A character that used to be fat, but now isn't.
Sometimes, part of a character's personality is driven by the fact that they were once overweight. Having a thin character revealed to have once been fat can tell you plenty about them. It can tell you that they have a past they aren't proud of and that they care enough about their health and appearance to do something about it. It also shows that the character has the strength and will power to take control of their life and get what they want, that they have self-discipline and motivation.
Be that as it may, a formerly fat background is not always all sunshine and rainbows. It can also imply a lot of self loathing and damaged self esteem, too. Many times, their slim-down can be a symptom of a desperate need to be accepted by society and an unhealthy dependence on what others think of them. The positive and negative attitudes are not mutually exclusive either, leading to many Formerly Fat individuals to have complicated self-images.
Whenever a celebrity loses weight, expect an Internet Backdraft over whether they looked better before or after, with plenty of size-shaming getting tossed in both directions.
For the inverse of this trope, see Formerly Fit.
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Anime & Manga
Fatman's teenaged little sister in the Ratman manga is conventionally slender now, thanks to years of dieting. She does not like it when her big brother shows people pictures of her as a chubby child. (Fatman is the "jolly" type who doesn't understand why she's so ashamed of her past.)
Overweight Reika from Ginga E Kickoff is accepted in a soccer team mainly because they need one more player to be legal for an upcoming tournament. She eventually becomes more fit.
Hinata Shintani from Maid-Sama! was really fat when he was a kid and was bullied because of that. His feelings for Misaki stems from her protecting him from these bullies and he moved to his grandparents' in the country and he slims down by eating their vegetables.
Otohime Ryugu in Ookami-san was called "turtle girl" in her youth due to her chubbiness until Taro encouraged her to slim down.
In Fairy Tail, Reedus Jonah after the time skip (and likely before Makarov expanded his belly to aid in his magic) is quite slender. In contrast, Droy gets much fatter.
Alvida in One Piece. Sometime between losing to Luffy and joining Buggy's crew, she ate the Slip-Slip Fruit and slimmed down considerably.
The male protagonist of Masamune Kun No Revenge was once mocked and nicknamed "Piggy" for his weight by the girl he confessed to. Out of revenge, he eventually got himself thinner, a new surname and, taking advantage of the fact she doesn't recognize him, tried to get her to fall in love with him just to dump her.
Takefumi Tonami from Kare Kano was this as a child and was heavily bullied, and was somehow protected by Tsubaki, who in turn would bully him, and he gets VERY annoyed at her because she was asked to by the teachers, as he thought she did it willingly. Years later, he comes back as a slimmer, more handsome boy to use his charms against her, but she doesn't recognize it at first. They fall for real later in the series.
In Get Smart, during the flight to Russia, Smart proudly shows an old picture of himself to Agent 99, wherein he weighs much, much more than he does at the time. In fact, when speaking to the Chief, earlier we see a Flashback Cut wherein he exercises rigorously so he can have the proper shape to be a CONTROL employee. In return for Smart showing his photo, 99 produces a photo showing her Magic Plastic Surgery.
In Drag Me to Hell, Christine was an overweight, poor country girl in her youth. She's dropped the weight, lost her accent, and is dedicated to climbing the social ladder. Her boyfriend is from an elite, wealthy family that still makes her feel inadequate. This is what motivates her to jockey for a promotion by refusing the gypsy woman's loan extension.
Han Solo Berger (Andy Samberg) in That's My Boy. He still has to take insulin to treat his diabetes though (since his dad let him eat cake and lollipops for breakfast as a kid).
Ira in Funny People has recently dropped a lot of weight. His roommates mention it a few times and say he's less funny and looks weird because of it. This is some Reality Subtext, as Seth Rogen had lost weight to play The Green Hornet.
Ben Hanscom of Stephen King's IT was fat as a kid, but ended up slimming down as an adult by the time that he and the Loser's Club meet up again to battle It.
Robin Wilson of Sweet Valley High, always referred to as "formerly fat Robin" in the livejournal snark community 1bruce1.
Fat Charlie Nancy of Anansi Boys, who was only fat for just long enough to acquire the nickname. It stuck. According to himself, he wasn't particularly fat either, he just had a few years where he ate a bit too much and didn't get quite enough exercise.
Marcy Lewis is the protagonist of There's a Bat in Bunk Five, by Paula Danziger. It's the sequel to The Cat Ate My Gymsuit. In the first novel, Marcy is overweight (and hates gym) but she slims down and finds a boyfriend in the second novel.
