September 6, 2016
Kelly Coffey

Why some women fat-shame themselves in front of other women and how to respond #selfcare

It’s a scene as old as time 1:

People – usually women – are together somewhere when one suddenly breaks out with “Ugh, I’m so fat.”

Often, the woman talking isn’t. 2

Often, the woman/women she’s talking to are.

Why some women fat-shame themselves in front of other women and how to respond #selfcareFor those of us who are or who have been overweight/obese/fat/large-and-in-charge, this can make us see red. “She’s not FAT!” we think. We assume the other woman is nuts, or fishing for compliments, or maybe, just maybe, that she’s trying to make us more conscious of our own weight by bringing attention to hers.

If we are or have been fat – and especially if we don’t feel so great about that – hearing someone else fat-shame themselves – especially when that person is smaller than us – can send us into a dark, painful, isolated place.

I’ve been on both ends of the weight spectrum, and now that I’m thin, I hear “Ugh, I’m so fat” from women who are thinner than me all the time.

Why some women fat-shame themselves in front of other women and how to respond #selfcare

Me, Before & During

My weight loss story (size 26 to size 6) has attracted women with body-image issues to my personal training studio. When they fat-shame themselves  – especially if they’re thinner than me – I press them to unpack why.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

Women who fat-shame themselves in the company of larger women are rarely, if ever, nuts.

With few exceptions, they’re not fishing for compliments. 3

With few exceptions, they’re not trying to be insulting, hurtful, or to make us self-conscious.

Most women who fat-shame themselves in our company aren’t burning a single calorie thinking about us. Mostly, their brains are working overtime thinking nasty thoughts about themselves and their own bodies.

It can be hard to believe, but most of those “Ugh, I’m SO FAT!” gals mean the rest of us no harm.

They just think they’re “bigger than they’re supposed to be,” and they hate it.

And of course they think that. A thousand years of social pressure and a hundred years of media influence have wrecked and warped almost everyone’s self-image. Average-sized and larger women are more likely to get struck by lightning than end up in movies and magazines. 4  Compared to the female bodies that most of us are used to seeing, we’re all drooling, lop-sided behemoths.

Scratch the surface of most women and you’ll find some amount of weight-centered body criticism. For many, it’s always there, and sometimes they give it a voice.

Around us.  

Maybe to feel connected.

Maybe to feel seen.

Maybe because female weight and body obsession have been so normalized that criticizing oneself for being “too big” feels like the thing to do when another woman is listening.

Whatever her motives, a woman who trash talks herself and her body deserves our compassion. 5 Yes, even if she’s thin. Yes, even if we outweigh her by 100, 200, or 300 pounds. Yes, even if her words remind us of all the trauma and abuse we’ve faced that she – in her relatively thin body – has never had to endure.

We’re together on the body-image battlefield, and comparing wounds is useless. Even if her pain doesn’t objectively compare to our own, that doesn’t make her pain any less real. She still deserves our compassion because all women are hurt by the unrealistic expectations placed on the female body.

Why some women fat-shame themselves in front of other women and how to respond #selfcareMeanwhile, and here I’m addressing the woman – fat, thin, or otherwise – who’s fat-shaming herself within earshot of other women: I understand where you’re coming from. I understand how you feel. I understand why you believe what you believe about your body. Now please – please – stop giving that shit a voice. Stop with the insults. Stop with the nit-picking. Stop. Not only are you hurting yourself when you do this, you’re also hurting the rest of us.

Every time you verbally assault parts of your body you’re fueling the objectification of the female body in all its forms.

Every time you insult yourself in our company, you remind us of all the abuse, all the cruelty, and all the pain we’ve been subjected to because of our weight.

Every time you give your body-hate a voice, you breathe new life into the body-hate we’re working so diligently to eradicate.

Everything you say affects everyone that’s listening – including you.

I know you don’t mean us harm when you call yourself fat. 6 I know you’re hurting. I know you think a lot about how you look and the size of your body (relative to the size you think it “should” be). I know you’re often unhappy. I know you want to stop thinking about your body so you can finally feel like you’re living your life and not just going through the motions. I know you feel worse about yourself and your body every time you fall prey to another bullshit diet or Get-Thin-Quick! scheme. I’ve been there. I know.

That said, we 7 need you to stop.

Choose your words with care. Be mindful that the things you say have power. Be kind. Instead of tearing yourself down, try building yourself up. Or, if that feels too hard, when you catch yourself about to say something negative about your body, try doing something else. Take a breath. Tell a joke. Ask a question. Offer someone a genuine compliment. If you can, go for a walk, lift a weight, cook a meal, donate to a charity, get yourself off, say a prayer, kiss a lover, or just change into something more comfortable.

Imagine how awesome you’d feel if you took one simple, caring action each time you had a negative thought about yourself or your body.

Why some women fat-shame themselves in front of other women and how to respond #selfcareImagine how much better we would all feel if we responded to self-criticism by connecting, and responded to shame with love.

Let’s do this. Who’s with me?


