The Statistics of Being Fat: Why You Should Care, Regardless of Size

Writers note: This post has been republished to include the abhorrent decision by retailer Loft to discontinue their plus size clothing line beginning in Fall of 2021.

I’m over this 🙃😒

I’ve never had the luxury of being thin in our diet culture driven universe. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard insults that were geared towards my weight. You lose track after a few hundred, not that they ever really leave. So yesterday when I was minding my business, scrolling through Instagram, I came across a plus size influencer who I follow that was deeply upset. Major mid-price retailer Madewell was no longer carrying above a size 20W in their plus sizes. They had previously carried sizes 000-24W. Following this discovery, Madewell quickly announced they are looking to restructure their size chart, however sizes 22W and 24W, a past staple in their brand, will not be carried in new products until the Summer. This means, that once again, plus size women are feeling like an after thought. “We should be grateful for the scraps that we do manage to get.” Frankly, that’s a load of shit.

In 2019, plus size consumers made up over $9.8 billion in revenue for total US apparel sales, up from $9.7 billion in 2018. When you compare that to the $116.9 billion in revenue for all US women’s apparel sales in 2019, it seems small. Until you take a deeper look at the statistics. Of those sales from 2019, plus size revenue makes up just over 8% of the $116.9 billion in revenue. What’s the percentage of retailers in the US that carry plus sizes? It’s 8%. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that our shopping power is halted by lack of size diversity in the total US market.

Plus size women and men aren’t going anywhere because a brand chooses not to cater to them. The current growth rate for the plus size market is +3% for 2021. On top of that growth rate, consider that over 68% of plus size women who were polled were actively interested in participating in fashion trends. Now, as for women’s apparel, the growth rate for 2021 is actually expected to be a loss of -7%-12%. It would almost seem comical, if not so damning for many women, that major retailers would choose not to support plus size apparel at this critical juncture.

Now imagine you need a new jacket. Maybe it really is a need, like an interview or something for a big move. Possibly your old one is threadbare. It could also be something you really want. It’s the piece that will make you feel like you’re expressing your truest self. It will make you stand a bit taller and smile a bit more often, a rarity these days. You head to your favorite retailers website, you track down the jacket and…it’s not available in your size. Not sold out. No option to have an email notification when they’ve restocked. They’ve completely removed your size from the website. You click, frantically, looking for anything that might work. If you’re lucky, you find an oversized zip-up hoodie that is nothing like what you wanted but hey, at least it’s something. How would that make you feel?

The statistical evidence of this poor business strategy can only be overshadowed by the lingering psychological effects plus size people face on a daily basis. In North America, over two thirds of the women are above a size 16/18, up one to two sizes from a common statistic reported in 2016. Studies have shown over and over that fat women and men are seen as lazy, unsuccessful, unintelligent, and lack self-discipline, to name only a few stereotypes placed on us. As reported by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), the percentage of weight bias or discrimination is up by 66% over the past decade alone. This discrimination places a heavy toll on plus size peoples mental health. It has been well documented that plus size people are 2 to 6 times more likely to experience depression, low self-esteem, and body dysmorphia. The most shocking finding of this study to me is that these mental health conditions were NOT caused by being fat, but rather by experiences of weight-based stigma.

I would love to convince you that caring about the issue of sizing across retailers and weight bias, regardless of your size, is your duty, but the fact is I can’t. Throughout the global pandemic of Covid-19, increased awareness and the necessity of the Black Lives Matter movement, and climate change realities, people have rarely shown me that they are anything but self-serving. Despite my bleak outlook, my silver lining for humanity lies in social media. Yes, it is absolutely a cesspool unlike any other. But you can also tag brands, call out racists, send screen shots to friends and family warning them of the business practices of unethical brands. You as the consumer are given the power to ensure that your voice is heard in a way that wasn’t even fathomable a decade ago.

Despite my personal despair expressed here, I truly still remain cautiously optimistic that change in the positive will continue. However, the next time you see a plus size person upset about their size not being available, take a minute to think back to this article. At the heart of it all, it’s always more than just a size.




KatyJoe Idaho

To showing up, imperfectly

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