Martha Abbott in Zilpha Keatley Snyder's The Changeling begins as "a little fat for a seven-year-old" and is labeled "the quiet fat one" by her classmates. By the time she enters high school, she's slimmed down and turned into Everyone Loves Blondes (intelligent edition) and is referred to as "the cool blonde who's in all the school plays."
Monica from Friends was definitely this. In "The One with the Rumor", she invites her old high-school friend, Will for Thanksgiving, who used to be so fat that Monica was his "thin friend". In present day, he's played by Brad Pitt.
Monica's reason for wanting to lose weight was because at one Thanksgiving with her family, Chandler wound up calling her fat to Ross behind her back and she overheard it. This hurt her because she not only had a crush on Chandler, but hearing someone she liked make fun of her weight broke her heart. She decided to start maintaining her diet in order to slim down and make Chandler jealous that he could have had her. It was working until Monica accidentally dropped a knife on Chandler's toe and it couldn't be saved. Cut to present day Chandler now upset that he lost a toe because he called Monica fat.
Actually turns into a heartwarming moment, as years later, having got over the respective insults and toe-cutting, Monica and Chandler are best friends and later Happily Married. When Monica worries that Chandler will leave her if she gets fat again, Chandler says he loves her for who she is and how she looks will never change that.
Chandler: "You're Monica. And I'm in love with Monica. So you can balloon up or shrink down...and I will still love you."
An alternate unvierse episode also reveals what her life would be like if she hadn't lost weight. While she's still a successful chef and Team Mom of the gang, she's also a virgin and apparently none of her other boyfriends (two of who claimed they loved her) were interested. The Unfortunate Implications are avoided when Chandler, who is still her best friend, falls for her in an almost identical situation to their real-world counter-parts. The writers acknowledge in the end it wouldn't be so different.
An episode of Law and Order SVU dealt with a girl who was sodomized and beaten. When they found the motive behind the attack, it turned out she herself had attacked and beaten an obese man (her own attackers being relatives of his taking revenge). She took part in victimizing the man because of her own self loathing and anger at herself for having once been like him.
On Maury one of the frequent themes is "I used to be [fat / a geek / etc.] but look at me now!" where they bring in people who used to tease the person in grade school, to show off to them.
On Heroes, illusionist Candice Wilmer's real appearance is a lumpy mess named Betty.
A patient on House, who was formerly morbidly obese and had become a highly successful personal trainer. It turned out that she had had gastric bypass surgery, rather than "losing it the old fashioned way." It also turned out that her weight was a result of her self-medicating her genetic disorder with fatty foods. Reversing the surgery and returning to her old lifestyle would have cured her, but she opts for a lifetime of medication instead.
Something similar happened on an episode of Drop Dead Diva. Jane represents a girl whose family are suing a diet guru; the diet consists of a very unhealthy low-calorie plan. Jane exposes the guru as having had gastric bypass surgery, so there was no way she could have lost weight on her own plan.
Surprisingly, Quinn Fabray from Glee. It's part of the reason she's so obsessed with "perfection" - once she entered high school, she changed nearly everything about her appearance and strived to keep it that way.
On Boy Meets World, Jack Hunter is revealed to have been fat in high school, to the point that people called him "Jumbo Jack". He explains that this is why he goes to the gym so much and is obsessed with his looks.
The main antagonist from the 5th season of Dexter was overweight as a child.
The Palace had the attractive and thin Alice Templeton, better known to her childhood friends as "Fatty".
jPod had Kaitlin Joyce: she even starred in a TV commercial promoting the "miracle diet" that helped her out. It shated more than a few traits with the Subway ads.
Mary from 3rd Rock from the Sun was fat as a kid, and has a lot of issues with her parents about it to boot.
Mycroft Holmes in Sherlock. In this case, it's a Mythology Gag—although the Sherlock incarnation is played by the normally-built Mark Gatiss, Mycroft was morbidly obese in the original stories, and Sherlock frequently pokes fun at him for supposedly "gaining" weight again.
The Elementary version of Mycroft was fat when he was younger, resulting in the nickname "Fatty" from Sherlock. However, his weight loss was due to illness and he chose to keep the weight off after getting healthier.
The Sopranos: Vito Spatafore loses 160 lbs between season 5 and 6. This was Real Life Writes the Plot, as actor Joseph R. Gannascoli had lost a similar amount of weight for health reasons.
