Why I’m Not Changing My Body For The Summer

I’ve been fat my whole life.
I was a fat baby, a fat kid, a fat adolescent, a fatter teen, a fat twenty-something, and I’m fat right now. I have been obsessively dieting, and gaining, and dieting for as long as I can remember: bound by the pressures of the oftentimes image-obsessed gay community which I’m in, and the wider world’s general idolization of the thin white body. Years of bombardment from advertising, movie stars, and models — and supposed health experts who build their empires on making you feel inadequate and insecure — naturally results in deep self-loathing for any part of your body that isn’t nearing 0% fat.
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This feeling of self-hatred intensifies every year, around this time, when the sun starts coming out. Everywhere you turn, your body is being criticized, in this oddly seasonal context, for not being "ready" for the beach. People have no idea how to talk to you about fat, because fat has become synonymous with failure. And so, unable to understand or talk about why you feel so gripped by wanting to remove those extra pounds, even though you can’t freaking afford a beach vacation anyway, you begin down the diet road.
But not this year. This year I was lucky enough to discover fat activism, and I realized that once I flooded my social media feeds with bodies that are much more like mine, I felt far more comfortable in my body, as well as supported and validated in my choice to start reframing my relationship with it.
The more imagery I consumed of fat people like me, the more I began to appreciate my fat belly and my big back — and the things my body does, not what it looks like. I thought so much about the hours, and the tears, spent starving myself, taking stupid gimmicky gym classes that I despised, and the sheer energy and breath wasted talking about what I wanted to change about my body. I decided to commit to channelling that energy into things that are actually important, and not a waste of life.
A big worry I always had was whether someone would want to fuck me, because my fat always made me feel unfuckable. But then I look at my track record, and my now-boyfriend, and I’ve had that insecurity disproved on countless occasions.
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These realizations seem simple, but when the world has pushed your grip on reality through the size zero prism, it’s pretty hard to see the woods through the fat. To broaden the conversation, I reached out to some of my fat activism icons to share their perspectives on how to deconstruct the toxic institution that is the "Summer Body." So take it from me, and them — some of the most iconic, rad, beautiful people (to be clear: I'm not pictured) who reject the mainstream idea that thin equals beautiful — that it’s easier than you think, and also way more satisfying.
It's your body. It's your summer. Enjoy them both. Check out more #TakeBackTheBeach here.
1 of 10
Kaye Ford
Stephanie Yeboah

@NerdAboutTown

"I think that the idea of slimming down for summer is the result of these 'Celeb Summer Body' articles you get in women's lifestyle magazines. Around this time of year, we are inundated with images of celebrity bodies on the beach on the front covers of magazines, with headlines either telling us to get in shape to look like them, or to body-shame the women for daring to have cellulite or a bit of a tummy. We've slowly been brainwashed that summer should be synonymous with being slim, which is ridiculous.

"The ‘perfect summer body’ is a damaging ideology sold to the masses by the diet industry in order to profit from women's insecurities. We all already have the 'summer' body; it's the same body that takes us through spring, winter, and autumn. This notion that you 'have' to lose weight in order to enjoy the weather is toxic and negative, and only reinforces fatphobic values.

"There is also this incorrect assumption that being a fat person of color is seen as 'more acceptable' within our own communities as opposed to the mainstream. The result of this is those fat bodies of color are grossly underrepresented within the mainstream media, because there are defined standards around our bodies that categorize us in opposition to whiteness and white bodies."
2 of 10
Kaye Ford
"Society seems to narrow down the black female body as consisting of 'boobs and butt' — thus objectifying and sexualizing us, while equally ignoring an entire demographic of women who do not fit the stereotypical 'black hourglass' shape. It is these women who need to feel represented within the media. The black female body exists in our culture at a complicated intersection of hyper-visibility and hyper-sexuality. Body positivity, like most movements white women have made themselves the champions of, was never intended to include black women. If a few rogue white feminists decide to defend black female bodies, that's fine, but we all know that body positivity is for white women.

"So, I lean myself more towards fat activism than body positivity, as body positivity is now at a point where there is a mass exclusion of the very bodies that helped create the movement in the first place, and it now seems to center on the white, hourglass-shaped, beautiful, socially 'acceptable' fat woman. In order for body positivity to thrive, it needs to be intersectional.

