Being plus-size can be a marginalizing experience — in America, certainly, as well as in other parts of the world.

In the Middle East, for example, it's hard to be a plus-size woman without attracting unwanted attention, and that's not even the half of it.

We spoke with six women, many of them a part of the Middle East Plus-Size Fashion Bloggers community, about their experiences as plus-size women in their region.

"The girl in the store would ... roll her eyes and say, 'no, we don't carry your size here.'"

"What really used to annoy me and embarrass me so much was when I would go to the mall to try to buy clothes, especially if I'm with girlfriends" who are straight-size, said Nermeen Nasef, 38, from Egypt. 

"The girl in the store would check me from head to toe if I ask for my size, and then roll her eyes and say, 'no, we don't carry your size here, try the Abaya section (Abaya is a wide outfit for older women from the Arab gulf area)."

Comments like this used to make Nasef cry, but when she discovered plus-size brands and bloggers online, it inspired her to create her own blog.

"I started to feel good about myself and my body, and wanted other girls from my country that suffered the same situation to feel the peace I feel now."

"The tourists kept giving me mean and ugly looks."

Dilara Özcan, a 20-year-old Turkish blogger said she was surprised by who she gets comments about her body from.

"Last August was the first time that I go on a holiday with a body-positive mindset," she said. "I bought a new bikini which actually fit me and I was excited to wear it and feel the sun on my skin.

"I did get dirty looks and side eyes as I expected, but they were from the foreign tourists. The local people from the Turkish side from Cyprus couldn’t care less; everyone was so chill. On the other hand, the tourists kept giving me mean and ugly looks... I tried really hard not to let those negative people change my body positive mind. And I won! I kept smiling, swimming, tanning, and enjoying my time in Lapta, Cyprus. Negativity loses. I win!"

"Finding clothes that carry sizes above an 18 UK was like looking for hidden treasure."

Hanane Fathallah is the founder of the online community Middle East Plus Size Fashion Bloggers, and the creator of Nounzilicious.

"Finding clothes that carry sizes above an 18 UK was like looking for hidden treasure," the 33-year-old Lebanese blogger told Revelist. "They simply didn't exist. It was only after I got married and moved [to Dubai] that I noticed some international brands surfacing in the market."

"Lebanon," she said, "had absolutely no tolerance towards plus-size women. From the store owners' looks to ... to unfriendly advice that I should lose some weight, to rejection..."

Fathallah had tried to write articles about plus-size fashion before, but they were always rejected because "they didn't fit the mission and profile of the magazine" where she submitted them. Her own blog gives her a way to broadcast body acceptance to other women and to the societies that reject the notion.

"People loved my concept the minute they heard of it."

Mai Al-Saudi, 31, from Bahrain, said she has actually had a different experience as a plus-size Middle Eastern woman.

"As a plus-size blogger ... and being hijabi at the same time, I thought I'd find more struggles, but on the contrary," she said. "People loved my concept the minute they heard of it. 

"My only difficulty is the lack of events and exposure, and the financial stress that can be created due to trying to stay up to speed with the latest fashion trends. Yet, with time, I'm finding it more and more enjoyable as I come across wonderful people who live similar experiences as me."

"You are used to be catcalled 'helwa bas tekhina' (beautiful but fat) as a term of endearment."

Sarah Shalaby
photo: Courtesy of Sarah Shalaby

When you're a plus-size woman in the Middle East, said 30-year-old Sarah Shalaby, a linguist and translator in Egypt, "you are used to be catcalled batta, bakabozza, and helwa bas tekhina (beautiful but fat) as a term of endearment."

Basically, everyone around you makes your appearance their business, from strangers to your mother's friends who concern themselves with your eligibility for marriage.

Shalaby also notes that plus-size women are much more likely to be referred to as "Mrs." by others because, of course, "only married women have an excuse to be fat."

"People feel like they have the right to comment on how you should be in this region."

"Whatever your size, people feel like they have the right to comment on how you should be in this region," said Aline Chirinian, 24. The Lebanese-based blogger experienced this firsthand at her gym.

"This woman comes up to me in the middle of my weight session (I have my earphones in) and tells me that my body is becoming nicer but that I should go on a diet. It's not nice to be my size at my age. She then went on to tell me that I should eat 'grilled chicken and vegetables' to lose weight.

"Moral of the story, people will never be satisfied with the way you look," she said. Only you can do that.