I guess the first thing I’d say is that most of us are not afraid of the word fat. We are aware of the state of our bodies and I promise you are not the first to tell us about it. As a general part of life, a lot of us spend a lot of time disassociating the word fat from the word ugly, because growing up you’re taught that they’re one and the same. Sometimes it’s by the way other kids tease you for it.
Sometimes it’s at home where your mother asks incredulously, “You’re still eating?”
Did it matter that you hadn’t eaten all day so that you could eat dinner without being ashamed? No, because you were fat and that was wrong.
When I was young, I heard my very own father say “Fat girls are like mopeds. Fun to ride until your friends catch you.”
Sometimes your version of ugly is ingrained in you by the way you see beauty.
While we can’t blame the media for everything, they do a very good job of etching it into our brains that skinny Is the only way and growing up that’s what I saw. I remember when Selena Gomez gained the slightest bit of weight and someone in the media fat-shamed her for wearing a swimsuit. I also remember looking at that picture and not understanding what they were talking about and wondering if she was fat than what was I? She was beautiful before the weight and she was still beautiful after she put on the couple of pounds she had gained. The girl is literally a superstar and still couldn’t catch a break. Tons of change has been made where the media is involved, Full-figured women are all over the media now, but the overall consensus is that skinny is what you should be. Have you ever seen a Lane Bryant commercial? It made so many people angry. They were outraged that the company was “promoting the obesity of our youth.”
Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think their CEO is sitting in their office thinking, “Hm, how can I make all the little children fat?”
Their company markets plus size clothing, therefore having women in their commercials that were not rail thin would make sense. People were still mad. Now, don’t get me wrong. One individual is allowed by their God-given free will to not be attracted to another individual due to personal preference. We’re not upset that you didn’t think our last Insta post was Heart Eye Emoji worthy. We’re upset that you felt the need to comment, “Put a different shirt on, fat ass!” We did, in fact, think, no need to be a dick. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but spewing hurtful words at a stranger because they are wearing something you don’t like could be a sign you need professional help. I recommend anger management.
“How do you look at yourself in the mirror?”
“Do you roll out of bed in the morning?”
“Have you ever looked at food and said no?”
It’s comments like these that upset us. You can block them or delete the awful things they said, but it seems like there are always more. I personally answer them like they are actual questions.
With my eyes.
Only when my back hurts.
Of course not.
I then block the account. You can see it as me letting them win, but I see it as knowing when to walk away from the fight. I could call them names, scroll through their page to find something that would obviously get to them. Instead, I accept the fact that I do not have to subject myself to their degradation. It still gets to me sometimes. Believe me, when I say I am far from the impenetrable Wall of Positivity I wish I was. I have been in some very dark places.
When I was eighteen, I moved into my first apartment with a girl I was close with. We were short on money, so I suppose I understand why she felt the way she did but also, I didn’t. One night my other friend, Marcy, who I had been friends with since fifth grade came over to spend the night. We were adults. We could have sleepovers whenever we wanted, now. The girl I was living with went to the store to get groceries for dinner. When she got back, she set the bag on the counter and I reached for the lemonade and poured myself a glass. The two of them looked at me and then exchanged a glance between the two of them.
My roommate nodded. “Yup, the food that I just bought.”
With my money, I wanted to say but I didn’t. I pretended I didn’t notice, set the juice on the counter, and went to the bathroom to hide for a moment. They had obviously been discussing it, judging by the way she had acted as if I’d proven her point. I was gone for days at a time for work so we could cover rent so I wasn’t sure how me eating while I was home would be a problem. I just quit eating all together. I quit eating at home and occasionally had lunch at work. The good kept “magically” disappearing, but at least now I could say without a doubt it wasn’t me. I wouldn’t find out until a year later that she had, in fact, told Marcy I was eating all the food in the house. There was one other time in my life that I quit eating, but it was health related. For a while when I was seventeen, I couldn’t keep anything down. There was nothing physically wrong with me that should have been causing it and it was my best friend that insinuated I was bulimic, only half-kidding when he said it.
