Happy Fat: Taking Up Space in a World That Wants to Shrink You
“It all started when I realised that fat people are deserving of happiness and entitled to take up space. Fat people are not lesser humans. You can be happy and fat, you deserve to be happy and fat, being happy and fat is an option. All you need to do is believe that, and then we can begin.”
Review by Jeryl Scurr
I have read many books on body positivity, fat acceptance, being fat in a world etc. etc.
But never by an author who was also a stand-up comedian.
I liked this book so much I took my daughter to see Hagen’s book promotion and touring show in Norwich. And Hagen nailed it. I thought of just how long it has taken to have a sellout tour by a fat woman not telling jokes about fat people.
In a world where our size defines us, and the obesity epidemic seems to mean a free reign on abusive, bullying and discriminatory behaviours it takes courage to stand up and talk about being happily fat. Let alone being funny in front of an audience.
Especially when a single tweet can send Twitter into an abusive rant.
In Happy Fat Hagen leaves nothing out: diet culture, food guilt, fashion, getting stuck, the health police, and ‘acceptable’ fat role models. Don’t forget, she reminds us, you can love your body and not care if someone else doesn’t.
Writing frankly about her own childhood in Denmark she describes how and why “Food quickly became feelings and feelings became food.”
As for diet culture – read how she skewers it: –
“My fatness has always been met with either, ‘Do you know you are fat?’ or, ‘What are you doing about it?’ as if it is not even an option to just be fat. The reason it’s called diet culture? It’s the all-encompassing obsession with weight loss in an entire society. We live in a culture that praises weight loss and punishes weight gain, regardless of the reasons behind it.”
Our fat phobic society means that even if you are thin you spend your life worrying that you might get fat someday.
Of course, she says, you can be the ‘good fatty’ – the one trying to lose weight, of course. It’s expected and if you deviate…what does that say to the others?
This is just as true for all bodies. Hagen shows you (without lecturing) the difficulty of navigating a world which believes you take up too much space, a world where your size brings out the worse stereotypical cliché-ridden expletives.
I appreciated the inclusion of diverse voices – ‘people with different life experiences from my own,’ people who must deal with fat phobia as well as other prejudices. These voices are too rarely heard.
What about the health aspects of fatness? I agree with her statement “It’s scary to be told that your body is going to kill you with its fatness.”
Although she quotes statistics for the opposite and argues that too often medical studies are sponsored by businesses, the evidence she quotes is rather selective.
Either way, the book is a call to action ( if not arms…)
“I had never bought the clothes I wanted to wear or the clothes I liked. I had bought the clothes that fit me.”
“There is a loneliness to being fat. It’s ostracism.”
“We are taught that we should never be too self-involved, too confident, too full of ourselves. We should keep our heads down and stay humble.”
Why I chose Happy Fat: