Talk to someone now. Call our National Helpline on 1800 33 4673. You can also chat online or email

Talk to someone now. Call our National Helpline on 1800 33 4673. You can also chat online or email

Season 2, episode 13

In Depth with fat positive influencer Katie Parrott

Social media influencer Katie Parrott uses her online presence to normalise our view of larger bodies and to talk about fatphobia, mental health, public health, food, fashion, and anything else that comes to mind. Katie spent some time with our host, Sam Ikin, talking about her journey to body acceptance. It wasn’t always easy for Katie to shrug off social pressures to subscribe to the thin ideal, or to get where she is now: a joyful and powerful equal opportunity advocate for people of all shapes and sizes.

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Sam Ikin:

This is another In Depth episode from your friends at Butterfly and our guest in this episode is Insta famous.

Katie Parrott:

I am Katie Parrott. By day, I am a policy officer in the Tasmanian government and the rest of my time. I am a plus sized fashion influencer on Instagram and a body activist.

Sam:

Katie joined us late in 2021 for our episode called What does an eating disorder look like to you, where we went in depth into how eating disorders hide in plain sight, and you can’t tell if someone has an eating disorder by the way that they looked. If you haven’t had a listen, please go back and check it out.

Katie:

I use my space online to normalise different looking bodies, diverse bodies and to open up the door to talk about fat phobia, to talk about mental health and just to talk about whatever I want.

Sam:

So we sat down with Katie to talk about whatever it is that she wants as well as her mission to change the way that people in larger bodies are seen, not just online, but everywhere. She uses her platform primarily on Instagram to influence greater body acceptance. She also posts about fashion, food, books, social justice and a bunch of the usual things people post on Instagram, but she’s unashamedly authentic and she’s really, really popular.

Katie:

A note for me is that I self-describe myself as fat. That for me is a value neutral descriptor and I know it’s not for everybody, but that’s how I refer to myself. And Sam you’re welcome to refer to me that way as well.

Sam:

Look, I can’t tell you how helpful it is to so many people that you’re so enthusiastically fat positive because that thin white ideal really does cause so much distress and like, body dissatisfaction for the many, many people who just don’t fit it. Like the pressure to be small and fit in is intense.

Katie:

I’m lucky that I’m really supported by the people around me and my friends are really supportive and they really like take it in stride, changing their behaviours and acknowledging their behaviours and trying to learn and trying to be good advocates in their personal lives when I’m not there.

Sam:

It wasn’t always like this for Katie, she wasn’t always immune to the pressures, and she struggled with her shape and size earlier on. This manifested as an eating disorder, but at the time she had no idea because she didn’t fit what she thought was the stereotype.

Katie:

I didn’t know I had an eating disorder until quite a few years into recovery for it. I was in an environment at university where I was smaller than I am now funnily enough, but I was a lot larger than everybody that I lived with in residence. The environment was one where it just felt like what I should be doing, and I had a lot of internalised fat phobia, and I went off on this (I’m doing air quotes here) journey. Not only did I not get any help, but I was also never once ever pulled up on any of my behaviours. No one ever asked if I was okay. Like I got nothing but congratulations because I was a fat person losing weight. It wasn’t until probably three years after I left that environment and I had kind of stumbled into recovery, which I feel very lucky about because that doesn’t really happen to most people. It was only then that I realised, oh, like all of those things I was doing, if you wrote them down without knowing what I looked like, anybody would say that was an eating disorder. But if you put fat at the top, then suddenly none of those things count and none of those things matter. So, to me, it was not only that I didn’t feel like I could access help, but it was also that I didn’t know I needed help.

Sam:

Being the person that you are now, as an influencer, somebody who is on social media a lot, very publicly with a lot of followers, can you tell us what sort of stigma still exists? I guess you are probably better placed than anyone else to tell us what sort of stigma still exists.

Katie:

The stigma just is everywhere. And once you know what you’re looking at, it is really hard to not see it everywhere because it is in the way that people talk about your doing totally normal things. I will post pictures at the beach and people will be like, “You’re such an inspiration, you’re so brave.” And I’m like, “I’m not really, it’s just hot and I want to go for a swim. There’s nothing brave about it.” And people don’t realize that that’s a kind of a shitty thing to say. But it is.

