Fat is a Fact, Not An Insult—Why I’ve Reclaimed the Word “Fat”

I rode the bus home from school every day with the same girls from my second-grade class. I wanted them to be my friends so bad — I mean, these were the popular girls! So, when they kinda started to make fun of me a little, I let it slide. However, the day they told me I was the “fattest girl in our grade,” I had knots in my stomach for days. I remember running off the bus to my mom, crying and asking why this was the body I was born with. I skipped school for the rest of the week because I couldn’t bear to show my “fat” body with the rest of the class.

My mom and I still talk about that day sometimes because she says it was the first time she saw me (her first child) experience hurt from another person before. The pain I felt from that day has stayed with me forever. I felt like a failure, and I felt like I was being attacked for something I couldn’t even control. I was 7 years old — what the hell does a 7-year-old do to “lose weight”? 

 

I remember running off the bus to my mom, crying and asking why this was the body I was born with

 

This comment was what eventually led to my eating disorder in high school, and I’d be met with dozens of comments just like that throughout my life. Every time I’d hear them, it would feel like another person was seeing my real body. I hoped I had fooled everyone into thinking I was just like everyone else. I felt like a skinny girl on the inside; I was just a skinny girl trapped in a body that was too big for me. So, when someone told me I was fat, it was as if I was being exposed as a fraud. I’d be upset because people were finally noticing and making light of the rolls and jiggles I fought so hard to hide in baggy, oversized clothes (or worse, full-body Spanx that made it impossible to breathe). 

Although I went through treatment for my eating disorder, I struggled to feel comfortable with the word “fat.” It became the most terrifying word in the English language to me. I wouldn’t say it; I wouldn’t use it. I’d find new words and euphemisms to talk about something — ”wide,” “heavy,” “big.” “Fat” had almost escaped my vocabulary, so when someone else said it, I’d wince. I had gotten so attached to the idea that whenever someone said it, I’d feel like it was a targeted effort to shame me and my body, regardless of the context had anything to do with a human body.

The discomfort I felt toward the word was so focused on the way it made me feel. “Fat” made me feel ugly, disgusting, gross. Being fat felt like the worst thing a person could have. “Fat” meant lazy, weak, inadequate. It stopped feeling like just a word and started seeming like an attack.

Then, I started following plus-size bloggers, body positive activists, and people who actually looked like me. I listened to what they said and how they spoke about their bodies and the ways they found body peace. They called themselves fat, and it wasn’t meant to be the punch line of a joke. These were confident, strong women calling themselves fat. My whole life, fat had been a way to shame others for their inability to lose weight. It was a way to ostracize people for not fitting into a certain size of clothing. Why would you want to call yourself that?

 

My whole life, fat had been a way to shame others for their inability to lose weight. It was a way to ostracize people for not fitting into a certain size of clothing.

 

I was watching a video from Sarah Rae Vargas (love. love. love.), and she said something along the lines of, “yeah, I’m a big girl. I have fat on my body,” and it finally clicked. 

Having fat on my body is just a fact. I have rolls (literally all over); my thighs jiggle; you can pull at the fat on my arms. I’m sick of feeling like my fat is up for debate. It’s a simple fact that my body is fat — and it’s not an insult to me anymore. Being called “fat” doesn’t bother me because it’s a simple fact. Yeah, I am fat. I have body fat. And what about it? 

 

Being called “fat” doesn’t bother me because it’s a simple fact. Yeah, I am fat. I have body fat. And what about it?

 

So, when I call myself fat, when I say I have fat, when I refer to myself as a fat girl, it’s not because I hate myself; it’s because I’m confident in myself. I’m confident in my fat body. I’m happy with my fat body. And yeah, I have days where I want to lose 20 pounds or wish I could fit into straight-size clothes or I cry in the dressing room, but I’m comfortable in my body because it’s literally all I have. I’m grateful for the body I was given, for the fat on my sides, for the many, many Domino’s pizzas that have given me my size 18 thighs, for the body that takes up a little too much space in the seat next to you on the subway.

 

I’m grateful for the body I was given, for the fat on my sides, for the many, many Domino’s pizzas that have given me my size 18 thighs, for the body that takes up a little too much space in the seat next to you on the subway.

 

I refuse to apologize for my fat body anymore; I refuse to hide my fat anymore. It just exists, and there’s nothing wrong with it.

  • Khaela

    I so love this!
    From a fellow fat girl
    @toocurvytocare

  • Keira

    I sympathize with what happened to you as a young girl but I can’t agree that being obese is okay. The strain caused by excess weight on your body will eventually catch up with you, so I think making lifestyle changes now and getting healthy now will set you up for a much happier, pain-free future. Don’t give those childhood bullies the power to perpetuate that same sense of victimhood in you when now as an adult, you absolutely have the agency to make better choices for yourself.

    • Katie

      Keira,
      Commenting on people’s bodies is not ok. Judging someone based on their size is not ok. Giving unsolicited medical advice is not ok. Fat people don’t owe being “healthy” to anyone. Fat is an adjective she’s using to describe herself. This doesn’t mean she’s giving people the right to make assumptions about her body/life/health. Stop trying to use “science” to back up hate speech. All bodies are valid, all bodies deserve respect, all bodies deserve love, all bodies are good bodies, all bodies are beautiful.

      Beth- love the plus size perspective you’ve brought to The Everygirl! Congratulations on the work you’ve done to make it this far in your journey of self-love. As a fellow plus size women, I know there are good days and bad but I really appreciate you sharing your story:)

      • Keira

        We all have the right to articulate our opinions on publicly available articles, Katie. I do not buy into the toxic rhetoric that the body positive movement perpetuates and I will definitely be speaking up, not to spread “hate speech” but to help educate and offer a different perspective instead of contribute to the mindless echo chamber. I never said fat bodies are not beautiful–aesthetics and health should not be conflated–my point is that it’s okay to acknowledge one’s current state and aim to do better.

        • Molly

          You can articulate your opinions, sure, but I challenge you to think about the underlying assumptions of these opinions! Is it possible you’ve made assumptions about Beth’s lifestyle choices and her health based on the aesthetics, thereby conflating them yourself? This article is about reclaiming the word fat to mean just what it means – and not also “lazy and unhealthy.” I understand that your intentions are good here, but you’re still fat-shaming by making the assumption that because the author is fat, she also needs to make lifestyle changes, when she didn’t mention anything about her health! Maybe she, like me, exercises regularly, eats mostly clean, and has had an impeccable bill of health for her entire fat life (child and adulthood alike).

          I’m struggling to figure out how the body positive movement could be toxic. Because now that fat people love their bodies they have no desire to be healthy? Because an animosity toward one’s body and a desire for a different one is the only motivation for health? I think the “different perspective” you’re trying to offer here isn’t different at all. It’s age-old, fat-phobic, and quite frankly, I’m over it.

  • Molly

    This is so poignant! fat, tall, short, small-chested, long, they’re just words! I was shocked when I moved to Spain and everyone just so easily called people gordo/a and then realized the problem was not the word, but the insinuation that the word fat also means all of the things you mentioned (lazy, weak, inadequate). Fat should just mean that – fat. Working on believing it myself and using it accordingly – thank you!