  1. “Time,” also known as “the patriarchal objectification of women,”
  2. Body Dysmorphic Disorder, or BDD, is defined by Wikipedia as “a mental disorder characterized by an obsessive preoccupation that some aspect of one’s own appearance is severely flawed and warrants exceptional measures to hide or fix it.” Though admittedly there can be a fine line between the “Ugh, I’m so fat!” phenomena and BDD, this piece is NOT about BDD nor those suffering from BDD. For more information on BDD, visit
  3. When we respond with “Oh, no, you’re perfect!” it can make them feel even more self-conscious.
  4. This is slowly changing, thankfully.
  5. OK, OK – except the rare snowflake who’s legit evil and trying to get us to “see how fat we are” by spotlighting “how fat she is”.
  6. Except you, Snowflake. I’m watching you. Even if you think you’re doing larger women a favor by making them aware of and reminding them to be ashamed of their size, all you’re doing is making everyone around you uncomfortable and calling attention to your own shame-based BS. Pro-tip: If you’re fat-shaming yourself “for someone else’s benefit,” try minding your own business.
  7. And when I say “we” I’m including you.


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Showing 7 comments
  • Lina

    I think this is great, but I wish you wouldn’t include specific clothing sizes in your writing. It doesn’t add to your point, and it is triggering. Thanks for your work.

    • Kelly Coffey

      Hey there, L. Thanks for writing, and for reading the blog. I am sad to hear that reading my pre- and post-weight loss clothing size ​triggers you. Please let me explain why I included it.

      When I’m in your shoes, the reader, it’s important to me to feel like the writer knows what the hell she’s talking about. I remember once watching a “formerly heavy” nutritionist’s 15 minute long video about “The Five Foods Never To Eat.” I thought maybe there would be some good info there. Not only was there nothing useful, but 10 minutes in I learned that the nutritionist’s total weight loss amounted to less than I’ve parted with after a good plate of Tex-Mex.

      She had nothing to offer me. She didn’t know my struggle. I was angry, I was offended, and I wanted my time back.

      But we don’t get back time that we waste on useless shit on the internet. SAD! (hehe)

      When someone finds my blog, I want them to know why they should bother reading it. Personal training isn’t rocket science, and trainers are a dime a dozen. There are far fewer solid, knowledgeable trainers, and hardly any solid, knowledgeable female trainers who had been morbidly obese since childhood, lost weight, and not regained it in 10+ years. My perspective, forged in a fire of personal experience, is what makes my writing meaningful to the folks I want to reach. Folks like me.

      When I include numbers – my weight before and after loss, or my size – it’s to assure you, the new reader who’s only just found my page that, even though I’m a personal trainer, I’ve lived in the real world as a 300+ pound woman.

      I want you to know that I’ve lived with the abuse.

      I want you to know I’ve been rejected and not hired and laughed at by doctors and left out and mocked and beaten and ignored.

      I want you to know where I’ve been AND where I am now so you have no question as to whose words you’re reading, or why.

      Again, I’m sorry that reading my old and current clothing size triggers you. I’d love to talk to you about the feeling you get when you read those numbers. I get it too sometimes. It’s a sickening, anxious feeling that makes me want to change the channel in my head as quickly as possible, and that’s exactly what I used to do. I did it with food, drugs, and bunch of other crap. Thankfully, I don’t need to change the channel like that anymore. I hope someday I get to tell you why, and how I did it.

      For now, please consider this: If you didn’t know that I had been over 300 pounds, would you have ever found my writing? Would anything that I write be meaningful to you if I were just another thin, blonde, peppy-looking personal trainer?

      With love,
      Kelly Coffey

      • Kathy

        Hi Kelly,

        I just want to let you know that I agree with your reply. It’s worked for me knowing that you’ve been in my shoes. I belong to a local group training program for women with three women personal trainers who alternate the workout sessions. Each is phenomenal! However, I always feel “heard” by the trainer who has battled being overweight her whole life and is now teaching us how she learned to “re-write the script.” She understood when I told her that even though the weekly weigh-ins is part of the program, I no longer want to look at the number nor care to know if it’s gone up or down. Because I feel GOOD! My body is fit. I’ve lost 15 pounds but I’m not going to punish myself because the progress to lose the next 15 pounds isn’t going as quickly as the first 15 did. I finally enjoy working out. I now eat because food serves ME not because I’m masking some other emotions. SHE GETS THAT because she’s been where I am. And for that I am truly appreciative. I am appreciative of people like you and her who have guided my journey towards self awareness and a healthy lifestyle.

        Thank you! You ROCK!!

      • Karlene

        I definitely would never have listened to you, without knowing you were ME. I do understand the triggering effect, but you understanding what it’s like to be ME, is worth the price, in my opinion.

  • Mary Ann

    Very interesting article, I do have a couple thoughts on this. One–maybe at that moment, she does just feel fat, you now, kind of uncomfortable, bloated, too much salt, whatever. Sometimes it’s just an unconscious , unthinking “I feel fat today”, it happens.
    Another thing though, maybe, by declaring “I feel fat” or the like, she is letting the group know that she is aware she’s not looking that great, like excusing herself from not keeping up with workouts, healthy eating, etc. Or the opposite, she’s been working hard and is disappointed with her progress, but instead of expressing that, she is just flippant “I’m so fat”, as a way of disguising her real feeling of not making the progress she’s working for. It’s not always self-hate, and I don’t think there’s always a motive. I do like to play the devil’s advocate, though 😉

    • Kelly Coffey

      You’re right, all those things can be true. It’s not always self-hate (just usually), and there’s not always a (conscious) motive. 😉

  • Bex

    Hi Coffey,

    I just want to say that – as an avid reader of your blog – I admire you tremendously.

    Your approach is so refreshing and loving (both of others and yourself) – I never feel bad about myself when I read your posts, but instead feel motivated to take better care of my body.

    I’m at an early stage in my journey of self-care, but I want to say a very sincere thank you for being a voice of care and love in a world of shame and unkindness. You are awesome.

    Bex (27 yr old Brit living in China)

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