Terms for not fat people

Discussion in 'Fat in the Media' started by bluetech, Apr 11, 2015.

  1. Apr 11, 2015 #1

    bluetech

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    Some time ago, there was a thread about the best nonjudgmental connotation-free term to use to refer to fat people. But I am curious if anybody has any good suggestions for how to refer to people who are not fat. In the media, such people are generally referred to as "normal sized" or "healthy weight". Both terms are objectionable for what should hopefully be obvious reasons. But I am struggling to think of an alternative that doesn't presume that they are better for not being fat.

    I don't think "skinny" is the best word to use, as not all not-fat people are skinny, and I generally think of skinny as referring to someone genuinely underweight.

    Also, I'd prefer to find a term that isn't derogatory as skinny shaming accomplishes nothing.
     
  2. Apr 11, 2015 #2

    loopytheone

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    I tend to say things like thin, average build etc to describe people of, well, an average build. Though depending on why I would be referring to their weight (are you describing them to someone? etc) then 'not fat' could work as well. I think there are a lot more terms to politely describe thin people than fat people. *shrugs*
     
  3. Apr 12, 2015 #3

    happily_married

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    I agree with Loopy, there are a lot more terms to politely describe people who are not overweight. I describe myself as fit, lean or athletic. If I were a little bigger I may even be able to get away with "muscular."

    The truth is, though, OP you're looking for a solution without a problem. Fat shaming is considered socially acceptable, but I have never once heard of "skinny shaming." Even in extreme cases the commentary is usually directed at health related concerns, but not necessarily executed in a shaming manner the way it is toward overweight people.

    That's one man's opinion, though. Take it for what it's worth.
     
  4. Apr 12, 2015 #4

    a4c4

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    No? I've heard dudes, especially teenage ones issue a lot of derogatory comments towards skinny other dudes. Also, these days you hear regular-sized people complaining that they get told they are 'too skinny' from people who're fat.

    It's all just human nature.
     
  5. Apr 12, 2015 #5

    happily_married

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    Let me make sure I'm clear: My statement that I have not witnessed it is by no means a denial that such behavior exists. At the same time I maintain that "fat shaming" far surpasses "skinny shaming" (for lack of a better term). Fat shaming is literally its own industry. How many "no skinny chicks" bumper stickers have you seen? I see a "no fat chicks" bumper sticker at least once a week. Or how about the "be nice to fat people, they may save your life" sticker? How about the contempt you hear directed toward overweight people when the discussion of airline travel is brought up?

    Also, where guys issue derogatory comments toward skinnier guys tends to be less a product of "skinniness" and more an exhibition of "alpha male-hood." It relates to perceived strength more so than is a product of skinny shaming. As for fat people telling skinny people they're too skinny, you have some isolated examples but for the most part it comes down to individual opinions vs an entire industry or popular movement.
     
  6. Apr 12, 2015 #6

    Yakatori

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    To begin with, I think we should put just a bit of day-light between ourselves and the idea of certain words having negative connotations. Because, as in all language, the meaning depends somewhat on both a sender & receiver accessing the same vocabulary & meanings. And being relatively in sync with respect to this shared dialogue.

    Better to begin considering both your audience & purpose. And, more so, the entire context in which you're communicating. And then adapting your language accordingly. Rather than just circumscribe particular words as either good or bad words themselves.

    After all, fat is fat. Fat is to fat people what Black is to African American, or woman is to female-gendered human being. Or how '"He uses a wheelchair..." is to a guy in a wheelchair, for whatever purpose.

    Which is not to say that I don't appreciate how some feel like they can't pull that off. Maybe you can't, for some reason. But, either way, you're just not doing anyone any favors by crudely obfuscating what's obvious enough to everyone.

    Look, generally, most of the time, it's not so normal or appropriate to be commenting on other people's bodies. What they look like (all of their various parts), how they smell, your opinion of their overall attractiveness, what celebrities they most resemble, etc... You typically need some kind of license in order to do that, either through genial familiarity, the circumstances (missing person, criminal suspect, etc..) or, perhaps, just a liberty taken as one prepared to deal with whatever consequences (e.g. you're either a stand-up comedian or you actually want to insult someone or start a fight, etc...)

    So, in as much as none that applies directly to you, better to just keep your own personal creative musings to yourself.

    Well, the problem is that some of us want to talk about other people, voice opinions, judgments, etc...without consequence. Without, ourselves being judged. We want our own scrutiny to be beyond reproach. But, it just doesn't work like that in real life. Even telling someone that you (honestly) think they're beautiful, that you love them or are in-love with them will necessarily take with it some risk. Maybe even that, somehow, they'll want to kill you? Otherwise, what's really even the point.

