I am fat. I am aware of this. I’m not a “person of size.” I’m not pleasantly plump. I’m not a Big Beautiful Woman and I don’t want the weirdness that goes with the BBW label. I don’t need to be told I’m just big boned, or I have a pretty face, or good hair, or whatever. I’m fat. It’s okay to say it. It’s not a bad word. It’s a fact. I wear plus size clothes and I have rolls and bulges and a double chin. My thighs rub together, my arms are flappity and my feet are wide. I’ve got a lot of body and I don’t hate myself. I’m fat and I’m happy.
I’ve always been big – I was 5’ 8” by the time I was 13, wore a size 8 shoe, and a 10 or 12 in clothes. I’ve always had that lower belly pouch and wide hips and big breasts and a bunch of junk in the trunk. My awkward teenage years were more traumatic because of my height in a family of women who don’t even hit 5 feet than my expanding pant size. And the giant glasses. And almost parallel to the floor buck teeth and subsequent orthodontics. And trying to figure out how to hide my boobs from creepy old dudes. (Still an issue.) Did I wish I was thin? Some, yeah, but I also wished I could marry Scott Bakula.
I’ve never really had a bad body image. The way I look isn’t how I define myself. I don’t waste a lot of energy on comparing my hips to my sister or coworker or Beyonce. Sure, when I struggle with a major depressive episode I harbor some unkind thoughts about the roundness of my belly, but I don’t count feelings that spring from a broken mind. When I’m in sane land, I’m usually cool with how I look. I know what clothes look good on me and see most of my curves as an asset. There are times when I look in the mirror and want to make out with myself because I’m fucking hot. There are bad days, usually around my menstruuaaation, where I feel like a whale and none of my clothes look good. Then I get over myself, put on sweats, find every piece of chocolate in the house and cry about nothing.
So, I’m fat and okay, superficially. Unfortunately, it’s not doing a lot of good for my health. So, I’ve started working out regularly, which I love/hate so much. I tell Jillian Michaels to shut up and fuck off every morning, but feel so awesome when I can finally do an exercise that I thought would kill me a month ago. My muscles are sore, but I like how that makes me more conscious of my body, my posture, what I’m eating. I’m gaining strength and endurance, and, hopefully, a longer life with higher quality. My goal is not to get to a certain number on the scale or a certain dress size or to fall into an ideal of how my body looks. And I don’t know how to talk to people about it.
A few years ago, I had a little nervous breakdown. It had happened before, and it has happened since, but the one I’m thinking of had one strange manifestation – I lost my appetite. I wasn’t hungry…ever. It was awful. I had to force myself to eat once a day because I didn’t want to get sick. Even then, I’d barely be able to finish half a salad before the nausea and panic set in. I was living in New York at the time, and I spent a lot of time just wandering around Manhattan in heels because I wore those back then. The pounds melted off in a completely unhealthy way. The big mindfuck came when I started getting compliments on how good I was looking, how I’d lost so much weight! What was my secret? I felt horrible about the weight I’d lost, my loose clothes were a failure of my sanity. I tried to deflect the questions and compliments. When they kept coming, I let the truth come out to make the other person uncomfortable – I’m losing weight because I’m severely depressed and can’t eat, I’m in the middle of a nervous breakdown and food squicks me out, I’m unstable, my broken brain is breaking my body and I hate it.
I still feel that tension when people give unsolicited comments on my weight. I have a tiny voice somewhere in the corner of my skull telling me that people like me better when I’m not so fat, that my mental health should be sacrificed for society’s standards of beauty. People look at me and assume that my fat is from misery, when it’s actually the opposite. I’m fat because I love to eat and that joy is precious to me now that I know what it means when it’s gone. They assume I can’t possibly like the way I look; it’s way too far outside the norm. They assume that I have low self-esteem. They assume when I quickly say “I’m doing this for my health” I actually mean “I want to be more attractive to society, but I’m too proud to admit I’m unhappy with my looks and therefore I have to say it is for my health.” They want me to fit into their idea of how I should look.
What do I really want? I don’t want to be asked about my weight at all. If I don’t comment on it, then you shouldn’t. It’s bad manners. If we haven’t seen each other in a while and you say “You look great!” I’ll say thank you and move on. If I feel comfortable, I might tell you about what I’m doing and why. If you say, “Have you lost weight?” I’ll try to be polite. But if you start asking me how much I’ve lost, or what size I am, or tell me I’m so pretty now, I’m probably going to say something not nice in return. Because if you think that’s an appropriate comment, I don’t really care what you think about my body. It’s not any of your business. Your approval or rejection in no way changes how I see myself. I don’t care if you find me attractive or repulsive. I don’t care if you think I look fantastic – I already know that I do. I don’t need your blessing to be happy with my body. You do not define me.
I am happy, I am loved, I am smart, I am amazing – and soon enough I’ll be able to say I am healthy.