Fat people in Nigeria go through a lot of abuse and degradation from society at large. It seems they get no respite from the constant passive aggression and fatphobia. The male perspective on this topic isn’t often heard, so we talked to 5 men about what it was like to be fat in Nigeria.
Growing up, I was a husky kid. I remained big through my adolescence until I was in university when I lost a lot of weight. People treated me like I was more attractive because I was slimmer. While I enjoyed the attention, I hated the hypocrisy because those same people wouldn’t look at me twice if I was fat.
In 2019, I was depressed. I gained weight because I was eating away my feelings and blew up again. COVID-19 arrived with 2020 and I grew even fatter. People who hadn’t seen me for months would go “Oh my God, Tolu, what happened?” as if I had suddenly grown a second head. Even people who hardly knew me thought they had the right to comment on my weight.
People in public places like markets would call me “biggie” and I hated it so much because it was annoying and dehumanising, and it reduced me to just my weight. I’m also scared of losing weight because of loose skin.
I’m also expected to take all the comments and not be offended. My mom’s co-worker who I was meeting for the first time made rude comments about my weight and I told her off. She reported me to my mom who made me apologise to her instead of telling the co-worker to mind her business. I was livid. Also, I felt like there is this weird thing where people assume I’m nice, the same way they assume disabled people have to be nice. It’s annoying.
Being fat, there is an assumption that I have a lot of money in my account. Being fat affects you differently, depending on how you view your situation. Sometimes, people have thrown my weight at me as an insult during arguments. There’ve been so many hurtful nicknames, too plenty to name. I’ve learned to take it on the chin and give them back their doses.
I don’t expect women to like me because not everyone likes fat men. There have been good and bad experiences. I have a marked weight I’ve disciplined myself not to cross. If I do, I do cardio and diet to bring my weight down. I’m not very consistent but I hope to change that soon.
To every other big man out there, being fat is no reason for you to repress your personality just so people can like you. It’s your world; keep those who matter to you and enjoy every minute of it.
Being a fat man isn’t so bad. I used to be bullied a lot when I was little but I learned how to dish it back to the bullies so that stopped. People are snide from time to time and children can be rude too.
It hasn’t been too bad with women. What I don’t have in physique, I make up for with my silver tongue and plus I no ugly at all. Being fat has its advantages. For one, you know that every woman dating you isn’t doing so because you’re “hot”. It’s also disadvantageous because I have to work for everything, romantically. I don’t get to hook up with people because I’m hot.
I wasn’t always fat, so that kinda offers control for comparison. In my experience as a fat guy in Nigeria, people say and do inappropriate stuff to you like they don’t expect it to hurt. Recently, I visited my former area, and someone who I wasn’t even close to stopped me on the road to tell me I had added so much weight and that my belly is now big. He went on to say I should work on my weight. It was shocking comfortable he was enough to tell me that.
People also tell you things they probably wouldn’t tell fat women. I was making out with a friends-with-benefits and she said, out of the blue, that her most recent patients were suffering from diabetes and they were all obese. She probably said it from a place of care but I just know if a man had said that while making out, people would call him a dick. I have thick skin and don’t mind all the attacks but being treated with more sensitivity would be nice.
People say there’s only one attractive way to be a fat woman but there’s no attractive way to be a fat man. As a fat man, your physical sexual appeal is zero. Almost no one is attracted to you without knowing you deeper and that kinda sucks. Nobody is going to thirst after your picture or just seeing you, but there’s a slim chance of that happening. This means I desexualise myself. I don’t want people reacting with revulsion because they think I’m moving to them. There’s a lot of passive disrespected and being treated as if you don’t exist but you learn to the chest and push it to the background.
The hardest part of being fat was my childhood. I was bullied in secondary school. My relatives also bullied me. I had an aunt who called me Fatima. However, when I entered uni, I started dressing smartly and being fat came with its perks. Because I was bearded, tall and big, people started treating me with respect — women, men and even lecturers. When I’m out with my sister who is 10 years older than I am, people assume I’m her husband.
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