Rethinking Fat by Rivky Boyarsky

Rethinking Fat by Rivky Boyarsky
One day my 5-year-old daughter got off the bus in an awful mood. I have a firm belief that the first 5 minutes after school is when kids unload any hard portions of their day, and I try to really focus on them during that time.
“What happened?” I asked her. “Is something making you upset?” She was reluctant to share, so I let it go. By bedtime that night I brought it up again, and this time she shared.
“Mommy some girls on the bus were making fun of you and saying you’re so fat”. Ahh! This was an easy one for me. I looked at her squarely in the face and answered “Well, I am,” with a big smile on my face. (For context, I have been ranging in size from a size 12 to size 20 for as long as I can remember and at the time of this conversation was at my heaviest). I pulled my gorgeous girl, who really shouldn’t be thinking about body size at 5, onto my lap and hugged her close and whispered to her: “See how cozy your mommy is? I’m like a comfy, cozy pillow.” She giggled and snuggled closer.
People often struggle to categorize heavy women. They don’t want to call women FAT, but if we don’t do that then what do we call them? Fluffy? Plump? I cringe every time someone does that. I am not a fluffy marshmallow or a plump blueberry. We need to stop thinking that fat means unhealthy. We need to stop thinking that fat means undesirable. We need to stop thinking that the word fat is a bad word. Fat is simply a descriptive word, just like the words “young” or “blonde.”
Much of the confusion about how we should feel about our weight comes from being taught by scientists and well-meaning people alike that being overweight is unhealthy. This is simply not always a true statement. It is often untrue because the tools we have for measuring healthy body weight generally don’t take into account factors such as muscle mass, stage of life (think postpartum and menopause), and body build (some of us are built lanky, others more stocky), how nutrient-dense our food is, or how much healthy movement we have in our day. Concluding that everyone who is overweight is unhealthy is misleading and can have hurtful consequences. Urging anybody who is not “thin,” to lose weight means that we are telling people to focus on decreasing their consumption of food and potential nutrients with no regard to their mental status or levels of activity or nutrition.
Depriving ourselves of food creates an unhealthy relationship with our bodies and with food. Our body wants food to survive and thrive, so it will fight our efforts to deprive ourselves. While we need to be moderate with processed sweets, depriving ourselves completely of these also makes us want them more. When we focus on bringing in healthier choices and joyful movement we will fill the spaces with good things and have less space for things that are less healthy and support our overall wellbeing.
Body positivity starts with acceptance of who we are, in our entirety. We are largely a product of our genetic endowment, a gift of life from Hashem channeled through our families. We can’t fight our genetics. Just as we are wired with certain talents, we arrived in this world with a certain body. Each of our bodies makes our lives possible and can do amazing things. Accept your body for the wonderful things it does on a daily basis, love it, and appreciate it.
We must focus on growing by taking up more space, not less. Rather than focusing on eating less, focus on eating healthier food. Focus on doing more. Adding physical activity, adding to our Avodas Hashem, spending more time with family and friends, shift our focus away from just our appearance to what matters most in our lives. So go out and empower yourself in your self-care, accept the beautiful body that Hashem has given you and transmit that love to the next generation so that they can reach their goals from the healthiest place possible.
Rivky Boyarsky RN is a midwife and kallah teacher. She and educator Sara Loewenthal are the co-creator of “Bodies and Souls” (
a new platform promoting growth, self stewardship, self care, and personal harmony among women in the Orthodox community.


  1. We typically overeat when we want the fleeting pleasure experienced during eating to keep lasting. What we are really craving in our lives is lasting pleasure. So the easiest and most effective way to overcome overeating is to immediately bring pleasures into our lives that are greater than the momentary pleasure we get from eating. You may want to simply turn on music and start dancing or stretching. Maybe open a window or step outside and feel the cool air or sunshine on your face. Or leave a sweet text message for someone you appreciate. What works? Whatever fills your genuinely hungry soul with a more lasting joy.

    As you explained, “When we focus on bringing in healthier choices and joyful movement we will fill the spaces with good things and have less space for things that are less healthy and support our overall wellbeing.” The Pleasure Ladder helps us clearly see that there is no scarcity of pleasure in our lives. It is empowering to realize that there is an abundance of pleasure we can bring into our lives at any moment. Gratitude is the key to climbing each rung, savoring each natural pleasure joyfully.

    • Did you even read what this women wrote? You need to not stereotype fat women thinking because they are fat they are overeating for pleasure!!!!!!!!!Your fat prejudice comes through.Re read what she wrote not everyone is fat because they overeat

  2. YEA GIRL PREACH!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. We ALL eat for pleasure! That’s what our wonderful natural food was created for – to fill us with pleasure, both physically and spiritually!

    And right, there are medical reasons why a person will overeat, but I wrote “typically” we overeat because we want the pleasure we are experiencing to keep lasting. Identifying what brings more pleasure than overeating processed food is very helpful. Some possibilities are subbing in more natural foods, movement, being in nature, focusing on the virtues of another, doing something meaningful, doing something creative, transcending our limitations – basically climbing the five rungs of The Pleasure Ladder. It’s a wonderful roadmap for bringing more gratitude into life.

    • This sounds lovely. Is there more information on this somewhere? It also sounds like a way to be less focused on the just the physical.

  4. A short podcast about this is here, if that’s helpful:

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