How I Feel About Being Fat.

 This is me.

As a ‘big girl’ I go through phases of questioning, worrying about, agonising over this state, and very long periods of not thinking about it at all. Recently, I’ve found myself in a questioning phase; a problem of definition. I have no problem with calling myself ‘fat’. I simply am. To my ears, my own voice using this term isn’t hateful or self-loathing, it denotes nothing but the truth of my body. I have no problems self-defining as fat. Everyone else, however, seems reluctant to afford me the same luxury. I remember, maybe 5 years ago, referring to myself as fat in front of a friend. ‘But you’re not!’ he cried, ‘you’re not fat!’. He seemed to think he was reassuring me, appeasing me, whether or not he was telling the truth. What I couldn’t muster the energy to say to him then, and what I’ve since learnt to say succinctly and with dignity, is that denying my fatness is denying me the right to be attractive. When I say ‘I’m fat’, I’m making a pronouncement on my size and my body. The colour of my eyes, the way I look after my nails, the shape of my lips, the length of my eyelashes; none of this has anything to do with my size. And besides, what if I like my thighs, my chubby upper arms, my fleshy, surgery-scarred stomach? Denying that I’m fat is denying me the chance to find any beauty in it.

I feel uncomfortable when bigger girls talk about how they wouldn’t want to be skinny, how they would never want ‘hips like a 12-year-old boy’ or a flat chest or how much they like being ‘womanly’ because that’s just the same, confidence-crushing bullshit they’ve put up with all their lives but flipped over against some other girl. I don’t want to make anyone feel bad about their body, I don’t want to pronounce on what is, in general, an ‘acceptable’ size or shape. I want everyone and anyone and their aunt and their puppy to feel like it’s ok to be the way they are, and if they’re already happy with it, then that’s even more ok.
When magazines or, indeed, other humans talk about ‘real women’ and their ‘curves’ it makes my blood boil. Ok, so we’ve had years and years of one ‘heroin chic’ look, and now we’re trying to atone for it, but I don’t think that Kate Moss circa 1994 or Gwyneth Paltrow or Amy Winehouse are holograms… are they? I mean, they’re real in the sense that I haven’t just made them up for the purposes of this blog post. And they all define as women, as far as I know, so where’s the beef? Is it guilt and shame that makes magazines so keen to call Christina Hendricks ‘real’ because they know that until a couple of years ago, her and Adele and… well, that’s about it, would never have got a look in?
I don’t think I’m somehow superior because I’m fat. I just like being me. I find waking up in the morning and looking in the mirror satisfying. I enjoy my appearance, whether or not you do. And that’s priceless.
However: fashion magazines, the media, our global culture teach us that thin is preferable to fat, which is why it seems so much harder for fat girls to realise they even have the option to like themselves. And I mean girls like me or Beth Ditto, who are actually fat, not girls like Christina Hendricks or Lara Stone who seem to exist solely to make fash mags feel like they’re good people because they’re using pictures of someone above an A-cup. It is hard to be fat and to like yourself. Fatphobia, fat-shaming and plain old fat hate are so, so ingrained in our culture that people don’t even think twice about the fact they, instinctively, attach a lower value to ‘fat’ than ‘thin’. I’m speaking as someone with friends who think Keira Knightley has ‘big thighs’. I work in an environment where it’s assumed that fat people don’t wear high heels. Even plus-size retailers don’t have the respect or common sense to use appropriately sized models or mannequins to promote their clothes. To paraphrase, (I believe, correct me if my memory has failed me) Lionel Shriver in ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’, the greatest thing a Western woman can achieve is a protruding ribcage or a visible spine: she wears it as a badge of honour. We are trained to hate fat. By rights, even I should hate fat. I should hate looking at my fat legs, I should be ashamed of my fat arms, I should be wearing a tent-like apparatus to conceal my fat stomach, I should grow my nails long to elongate my fat fingers.
But that’s bullshit.
I live once. I am blessed with one body, and one mind and I’ve worked hard to reconcile the two. I’m 21. I wear what I want. I seek romance with people I find attractive. I got over my heel-dragging and nerves and took an internship at a women’s glossy fashion magazine where I look like no-one on the staff, because I want to be a journalist and I want to be fearless. I stand up for myself. I stand up for others. I write my blog to help other people understand that you have a choice, that you only live once, that regret and resentment and denial are a life wasted. I have trained myself not to assume that the fat on my body means I am worth less, deserve less, that I appeal to no-one, that I shouldn’t wear what I want, that no one will want to date me or sleep with me or be my friend, that it will always be me who gets rejected, that as a fat girl, I can’t be fussy about who I’m kissing. As a wonderful man said to me over dinner in Montréal one night, ‘For some people it’s a deal-breaker; for others, it sweetens the deal’. It’s a sign of weakness on my part that I had ever assumed that potential partners would be deterred by my fat and that the same men or women would love me any more for weighing less. But the man was right; as well as doing myself a disservice, I’m doing a disservice to anyone that would potentially find me attractive.

