When I showed my daughter the NYT piece on the fatosphere the other day, her only comment was, "But you're not fat."
What she meant, of course, was "You're not that fat."
Put me next to, say, Ellen Pompano, and I certainly look fat. Put me next to someone who weighs 400 pounds and I don't look fat. Or I don't look as fat.
Fat and thin are words that exist mainly in relation to each other. At the extremes of each range we can certainly identify them correctly. But in the vast middle, our judgment becomes much more relative.
Semantics plays a role in the current anti-obesity hysteria. For starters, the definitions and rules changed in 1998, when the cutoff for overweight was lowered from 27.3 to 25 on the BMI chart. Bingo--instant overnight overweight for millions.
As Paul Campos has pointed out in The New Republic, the way we talk about fat and thin, oveweight and obese and underweight, is something of a shell game.
Fat qua fat is not the problem. Because, after all, we all have fat on our bodies. What's more, we need fat. Without it, your body doesn't work well and your brain sure as hell doesn't work right. I've seen the evidence up close and personal, and it's not pretty.
Think about it the next time you find yourself saying, "But I'm so fat!" or the next time you look in the mirror. Come back and tell me how it changed your perception.