Skip to Content
thescene_blogheader_large.jpg

I'm fat, Vancouver. Get over it.

Read More:

Photo of Emily Walker, author of "I'm Fat, Vancouver, Get Over It."

 

There are many reasons to fall out of love with you, Vancouver-- high rent, rain, traffic, asinine liquor laws. My reason for falling out of love with you lurks in your shadows, never mentioned, and that is— what seems to be an institutional dislike of women in this city who are plus-sized, or more plainly, young fat women.

In 2004, while preparing to come to Vancouver from Portland to study at UBC, I wish someone had warned me about the tears I would shed in this city. Tears shed because I would not be able to find clothes that fit me, or people who would accept me for who I am, fat body and all. If someone had given me the warning, I would have seriously thought twice about moving here.

My first year in Vancouver was a major shock. While my friends strolled down Robson buying dresses for our dormitory formal, I would reach to the back of every rack in every store and see the tags max out at size 8, sometimes 10, very rarely size 12.

I usually wear an 18 in pants and an XL in shirts. I went underdressed to our formal, in a black cotton skirt I brought from Portland and the largest blouse I could find downtown that did fit me-a large. In summer, my friends went swimsuit shopping and swimming in English Bay.

I knew better by then to even think I would be able to do that. I finally did go swimming later that summer in my friend’s parent’s pool in Maple Ridge. My friend had to loan me his brother’s swim trunks and shirt.

During my first week of graduate school two years ago, another plus-sized girl who was from the States cornered me at a party when she heard I had also done my undergrad here. “Where do you buy your clothes up here?” she whispered. I felt awful, because I was going to break her heart.

I told her the truth. I returned home to Portland often, with an empty suitcase and would pack it full of new clothes for three to six months until I could get back down to the States again.

Only in the last few years have I been able to find Canadian versions of American stores (Old Navy and Forever 21, namely) who will ship plus size clothing to me here in Vancouver. But, I have to wonder exactly how much money I’ve spent on shipping fees for clothes that I could have picked up off a rack in many other cities for less.

I have to say things have gotten a little better on the clothing front in Vancouver, thanks in part to a thriving burlesque scene here that does not ask for acceptance of all body types, it demands it. As a result, there are stores now where I can actually buy pants or a dress that are stylish and age appropriate, but only in East Van. They’re also expensive and spending $150 on a dress is probably not wise when you’re a grad student, yet I’ve been forced to do it to have age appropriate clothing that will fit.       

And then there’s my dating life in this city. I’ve basically become as celibate as Mother Teresa. After seeing exactly how dismal my sex life was, a roommate of mine convinced me to join a dating site.

In six months of being on the site, with a full body shot on my profile page, I received not a single message from anyone in the Vancouver area. The place I received the most requests for dates? Bellingham.

In the time since I’ve moved to Vancouver, I’ve managed to partake in a few nights out in other cities: Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, and every major Scandinavian city brimming with beautiful blondes, including Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Oslo. In none of those places did anyone feel the need to go out of their way and verbally berate me about my weight as they have here in Vancouver.

One night, I was drinking at a bar near my house waiting for friends, when a guy in his mid-30’s sat down and offered me a drink. We got to talking and for some reason this guy decided to bring up the fact that he was barely over 5’7’’.

(140) Comments

JRF June 30th 2012 | 11:23 PM

The message of this article is clear: your prejudices suck and it would be great if you didn't have them, but if you must have them then keep them to yourself and don't go out of your way to be mean to someone just because they are fat, skinny, tattooed, punk-ified, short, tall, or whatever. 

Like the rest of us normal folks, deal with your emotional baggage elsewhere and not by inflicting cruelty on others. Why the fuck do you care that someone is fat? Why should that offend you? 

I can tell you something that is actually offensive: the nauseating bullying that Ms. Walker has experienced her whole life and the pathetic insecure cowards who are the bullies. Grow up!

lg July 1st 2012 | 12:00 AM

I lived in Vancouver from 2008 to 2010. You have expressed exactly how I felt while living there. I am back in Toronto now where I am from and I never have an issue with things like clothing in my size and men. I remember I once traveled 2 hours by bus to a Penningtons in North Van, it was worth it to get a cute jacket but then it started raining and I had no umbrella. I wondered why I had to suffer, just to look cute and buy feminie clothes that fit me or that were stylish? Not one store catered to plus size woman Downtown Vancouver except deparment stores and that was hit and miss. I wish Vancouver would smarten up! So glad to be back in Toronto now. I loved you Vancouver, but this girl speaks the truth. You only love certain people back!