There’s also all the overt stigma that you receive being publicly fat on the Internet. I’m told that I’m disgusting, like probably once a week by random strangers and I’m like, “All right, and what proof have you got? None.” I don’t really let that bother me, but it is difficult knowing that if I post pictures of food— I love sharing the food that I eat because I think that’s really powerful because I like food—even now, after many years online, I still have that momentary feeling of like, “Do I need to justify why I’m eating what I’m eating? Do I need to explain it to people? Do I need to say that I haven’t eaten lunch or whatever it is?” I still have that thought and I still have that fear that someone is going to comment on it in a way that they just don’t with people who are smaller. So yeah, it’s very pervasive and those are just the things that people say and think, and that’s not even getting into the systems that are in place that stigmatise fat people. As my, as my partner said, once he started realising all the things I experienced, he was like, it’s everywhere. And I was like, yes, yes, it is.

Sam:

You’re very lucky now to have such an awesome support network around you and honestly, how could they not? I mean, they can look at what you’re doing online, and I don’t understand how people couldn’t support what you’re doing. It’s amazing. I think it really is a good thing to have to have so many people around, especially like your partner who sounds like an absolute rock.

Katie:

He’s pretty great. Yeah.

Sam:

So tell me about your emotional state back when you were in the midst of the eating disorder or, you know, just as it was starting to take hold.

Katie:

Oh, shocking. Absolutely dreadful. Yeah, my emotional state was really terrible at the time, sort of in the lead up to my disorder and during, I was living in residence in at the University of Melbourne. And it was just not a good environment to be in, I mean, in some ways it was, right, it was fun, and I met a lot of my close friends there. But it was also a really challenging environment. It’s a lot of people who live very close together, who hook up with each other, who vote for each other to go into committees. There’s a lot of cache in being popular, in being pretty in being, you know, whatever. I was away from my family for the first time. I was fine, but I wasn’t really. I think I was very vulnerable, and I was very lonely and I was just so much bigger than all of the people that were there by a long way and looking back on it, I didn’t know how else to survive that environment, to be honest. I was trying to flourish around my peers, I’d always felt like someone who was smart and who was funny, and I didn’t have heaps of friends, but I liked the friends that I had. But I was like, I don’t know how to succeed in this environment. With hindsight now being diagnosed with both anxiety and depression and being medicated for those, I was very, very depressed and all those things just consolidated into the eating disorder. My quote unquote weight loss journey felt like the right way to channel my energy because I was also getting the dopamine hit from all the exercise I was doing.

Katie:

I mean, I still love exercise and I think that as a tangent, it’s actually really important to try and decouple exercise from eating disorders and from weight loss because it’s brilliant. I love exercise, I really loved running. I picked up running at this time and a lot of really positive things were coming out of that, because I was getting outside, I was getting a lot of fresh air, I was really in touch with how my body was feeling in those moments. And yet I reflect on it now because I was so out of touch with my body at the same time. That’s an interesting distance to be holding, especially with hindsight.

But the thing that I remember the most is that I felt really satisfied that I was finally fitting in with these people and it just happened to correlate that I was better liked and more popular across the next two years when I was in the depths of my eating disorder. I still had so much self-loathing, I mean I look at photos of myself in that time, especially like selfies, I don’t have that many, but you know, my face just looks drawn and sad and all I remember from that time is the level of judgment, it was really sad. I think about it now and I’m like that’s really sad because I was 20 and 21 and I should have been really loving that and not being held back by fear of how people are perceiving my body

Sam:

I know that feeling when you’re in that kind of environment and you’re supposed to be out there having this amazing time and you’re not because you’re too self-conscious, it’s easy to look back though and see that as an opportunity missed. But do you look back now and see that as more of a formative stage you had to go through to get where you are now?

Katie:

Ah yeah, I do. I wish I’d been able to do it without the eating disorder because I still carry a lot of these behaviours with me, and I just prefer not to have them frankly. But it was a really important time in my life, as I said. I made a lot of friends, I learned a lot about who I was and the things I wanted to do with my life and so I don’t regret it. I try not really to regret anything because I really like who I am now and so I don’t want to regret anything that led me to this place. I just wish that somebody at the time would have been able to see past my body to what I was doing to it.

Sam:

We are supposed to have come a long way in the last 5-10 years. Do you think it’s still difficult for people to come out and talk publicly about having eating disorders?