No time in my life was I the one that thought I didn’t deserve food. I love to cook, and I love to eat, but when you’re skinny and you love food it’s adorable. When you’re fat they call it food addiction. People shame you for it as if that feeling alone should be enough to liposuction you into a thin state of mind.
That same year I lost my virginity. Don’t get me started on how much I hate the word “lost” and “took” when it’s in the same context as a girl’s virginity, but that’s a different story. This one is about the exact moment that I remember beginning to question myself. I had definitely never been comfortable with myself before this, but until this, I had never thought about how he might see me negatively. We were not dating. He was still in love with someone else and I didn’t even know what it was like to want to be in a relationship with another human being. Affection’s not my strong suit. I had wanted to see him, so he came to my work before he himself had to clock in for that nine-hour shift. I just wanted a hug. Stupid, I know, but it had been a long day. He did hug me, and it didn’t even seem to bother him when I held on too long. In the middle of the hug fest happening in the parking lot, two people from in the building had stepped outside to smoke a cigarette. He unwrapped himself and not so much pushed me as forcefully moved me away from him and took a step back. I didn’t say anything. I sighed, my shoulders visibly slouching. If he noticed he didn’t say anything. It made me feel like he was ashamed of me. It was a hug and he acted like we’d been caught doing something bad. I ignored it. It was probably in my head, so I leaned against the front of his car and kept talking until he had to leave. If I thought about it, he had never said otherwise.
I even asked him once why what happened and I believe he said, “You’re just really positive and I needed a little positivity in my life.”
I should have taken that as a compliment and at the time I had. It's a beautiful thing to be able to add a tiny bit of light to even the brightest humans and I was amazed that I was adding anything to his life. It wasn’t until I started noticing that it bothered him when people he knew, or I knew, saw us in the same vicinity of each other that I thought maybe he was just trying to be nice without completely lying to me. He basically said you have a great personality. For the record, I don’t, but I am grateful that he thought I did. My brain wasn’t grateful enough not to remind me that he had had to shut all the lights off or that I had never been completely naked. Some people are just like that, but what if he wasn’t just like that? What if it was me? Maybe it was what I’d said about being scared, but that's not where my mind initially went amid my self-image issues. That gentleman did eventually get back together with the love of his life and stopped talking to me right around the time my grandpa died. Despite the way it might sound, he’s not a bad guy, but I was…broken, tired. I felt used, thrown away, and… just not good enough. I was empty, not because of him, but because of the way I was seeing myself.
My solution was to start fixing all the things that I thought weren’t good enough about me. A lot of good things came out of that. I got my diploma online. I got myself a new job. I started taking all the steps to get my driver’s license. I started reading more again because I felt like I’d gotten away from who I was, but I also began focusing on my weight. I started eating less, I was walking everywhere anyway, and it didn’t matter if it was ninety degrees outside, I was back to never taking my hoodie off. No one was going to see my belly jiggle while I walked around trying to get rid of it. When I got hungry, I lifted my shirt and looked at myself in the mirror. It was enough to make me put down my fork. I was losing weight, but not enough. Also, no one ever reminds you that stretch marks don’t ever really go away on their own, and there’s a good chance you’ll end up with loose skin that only surgery can fix. I lost thirty-two pounds and I still hated my body. My thighs are still bigger than my hands, even if I spread my fingers all the way out. It’s worse when I sit down. They spread out and get bigger. My belly isn’t as big, but my breasts seem like the only things that have gotten smaller as a direct result of the weight loss. I wasn’t (still am not) eating right. Some days I ate a lot, some days I ate nothing. Sometimes I went a week, living on orange juice so my sugar didn’t drop too low.
