Woman creates comedy show to take away the shame of fatness

Katie Greenall, like many of us, spent her younger years waiting for the moment that she’d have the body she was constantly told was ‘correct’.

When that time came, whenever that was, she’d be able to wear the clothes she’d bought a few sizes too small. She’d be able to go on the holidays she wanted and speak to the people she’d otherwise be afraid to speak to.

‘I’d always thought that my fat body was temporary,’ Katie tells Metro.co.uk.

‘I was always thinking about the next thing, like after the summer holiday I’ll come back to school thinner or I don’t want to buy expensive clothes or get a nice haircut because I my body is temporary.’

Finding fat acceptance was what helped 24-year-old Katie to start living in the here and now, allowing herself to enjoy the present and value herself even if she didn’t have this societally acceptable ideal.

Katie is a filmmaker, theatre facilitator and writer, and spoken word poet who grew up in Southampton but now lives in London.

Day-to-day she runs workshops for young people to get into theatre, and she also works on her own creative endeavours; including the sell-out show Fatty Fat Fat.

The solo show looks at anecdotes from Katie’s life as a fat woman, with audience participation and tender moments along with jokes.

Speaking of how this specific show came to fruition during her studies at East 15 Acting School, Katie says: ‘At drama school, you’re working out how you fit in the world, trying out this sort of new version of yourself.

‘In amongst that, I realised that I’m telling anecdotes from my childhood and my life, and realised that there was stuff that my body had been subjected to that other people’s bodies hadn’t been.

‘And those anecdotes form the basis of the show, when I started to realise that like, my body wasn’t “normal”. And I guess I’ve always been aware of that.’

Speaking about bodies without the filter that sees fatness as something to be ashamed of is important to Katie, but it’s also about mixing in humour with something more honest.

Much of the knowledge Katie gained about her own body and how society treats fat people came from social media and bloggers.

She says: ‘I realised that there was a whole variety and variations of fatness that wasn’t what I’d understood my body to be.

‘And I worked out that, yeah, you could be fat and happy, like you could be fat and not want to change that.’

It’s extremely difficult to not only accept that you’re deserving of love and care whatever your body size, but even more so to undo the conditioning that tells us that fat is one of the worst things you can be. That’s where Fatty Fat Fat came in.

‘It’s so funny because like, I’ve lived in a fat body for as long as I can remember, but I’ve never really used the word fat to describe myself,’ says Katie.

‘And so like, you know, calling myself Fatty Fat Fat really like using the word fat to describe myself really allowed me to sort of like take the elephant out of the room, even though it was obvious to begin with, but my bunny like literally saying, cool, I live in a fat body.’

When naming the show, Katie said she wanted to ‘make it really clear rather than shy away from it because the more we shy away from it, the more stigma and connotation and – pardon the pun – weight.’

Taking the negativity out of the word fat is like saying Voldemort out loud at Hogwarts. Yes, it’s typically been used as a pejorative, but it doesn’t need to be a descriptor that depicts people as ‘worse’ in any way.

Another stereotype that Katie hopes to break down with Fatty Fat Fat is that fat people need to find their value solely in being funny.

We’ve seen so often in films or on TV that bigger people are considered the butt of the joke and should make fun of themselves, but Katie wanted to show that that’s a one-dimensional viewpoint.

She herself has felt that she used humour as a ‘way to get by,’ as this can help as a coping mechanism to deflect from ‘traumatic’ fatphobia. But it’s ultimately not representative of anyone’s life as a whole.

‘I’d often make jokes at the expense of my body,’ says Katie. ‘And that’s something that I didn’t realise I was doing, but it was such a safety mechanism – and something I’ve definitely tried to move away from now.’

‘A lot of people came to the show thinking it was going to be comedy, and so many times in the press and media and stuff people have listed the show as comedy, even though we’ve never ever called it that,’ she continues.

‘They just assumed that. They make assumptions about what fat people can do, that humour is a given.’

As well as the subject matter of the show, Katie and her team have been careful to ensure that the locations for the shows are comfortable for all bodies. That means accessibility via ramps or wide stairs and checking the width of seats among other things.

They also pay a ‘fat ambassador’ in each area they bring the show to, to help promote it as well as take on activism in the community that might otherwise not have been possible.

To someone in a smaller body, fatphobia (and, as a result, fat activism) may seem insignificant, but it means much more than just dealing with rude people or having fewer clothes shops to buy from (although these are difficult to deal with).

Katie explains: ‘A big turning point for me was actually that I realised that I’d become really scared of going to the doctor.

‘So regardless of what my health concern was – whether it be from a headache to a broken toe – I didn’t go to the doctor because I just was too scared about how they were going to link back to my weight when actually often these things have nothing to do with my weight and my body.’

Stigma still exists in the medical field when it comes to weight, and studies have shown that doctors are often ‘prejudiced against overweight patients’.

For Katie – and the vast swathes of the population whose bodies don’t fit into the size six to eight mould – fatphobia can literally be a matter of life and death in extreme circumstances, or a matter of living miserably otherwise.

Neither one of these implications should be part of life for anyone. And although these stigmas won’t go away overnight, works like Fatty Fat Fat can help chip away at them.

‘One really touching moment was when a kind of older male doctor came up to me,’ says Katie.

‘I didn’t know he was a doctor obviously, until he just shook my hand and said “I’m a doctor and this has changed the way that I view fat people. So thank you for expanding my horizons and understanding of the issues.”

‘That kind of feedback to me is really invaluable, the fact that other people can come into the show and leave with a different understanding of the way that fat people have to navigate the world.

‘It’s something that like means a huge amount to me. For example, that situation is going to affect so many people’s lives off the back of it, just that one person having that extra bit of understanding.’

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