This post was originally published on June 10, 2014.
The average newborn is 7.5 pounds. I came into the world at 10 pounds, so you might say I’ve been a plus-size princess since the beginning. I was eight when I began feeling like I was bigger than the other girls. I was 12 when my pediatrician wrinkled her nose and bluntly told my mother I was fat. I’ve been dieting, losing weight, and gaining it back ever since.
I never saw my weight as part of my identity, because being a "big girl" was always supposed to be a temporary thing. My plan was to do all the things skinny girls do (Moderation! Self Control! Eat Less, Move More!) so that a skinny body would be mine, too. But, here’s the thing: While exercise and eating well have given me a clean bill of health, they have yet to make me skinny. Maybe my 10-pound birth weight was the spoiler alert that I was destined to be plus-size. Or, maybe it's my Poly Cycstic Ovarian Syndrome that keeps me from being small — who knows.
What I do know is that I have a choice. I can live my life feeling miserable because of what the scale says, or I can live my life feeling amazing — no matter what the scale says. Today, I read about Linda Kelsey asking why young women are so unashamed about being fat. I felt like she was writing directly to me. She talks about seeing some plus-size princesses in the airport, heading out on vacation: "They sounded — and looked — happy and carefree. But, what mesmerized me most about this jolly trio was not their conversation, but their appearance: They were size 18 apiece, at least."
Wait a minute — I am at least a size 18 and am also carefree and happy! Ms. Kelsey, were you at JFK when I was catching a plane to Mexico?? "Far from body hatred," Kelsey continues, "what I witnessed was a let-it-all-hang-out faith in themselves and a don’t-give-a-damn attitude to their evident obesity." Okay, Linda. You’re in the U.K., and I’m in NYC, so maybe it wasn’t me you saw. But, let me explain to you what you witnessed with those three plus-size girls in the airport.
We live in a world where men feel comfortable walking up to women and screaming, "Lose some weight, fat-ass!” We live in a society where girls on a weight-loss journey stop jogging in public because people are heckling them from their cars. We are brought up with messaging that our value as a person is based on our body type — and that the bigger you are, the less value you have. Then, to top it all off, we have "unapologetically fattist" people like you who think being overweight “should be as unacceptable as smoking." Well, smoking is not allowed in the workplace, in restaurants, or in many public spaces — so I’m trying to figure out what you're suggesting should be done about us “fatties."
Linda, what you interpreted as a “don’t-give-a-damn” attitude (a.k.a. those girls dressing as they wanted, with no concern for your opinion) was actually them being vulnerable, being themselves, and being comfortable with their bodies. That's a tough thing for a woman to do at any size — but seeing big girls do it? In my opinion, you just witnessed a miracle. Those girls have heard you and your fat-phobic friends loud and clear their whole lives; they know you can’t stand anyone who isn’t thin. They know that the presence of their large bodies is making you uncomfortable, and yet they are still able to get out of bed, dress how they want, and live the life they want — an amazing feat, I’d say.
Big girls know that we’re big, and most of us are working on our health. I started the #PSPfit online fitness community because big girls DO work out and eat healthy. If being skinny is in the future for any of us fatties, it wont happen overnight (heck, I’ve lost 55 pounds and I’m still fat). But, in the meantime, as WE figure out what's best for OUR bodies, I think we should be allowed to have a nice day. We should be allowed to love our bodies as they are, as we work towards being our best selves. We should be allowed to smile, laugh, dance, go on dates, and break free from the body-policing many of us have been dealing with since childhood.
Linda, listen to me (listen to me Linda!): You’re unapologetically fattist, and I am unapologetically human. All humans have things they’re working through. I’m working through my weight, which means my struggles are on display for the world to see — and to critique in online articles. You have the luxury of keeping your struggles hidden, but I imagine you don’t spend every moment of every day crying and hiding because of them; please don’t expect me to do that, either. I don’t know what your struggles are, but if I did, I would treat them with compassion.
Some say we judge others harshly in the areas where we are insecure. Sometimes, I wonder if it's not my fat body that people hate, but the happiness, joy, and full life I have in spite of it. No apology necessary, Linda. No apology necessary.