    However, with respect to unsolicited health advice, I would speculate most people are generally disinterested in that. So, the more clinical-sounding terms (or ideas) like either obese or emaciated really belong more in the doctor's office, otherwise:

    I've never heard that, anything like that, in any kind of normal, everyday conversation. Generally, when something's unremarkable, it tends to escape notice; as it's usually not worth commenting on. Maybe in a spy movie script or something like that Jason Bourne's character could be described as noticeably fit, but otherwise non-descript. But, of course, not in actual dialogue, that's not some a character or person would actually say to another.

    Someone who's both exactly median in height & build would be most efficiently described by your best estimation of what you think that is ("Uh...I dunno, about 5' 9", maybe 160 lbs?") and then how they're dressed. And whatever distinguishing features (mole, tattoo, scar, etc...).

    Faces, on the other hand, can be more complicated. Because, even as we often feel real confident in recognizing very familiar faces, our own sense of other details (eye or nose size & shape, ears, complexion, hairline, etc..) is built off of their approximate proportion to each other. e.g., I have a cousin who, growing up, was sort of heavy. And then, as a young adult, lost a good deal of weight. And now, ultimately, is fairly thin. So, until now, as I haven't seen her in a few years; and it's like, all of a sudden, I'm for the first time realizing how just how far nose seems to protrude beyond her (now) rather small face. And then, by comparison, her mom's and dad's noses (in pictures). Her brother and sister, as well.

    The point being, a description generally begins is what most separates something from everything else around it. Even as much as that changes or can change, as either the thing-itself is in a state of change or your own point of view.

    What you think of as skinny is actually thin. Skinny is a bit too colorful, like you're trying too hard to come with an elaborate description except it doesn't really tell you anything other than that the person is thin. Therefore, thin is just thin. If a guy is real tall and thin, and seems a bit more of both for it, just say real tall and thin. Height is actually much easier to take a stab at, because you can just side-by-side compare to your own. So you can be a bit more specific in "Oh, he's real tall, about 6'5" and very thin. Similarly, if someone is both shorter than average and thin, then they're just small.

    Few people genuinely look truly muscular underneath normal street clothes. Unless, maybe you're particularly tall or you've got a thick neck. Then people will say something like "Wow, that guy's really big and he's not so fat either...

    If you really want to present a deliberately meaty look, and still be somewhat subtle about it, a fitted t-shirt with higher cut short sleeves will emphasize the girth of your arms relative to your torso. However, guys who dress like that want people to notice how big they are, although probably not to extent of hearing other guys talk about it so much. So, then you can just say "He's both big & fit." Or just "He looks fit." or all the way to "He looks very fit." Athletic, on the other hand, is typically something a middle-aged (probably married) guy would use in an online dating-profile in order to be deliberately ambiguous with respect to his overall lack of fitness. Even taken in a totally straight-forward way, it doesn't really tell you anything, directly or otherwise, about a person's appearance (Athletic? Athletic like-what? A third baseman? A designated hitter?) It's just a very poor descriptor in this context, in that it more explains how a person moves or what they do than what they actually look like.
     
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  7. Apr 12, 2015 #7

    happily_married

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    First, let me just say outstanding post all the way around. I'm not going to go point for point because I don't think I can add much to what you've said. Instead I'll echo your idea that we are just one part of a conversation. What we say and mean is nearly irrelevant when we consider that the other part of the conversation, the person receiving what we say, is a completely different individual. What becomes relevant is how that person receives and interprets what we say. I have had this conversation with my mom many times, actually. If she thinks something she says it. It's not that she's blunt or trying to be mean or rude. It's just she automatically assumes it will always be understood in the meaning and context she intends. This is, of course, not true at all. Not even close. And even though she always taught me to be slow to speak, to engage my brain before I engage my mouth, she is oblivious to her own propensity to say something incredibly rude or inappropriate thinking whoever hears it will understand what she means by it.

    What can I say? She's my mom and I love her anyway!:p

    Now regarding the quoted portion, I have some humorous observations. Self-describing as "athletic" is to me a sensible description. I'm 5'7" and about 168 or so. I work out near daily, pausing for active and passive recovery days. I'm strong for my size, and despite not running nearly as much as I used to, am still faster* than pretty much anyone else on the trail any given day I'm out there. When I say I'm "athletic" I genuinely am. However I recognize there is a lot of disparity in that description, some of which you've highlighted. An NFL QB is not necessarily built like an MLB catcher (with the exception of Russell Wilson** of the Seahawks, maybe). An offensive lineman, every bit an athlete as a Michael Phelps, is not built like a Michael Phelps. And the disparities go on. On another forum I frequent there is a lot of discussion about this amongst women who use OLD. They assume "athletic" means "overweight 45 year old former H.S. athlete who hasn't seen a gridiron, ball diamond or inside of a weight room since his teens! Some of their stories are hilarious!

