Fat!So?: Because You Don't Have to Apologize for Your Size


Fat? Chunky? Less than svelte? So what! In this hilarious and eye-opening book, fat and proud activist/zinester Marilyn Wann takes on Americas' biggest fear—worse than the fear of public speaking or nuclear weapons—our fear of fat.Statistics tell us that about a third of Americans are fat, and common sense adds that just about everyone, fat or thin, male or female, has worried about their appearance. FAT!SO? weighs in with a more attractive alternative: feeling good about yourself at any weight—and having the ...

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Fat? Chunky? Less than svelte? So what! In this hilarious and eye-opening book, fat and proud activist/zinester Marilyn Wann takes on Americas' biggest fear—worse than the fear of public speaking or nuclear weapons—our fear of fat.Statistics tell us that about a third of Americans are fat, and common sense adds that just about everyone, fat or thin, male or female, has worried about their appearance. FAT!SO? weighs in with a more attractive alternative: feeling good about yourself at any weight—and having the style and attitude to back it up. Internationally recognized as a fat-positive spokesperson, Wann has learned that you can be absolutely happy, healthy, and successful...and fat. With its hilarious and insightful blend of essays, quizzes, facts, and reporting, FAT!SO? proves that you can be out-and-out fabulous at any size.

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Editorial Reviews

Michelle Goldberg

Marilyn Wann must be one of the bravest women in the country. This 270-pound world traveler, aviator, Ivy League graduate and journalist is the Abbie Hoffman of fat power, a movement that seems all the more courageous for its utter lack of hipster cachet. By loudly and boldly proclaiming her message of fat pride in her irreverent hot-pink zine Fat!So? on talk radio and now in a book, Wann has shamelessly flouted our culture's most potent remaining taboo. She revels in her body, in fat culture, fat clothes, fat sex and fat community with a breezy confidence that's almost impossible for a typical neurotically weight-obsessed reader i.e., me to fathom.

Lots of writers like to pretend they're spurning cultural rules -- witness the floods of prose about sex work, incest, heroin addiction, s/m and mental illness. But in reality, copping to any of these things is as likely to increase a scribe's social status as it is to render him a pariah. Fat is different. Fat people don't even have subcultural coolness as a comfort. Not fitting into society's weight ideal really is likely to exclude one from both the mainstream and from the radical chic elite. Despite the recent flippant headline in W magazine, "Living Large: Fat Is Back," being a size 22 -- or a size 10, for that matter -- is far from fashionable.

Not that you would know that, though, from reading Fat!So? -- whose tireless cheerleading often succeeds in making it seem OK to be big. Wann forgoes the angsty musings of more "serious" books about appearance anxiety like the essay collections "Minding the Body" and "Beauty Secrets." Instead, Fat!So? is relentlessly fun, with features like a Venus of Willendorf paper doll replete with nine cute cut-out outfits, silly songs and poems, even "Heroes and Villains of Fat History" trading cards. Section titles include "You, Too, Can be Flabulous!" "Why You Should Dye Your Hair Hot Pink" and "The Joys of Fat Sex."

It's not all frivolous, though. There are somber chapters about fat teenagers who commit suicide and battle stories from Fat!So? readers that are full of loneliness, shame and frustration. Some people will probably be surprised by the amount of good health information in the book, too. Like Laura Fraser's wonderful, muckraking anti-diet-industry book, Losing It, Fat!So? makes a convincing case that most attempts at radical weight loss are futile. She urges readers to eat well and exercise regularly in the hope of getting healthy, not thin. Wann says she works out three times a week, and there's even a chapter written with her personal trainer, herself a size 14.

Perhaps the most refreshing part of the book is Wann's "Anatomy Lessons," photographs of nine different bellies, chins, upper arms or butts. Except for those who frequent nude beaches or spend a lot of time in health club locker rooms, most of us hardly ever see what real people's naked bodies look like. These pictures are calming and reassuring, though they can also defeat Wann's purpose. Sadly, instead of realizing that all kinds of bodies can be beautiful, I found myself thinking, "Well, at least I'm not that fat."