Paula July 1st 2012 | 12:00 AM

Bob from Surrey wrote:
Stop being fat, fatty. Eat properly, exercise and get into that size 8 or whatever you consider thin. Dammit are we at a point where being fat is some sport of disability??

Thank you Bob from Surrey, you actually legitimized the point she was trying to make. By showing how ignorant lots of people in Vancouver are. 

 

ann July 1st 2012 | 1:01 AM

http://www.kingsgatemall.com/

 

you can buy plus size clothes in kingsgatemall 

there are some shops there which selling plus sized clothing

goodluck

 

Sassyfrass July 1st 2012 | 3:03 AM

I used to live in Van in fact i grew up there. While I totally believe what you're saying, bear in mind that while Van LOOKS like a big city it isn't, it's a small minded small town without a lot of class. It seems strange to say that, but most people in Van just are not sophisticated enough to know how to behave. It's a city cut off from the rest of the world, and they never had to grow up, remaining in a state of permanent adolescence (hence the puerile and boorish male behaviour, and rudeness of the Kits types). Your fatness is of course your own business but the good people of Van are too  small-minded to understand the difference between your business and their nosy desire to interfere. That, and the absolutley loathesome (and ridiculous) self-complacency that abounds  in that town. I hasten to add not everybody is like this but even a sizeable minority of boors can spoil a city.

I remember how good it felt to move to Toronto and be with people one could have a conversation with. Oh yeah, and while Van is multiracial - in a way - being Black is still seen as weird and worthy of a gawk.

I still go back to Vancouver now and then to see siblings who elected to remain (and who seem pretty well adjusted aware folks) and it's always pleasant but I would never, ever live there.

C.F. July 1st 2012 | 6:06 AM

Once upon a  time, I was 225. I was a size 24, buying clothes was hard, I was very unhappy. Last year, I decided to do something about it.

I changed the way I ate, I started exercising and now I'm 159. Still have another 54 pounds to go but I'm feeling great. 

Lindsay Dianne July 1st 2012 | 9:09 AM

My experience is limited in living anywhere else, but as someone who has been both plus sized and not plus sized... I noticed a complete behaviour switch from the public. Yes, doors are held for me more now. People offer their seats more often for me now. Men talk to me more now. Is it Vancouver? Is it society? Either way, it's a thing.
People should be allowed to feel good about who they are.

 

Marel July 1st 2012 | 9:09 AM

As one who spent over 22 years in Vancouver, I have to agree - mostly - with this article.  Being there from my mid 20's to late 40's, I went from "model material" (or so many people said) to technically "obese" (due to some medications, and other issues, like having Fibromyalgia).  So I saw both sides of the coin as a single, dating woman, and I certainly had many similar experiences. Even after spending a very enjoyable night with one guy (calling him a man overestimates his maturity), he had the gall to casually say that, despite enjoying being with me, he couldn't see me anymore, because I was too fat!  (This was when I had just started to put on some weight, and wasn't very fat at all!)

However, I DID find men who found me attractive (and not "fat fetish" types) - which is more than I can say in the 12 years I've been living back in my native Nova Scotia.  (Inexplicably, however, here there is a higher percentage of fat people here, both male and female, and all ages, I'm sure.  And lots of them are, it seems, happily paired up - so there must be some other variable going on too.  But now I'm too old to test it reliably, I think!  LOL)

So my question is - isn't North America like this generally?  The "thin is beautiful" view is so pervasive - and persuasive - that I am surprised you didn't see it in Portland, as well (it must be a rare city indeed.)  It is definitely true that, in all of Canada as far as I can tell, it is much harder to find decent fashionable and young clothes for larger women than in the US.  On-line shopping (or make them yourself) seems to be the only answers for us - which is just stupid.  For better or worse, this is a big, and growing market - why Canadian merchandisers continue to ignore it is a mystery to me.

Vancouver is a beautiful place, and I miss it - but there ARE a number of things that I don't miss at all.  I could easily have lived in Portland - it is a beautiful city, too.  I had no idea I might have found some good men there more easily, as well! ;-)  I hope you find the place you "fit" best, and I applaud you for being so positive and forthright in challenging one of the last - and least respected - prejudices.  And Vancouver - stop being so smug about your "acceptance of diversity", and vain about your "beautiful (i.e rich and thin) people".  You're ignoring and insulting a whole lot of "normal folks" who really make up your city, like everywhere else.  Get over yourself!