    Secondly, I can relate personally to the fitted t-shirt comments. Last year my wife bought me a bunch of new t-shirts. They didn't start out "fitted" but between them shrinking a little on the first wash and me growing they became "sem-form-fitting" by late summer. She bought them right as a series of injuries led me to put running aside and take up weight training as my primary means of fitness. It wasn't too noticeable last summer, but now I can't wear most of these t-shirts because I look like that guy who buys a shirt a size too small as if to say, "Yeah, I lift." I'm proud of my body, but I'm not really too keen on walking around in a skin-tight shirt as if trying to draw attention to myself. But it's a good problem to have because it means what I've been doing has been working.

    *Assumes a range of 4-8 miles.
    **Ironically enough, Wilson is also a baseball player, drafted by the Colorado Rockies to play 2nd base. Some guys are just gifted, I guess!
     
  8. Apr 12, 2015 #8

    bluetech

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    I guess some context would help for where I was coming from with the question. I had just read an article about the recent study that showed that the fatter a person is, the lower their risk for dementia. Both the news article and the abstract of the actual study itself used the terms "overweight people", "obese people" and "healthy weight people" for the categories compared in the study, despite the health outcome in question being significantly better for the obese than for the "healthy weight".

    I was trying to figure out what term the article should have used for the BMI<25 category if not "healthy weight", but I was at a loss. The use of "healthy weight" was clearly wrong because it presumed a bias that outcomes should have been worse for the heavier groups despite the opposite being true. So I was looking for a drop-in term that could be used for the same group of people (i.e. not fat) that didn't presume that they were healthier or better in any way by definition.
     
  9. Apr 13, 2015 #9

    superodalisque

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    in ordinary circumstances I like referring to them as people or by their names the same as I would like people to refer to me :D
     
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  10. Apr 13, 2015 #10

    Jack Secret

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    what happened to being small or large? on Dimensions all of us have pretty well learned to "own" our terms that would seem derogatory and other circles. It seems Most of the larger people in our little group describe themselves and often have themselves described as "fat". In my case I am skinny and I know it. So does everyone else who knows me!

    Just thoughts…
     
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  11. Apr 15, 2015 #11

    RabbitScorpion

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    Wow, a lot of long comments to a short question.

    I think the old personal ads acronym WPTH (weight proportional to height) for someone with a BMI of about 20-24 fits fine (no pun intended)
     
  12. Apr 15, 2015 #12

    Ruby Ripples

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    Average sized. Has always worked 'til now.
     
  13. Apr 15, 2015 #13

    bluetech

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    That term is biased, as it presumes that fat people are disproportional, i.e. too much weight for their height.

    According to the WHO, in 2010 the average BMI in USA was 28.8. Soon it will probably be over 30. At least in the US, average sized is fat.

    Seems to validate my point that while there are plenty of terms in common use to refer to not-fat people, nearly all of them whether intentionally or otherwise reinforce the notion that being not-fat is ideal and preferred, and therefore being fat is not.
     
  14. Apr 15, 2015 #14

    happily_married

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    The last time I weighed myself was Friday morning. I weighed 168, and I'm 5'7" so my BMI is 26.3. I am pretty darn fit, yet my BMI has me a solid point and change into the "overweight" category. My point? Any time you hear anyone describe the "average" American as overweight based on BMI, it is greatly overstating the average. BMI factors height and weight, but does nothing to consider bone density, muscle mass, etc, so it's pretty much worthless. There are probably millions like me (we're a big country) who are in great shape but at a BMI within the "overweight" range.
     
  15. Apr 15, 2015 #15

    bluetech

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    Yes, BMI has many flaws, including among them the fact that it rates athletic muscular people such as yourself as overweight. However, for every muscled non-fat person with an 'overweight' BMI that I have known, I could name 10 so-called skinny-fats, who despite having a 'normal' BMI have no muscle tone whatsoever and a bit of chub from too much partying. On average, BMI is a good enough stand in for fatness.

    But that's getting off topic. The point is that the term 'average weight' is commonly used to refer to people who are less fat than what the actual average is, insinuating that the less fat weight is what people are supposed to be on average.
     

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