Sometimes I didn’t eat because it made me uncomfortable to eat around other human beings, even when they were eating too. I have friends that used to stare at me like it was weird that I was eating and the time it had never occurred to me that maybe they were just realizing they had never seen me do that before. I used to have to be comfortable with you to eat anything within your line of vision. If we were out I picked at my food. If we stopped and got drive-thru I usually ordered a drink, orange juice more often than not. I’m happy to say that I don’t have this problem anymore. If you see me and I don’t have food in my mouth, I’m probably sick. I always have pretzels or beef jerky, and yes candy, with me because I prefer to snack as opposed to actually sitting down for meals. It’s an easy way for me to remember to eat while I’m busy. I currently work over-nights, so I sleep for part of the day and then as soon as I wake up, I start going about my day which usually doesn’t include time to eat. There are days when I order in food and sit down with my family, but I won’t order food for just myself and won’t make food for just me either. I grew up in a household that never had less than eight people residing it any point in time. I have two brothers and a sister that lived in the same house as me, as well as an aunt and a cousin that stayed with us for most of my life. My dad always had a girlfriend or a wife that always had children of her own. At more than one time my mother and her significant other lived with us also. Sometimes my aunt had a boyfriend that lived with us, sometimes she had friends stay.
My grandmother on my father’s side stayed with us a lot of the time, too. Once it was me and all my siblings, my mom and my step-dad, my dad and my stepmom, her son, my cousin, my aunt, and our two dogs. It’s not until writing this that I realized how mini-cult this sounds. That would explain a lot about my family, but that’s also a separate story. My point was I used to cook when I was younger. I love to cook, but nowadays, there’s rarely an occasion for it. Back then it was about making sure everyone got fed. The transition, however, from cooking for so many people and then cooking for yourself isn’t as easy as it sounds. You obviously don’t make the same amount of food you would for ten people, but you always make too much and if you have that many leftovers in the fridge you will midnight snack. I personally have an issue with wasting things so if I make too much and I don’t have anyone to give it to I’ll overeat.
Many people will tell you that we missed the message of body positivity, that it’s not for us. They say that anybody supporting body positivity for the overweight is condoning unhealthy habits. Frankly, I am not a healthy person. If you looked at me and assumed that I didn’t eat and exercise correctly, you would be right, but there are many things that cause weight gain. Hormonal imbalance causes weight loss and gain, which is why adolescents lose and gain weight during puberty. Any time your body is going through a big change (puberty, menopause, pregnancy, etc.) you can gain weight simply due to your hormones being out of whack. Certain illnesses and medications cause weight gain. I know girls that work out every day and spend tons of money eating healthy and still can’t seem to drop the weight. I know women with children, women that work hundred-hour weeks, women that put their heart and their soul into the one thing that they have left. Some of those women are technically overweight. All of those women are extremely beautiful on the inside and out.
You don’t have to think that, but can you give me one valid reason why these women should not be allowed to feel this way about themselves when they are doing their best? Explain to me why it makes you feel like a better person to tell them that they should be ashamed of themselves. Not to mention how little one grown adult needs you to "condone" or approve of anything that they do. So, you have a little belly, baby girl you have a beautiful child that you have tirelessly molded into a tiny human being that created that little bit of pudge. So, you didn’t have a baby, but you have stretch marks because you don’t have time to eat anything except drive-thru food, you’re chasing your dreams. I won’t lie and say that I love myself endlessly with every jiggle and thigh dimple because I'd be lying, but I work towards it every day because no one’s going to tell me that I can’t love myself. If you’re overweight and you’re reading this, you look in that mirror and, it doesn’t happen in one day, but you try. You try to love that person looking back at you. Even if you plan on losing weight later. Even if you are a work in progress, you’re wasting time not loving who you are now. You’ll look back and you won’t hate that picture so much. You’re running out of time. Do it now, because tomorrow becomes today and today becomes yesterday.
Stop putting yourself through the pain of thinking that you are not good enough because you are. You are amazing, not you can be. You are. The same goes for you men and women out there that may not be overweight, but for some reason think that you're not beautiful. Maybe you think that you're too skinny or that your freckles are too dark. You are completely and undoubtedly gorgeous, but the only one that can make you see that is you. I hope with every bit of my heart that you can find one thing, just one, to love about you today and every day, because you deserve it.