Katie:

Yes. Yes, I do. I think it is really difficult. I think there are still a lot of people who fundamentally don’t understand what it means and so there’s a real fear of being seen as attention seeking or making behavioural decisions as opposed to those things being like unconscious. I can’t speak for everybody, but I felt like my eating disorder was happening to me because the driver for the decisions felt so subconscious. I didn’t feel like I was active, it’s not like I was actively choosing it. I think that’s what a lot of people don’t understand. Anyone who lives in a bigger body, you still feel like you’re not legitimate and that people are going to be like, well would it hurt you to lose a couple of kilos. And now I’m like ah, yes, it would. It would if I’m going to do it this way.

Also, I think the recognition of like binge eating disorders and some of the different kinds of eating disorders is powerful. But I have had instances where I’ve talked about the eating disorder in my past and people started assuming it was a binge eating disorder and I was like, no, no, I was fully starving myself. They were embarrassed and I wasn’t because I don’t care about embarrassing people. You know? So, yes, I think there’s still a lot of barriers in place for people getting the support they need and to recognizing and coming out and talking about it. And I hope that that changes as we are becoming more open and things like this podcast and the work that Butterfly is doing. Like, I hope that changes.

Sam:

It’s time for me to ask you for your advice. Could you tell us what advice you might have for other people who feel a bit of shame and isolation around their experience –  as somebody who’s obviously crashed straight through that.

Katie:

I think that there are things you can do online and there are things you can do in real life. You need to try and put in place boundaries for the people who aren’t helping you and seek out people who can if they’re not helpful for you. Feel confident in putting in place a boundary to maybe go see someone new. Or, if your mom or dad or whoever is not helping to legitimise you, putting in place that boundary, which is like I can’t talk to you about this because you’re not helping me. And then seeking out people who can help. Talking to friends or seeking out support networks that that can help you. Online, the most powerful thing that you can do is remember that you are in control of your own social media and the media that you consume. I think we talk a lot about algorithms and all the terrible stuff we see online, and I try to remind people that, actually, you are in control of what you see. If the people that you are following on Instagram make you feel like shit about yourself, they make you delegitimise the way that you’re feeling and the way that you’re engaging with your body, stop following them. Seek out people who represent you, who legitimise you, who are sharing the kinds of messages you need to be to be hearing. That is something you are in control of. And I find that once you teach the algorithm that you don’t want to see the shit and you just want to see people who are going to be supportive and creating supportive online spaces, you can’t ever go back. People who talk about social being negative, I’m like, well I don’t really relate to that because my social media is a powerful community of people that I feel supported by. Um, and I want that for other people as well.

Sam:

That’s awesome. That was pretty good. I like it. I loved it. So, we’re talking about eating disorder first aid. What advice would you give to other people who suspect someone they know might be experiencing an eating disorder and not realize it.

Katie:

It’s difficult because it’s like any mental health issue you must tread gently. I think just asking people if they’re okay a bit more often and with a bit more genuine intent behind it. And being open to what they say because people often just need the right opening to talk about what’s going on. Often as a friend or a loved one, you can create that space and ask the question of people, are you okay. Or calling them out when they talk about things in a kind, loving way and referring them, doing a bit of research of your own so that you feel equipped with tools, for example going on the Butterfly website and just like asking the question of people, “Are you are you going okay? Because I’m a little bit worried about you.” Very few people are going to take that the wrong way. Like most people are going to take that the way it’s intended. And I wish I had someone ask me if I was okay because I wasn’t.

Sam:

It’s a pretty powerful question isn’t it?

Katie:

Yeah it is.

Sam:

Katie Parrott. Thank you so very much for your time and your candour and your honesty. We really appreciate it.

Katie:

My pleasure. Thank you for having me

Sam:

For anyone who might want to put a face to the name. How do we find you? You’re on social media?

Katie:

I am on social media. You can look for at Katie_Parrott on Instagram. That’s the best place to find me. I’m on Facebook and stuff. But Instagram where it’s at.

Sam:

If you didn’t catch Katie’s social media details, don’t worry. They’re all in the show notes. I encourage you to go and have a look at what she does. It’s really amazing. And remember help is available for anyone struggling with an eating disorder through the Butterfly Helpline on 1 800 EDHOPE, that’s 1 800 33 4673. If you think you’re at risk or you’d just like to know a little bit more, we strongly encourage you to go and have a look at butterfly.org.au or go to the direct links which are in the show notes. If you like this episode of the Butterfly podcast, you might want to write a review or leave us a rating wherever you get your podcasts. We would really appreciate it and remember as always, please, share it with a friend. I’m Sam Ikin. The Butterfly podcast is an Ikin Media production for Butterfly Foundation.

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