Lindsay Dianne July 1st 2012 | 9:09 AM

It's hard to "get over yourself" when you're this pretty. ;)

Katrina July 1st 2012 | 10:10 AM
I so feel the same way in vancouver. I live in the burbs but i still feel the same way. I get a lot of my clothes at Addition Elle, and I travel to the states to buy stuff at layne briant, and other plus size places... I just graduated from post seccondary and I got a lovely dress from www.meitiedress.com the lady who runs it is fab! She came down to a botique where she sells her dresses in maple ridge and came with a bunch in my size that the store dident have, and got me to try them on! Its fantastic! I love it! *hugs* from another Fat chick (one who got a "OMG your pregnate! Congraduatlations!" from a lady I dident know at the book store yesterday *and im not prego!*)
Marel July 1st 2012 | 10:10 AM
Lindsay Dianne wrote:

It's hard to "get over yourself" when you're this pretty. ;)

Gee, I guess this proves MY point - it's apparently "hard to get over yourself when you're this shallow".  And I think that's a very UGLY side of Vancouver, and an awful lot of people who've never even bothered going anywhere else, so they seem to think "the world" sees them as so wonderful.  People like you need to use your brain once in awhile.  There are THOUSANDS of pretty places, if only you knew.  And, a lot of those pretty places are also SMART, more accepting of all differences, less materialistic and a lot more down to earth. But you go with pretty...and when all your trees are cut down, the pipelines have polluted everything, and there is nothing by condos as far as the eye can see, then see how far "pretty" goes.  

 

Marel July 1st 2012 | 10:10 AM
Lindsay Dianne wrote:

It's hard to "get over yourself" when you're this pretty. ;)

Gee, I guess this PROVES my point - it's apparently "hard to get over yourself when you're this shallow".  And I think that's a very UGLY side of Vancouver, and there's an awful lot of people who've never even bothered going anywhere else, so they seem to think "the world" sees them as so wonderful.  People like you need to use your brain once in awhile.  There are THOUSANDS of pretty places, if only you knew.  And, a lot of those pretty places are also SMART, more accepting of all differences, less materialistic and a lot more down to earth. But you go with pretty...and when all your trees are cut down, the pipelines have polluted everything, and there is nothing but condos as far as the eye can see, then see how far "pretty" goes.  

Suzette July 1st 2012 | 12:12 PM

After reading this article, you don't have to be from out of town to feel exactly how this person feels. I used to live in Vancouver and yes, it's catered to all the asians that are a size 0. In fact, every mall is catered to them. I myself born in Vancouver and raised in Richmond, found clothing to be hard in difficult to find as well until I ventured out of Richmond/Vancouver and going to places beyond Surrey. I found the further you venture out for clothing, the sizing wasn't so manipulated. A plus size in Vancouver isn't the same as a plus size in Abbotsford. I also found that I was feeling alot better as well as I suddenly found that the sizes were loose on me. And let's not forget that most clothing I've seen are made in China. I never wanted to order plus size clothing online as I don't really like the hassles of sending things back. I have also ventured across the line to buy clothing as well and well that experience is alot better. Not only does it fit, the size is lower, the quality is better and the price is alot cheaper even with the tax! Makes me think why buy here in BC???? Vancouver is rude as well. I've never come across anyone that says "Hello" to a stranger and just being friendly. People on Vancouver Island are way nicer than mainland people. It saddens me to think that people do get joked at and yes, that is a form of bullying to me. Those young guys should be careful as these days it just takes one person to record it and post on YouTube or better yet send it to all the newstations. And guess what? It's on there for life! Another form of an employer to look you up prior to hiring you. It's not nice to bully someone who is fat. We should be more careful and understanding of others around us. 

GreenBeanGirl July 1st 2012 | 12:12 PM

Vancouver is quickly becoming obsessed about all things green, and beyond environmental concerns, that includes healthy eating. People are at the same time becoming more and more conscious about appearance, and many have made a concerted effort to lose weight. Now I don't condone people treating you rudely because of your weight, but I do take exception to the fact that you expect a multiplicity of plus size stores in a city where there is little demand for them. This is Vancouver, where HEALTHY and FIT is in, take it or leave it.

