THAT FAT GIRL
“You are a woman after your own heart darling. This is the bravest thing you could possibly be”. -Upile Chisala
For the majority of my life, I have always been the BIG girl. As a child, my mom told me stories about how much I ate as a baby. Apparently, after sucking one breast dry, I would immediately reach for the other. While everyone would laugh at the historical reflection, in my mind, I thought “I wish my mom put me on a diet as a baby, because maybe I wouldn’t be as fat as I am today”. The reality is, as a child I struggled so much with accepting my body. I cannot remember a moment in my childhood from birth to 15 years of age that I was ever truly happy with myself. Now at 24, I am saddened by the fact that I missed out on enjoying my childhood, because I was so wrapped up in my body.
I grew up in an African household where people were comfortable with always reminding me that something was wrong with my body. In an African household, the language of tough love and blatant honesty is believed to help develop thick skin. But for me, my experience of body shaming from within my own family didn’t help me develop thick skin. If anything, I became an emotionally distant person who is actually quite sensitive and insecure. I don’t believe the constant reminders about my size came from a hateful or spiteful place. If I am honest, it came from a place of love, but we show love to others the way we feel is best for them; not the way that is best for that person. We all receive love differently, and truly caring for someone means putting in the work to understand how that person receives love and loving them in that manner.
Throughout middle school and high school, I was depressed and always unhappy with my body. Because of my unhappiness, I was willing to accept what little attention I received from men, well boys at the time. I felt so little about myself that I allowed boyfriends to keep me as their secret. I was grateful for the attention at a time, when I felt I was undeserving of any. To me, they were doing me a favor, by giving me the time of day.
I transferred schools my sophomore year (Shoutout to Holton), and decided that I wanted to be a different person, so I showed up to field hockey preseason practices. I could not play field hockey to save my life. I had no experience, but I decided I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone. It’s funny because today, I am ever grateful to the women on that team. They took me in at a time when I was at my lowest point. My intention was never to lose weight. In fact, I didn’t even notice it was happening. All of a sudden, I had lost 30 pounds, and felt great, but I was still big by society’s standards. At the time, I was a size 14 and even at a 14, I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t happy because though I was becoming more active and more social I still didn’t really love myself. I think that because I wasn’t comfortable in my skin, I was unable to maintain the weight loss moving forward. Since then my weight has fluctuated consistently. Today, when I look back at pictures of myself, I think “damn bitch you weren’t big at all.”
I’m sure many people look at me and think I must be the most unhealthy person, but my doctor would tell you otherwise. I AM HEALTHY. Stop equating health with size and shape, because its an ignorant and foolish assumption. This is at the crux of my issue with body shamers who seek to legitimize their critiques by centering them around a fake concern for health. Forget about the shamers, who are clearly projecting their own insecurities. If I am healthy, why am I unhappy? My unhappiness is not because of a specific health reason, it is simply because I have bought into society’s standards of beauty. Because I bought into those standards, I struggled to see the beauty in me. Even with all of my accomplishments, I still feel like I am the BIG girl, the one people whisper about silently, and whose very presence makes some people physically uncomfortable.
I once experienced a grown man tell me that I was fat and ugly. Though of course I have never been one to shy away from slandering a person’s entire being – I retaliated. That man will never really understand the impact of his words to me that day. Though I was already disgusted at my size 14 body by that time, he helped to confirm what my mind already believed people thought of me.
I was watching a debate on the Youtube channel Grapevine. A good portion of the speakers seemed to believe body positivity was enabling fat people to continue to be fat. However, as someone who has experienced body shaming, body positivity gives someone who might need to lose or gain weight for health reasons the confidence to walk into the gym and not feel embarrassed or disgusted. I cannot tell you how many times I have opted not to do a gym course or go to a certain section because I felt too embarrassed about how my body looked. To me, that is the key. Loving the body you are in now enough to want to be healthy and confident for yourself. This is my constant everyday struggle. I do not love my body, but I am working on it constantly. I know that when I learn to love myself as I am, I will become a better version of myself both physically, spiritually, and emotionally.