said insidious. It’s buried in there with the first jerk that shamed you, the first time someone told you to eat a salad, the first time someone told you that you could be so pretty if… That brain poison is buried within a lot of us, certainly not all but a lot.
What can we do to quiet a voice we can’t hear? We have to handle it as we would other trauma. The way that I describe trauma’s effect on the brain is like a filing cabinet. Some papers and folders fit in all nice and neat, but trauma got put in sideways. Your brain can’t process it the way that it needs to when it originally occurs, so it needs another chance. Especially when you have been convinced that this is something that is your fault! This is where therapy, EMDR, tapping etc. come into play, they can give your mind a chance to revisit and sort those issues so that they can be filed where they need to be. Fat trauma is trauma, it’s jagged and ugly and needs to be purged.
Books that have positive fat representation may feel less genuine, but they are good for us. We need the reminder that we can relate to a positive fat experience too. I equate it to intentionally watching movies that make us sad or terrify us. We often enjoy sitting in the feelings that it evokes. It’s juicy and evocative and a pain that is not ours so we can live in it for a bit and cast it off. One of the things about trauma is that it can make us feel alone in it and reading someone else living your pain may make you feel less alone in it.
We deserve a fat experience that is not traumatic. YOU deserve to not be traumatized. We can choose to step into a new version of relatability for ourselves and see how it fits. Try it out for a bit, see if that trauma free character can carry your banner through the adventures that they are having. I am going to try for me, and I really hope that you will try for you. You are worth it.
We all look at these things differently, and we welcome your feedback! Your feelings on how this feels for you are valid! Comments are open, we would love your thoughts.