Elle July 1st 2012 | 12:12 PM

I would love to read an article on plus-size clothing options in Vancouver...

pamala July 1st 2012 | 3:15 PM

I think you are a bit sensitive ! first of all the dating issue in Vancouver has nothing to do with size.... most of my very beatiful friends with any size and shapes looking for a guy which doesn't not exist in Vanocuver .... most of my serious relations was with the guys who either were visiting vancouver or met them elsewhere ....so stop blaming yourself or Vancouver

Believe me if U have the perfect fitness, you will find someone who find something in you to criticis and it is not only Vanocuver !

I lived in Vancouver for more than 10 years, and living in Europe at this moment , traveled a lot in States ; there is one sad truth ! You can find people who love to help you and care for you almost everywhere and the vice versa ... the people who are willing to go out of their way to put you down just to make themself feel better as well ... what you think will expand so think positive about yourself so you only notice the loving ones around you 

pamala3 July 1st 2012 | 3:15 PM

I think you are a bit sensitive ! first of all the dating issue in Vancouver has nothing to do with size.... most of my very beatiful friends with any size and shapes looking for a guy which doesn't not exist in Vanocuver .... most of my serious relations was with the guys who either were visiting vancouver or met them elsewhere ....so stop blaming yourself or Vancouver

Believe me if U have the perfect fitness, you will find someone who find something in you to criticis and it is not only Vanocuver !

I lived in Vancouver for more than 10 years, and living in Europe at this moment , traveled a lot in States ; there is one sad truth ! You can find people who love to help you and care for you almost everywhere and the vice versa ... the people who are willing to go out of their way to put you down just to make themself feel better as well ... what you think will expand so think positive about yourself so you only notice the loving ones around you 

pamala4 July 1st 2012 | 3:15 PM

I think you are a bit sensitive ! first of all the dating issue in Vancouver has nothing to do with size.... most of my very beatiful friends with any size and shapes looking for a guy which doesn't not exist in Vanocuver .... most of my serious relations was with the guys who either were visiting vancouver or met them elsewhere ....so stop blaming yourself or Vancouver

Believe me if U have the perfect fitness, you will find someone who find something in you to criticis and it is not only Vanocuver !

I lived in Vancouver for more than 10 years, and living in Europe at this moment , traveled a lot in States ; there is one sad truth ! You can find people who love to help you and care for you almost everywhere and the vice versa ... the people who are willing to go out of their way to put you down just to make themself feel better as well ... what you think will expand so think positive about yourself so you only notice the loving ones around you 

Dani July 1st 2012 | 4:16 PM

After reading through your article I have to wonder if we're living in different cities... I've lived in Vancouver my entire life and have never been skinny or the stereotypical body type, and sure it's easier to find clothing for thinner people but I don't have trouble finding clothes, I just have to look a little harder... but by no means is it impossible nor do I resort to importing clothing. And I have a swimsuit that fits nicely, it was expensive but it's lasted me a few years and was worth the price.

Likewise on the dating front, I've had no trouble there, you just need to know where to look. If you're searching for men in places where models frequent, you're likely going to only find men who are looking for models...

I've not found that I'm discriminated against for my size in general, I do envy those who are thin but unfortunately not everyone can be that way... most of the uncomfortable feelings about my size are in my own head.

In summary, I think you should be more resourceful before being so quick to judge my lovely home :)

Liz July 1st 2012 | 9:21 PM

It never ceases to amaze me how cruel some humans can be. I mean calling out degrading cat calls to larger women? That is just low. I am terribly sorry that you have experience this, but I commend you for writing this article. 

Retailers carry smaller sizes because thats the general demographic of Vancouver and businesses dont need to take a loss so they can cater to the minority. Simple economics.

Do something about it. Dont go on the internet and whine about it. The time you took to write this couldve been spent exercising. Not only is it good for your general health, you're working you way into solving a problem, not running away from it like you said you will.

At this point, fat people are probably thinking of an excuse. Too busy, genetics, etc. That's just it. An excuse. I personally have exercised off 40kg using the beautiful Vancouver features you have mentioned. Grouse grind(not for starters though), beach trails, bike lanes, etc. The "amazing food" can wait for later.

Its about discipline, if its such a big problem for you, why must you indulge yourself in high calorie food or eat above your daily threshold. It's simple science really. Less calroies = weight loss.

To me, fat people are not attractive, not because of their looks but the simple fact that Fat = unhealthy and they are not doing something about it. OP is leaving Vancouver because despite loving the land, she would rather run away from her problem -- yes it is a problem fat is unhealthy -- than face it straight on.

