I was “warned” that if I didn’t lose weight I would end up in a wheel chair

Aktualisiert: 15. Juni 2020

Portrait created by Andrea Forgacs

I’ve always been big, both fat and tall, since I was a kid. Being the fattest and tallest in my class was normal for me. Starting in third grade I was already taller (and fatter) than my teachers. I was the kid people hid behind during PE dodgeball games. It is bittersweet reflecting back on my childhood now, sad that so many of my early memories are of my family shaming me for my weight.

I can remember family members attempting to bribe me with money and promises of fun activities if I would just work out and shed my extra pounds, being sat down and having serious conversations where I was “warned” that if I didn’t lose weight I would end up in a wheel chair or completely immobile, sitting in a JCPenney dressing room with my mom trying on clothes from the women’s section as she tearfully told me that I would be “the most beautiful girl in my whole school” if I just lost weight. I knew I was fat, and I realized that my body was frowned upon and even disgusted some, even if it didn’t make sense to me. I learned how to navigate the fatphobic society I was born in to- how to take up as little space as possible, how to cover my body with layers of clothing, what not to eat in front of others, how to politely listen to diet advice from total strangers… I could go on and on. 

It wasn’t until my senior year of high school, when I randomly took a Sociology class as an elective that I discovered that fatphobia was a thing. I dipped my toes into learning about feminism and how society shapes us and our experiences in that class and it was life altering. I found my way on to Tumblr and learned about fat liberation, diet culture, and the beauty myth. It all started to make sense. I finally found other fat people in the world who I could relate to, who weren’t ashamed of their bodies, who were working through many of the same experiences I was, and I learned a lot. I consider myself incredibly lucky that I found the fat liberation community at a relatively early age. Thank goddess for social media and representation!

I declared my major as Sociology before I even started college, took every Sociology and Women’s Studies class I could, and continued to learn and unlearn so much. 

I threw away all my magazines, stopped idolizing celebrities and started idolizing the fat babes I followed on Tumblr, I started to wear whatever I wanted not just what I knew was acceptable, I started to take up as much space as I needed, started to speak up for myself, made fat internet friends, worked on self-affirmations, reclaimed the word “fat” for myself,  learned as much about intersectional feminism and body liberation as I could, and had candid discussions with my in real life friends and family members. 

I slowly and intentionally made peace with my fat body. I forgave myself for how I had treated my body when I didn’t know any better. I forgave myself for all the diets, the shame, the times when I hated myself for being fat, the times when I felt I had no future, the times when I believed that I would never be truly loved. It started with neutrality and curiosity before it became love- through trial and error I learned how to look at myself, how to take pictures of myself, how to touch my body without fear/shame/disgust. I changed my inner voice and timidly began a romance with my fat body. That may sound like an odd way of putting it, but it is accurate for me. Society taught me to be cruel to my own body, but I had made peace and forgiven myself. I was now ready for what I perceived as my next step: self-love.

I think it is incredibly important to acknowledge that self-love is not the main goal of fat liberation. No matter how much you love your fat body you are still going to deal with fat stigma in medical care, navigating public spaces designed to keep fat bodies out, being paid less than straight sized people and the systemic hatred and violence against fat people. But I do believe that self-love is important and that it is liberating and radical for fat people to love themselves. Sometimes I think the fat liberation community gets wrapped up in this narrative of “self-love is the end all, be all” and our message starts to get watered down and lumped in with the body positivity movement which is extremely problematic. 

I don’t think that narrative is helpful, but I do think we should talk about self-love openly and honestly. I’ve pondered how I can talk about self-love in a way that is honest, doesn’t oversimplify, acknowledges that each person will experience a unique journey, that your feelings on self-love may change every day and that self-love looks different to each of us. I’ve talked to some of my fat friends about how they often feel guilty when they have a bad day and feel insecure, that they feel like they can’t be honest about these bad days without letting people down or feeling like a fraud. I’ve felt this way too. We may have unintentionally built up way too much pressure in the fat liberation community to be confident and love ourselves always – which isn’t realistic at all! 

It is okay to have a bad day and you are not alone! 

If we can get to a point of recognizing that all bodies have inherent value- even our own- that would be amazing and revolutionary. Maybe self-love is just the frosting on top of the cake, and not everyone needs or likes frosting. I like to think of my self-love journey as a lifelong romance- it can be fun, exciting, fulfilling, and it can also be incredibly draining and difficult. 

