You Are Fat

I think that just about everyone in the world can identify with this post’s title in some way. Depending on where you are from you might react to receiving these three words with anger, or simply shrug it off as a term of endearment.

Being an American living in Asia I have mixed feelings about this comment. In the good ole US of A we often associate our self worth with our bodies. Many of us idolize models, celebrities and athletes who have Herculean physiques to the point that lacking such physique equates to some sort of character flaw. Calling someone fat in the US is basically as bad or worse than calling them stupid.

Thais though certainly aren’t immune to the allure of a perfectly chiseled body. Advertisements are much the same here in Bangkok as they are at home in terms of selling sex and a smooth set of legs along with your soda and seaweed snacks. However, there seems to be something lingering deep in the soil of some Asian cultures which makes it more okay to call someone fat. What is it?

I was recently at the doctors office sitting on the table when I pulled up my shirt for a heart rate check when she said, “Oh, you are getting fat” and motioned toward my belly roll. I shrugged and said, “yeah I guess so”, not actually agreeing but acknowledging that we have strikingly different perceptions of fat. I wasn’t the least bit offended. I’ve been in Asia long enough to consider it endearing. I’ve seen the term flung around as casually as I say “dude” or “good morning”.

While I didn’t take her comment personally, it does have me wondering. I mean, I am writing about it right? What is it about this comment that seems to draw a line in the cultural sand box. On one hand you’ve got a culture obsessing over body image and taking nude selfies with champagne landing effortlessly on a backside proclaiming to “blow up the internet”. On the other, you have a culture in which “you look skinny” or “you look fat” often replaces “good morning”. Neither really seem ok to me. Sure these are extreme examples, but extremes are a telling part of the story that effects the lasting impression of a culture.

Upon doing some research, I had no luck actually finding an answer to why it is okay to call someone fat in Asia. Maybe I have a topic to investigate. I did however find that average BMI is highest in the US and lowest in Thailand. I also found,unsurprisingly, numerous articles about the negative effects that media has on people’s self image in both Asia and the US.

I’m still left wondering, however, what is the key ingredient in the cultural stew that makes it okay or not okay to call someone fat.

What do you think about this situation? I’d love to hear from you, my readers, about your perspectives and experiences on this topic. Let’s get to the bottom of it.



  1. I am guessing you will have more on this later.


  2. leinanicarlson

    Oh my gosh, YOU, fat????? I think she must have meant ‘phat’.


  3. Jacqueline Kyle

    In my Indonesian family being called ‘fat’ is a term of endearment, an expression of happiness. Gaining weight in Indonesia means that your life is at ease and that you are not ‘stressing’ which often leads to people being overly skinny. As long as your happy with your size and weight than being called fat or not shouldn’t cause you any grief.


  4. Jacqueline Kyle

    Yes in Australia, it is absolutely rude, similar to the US. So many negative connotations behind the word ‘fat’. I think it’s really interesting you have just recently posted this blog because yesterday I watched a documentary about the world’s biggest boy who lives in Russia. His bigness was associated with an ancient myth and his physique was seen to be like the warrior in the myth. He was 16 stones at the age of 7 and was terribly obese but what is interesting is in his part of the world people praised him. You should check it out Pete! Here’s the link



  5. Shannon

    We are leaving for Trinidad on Monday. Dexter’s family loves to tell me–“you’ve put on some size.” It drives me bananas! I’m ready for a quick comeback this year–“Look who’s talking!”


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