That may be the biggest problem with Fat!So? -- it's so ahead of its time that Wann's positivity can seem like wishful thinking. She calls on fat people to reclaim the word "fatso," just as gays have taken back the word "queer." "You're not overweight, not plump, not bloated," Wann writes. "You're fat! Combine the word fat with other words in new and unusual ways: sexy fat, fat and fabulous, fat pride. Use fat in a sentence: 'You're looking good. Are you getting fat?' 'I met a handsome fat man the other day.' 'Gee, I wish I could be fat like her.'" Learning to love fat is easier said than done, though, and it takes tremendous courage to remain impervious to the vicious loathing of an entire culture. Wann has that courage. Reading Fat!So? probably won't make you love your body. But it might inspire you to hate it a little bit less. -- Salon

Kyle K. Norris
Fat!So? is recommended for anyone who has ever felt uncomfortable in their own skin for whatever reason. Wann's flabbulous (her coinage) attitude has the capability to both completely alter one's self-perception and radically shift society's perspective on body image form one of hatred into one of acceptance and celebration. -- ForeWord Magazine
School Library Journal
YA-The pervasiveness and dangers of anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders are undeniable; recent articles on the subject have appeared in periodicals ranging from People to the Journal of the American Medical Association. Wann, a 5'4", 275-pound Californian, states unequivocally that America needs an attitude adjustment. Fear of fat, she says, supports a $40 billion a year diet industry, destroys both relationships and self-esteem, and engenders "loathing on a national level." Her revolutionary idea? Eat right, exercise, and stop worrying about weight. Being thin doesn't automatically equate with either health or happiness, the author reminds readers. She includes information from physicians, health experts, and medical journals to support her assertion that fitness contributes more to longevity than the "the f-word." The book, named after her Web site and her zine, is an engaging blend of fact and humor. Charts, graphics, photos ("visual counterpropaganda"), testimonials, quotes, ideas for sassy comebacks, and much more can help teens of all sizes reevaluate their view of the "flabulous." Fat! So? is irreverent and thought provoking, informative and fun.-Dori DeSpain, Herndon Fortnightly Library, Fairfax County, VA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780898159950
  • Publisher: Ten Speed Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/1998
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 7.06 (w) x 8.43 (h) x 1.17 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One



If you're like most people, you've spent plenty of time worrying about your weight. In all that time, it probably never occurred to you to ask yourself what you actually like about being fat. Who would ask such a thing? Just formulating the question goes against all our conditioning (and is probably illegal in the state of Mississippi). Nonetheless, the question that no one thinks to ask always produces the most interesting answer. (Einstein said that. Or maybe it was Barbara Walters.)

    That's why the survey on the FAT!SO? Web site asks people, "What do you like about being fat?" So far, hundreds of people have generated thousands of interesting answers to this question. Laid end to end, their responses are powerful counterpropaganda to the forces that would have you believe you have to be thin to be happy. I'll list some of the best answers here. You can try them on for size or think up your own.

* My friends like me for who I am.

* I'm unique, not a cookie-cutter person.

* Looking younger than my age—no wrinkles.

* People like to hug a soft person.

* Looking like a fertility goddess.

* People get out of my way when I'm in a hurry.

* I've never been mugged.

* I can eat what I like (including salads).

* People remember me.

* Having big, luscious breasts.

* Not being on a diet.

* I exercise because I want to, not because I have to.

* When I was in the Middle East, a young woman
said,"You're so fat! How did you do it?"

* I can do something fun, instead of obsessing about my thighs.

* I am part of the fat modeling scene.

* My girlfriend is fat. I wouldn't trade her for the world.

* My measurements won't be all I have going for me.

* I'm not tiny and helpless.

* I feel substantial.

* It makes me strong.

* It taught me to think for myself and not rely on the crowd.

* It made me more accepting of other people who are different.

* It's a built-in jerk detector.

* I have weight behind my efforts.

* I have more body to tattoo.

* It gives me attitude.

* I just plain feel good the way I am.

* It's part of me, and I like myself.

And the answers from one thirteen-year-old guy:

* A keg is more than a six-pack.

* If you've got the size, you win the prize.

What do you like about being fat?

1. ____________________

2. ____________________

3. ____________________


by Alexis Neptune

I once had a boyfriend who said that when he held my butt, he felt like he was holding four. I should have told him that he was damn lucky to hold it at all, but that weak girl I once was cried and didn't eat for three days. I once had a boyfriend who bought me a dress in a size 6. When I asked him why he bought it in that size, he said, "As incentive." I cried and went on Nutri-System. I was a size 6 for a full eleven months and then had my gallbladder removed at age twenty-one.

    I've gone from a size 6 to a size 18 and back, again and again. I've been on every diet you can think of. I have done aerobics, callanetics, weight lifting, jogging, you name it. My body still cries out, "I am 180 pounds and a size 16, and nothing you can do will change that!" I have come to accept it, begrudgingly at first. Now there are things that I like about my flesh. For instance, my motherly breasts, the huge arch from my waist to my knee, my grandma's legs—like an heirloom. I still have bad days. They come mostly when I need new clothes, but they are growing farther apart.