Hanna, the "It Girl" from Pretty Little Liars who struggles with self-image issues and bulimia. She used to be mocked by Alison (the Alpha Bitch and former "It Girl") for being overweight. Over the summer, after Alison's disappearance, Hanna became gorgeous and skinny.
A killer on an episode of CSI: New York turned out to be a formerly fat young woman who poisoned her male tormenter from when she was fat at a basketball game after arranging for him to be the random fan chosen to make a prize-winning free-throw shot.
Regina and Aisha on The Steve Harvey Show were both fat as kids. Aisha's mom sent her to a fat camp to lose the weight while nothing much is said about how Regina lost hers. It's implied that she lost weight between high school and college.
Prof. Olgevee on The Parkers was fat as a kid and this was shown in a flashback. He was teased by the neighborhood kids. He was embarrassed to reveal this to Nikki and her equally-heavy friends.
Drew's girlfriend Nikki Fifer on The Drew Carey Show. One of the reasons that she broke up with Drew was that being with him was causing her to start putting on weight again.
Woody on Cheers. One episode has a former girlfriend (also Formerly Fat) from home showing up to visit. They begin to binge-eat to repress their sexual attraction to each other, but once they figure it out (and sleep together), they go back to eating normally.
On an episode of TheBigBangTheory, Penny bribes Howard into helping her plan a birthday party for Leonard by promising he can pick up her friends, one of whom is a "former fat girl with low self-esteem."
Malcolm in the Middle: One episode featured the boys getting a beautiful girl becoming their baby-sitter and she was a classmate of Francis and had a crush on him. Back then, she was overweight and Francis wanted nothing with her. When she phoned him trying to score a date, he rejected her, thinking she still was fat.
In the Monk episode "Mr. Monk Meets the Godfather", Sharona has sort of a thing with a mobster called Fat Tony, who's anything but. He was, however, very fat not too long ago, and his nickname of many years has stuck with him. Monk is naturally bothered by this.
In Taxi, Alex was meeting up with Angela, an overweight phone operator that went on a Blind Date with in the second episode, but has since lost touch, and is surprised to find that she has lost a large amount of weight, and gained some self-confidence as a result, much to Louie's disappointment who had a string of fat jokes prepared for the occasion.
This happens to the male supporting actors during the course of the music video for Olivia Newton-John's "Physical".
Late in ECW's lifespan, Brian Heffron, better known as The Blue Meanie, lost over 100 lbs and obtained porn star Jasmine St. Claire as a valet. Of course, he also became a heel who looked down on the audience for staying fat instead of losing weight and hooking up with a porn star like he did.
During her days as a wrestler, Bull Nakano followed the same diet that sumo wrestlers do and sported a very stout physique. Around the turn of the century she retired, switched over to golf, lost a lot of weight and turned out to be very pretty underneath Bull Nakano's punk-inspired outfit and hairstyle.
In Persona 4, Ai Ebihara, the Moon Social Link. Excessive bullying and a sudden upgrade in her family's wealth led her to shed all of it in an effort to abandon her past life.
Persona 2: Innocent Sin reveals this to the be past of Eikichi Mishina, who completely changed his image after frequent bullying culminated in a thug pulling his pants down in front of the girl he liked. He is now extremely attractive and popular and nobody at his current school realizes his past.
Hanae of Red String started with a formerly fat background. As the story has progressed, she's put a lot of the weight back on. She puts a lot of her self worth on being pretty in other people's opinions. Her mother's vision of her as a girlie princess takes a huge toll on her.
Raven of Questionable Content was mentioned to have been a bit on the heavy side before the comic started. She's a bit sensitive about it, so no one brings it up.
Sharon of General Protection Fault used to be much heavier than she is. Some harsh comments made to the obese Dexter regarding his weight cause him to nearly turn down a full-time position at GPF, but Sharon was motivated by concern for him and apologizes.
Discussed and deconstructed mercilessly in the We Hate Movies review of Madhouse, where the hosts all denounce the cruelty of casting a fat child actor just to be a subject of mockery in a flashback sequence.
Andrew Jupin: "Oh, great! What am I doing?" "You're being made fun of by an entire neighborhood of children for being overweight." "...What?"
Chris Cabin: "We're going to pretend that you're a float. In a parade."
Eric Szyszka: "And you, uh... you get paid in food, right?"
Chris Cabin: Cake. Paid in cake.
