Recently, I read an article about a woman who was a self-described 'fat happy bride'. She wrote that getting married while being fat and embracing her body is still considered a radical act in our society. She wrote that people who are larger are always told to shrink or hide their bodies, that essentially, society wanted to see less of them. This got me thinking about my own experiences living as an overweight woman, and that perhaps embracing my body and self-identifying as beautiful when overweight is also a radical act.
(art by spooky femme)
I’ve often said that discrimination against people who are obese is one of the only forms of discrimination still accepted in our society. We’re taught that we are less than, because there is more of us. We believe we are unworthy of love because we are so "flawed". Too often, we try to lose weight because of self-hate, shame, or embarrassment.
At my largest, I would look at myself in the mirror and tell myself I was beautiful, but it was a constant battle to learn to accept myself at that size, when the rest of the world was telling me that I could never be beautiful until I was smaller. I had friends tell me “you have such a pretty face” or “you could get lots of guys if you lost a bit of weight”, reinforcing the message that “yes, you have what it takes to be attractive, but like this, right now, you aren’t.”
I don’t believe that a person is more valid if they are smaller, nor that if they are larger they should try to hide. So many people try to lose weight because they hate themselves and their bodies, but as I’ve said, I made the decision because I loved myself, and I wanted to live a more fulfilling life. When I made the decision to lose the weight, I wasn’t choosing to become more beautiful, I already was. I was choosing to stop abusing myself with food, and shutting the world out as a result. I’m not going to lie, I also loved seeing my body change, as it was a reflection of my work and commitment to myself. I loved how I felt, and yes, I also loved all the compliments that I was receiving from people around me.
But, people around me weren’t cheering me on solely because I was becoming thinner, they were cheering me on because I was so obviously much happier and healthier, both physically and emotionally. My happiness came from a place of pride and joy in fighting for the best life I could have, from the feeling of finally learning to trust my body, and from learning to acknowledge and address a life-long eating disorder.
When I hit my all-time low weight, I was only just starting to date, and despite everything that I had done, and my own belief that I looked good, I still worried that men wouldn’t want to date me because I wasn’t thin or small. Deep down, I still doubted my own beauty.
I have fought through a lifetime of insecurity, believing that I would never look the way a woman is supposed to look, no matter how many pounds I lose. I, like so many women, have existed in constant state of self-criticism for the ‘failings’ of my body. I am barraged daily with images of the ‘ideal’ woman, who I will never be; the great thing is, I no longer want to be. I have finally embraced my strong, healthy, curvy body.
Six years after hitting my smallest size, I am 30 lbs heavier, and feel the most beautiful I ever have. I no longer balk when people tell me that I’m beautiful. I smile and say ‘thank you’. I am older, and yes, larger, but so much more confident in my skin. I am active and healthy, and the happiest I have ever been.
I’ve learned that my size does not dictate my beauty, the way I see myself does.