Do people think I’ve never looked in the mirror? Do they think I’ve never seen a photo of myself, or bought clothes? Are they so keen to push their terror of fat onto me by denying me the right to be fat, and telling me I’m not? Are they conscious of the fact that by denying my fatness, they’re implicitly unpicking years and years of hard work, of hard knocks and of blows to my confidence to find the courage to enjoy being myself in the face of overwhelming opposition? Their cowardice in not being able to acknowledge that I am fat translates to disbelief that I am or could ever be attractive or beautiful or stylish or deserving of romance or a personal style. No one in the public eye that’s considered beautiful or a positive role model looks anything like me. At least slim girls know they’re doing ok because they see, every single day, photos of models and actresses and singers that basically look like a variation on their theme. Not me. I had to figure this all out for myself. Up against all this bullshit, it’d probably be easier to lose weight than to develop any kind of backbone or self-love.

I’m going to wear horizontal stripes, tight skirts, short dresses, weird textures, a blunt fringe, high heels, skinny jeans, small florals, and whatever else takes my fancy, even if a fashion editor would vomit with disgust on sight. I have the choice and I choose to be fat and fucking marvelous, not one or the other.
I am fat. That is fine.


38 Replies to “How I Feel About Being Fat.”

  1. This is a really fantastic post!

    I haven't really commented (I'm more of an observer) but I think this is as good a time as any to say that all of your outfit posts inspire me to wear things I wouldn't normally wear. I'm usually a 'play it safe' person, which can get very boring. And you always look great!

    I think it's much more attractive to dress to show your figure rather than to hide it. I see so many girls in baggy tshirts and cardigans because they don't feel like they should love their bodies. xo

  2. @Katie Marie – not sure you can always make that assumption. I often wear clothes that people might assume are 'hiding' my figure, but it's much more to do with laziness (baggy clothes require less maintenance I think) than it is how I feel about myself.

  3. Oh no of course not always, I mean personally I know a few people I see on a regular basis (friends/people from university) that dress to hide their figures and always wear dark colours because "they're flattering". But they have lovely figures! xo

  4. Great post, I'm 'fat' and im not 100% sure how I feel about it yet but I think I need to stop giving it so much thought.
    'I choose to be fat and fucking marvelous'- LOVE IT!

  5. I enjoyed this post, but as someone who is 5ft11 and a size 16-18, I have to say it isn't something I have ever really contemplated before I read this. Maybe I am a bit on the fat side, but I'm still essentially a tall blonde bird with huge knockers, and isn't that what everyone wants? 😉

    I hate the "real women" thing as well. Do they not realise that Christina Hendricks' hourglass figure is just as hard to attain if you aren't made that way as Kate Moss' shape?

  6. Such an inspiration! I completely agree, of course. I've also experienced the 'people telling me I'm not fat when I say I am' thing. Completely infuriating!

    I was talking with a colleague the other day, who's an African woman. She said that there is so much pressure over there for women to be big, that men like 'big mommas'. Why can't people just like women for what they are, not what they think they could/should be? xxx

  7. This is a very astute piece. I'm 5'8" and a size 24. I've been 'big' all my life, apart from a glitch where I dropped to just over 6st because of health problems. I doubt I'm ever going to be any different, although I'm not sure if I want to be or not. I really do hope to develop the same sort of confidence you obviously have.