    I had a boyfriend who oohed and melted with just a look from me. When I cried that I was fat, he said, "You're my beauty queen." He took me to meet his mother. She was round like an apple and soft, freckled with these blue, kind eyes. She asked me why I was so skinny. She fed me fresh tomato sandwiches from her garden. I told the boy I loved his mom. He said that she was the second most beautiful girl in the world—that I was the first. I married him.


I was flipping through a mail-order catalog one day, when I came across something mesmerizing—a blob of fake fat. I knew I had to have one, but I didn't know why. They wanted $24.95 for a pound of slimy, jiggly plastic, its curdlike surface embossed with the words "1 LB. FAT." That's $24.95 plus shipping and handling, and it isn't even the real thing!

    Just think. Let's say I weigh 270 pounds and I'm about 50 percent fat. What am I worth? A cool $3,368.25 at the very least. Of course, I'd never be willing to sell, but I find it quite amusing to think of people who are so desperate for a few extra pounds that they'll lay down twenty-five bucks for a shoddy look-alike, an expensive substitute.

    I know that's not what the fake fat manufacturers had in mind—their customers are mainly those crazy diet-group leaders who use blobs of fake fat as a motivational tool—but I couldn't imagine that anyone would actually believe they have jiggly, plastic blobs inside their bodies.

    Then it hit me. The pound of ersatz fat doesn't represent the pound you weigh, it's the pound you lose, which poses a deep, metaphysical question: Where does a pound of fat go when you lose it? (It has to go somewhere, that's the first law of thermodynamics.) Well, FAT!SO? has solved the mystery: The lost pound goes on vacation. It has a great time, and makes friends with other little pounds of lost fat. They globe-hop together for a while. Then they all come home, right back to where they belong, your hips and thighs.

    Now there's photographic evidence of this process. Using a highly sophisticated, infrafat camera, FAT!SO? spies snapped these shots of little lost L.B. O'Fat during its world tour. L. B. loves to use the photos for postcards. You never know when you'll get a postcard from your pal, little lost L.B. O'Fat.


1. FAT!SO? CALLS FOR REVOLUTION. THE REVOLUTION starts with a simple question: You're fat! So what?

2. There's nothing wrong with being fat. Just like there's nothing wrong with being short or tall, black or brown. These are facts of identity that cannot and should not be changed. They are birthright. They are heritage. They're beyond cures or aesthetics. They provide the diversity we need to survive.

3. Fat people are not, by definition, lazy or stupid. People who believe in such stereotypes, however, are.

4. FAT!SO? proclaims 12:01 A.M., January 1, to be International Fat-Outing Minute! During this minute, round folk are called upon to stand before their mirrors, smile, and proclaim, "I am fat!" The zealous will then gaze deeply into the eyes of their round loved ones and say, "You are fat, too!" Then, fat folk everywhere will applaud and blow noisemakers for a second time in as many minutes. Instead of starting the new year with yet another resolution to lose weight on some harmful, ineffectual diet, we'll begin each year with an honest moment and some relief from body-related anxiety.

5. FAT!SO? invites you to become a flabulous fatso—everybody, size 6 to 16, size 2X to 12X—because fat or thin, straight or gay, male or female, we have all at some point wasted our precious moments on the planet worrying about how we look. Stop that! Just say the magic words: "Yes, I am a fatso!" Write it here:


With these words, you create revolution. You turn fat hatred back on itself. As a fatso, you possess the ultimate weapon against weight worries, body prejudice, and size-related discrimination: fat pride.

6. Practice saying the word fat until it feels the same as short, tall, thin, young, or old. Chat with your fat. Give it pet names. Doodle fat on your notepad during meetings: fat FAT fat fat FAT. Use the word fat with your parents, with your partner. Let friends in on your secret. Say, "By the way, I'm fat." You're not overweight, not plump, not bloated. You're fat! Combine the word fat with other words in new and unusual ways: sexy fat, fat and fabulous, fat pride. Use fat in a sentence: "You're looking good. Are you getting fat?" "I met a handsome fat man the other day." "Gee, I wish I could be fat like her." Try out these radical phrases on people you meet and watch their stunned reactions.

7. Large, big-boned, overweight, chubby, zaftig, voluptuous, Rubenesque, plump, and obese are all synonyms for fear.

8. List the five people you most admire.

1. _____________________

2. _____________________

3. _____________________

4. _____________________

5. _____________________

    How many of them are fat? Is this more than you expected? Less than you hoped? What does your admiration really mean?

