I had a much different blog post in mind for today, but after seeing allegations of JK Rowling’s continued fatphobia in her new story to listening to my family yet again make blasé fatphobic comments, I can’t take it anymore. So let me let you in on a little secret friends:
And before you get all defensive and say something like “you’re not fat, you’re just big boned” or whatever, save it. I’m fat. I embrace the word- so many people shy away from it because it is often used in a negative connotation or as an insult, but I’m reclaiming it. I’m taking the power of the word away from others and restoring it to me. I control the way I view myself and my body.
Have I always felt this way about myself or about being plus-sized? That would be a big old HELL NO. Like many women, I grew up inundated with socially-accepted body ideals and warped and engrained intergenerational body shame. I was thin growing up, but once I hit puberty it spiraled; I know now that in large part, that is because I have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)- more on that later. After I gained weight, the comments began- mostly from my mother. “Oh you shouldn’t eat that” “You should do some sit-ups to lose some weight” “Let’s do this diet together” and on and on and on– any of my curvy friends can assure you that these are mantras we get from people in all walks of our lives. And that is when the self-hatred of my body truly ramped up- I began to believe that I was unlovable in the body I was in, which of course started the beginning of diets and exercise regimes that never lasted and usually ended in binges that would just restart the self-hate spiral all over again. It got worse as I grew up, especially when I moved away from home and lived on my own for the first time. I definitely gained the freshman 15 and more, particularly after a break-up of a toxic relationship, and tried to hide myself from people (particularly in romantic settings) because I didn’t believe I was worthy of love or attention.
Now that’s quite sad, isn’t it? Unfortunately, it’s all too common- our society places unattainable goals and ideas of what bodies “should” look like without factoring in all the important elements: genes, health, and more (example: I’m 6’0″ with big bone genetics- being 120 lbs would be INCREDIBLY unhealthy for me!) These ideals become so ingrained in our brains that we don’t know how to see the world otherwise, as it’s human nature to want to belong and fit in. Before you know it, these warped and unattainable body ideals pass through the generations, and we end up systemic body hatred and low self-worth before kids even understand all that their body does!
Now, do I blame my mother for this? I mean not really, no; she experienced body shaming from her mother, who probably experienced it from her mother, and so on and so forth- she didn’t know better and hasn’t had the help to see otherwise. Do I blame society and celebrity? In part, yes- they set these unattainable and false body expectations (face-tune and plastic surgery and photoshop) and it’s so hard to uncoil those negative thoughts and become at ease with what you look like, especially when all any of us want to do is fit in. But body positivity and self-love can only come from one place: me, myself, & I.
It took until I was 27 years old and regularly seeing a therapist (and honestly joining bookstagram community and finding body positive advocates) before this lifelong self-hatred (at least in terms of my body) began to ebb and I began to begin embracing my body and all the beautiful and wonderful things it allows me to do. It also took uncovering PCOS and my genetics to understand what my body can be and more importantly what it cannot be.
What is PCOS you ask? It is a hormonal disorder that is common amongst women of child-bearing age and is present in 1 in 10 women in the United States. It is caused by an imbalance of hormones (for example, I have an excess of testosterone).
What are the symptoms of PCOS? Often it manifests as such:
- Excess body hair (example: I have male hair growth patterns on my neck, which to be honest is a real bitch)
- Irregular periods (I didn’t have a period for nine months and was convinced it was immaculate conception- #formercatholickidproblems)
- Acne & skin darkening
- Weight gain and difficulty losing weight (ding ding DING)
And these are just the common symptoms and side effects- it manifests differently for everyone, just like menstruation. I take birth control to help regulate my hormones and minimize my symptoms (and birth control is the most common treatment), but it only does so much. Fact of the matter is, even if I tried my darnedest at dieting and exercising it is HIGHLY unlikely that I would ever get to anything considered “thin”. Seriously at the height of my fitness by doing track and working out almost every day and eating well, I was a size 14. Understanding that there was a cause to some of the irregularities and frustration I’ve experienced since puberty has helped me embrace my body.
This isn’t to say that I lead the most healthy lifestyle- I don’t. I don’t love cardio (sports-induced asthma & a low-lung capacity FTW!), and I haven’t felt comfortable doing weights and other activities in public for awhile (working on that-detangling those negative beliefs I had about my own body). I also have a hard time denying myself the finer things in life like butter, chocolate, and other tasty treats. So this is some area I can improve to better treat the body that does so much for me and I’m working on it, but I know Rome wasn’t built in a day and these habits didn’t just build in a day either. It’s all about balance and suffice it to say, I’d rather be happy and fat than miserable and thin, attempting to attain unrealistic goals.
So what was the point of this big long body positivity rant? Since seeing my therapist for the last two years, I’ve opened myself more to vulnerability and to sharing my story in the hope that those who are dealing with the issues and trauma I’ve experienced perhaps have an easier go of it than I have, as I didn’t really have any body positive (or asexual) narratives to turn to to help me. Because the hatred of my body (in addition to anxiety and depression) have in the past led to self-harm, low self-worth, an unhealthy relationship with food and eating, and difficult relationships with friends and family because of an inability to love and accept myself.
And that time is up. The people around me deserve better and more importantly, I deserve better. We have one life to live and one body in which we go through life, and it’s too short to focus on what is imperfect about it and what others don’t like. Reality is that due to PCOS, genetics, and my lifestyle, I’m fat. And I’m no longer afraid to say it, and I’m no longer afraid to embrace me. I will no longer allow others to put their body insecurities on me through fat-shaming comments, entrenched fatphobia, and unrealistic body standards. I decide how I feel about myself and from now on, I will treat myself with the love and light I’ve only extended to others thus far, and you can be assured that I will call out fat shaming and fatphobia when I see it.
We’re in the midst of a global pandemic friends (in the off-chance that you forgot), and there are far worse things to be than fat. People are dying due to the virus, due to systemic racism, and various other horrific factors, and I can tell you that minus a few aches and pains (most due to playing a competitive sport for 12 years) my body does everything I could ask for me daily even though yes, I’M FAT.
If this post accomplishes anything, I hope it’s that you reconsider what you say to (and even think about) others whose bodies differ from yours. You don’t know what people have been through, what they struggle with, or their life stories so it really isn’t your place to pass judgement on their bodies and their choices. Think about that the next time you are ready to post a “gaining weight” pandemic meme or say something about someone of a different size than you.
I also hope this post encourages you to reflect on your own body insecurities and how they harm you or others, and instead celebrate your body, the wonderful things it allows you to do, and the unique things that make you you. We already have enough negativity surrounding us in this world- consider removing yourself from that negativity by accepting yourself, perceived flaws and all.
In essence friends, I’m fat. I’m also empathetic, a loyal friend, a book lover, and countless other things that make me me. All bodies are beautiful and to think otherwise is to truly waste your time and energy. I hope this helps illuminate that for you.
Until next time….