{The Body Liberation Guide} Should you use the word fat?

Client J. at her Confidence session this week. I’m currently booking boudoir & portrait photo sessions»

It’s been a few weeks since you’ve heard from me, and it was because I was out having a lovely time wandering around California on an epic road trip.

I’m coming to understand that, just as much as any career that involves caring for other people, body liberation activism requires rest. I may not be a therapist or doctor (or even hair stylist), but I spend a lot of time hearing people’s stories and helping them hold the trauma and pain and grief of living in a world that wants to erase them.

As an autistic person, I’m also easily overstimulated. I have the privilege of a good therapist, but I often need more than that.

So I take it to the land, and the water, and the silences that are greater than my buzzing little mind, and let it go.

I returned much refreshed, with some fun stories and several thousand photos to sort through and edit, so keep an eye on the blog for those.

I also came back with some new ideas + new enthusiasm for ongoing projects, especially the Body Liberation Calendar.

You get a small taste of the event listings every week here in the guide, but I’ve found a bunch of new sources for events, so the supporters’ version is better than ever and updated every single week, so check it out.

Now, on to this week’s letter:

One of the most common questions I’m getting these days is, “Should I use the word fat?”

Many fat folks have reclaimed the word and are using it as a neutral descriptor, but to the world at large, “fat” is an insult. So should you be using it?

If you are a fat person: Go for it! Feel free to reclaim that word, though of course you don’t have to.

If you are a thin person: Use with caution, and only in contexts where you’re making it very clear that you’re using it neutrally.

If you’re not sure if you’re fat: Be cautious about claiming identities that aren’t really yours. Generally, people who are fat experience active stigma, discrimination and limitations due to their body size. See this Fluffy Kitten Party piece on fategories to learn more.

If you are a healthcare provider in a fat body: Sure, go for it, as long as you’re making it clear that you’re not using it as an insult or a self-deprecating joke.

If you are a healthcare provider in a thin body: If you’re working in an explicitly fat-affirming, Health at Every Size® or similar context, use it with caution. Otherwise, avoid it to prevent accidentally increasing stigma or making patients feel insulted.

If you are a researcher: I’m aware that the o* words below are expected language in academia, but that doesn’t make them less viciously stigmatizing. Use neutral language unless forced to do otherwise, and advocate for less stigmatizing language in research.

Pro tip for everyone: The words overweight, obese and obesity are slurs. They medicalize and stigmatize a perfectly normal and natural segment of the variation of human bodies. Don’t use them.

So what am I supposed to say instead? Here are some descriptive phrases you can use instead of “fat:”

  • People in larger bodies
  • Higher-weight people
  • Larger people

Let’s fight for a world where fat is just a neutral descriptor for large bodies and not an insult, where fat bodies are equally valued.


Changing the World is Up To You

It’s only possible to offer the Body Liberation Guide and all its labor for free because people like you support it. $1 USD per month helps out, and $5 and up gets you access to the full Conversation, full event listings, my body liberation library and more.

The Conversation

Here’s what’s being discussed this week in the world of body acceptance and fat liberation: 

» Upper body strength video with Roz Mays (watch

» FatPhotoRef has been updated (see

» Do thin women trying to let go of diet culture ever think about us? (read

» The Concept of “Non-Compliance” and Weight Loss Recommendations (read

» Healthy eating curriculum may contribute to eating disorders in kids (read

» Hotel room came with a full sized mirror (see

» Glaze, an AI-proofing tool for artists (check out

» Not Blaming Fat People For Failed Weight Loss Isn’t Enough (read

🦄 Unicorn chaser: Apparently, this pair of wood pigeons is bound and determined to build their nest in the same spot the falcons have chosen, much to the confusion of the raptors. (watch)

“Listening to your body means actually listening to it. Sometimes that means you eat cookies and quite often it means you eat veggies as well. OR maybe you don’t or you eat a lot of beans. How the hell do I know? Your body is different than my body. ”

» Kimberly Weiss

Upcoming Events

» Navigating Weight Stigma at the Doctor’s Office Sep 27

» NAAFA Webinar: Yesika Salgado Sep 28

» Northern Italy with Alysse Dalessandro, starts Sept. 30, Italy

» Fat Clothes Swap Oct 1

» Dunas Peak/Tews Falls w/ BLHC GTA Oct 1

» Associates Supervision Group Oct 4

Quick Resources: On the Social Determinants of Health

Hi there! I'm Lindley. I create artwork that celebrates the unique beauty of bodies that fall outside conventional "beauty" standards at Body Liberation Photography. I'm also the creator of Body Liberation Stock and the Body Love Shop, a curated central resource for body-friendly artwork and products. Find all my work here at bodyliberationphotos.com.