9. Fat is a numbers game. You tell yourself, "I could never weigh more than 140 pounds" (or 160 pounds or 200 pounds or more). If you exceed this imaginary limit, your body becomes an impossibility. When I weighed 160 pounds, I thought I was too fat for words. Then I went up to 200 pounds. The unthinkable had happened. Now that I weigh 210 pounds and have friends twice my size, I realize that this numbers game is no different from the flat-world theory: We set weight horizons beyond which we expect to fall off the face of the earth. But the world is round, and all bodies are possible, acceptable, real.

10. FAT!SO? calls on all people everywhere to stop lying about their weight, especially on driver's licenses. This self-hating practice reinforces the oppression of fat people and undermines fat pride. When Gloria Steinem turned forty, people kept telling her she didn't look it. She would patiently explain that she did, too, look forty, but that women have lied about their age for so long that we think forty really looks like thirty-two, and that thirty-two should pass for twenty-eight. Likewise, people have lied about their weight for so long that we don't know a good-looking, 270-pound person when we see one. So what? So fat people can't get jobs, lovers, health insurance, or respect because our society can't imagine people weighing more than the numbers on some bogus height/weight chart. Practice honesty right now. Fill in the following blanks.

    My name is _____________________, and I weigh _____ pounds.

11. My fellow fatso, it's time we refused to be weighed during doctor visits. If a health professional pressures you to get on the scale, ask what possible medical purpose it would serve. A nurse said, "We need to track your weight so that, if it changes a lot from one visit to the next, we'll know, because it can indicate disease." Yeah right. Like I wouldn't notice a sudden loss of twenty pounds. Call the doctor's scale what it is: a tool of intimidation and humiliation, a means to justify the medical industry's antifat bias and diet-pill profiteering.

12. This is how we see: Vertical lines of thin bodies are good. Horizontal rolls of fat people are bad. It's a hierarchy of the Y-axis over the X-axis. Marx says: Reverse the terms, put fat on top. I say: Dichotomies are dumb. Love it all!

D is for Demand

"Women's minds have been mutilated and muted to such an extent that `Free Spirit' has been branded into them as a brand name for girdles and bras."

--Mary Daly, Gyn/Ecology

"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."

--Frederick Douglass, "West India Emancipation" speech

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Table of Contents

What Are You So Afraid Of? 13
Quiz: Are You a Fatso? 15
Why I Encourage You to Use the F-Word 18
What Do You Like About Being Fat? 24
Love in the Time of Size 18: Alexis Neptune 25
Little Lost Pound o'Fat Sees the World 26
The FAT!SO? Manifesto 28
Talk Radio & You 31
She Likes It!: Boanne 34
But What About Your Health? 35
What's In a Word?: Donna Marsh 42
Fat Kills: Betty Rose Dudley 42
A Happy Ending: Dawn Falkowich 44
300,000 44
Another Number 46
Anatomy Is Destiny 47
The Little Black Dress: Audra Spurlock 49
A Letter to FAT!SO?: Bethany Johnson 50
The Cutoff Point 50
Oh, Yeah? 54
Celebrity WastingSyndrome 56
My Personal Trainer Can Beat Up Your Personal Trainer 56
Cinder Says 61
Break the Connection 61
What Being Fat Has Taught Me: Nicole M. Nicholson 63
A Talk Show By Any Other Name 63
What Can You Do? 64
Self-Hate Crimes 68
The Search for the Cure 69
A Brief Timeline: Prescription Diet Drugs 71
The Same Old Song 74
The Battle of the Pseudosciences 75
Skeptical But Equal 78
The Soap Lady: Lynn McAfee 81
Beating a Horse of a Different Color 82
Fat Is Not a Cloaking Device! 83
Gab Café Success Story #1: The Newlyweds 85
The Wash & Chop Way 87
Diet Doublespeak 88
How to Tell When You're on a Diet 89
First Strike 90
The Cyrano Syndrome 91
Opportunity Cost 92
Yeah, Right! 94
Eat Like a Bird 96
Genetic Curses: Emily Ivie 96
Notes from a Young Zine Editor 97
Cottage Cheese Cuisine 98
Gab Café Success Story #2: The Angry Young Woman 100
Why Not Just Needlepoint? 103
Everyone Needs a Hobby 105
The Dance of Happiness: Yalith Fonfa 107
It Ain't Necessarily So 110
It's Hereditary 113
Deserts: Kristine Durden 116
Children Can Be So Cruel 117
A Normal Childhood: Tracy Pekar-Rogers 120
The Weight Question 121
He Ain't Heavy, He's Samoan 123
BMI: Bold & Meaningful Information About Fat: Sondra
Solovay 125
They Called Me Hank 127
Generation XXX 128
Cut & Paste Project #2: Venus of Willendorf Paper Doll 129
My Size: Debora Iyall 150
Shopping With Mom: Johanne Blank 152
Gab Café Success Story #3: The Entrepeneur 154
Thank You, Barbie! 155
Why You Should Dye Your Hair Hot Pink 156
Muumuu-of-the-Month Club (A Fatlin Mint Exclusive) 160
When In Russia 161
A Good Fat Rant: Joanna Iovino 163
Fat Phrasebook 164
Roseanne Sighting 166
Calling All Fat Men 167
By Any Means Necessary 168
Join the Air Force, See the Scales: Porter Bennefield 170
Tales of a Fat Lad: Charles Van Dyke 171
Cut & Paste Project #3: Dial-A-Clue 173
Flirting 101 175
The Joys of Fat Sex 177
A New Position on Fat Jokes: Cynthia Meier 179
In Praise of Appetites 180
Aunt Agony 182
You, Too, Can Be Flabulous! 184
Shelf Life 185
FAT!SO? Trading Cards: The Heroes & Villains of Fat
History 189
Contributors 195
Notes 199
Index 204
About the Author 208
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2008

