Originally posted on Aug 31, 2016
As a chubby kid growing up on the island of Jamaica, the word fat had no effect on me. It simply held no significantly negative connotations among the many terms that could be used to describe me. In fact, the word fat was used as a term of endearment on many occasions throughout my childhood. “She’s so fat and cute” was not an abnormal phrase to hear from friends, family and even strangers regarding myself and many others when I was still living on the island. This resulted in no deep-seated feeling of anger, resentment or self-loathing. It meant nothing and I was happy.
It wasn’t until I arrived in the United States in 1993, as a nine-year-old kid in the 4th grade, that “fat” took on a less than lovable tone. It wasn’t long before the f-word began to draw a depressingly offensive equivalency with the “u”-words: ugly, unattractive, unlovable, unworthy. Of course being an immigrant with a strong accent and being unfamiliar with the culture of my new home certainly did not help. So essentially, I was hit with a double whammy.
I had a lot of firsts during year 1 in the US: my first escalator ride, first time on the train, first time eating pizza… and the first time being called fat in a derogatory manner. I won’t pinpoint any specific incident because it happened frequently and caused me to feel shame and self-loathing on a regular basis. As we all know, kids can be very cruel but adults can be even worse. Both my mother and father, who had immigrated to this country many years before my arrival, made snide remarks about “how fat” I was getting and how I should “lose some weight”. I’m sure they meant well, but words can burn deep in the mind and heart of children.
I became an extremely insecure child, especially in regards to my weight. If you asked anyone who knew me, however, insecure would probably not be a word they would have used to describe me. Unlike most, my insecurities presented themselves in a number of contradictory ways. As a teen, I became the life of the party; a loud mouth who hid her fears of rejection and loneliness by seeking attention in destructive ways that make me cringe when I think about them today. I especially craved attention when around males, because I felt invisible to them. I would subconsciously start speaking a little louder, dressing a little skimpier and becoming extremely hyper-aware of their presence in a room. Don’t get me wrong. It had nothing to do with sex at all. It was about attention. I did not feel visible as a fat girl. In my mind, I amounted to nothing more than the fat friend; the sidekick. I mean, nobody wants the fat friend right? Who would even know I was alive if I was both fat AND quiet?
Since the days of 9-year-old me being introduced to the negative connotations of what it means to be “fat”, I began to internalize the unfavorable emotions that attached themselves to this concept. Even if I wasn’t being called fat, I could somehow feel the word “fat” when others gazed too long. I had become a mind reader and could see that they were thinking the word “fat” when they saw me. No, I wasn’t hallucinating or on any drugs. I wasn’t literally seeing things, but this was an illustration of the unhealthy subconscious thoughts that I allowed to be on repeat every day. There was always a vague notion in my mind that no matter what was taking place in real time, my fat was “the pink elephant in the room”. That obvious yet unspoken f-word that people pretended to ignore.
I’ll spare you the hilarity/grief and fast forward through several train wrecks relationships that resulted from my self-inflicted fat shaming. A nearly 30-year-old me discovered the body positive movement and WCWed my heart out with plus-sized Bloggers/Models like Passion Jonesz, Chastity of Garner Style, Essie Golden, Chante of EverythingCurvy&Chic, Marie Denee of TheCurvyFashionista, Hayet Rida , Tiffany of LaceandLeopard, etc. I could go on & on. These women looked like me and they were… beautiful? Confident? Happy? Empowered? I began to indulge in all things plus-sized and body positive. For the first time, I was seeing women who not only looked like me but who accepted, no, CELEBRATED their size and shapes. These women were not the fat friends or the invisible big girl. They were the stars of the show all on their own.
One of the most surprising things that I have experienced on my journey to owning the word fat is that through self-acceptance, I have become much less harsh and critical of other women. Not only have I begun to embrace my own body, but I now see gorgeousness in other full figured women. I can now accept that fat people such as myself, can be some of the worst perpetrators of fat shaming because of our own misguided relationships with the word. They believe it is better to be the bully, to throw the punch before one is thrown in their direction. I definitely do not speak for all plus-sized women, nor do I imply that this would apply to all of us, but I have seen it over and over again. This especially takes place through online mediums, specifically the various social media channels that tend to take over our daily lives. Some people use these platforms to project their degrading, disturbing and just plain old unhealthy body and self-esteem issues onto others, through the cloak of invisibility that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram can provide.
Through a long and arduous, but very necessary, journey to self-love, I have taken control of the word fat. With help from my family, friends and most importantly through doing the difficult internal work, I have arrived at a place where this word, and its many societal implications, hold no power over me. In fact, I try to consciously use the f-word in describing myself physically, when necessary. I can now view it for what it is: a noun or verb and most often an adjective used to describe a visible physical characteristic. Mentally, it holds only the power given to it by the person saying or thinking it. Today you can call me fat and it doesn’t bother me one bit. I have zero f**ks to give. I like my big legs and you probably do too. (Just admit it)