I wish I could outline all the steps I took or list out my process- but it was more of a slow awakening. I don’t think I was even always aware of it. There would be moments where I would do something and think “wow there is no way I would have ever done this last year- I have come so far.” You must celebrate those “wow” moments and be proud of yourself! A few of these moments stand out in my mind. Wearing dresses, tank tops, shorts, crop tops, and even bikinis were all new for me- even though I live in hot as hell Texas! Standing up for myself when people made fatphobic comments in my presence and leaving the conversation when diets came up (whenever possible). Taking up the space I needed to be comfortable like pushing the table away from me in booths, asking for a chair without arms, and asking for a seatbelt extender on airplanes. Even though I have been practicing doing these things for years now- it is still hard. Some days I get butterflies in my stomach going to a new place and not knowing if I will fit in the chairs. I’m scared to sit on Ikea furniture and sometimes still get embarrassed when I break things. Some days I put on a crop top and then spend the whole day trying to pull it down. The real change is that despite the ups and downs I always know that my body is valid, valuable, important, and okay! 

On the really good days, I absolutely adore my fat body. I’m in awe of just how big my presence is, how soft I am, how my belly jiggles when I laugh, how cute my double chin is when I smile, how my big thighs and butt fill out my leggings and pull on the seams of my jeans, how my bra digs in to the cute little rolls of my back fat, how my little boobs rest on top of my big stomach… I revel in my own #fatvanity and feel incredibly thankful to myself for doing the work so I could get here.

Do I still have insecurities? Yes, I do.

But each of the things I just listed, that I adore about my body, used to be an insecurity. I know that I will come to love all my current insecurities some day too. Having support for the bad days is incredibly helpful, whether it is a supportive online community, fat internet friends, a romantic partner, family members or other loved ones. Joining the fat liberation community online changed my life, then finding a fat positive partner and fat positive friends changed my life again. Knowing that your partner will always be there to stand up for you and defend you from fatphobic comments (made both in front of you and behind your back), will make sure that spaces are comfortable and safe for you, will listen to your experiences, and love your body unconditionally through all of its changes is so empowering. Having fat friends who can relate to you, offer advice and solidarity, support you, and remind you that you aren’t alone is also so empowering! Plus being that friend for your fat friends is such a wonderful feeling too. If you can, I highly recommend meeting your fat positive internet friends in real life. I think a lot of us are used to being the fattest person in the room (or the fat friends we have irlaren’t fat positive). Being in a room together, being able to hug or just sit on the couch next to each other, is so validating! You are not alone. 

In February I was able to go on a trip to Nashville to meet some of my fat internet friends in real life for the first time. We had been friends for years already and we were so excited to finally meet. Honestly, I was so nervous to go. I was nervous about flying alone, nervous about being in a new city, nervous about staying at an Airbnb, and worried that my friends might not like me as much irl! My partner encouraged me to go, reassured me that I was going to have a blast, and dropped me off at the airport. I didn’t realize just how life changing the trip was going to be. It’s hard to describe how magical meeting in person was. I have never laughed so hard in my life. We talked about everything from dating while fat to what hygiene products we like best. We commiserated about being forced to join Weight Watchers as teens and being forced to listen to our coworkers talk about whatever diet is trending that month. We hyped each other up, took sexy pictures of each other, ate whatever we wanted, accidentally broke a few things and laughed about it, and just had a fantastic time. It was truly hard to leave, but we left with an even stronger bond than we had before. We make sure to stay connected when we are apart through lots of group chats, Netflix parties, phone calls, and zoom dates. Just knowing that they are only a text away makes life better. I am counting down the days until we can plan another meet up. 

There is one more thing I really want to mention that has helped me throughout my self-love awakening: posting my own pictures online.  I started on Tumblr and I was terrified! Despite fearing trolls and worrying my friends would judge me- I just did it. I’m so glad I did. Representation is essential and we each have something unique to offer. Most fat models and social media influencers are hourglass shaped, about a size US 20/22, hyper feminine, white, and have thin faces and conventionally attractive features. Fat women who have more apple or pear shapes, double and triple chins, super fat women, disabled fat women, and fat women of color don’t get the same coverage and reach. A lot of the images of fat women we see are highly styled, filtered, and posed which can make it feel super intimidating to put your own content out there. But the content I find the most impactful is just fat women sharing their everyday lives, their joys and struggles too. Putting your own photos out there, writing about things you are passionate about, putting your fat positive art out there, and using your platform to support other fat women can be so empowering. Be the change you want to see but also be the representation you want to see!

Thank you @cosmiccupidd for sharing your empowering body story.

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