    A reviewer

    I found this book in my local library, read it in a day, and loved it. This book has really opened my eyes to my own self denigration and to the prejudice of society.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2004

    Thank you Marilyn!

    This is THE introduction to fat acceptance. It is comprehensive, inspiring, and fun. It is a quick, easy read but packed with valuable info and insight. I simply cannot say enough in praise of this book. From the lies the medical community promotes, the personal triumphs against self-hatred, to fun and subversive little games, this book really runs the gammut. I would strongly encourage it to anyone wanting to learn more about being fat in our society. This is a fantastic place to start, and a great read for anyone already acquainted with fat acceptance ideas.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2000

    I'm done apologizing,and I burned my girdle!

    Thank God for Marilyn Wann.Finally someone has been published that shares my viewpoint-you don't have to look like Barbie to be healthy.Her message of self-love and acceptance is one everyone should read-not only because it's true but because it's hilarious.My recommendation-eat a turtle sundae and read Fat?so!,because I said so.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2010

    Change how you think, not your size.

    Are you tired of fatphobic misogynists harassing you? Tired of being told to go on a diet? Were you continually bullied and socially ostracized throughout your childhood because of your appearance? Still traumatized by this childhood bullying?

    The eye-opening book Fat! So? will empower you to feel better about your size and shape and help you realize that fatphobia is a form of bigotry, like homophobia, misogyny, and racism. In this toxic society, we are constantly barraged with the message that being fat is bad and shameful, and that we should strive to be as thin as possible. The media and the people we see each day firmly believe this and constantly remind us. We are barraged with an assumption that fat is unhealthy, yet we have no evidence supporting this assumption. Most people foolishly refuse to accept the fact that we come in different sizes and shapes. It's like refusing to accept that some of us are left-handed and that we have different skin colors.

    Fat! So?, compiled from the zine of the same title, is an amusing, entertaining, irreverent, and educational look at bigotry toward fat people and how we can transcend it. It includes illustrations and projects such as a Goddess of Willendorf paper doll. Fat prejudice and ridicule is directed more at women than men, but the book is also relevant to men. In fact, everyone in America should read it, not just fat people. It will change the way we all see size and shape.

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  • Posted February 20, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    The last diet/weight loss book you'll ever need

    Fat people are the only minority against whom it is still lawful to discriminate. Oh, wait -- we're no longer a minority! (Now we're an epidemic!) This book is for anyone who has ever hated looking in a mirror, or hated looking at photos of themselves. This book is for anyone who has ever avoided a social event because the seats will be too small. This book is for anyone who refuses to be seen in public in a bathing suit, or refuses to try on clothes in a store dressing room. And this book is for anyone who has ever contributed to making anyone feel that way! It's a big fat dose of self-acceptance. The message is deadly serious, and the writing is wicked funny! I'm buying an extra copy to give to my doctor.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2000

    Buy this book!!! It will change your life!

    This is such an empowering book. I recommend it to people of all sizes. Anytime I feel down about myself, I pick up Fat!so? and it makes me feel better.

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