Also, there are a lot of health freaks in Vancouver. It is the general demographic, 80% of the people I know go to the gym, and the general interest of the people is healthiness. Do something about it.

Tanya July 2nd 2012 | 2:02 AM

Teaflower is correct, this is a petty issue.

Let's stop dwelling on looks and start caring about each other...

 

 

Cathy July 2nd 2012 | 12:12 PM

Reitman's  has a stylish  line in jeans and tops , Additionelle, while it is a good way out of Vancouver (at Market Crossing on Marine Drive in Burnaby) has very stylish, well fitting clothes (I am a 22, XXL) I make a trip out there 2 or 3 times a year.  

huh
shannonjewnak July 2nd 2012 | 4:16 PM

stop making excuses for yourself and hit the gym. fuck

 

Josephx123 July 2nd 2012 | 9:21 PM

I also love how she mentions that people wont accept her for who she is but she is "waiting for friends at the bar," "all the great friends I've made here."

Got mouthed off in Downtown while walking by a pub? That is really common. Too many times I have seen drunk guys wanting to start beef in DT. In fact, SKINNY guys would get mouthed off more in that situation. 

Who comes to vancouver, let alone travelling anywhere, without their own swimsuit? Also have you heard of online shopping? 

States that there are other reasons to being fat which include: medication, depression, chronic injuries, childhood abuse, or a bad card in the genetic deck.

    Except for chronic injuries, every one of those can be solved by exercising. Even depression. You just need that one push to start. Exercise creates dopamine.

 

 

Mel July 3rd 2012 | 7:07 AM
Outstanding article!! All so true - I feel for anyone who isn't a size 2 - what am I saying, you can be a size 12 and be deemed a hippo in this place. I will never forget the afternoon I was heading home after getting off the bus when some guy put his head out the car window while passing me and yelled "hey hot stuff - Jenny Craig is that way!!"
Danica July 3rd 2012 | 9:09 AM

So many things are wrong with this article! First of all, as a Vancouverite, I feel like the fact that you're obese and made fun of has little to do with peoples' opinions of beauty, but more that it is NOT HEALTHY. It is dangerous to be obese, and while I understand and respect that there are medical conditions that cause weight gain, 99% of "obese" people are overweight because they take in more calories than they put out. In Vancouver, which is known for being an incredibly fit city, the majority of people actively strive to be in shape not because they want to be "skinny, blond and big boobed" like someone above posted, but because they want to be healthy. They do not want to have health issues as they age and want to live long health lives. That may be why you have a hard time in the dating scene: not because men don't find you attractive, but because they are looking for someone who lives a healthy, active lifestyle like them. A person's body type tells a lot about (in general, medical conditions not withstanding) their lifestyle. Personally, I would find it very hard to date someone who had a sedentary lifestyle, because I enjoy going for runs and working out and eating healthy. 

Secondly, it offends me that you would condone a city that I love because you cannot accept responsability for your own weight. If you hate the city so much and love the States so much, move back. No proud Vancouverite, or Canadian for that matter, wants to be berated for being healthy and seeing that as an acceptable norm. If being obese, a medical condition in itself that kills more people every year than many other unavoidable diseases, is the norm in the States that's fine. But it isn't in Canada, and shouldn't be. 

Gina July 3rd 2012 | 9:09 AM

Why? Because of the excuses. I understand the pain & the judgment that makes you feel shitty.. But do you think that everyone in the city judges you because you're 'fat'? No, they don't. Everyone judges everyone, not just you honey.

If you're tired of it, why not just adopt a healthier lifestyle. I'm a plus size girl myself that doesn't feel right in my plus size skin, but I don't get the same judgments from people. Maybe it's how you carry yourself? Who knows.

Also, it's too bad that you're just running into the wrong guys. 

Richard July 3rd 2012 | 10:10 AM

You come off as a bitter, whiny American.

Do you know WHY you find clothes in the US?

Because there are more obese people in the US!

 

We get it: you're fat. Good for you. I don't give a rat's ass one way or the other. Even if you were skinny, I wouldn't consider dating you... you have a piss-poor attitude. 

You're fat. And it's because of the choices you made in your life. I'm not exactly skinny, myself - I need to drop 30. I hate how the fat around my gut makes my back hurt. 

But I don't hold ANY delusions whatsoever as to why I'm fat: my lifestyle choices.

Roosh July 3rd 2012 | 11:11 AM

Which of the following options is easier:

A) Lose some weight

B) Change the culture of a city that has over half a million people.

The author is incredibly lazy and entitled.