"Fat activism has helped me in that it has given me the confidence to accept and love my body for what it is. We are normal. It helps us to remember that we deserve to be treated with the same amount of respect as our non-fat counterparts get. Fat activism fights for inclusivity, respect, justice, and increased visibility of all fat bodies. We can be fat AND beautiful and it does not make us any less worthy as human beings."
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3 of 10
Fran Hayden

@frannnh

"I already have a summer body because there is no way on Earth that I will let my enjoyment of summer or how I exist in my skin be defined by a culture that can't accept fat bodies. I spent far too many years sweltering in the heat of summer, covered up in jeans and a cardigan — and why? All because society told me that I couldn't slay in shorts or be a bombshell in a bikini. I've grown to love my body in its entirety — I love how soft it is, how it looks, and mostly, I love how the sun feels on my skin when I'm free from my own judgments."
4 of 10
"That said, it’s so difficult to ignore the messages that are thrown at us about dieting and fitness — and even more so when the summer months roll around. I have learned that my worth is not defined by the shape or size of my body, nor what I choose to eat. These messages aren't going to go away overnight; and sometimes we have to grab life by the lapels and go for something — even if it scares us and in spite of what the media is telling us.

"Forcing myself to go out with my arms bare, my legs free and my mind strong was probably one of the best things that I did to boost my self-esteem in the summer. I realized that no one really cared about my body and if they did, I was having too much fun existing in the body that I call home to notice."
5 of 10
Sharon

@RadFatFeminist

"My body does some amazing things; because of my body I can walk, swim, dance and so much more! My body doesn’t exist to be judged or objectified by others. I owe a lot to the fat acceptance movement and the understanding I have developed of the impact of social norms and beauty ideals on one’s body image; I am now free to enjoy my body, and the summer weather, as I see fit."
6 of 10
"In terms of practical steps, the work of body positive advocates and fat activists such as Virgie Tovar and The Militant Baker are excellent to refer to, whether you’re at the beginning of your journey or well versed. Unlearning the negative behaviors and prejudices that we are taught by society can seem like a lengthy task, but it’s worth the wait."
7 of 10
Photo: Samantha Figueroa
Megan Kimberling

@MeganKimberling

"My body isn't seasonal. I don't change it out and move to the back of my closet. My body isn't trendy; my body is my vessel through life. I love that my body helps me to experience life — why would I punish something that does that? I don't like to focus on parts of my body because I feel like that is letting diet culture into my world to disrespect my being. It's not just parts of my body that experience my daily life, it is my entire being. All of my body is worthy of love and respect just as it exists."
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8 of 10
Photo: Samantha Figueroa
"My advice to those who are tempted by diet culture during this part of the year is this: Report ads that make you feel uncomfortable, unfollow models/bloggers/celebrities that actively support diet culture, and be aware of how it can manifest in your personal relationships. As humans, we are continuously changing, growing, morphing into different people through our years. Succumbing to diet culture isn't natural, however. Forcing your body through mental and physical obstacles for fleeting exterior beauty is pointless when all we should do is look inward and begin to love ourselves as we currently exist."
9 of 10
Photo: Darnell Temenu
Kitty Underhill

@KittyUnderhillX

We’re conditioned to believe by mass media that a beautiful body can only be one very narrow ideal that so many of us don’t fit into — slim, white, cis — and this ‘beach body ready’ nonsense kicks it all into gear at the same time every year. It’s so hard to not let these negative voices get to you, especially when everywhere you turn you’re basically being told you're not good enough. Whenever I feel those negative thoughts come back and have them be reinforced by this horrible seasonal push in diet and exercise plans, I remind myself that there is no wrong way to have a body. Just because you don’t look like people in magazines/ads (even these models don’t — they’ve been photoshopped to oblivion!) doesn’t mean your body is any less magnificent just the way it is."
10 of 10
Photo: Darnell Temenu
"I used to berate myself constantly for the way I looked in a bikini and would compare myself to others constantly but I now know that my body is beautiful in its own right, and it’s crucial we remind ourselves of exactly that. Society says I should hide my big thighs because they're apparently a 'problem area,' but I love them the most; we must also remind ourselves problem areas are socially constructed! I already have a summer body because I have a body. I have a bikini body by *dramatic drum roll* putting on a bikini. It is really that simple. We are all so beautiful and we can rock anything we want, no matter what size we are. Every body is beautiful, especially those that are told they are not via media erasure, racism, ableism, transphobia and fatphobia."
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