    My biggest beef is getting nice clothes. Clothing manufacturers seem to hate plus-sized women, and even if you can get something half-way decent without taking out a second mortgage, it's normally too short or the wrong shape.

    I don't really know where I'm going here, so I'll stop rambling now.

  8. Love this, girl. Beautifully written and wonderfully put. Fat and fabulous, indeed!

  9. I rarely swear online, but FUCK YES!

    I am a very little bit taller than you with stickier-out hips. I'm also 28, and reading this WISHING I had your confidence. It's interesting that people will accept the word 'overweight' but not 'fat'.

    I'm not opposed to a pair of skinny jeans, but clearly I have a bit of thinking to do. 🙂

  10. Great post Bethany, a strong display of confidence, and what an admirable asset that is.

    The problem that lies behind all of this obsession with the aesthetic, from my opinion, is that the health of people suffers due to an adherence to extremes. Being happy, confident, and as a result, healthy, are three attributes that take far higher priority than appeasing the aesthetic sensibilites of culture or an imposed sense of 'beauty'. This pursuit of appearance can be so harmful to health, mental and physical, whether skinny or fat.

    Of course, as human beings are infinitely different, a specific ideal (or body shape, for example) is never going to be something that when presented, will suit all. People who enjoy what they do, and do it because they are passionate, display that confidence, happiness and health. Using sport as an example, whether they be sumo wrestles, marathon runners or dancers, regardless (or irregardless ;]) of sex or gender, their passion and pursuit of something that truly matters to them, to mould a 'shell' into a physical paragon, gives an idea of human potential. Form and function, as opposed to some time-specific taste or societal norm.

    Your ability to push through what others may think of you, and how that can put you down is fantastic. It is a curse I am aware of, to be overly affected by the multitude of things people 'may' be thinking about you, of you, etc., to the point of it becoming paralysing.

    Strong, and a good foundation for this blog. As a personal interest, health comes high for me, and a person must be comfortable with who and what they are, to be able to strive for a whole physical and mental unity.

    Joie de vivre!

  11. it's not often i read an entire blog. i get bored. found myself reading the comments too. 🙂
    —Christine Clemmons, ArtSync Magazine

  12. Fabulous post, thank you for sharing its definitely made me think about how I look at myself and worry when others perceive me as "oh poor u your a size 16"!

  13. Really interesting post, i just wanted to say it's great hearing someone rant so passionately and yet NOT decide to 'confidence-boost' at the expense of others. I have seen quite a lot of independent designers who start getting rants on their comments for using a size 8 model every now and again.

    But it is so true that in the world we need a greater range of people represented in the medias, and even as a natural size 6-8 I wholeheartedly hate the obsession with tiny bodies in the medias – sometimes I feel like men see me as some kind of sex-object because 'my' body has been shown in music videos etc.etc. as there to be flaunted. But that's a different issue.

    Good luck with your blogging! Have you come across the fashion & lifestyle blogger You might like her too 🙂

  14. Amazing. Thanks for this, it's hard to remember sometimes.

  15. Excellent post, you seem to have managed to articulate something i've felt at some level but never been able to articulate before, thank you!

  16. Really interesting. I am smaller and probably bigger and really don't enjoy myself.


    Thank you, wise lady.

  17. To say that was the most articulate statement of intent I've seen so far this year would be doing it a great disservice. That's quite simply one of the best confrontations of any supposed "taboo" I've ever had the pleasure to read. If you don't have a highly respectable job in a year's time, I'll both eat my desert boots and lose all faith in this country's journalistic institutions. Ta for the coffee, too.

  18. I don't even remember how I chanced upon this, but once I started reading, I couldn't stop.

    Thank you so much for writing this fantastic piece, you are beyond awesome. 🙂

  19. What a fantastic post, I really enjoyed reading it.

    Whilst reading I realised I'm guilty of the "you're not fat" retort and I'm going to stop from now on. Thank you for giving me perspective 🙂

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