The Whole View with Stacy Toth, Season 3, Episode 115: Fat or Funny? Social & Emotional Impacts of Growing Up in a Larger Body w/ Ian Karmel & Alisa Karmel, PsyD

Siblings and co-authors, Comedian Ian Karmel and Psychologist Dr. Alisa Karmel, join Stacy to share what led them to write their memoir, T-SHIRT SWIM CLUB: Stories From Being Fat in a World of Thin People.

Through a balance of Ian’s comedic reflection and earnest unpacking of his own struggles with growing up fat, along with Alisa’s own experiences with fad diets and her clinical knowledge as a psychologist and nutritionist, we are invited to be kinder to ourselves and own our space unapologetically at any size.

Find Alisa & Ian:

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Key Takeaways 


  • Originially from Portland, OR, Ian is an Emmy award winning stand-up comedian, actor, and writer original. Ian was head writer for the The Late Late Show with James Corden, as well as a staff writer and round table regular on E!’s Chelsea Lately.
  • Alisa Karmel holds a doctorate in psychology and two masters, one of clinical psychology the other of and nutrition. Furthermore, she provides counseling for weight-centric concerns including issues related to fatness, obesity, and being overweight, such as body acceptance; health behavior improvement; and depression, anxiety, trauma, and other mood disorders.

Fat or Funny?

You realize you’re fueling your self-esteem off of the same system that people use to devalue you and debase you for the longest time and you’re still participating in this horrible cycle. – Ian Karmel

  • Stacy was particularly interested to hear their stories, as it’s not common to see a male and female sibling duo actively speaking about the issues related to diet culture, disordered eating, and body dysmorphia.
  • While the book is comedic in nature, it’s a relief for a serious topic and difficult childhood. Ian tells his story and his sister talks about the more clinical nature of the story, and includes her own experiences as well.
  • As a professional comedy writer, Ian shares stories of the “characters” he creates and his experience using self-mockery as a coping mechanism for social criticism, highlighting how bigger-bodied characters often aren’t typecast as funny and are instead pushed into the other extreme.
  • Stacy also talks about popular shows like Reindeer which immediately triggered her into the perception being cast with a fat actress who doesn’t take care of herself, lies, eats microwave meals in a hoarder-type apartment. She notes that most people watching aren’t even realizing the engrained messages being delivered.
  • Alisa notes that while the industry is trying to include some sort of larger-bodied individuals in some capacity, and she believes they have failed to do it in a way that makes her feel included when watching anything. When she was younger, she never saw anyone I related to and doesn’t she does today either.
  • Culturally, there is no winning. Like the title of the book, Stacy notes that if we are in work out clothes or swimming in a bathing suit, moving fat bodies are shamed and mocked and belittled.

Next Steps

  • Ian says there is no need to sacrifice yourself on the alter of fat shaming. People are thinking less about you than you think and maybe not at all, as they have their own stuff going on. So you don’t need to be so eager to beat them to the punch and be so eager to be cruel to yourself to try to gain acceptance from these people or to makes jokes about yourself that are going to make you feel worse later on.
  • Alisa simply believes we should own our space and do it unapologetically!

Studies, References & Products


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Note: Stacy and her guests are not medical professionals. This podcast is for general educational purposes only. It is NOT intended to diagnose, advise, or treat any physical or mental illness. We always recommend you consult a licensed service provider.

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