Andrew Jupin: "Patrick, you're okay with getting paid in cake, right, honey?"
Eric Szyszka: "Don't worry, Patrick - 3 slices of cake, SAG minimum."
Andrew Jupin: "Patrick, we're going to need you to take off that baggy button-down shirt and put on this skin-tight polo."
Eric Szyszka: With horizontal stripes?
Andrew Jupin: He - he looks like Jerry O'Connell in Stand by Me.
Chris Cabin: "The bottom of your stomach has to be in 85% of this footage."
Andrew Jupin:(Laughing) That poor fucking kid!
Amy Wong from Futurama was very fat as a child; even her parents tease her mercilessly about it. In one episode, the main characters all revert to their childhood forms, and Amy, again overweight, becomes the butt of all her parents' childish jokes.
hide, though he is one of the sadder examples - being bullied as a child and teenager destroyed his self-image and while it motivated him to slim down, also drove him into bulimia, heavy drinking which later became full alcoholism, and an addiction to stimulant drugs that would make him a multiple pack a day smoker and a methamphetamine addict before his death. Which resulted, in part, from alcohol and methamphetamine allowing him to get to such a place mentally that he thought Erotic Asphyxiation or outright suicide was a good idea.
Both Jack and Kelly Osbourne, although more chubby than fat.
Jerry O'Connell. Hard to believe he started out as the fat kid on Stand by Me.
The MTV reality show I Used to Fat is based off this trope - overweight high school seniors are given trainers to make them skinnier before going to college.
Carnie Wilson underwent lap-band surgery, broadcast online. (Although as of 2011 she'd gained back quite a bit due to stress and pregnancy).
Rolan Ajo is a Taiwanese girl who wanted to be a cosplayer, but was discouraged by her heavy frame. Ten years later, she's lost 44 lbs and is hailed as "Taiwan's cutest cosplayer" and a minor celebrity in her home country.
Country music parodist Cledus T. Judd slimmed down in the late 1990s, although he was still somewhat chunky. One visit to Celebrity Fit Club later shed even more weight and added some muscle.
"Big" Vinny Hickerson, formerly of the country music group Trailer Choir, was a contestant on The Biggest Loser. He lost 184 pounds.
Rapper Fat Joe. It's understandable since his best friend Big Punisher died of an obesity-related heart attack, but it still makes his name an Artifact Title (he can't simply go by "Joe" since that's an R&B singer).
Contrary to the stereotype, many opera singers down through history have not been fat, and there have always been svelte and glamorous bodies on the opera stage. The most famous example of a Formerly Fat singer was the Greek soprano Maria Callas. Like many singers trying to drop a few pounds, she went on a diet of salad and chicken. (Some suspect she may also have taken Benzedrine, considered safe in moderation at that time.) She dropped about 60-80 pounds and looked fantastic. While her weight loss contributed to her striking beauty and tremendous stage presence (Callas was an actress as much as she was a singer), some of her fellow singers said she never figured out how to support her voice without the additional weight. Some of her later recordings have a pronounced wobble that makes them almost unlistenable. Recent research points to her having an MS-like disease which affects the muscles that control breathing, which couldn't have helped.
New York Yankees ace pitcher C.C Sabathia lost a lot of weight between the 2012 and 2013 season. However, his recent struggles on the mound have let many people into believing that his weight loss took away from his pitching ability.
Luther Vandross, though many of his fans thought it affected his singing.
Henry Cavill said he was called "Fat Cavill" growing up, and that both parts of that nickname were appropriate. He trimmed down when he got his first acting job at 17, and is now Superman.
It's pretty surprising the number of (predominately male) athletes, models, and bodybuilders admit to being overweight as teens and this being the genesis for them to start exercising and ending up where they are (it seems to be either this, being scrawny, or being short.)
Richard Madden from Game of Thrones, believe it or not. He admitted it on the Nerdist Podcast, saying it was because he didn't get out much in drama school. Eventually, he got a part in a play which required him to be naked, at which point he realised that he didn't want to be fat and naked on stage.
Russell Brand was teased for being overweight and having acne, to the point of getting bulimia.
A famous baseball anecdote about John Kruk, who was a good baseball player, even if he was a little bit overweight for a professional baseball player.
"I’m telling you, there’s certain guys that get in shape and it affects their swing. John Kruk got in great shape one winter and couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat. Fregosi said ‘You’re getting fat again or you’re not playing.’ That’s exactly what he said to him. "