Not long ago, I saw this post on Facebook of a girl saying, ‘If you say I’m fat, congratulations! You have eyes.’ She was talking about body positivity and being able to wear whatever she wants during the summer, about being free in her own skin, owning it and loving it while not accepting any negative comments about her weight or clothes. She was talking about fat like a neutral adjective, like saying she had long hair or tanned skin. I immediately shared the post and haven’t stopped thinking about her words since then.
The word ‘FAT’ has defined who I am my entire life. I have struggled with my weight and body image since I could form an opinion on myself. I was always the chubby girl growing up, always being judged for eating that extra slice of cake by family members. For those same family members who thought of me as just a little girl with fat cheeks, my nickname quickly becoming gordita, or fatty, as I grew up with no one realizing how that word has made me feel for years.
Though I have never suffered from any health related issues due to my weight, being FAT has deemed me sick and disgusting in my own eyes. Feeling FAT, because it is more than the way I look, has stopped me from interacting with people. It has stopped me from wearing outfits and high heels and from going for a night out to certain places. Being FAT has also prohibited me from enjoying the outdoors, things like ziplining or surfing or just going to the beach, because I am afraid people will ridicule me or say negative things about the way I look.
Being a hairstylist, I am surrounded by what the beauty industry deems important and acceptable in our society. Rarely do I see a plus size model campaigning for hair products, or styling behind the chair. The constant talk amongst peers is what pills to take to get skinnier, which is the latest fad diet, because after all, we are supposed to be the image our client gets inspired by.
I love high end fashion and even though I earn the money to be able to afford shopping in those stores, I am confined to shoes, bags and accessories because high end designers do not favor certain sizes, which means clothes for people like me simply aren’t made. Even in stores that carry lines of plus size clothing, they are never made correctly. Our bodies vary in so many different ways, PLUS SIZE doesn’t just mean one body type. Before I even walk into these stores, full of dread, I’m often plagued by thoughts like should I try that bathing suit on today or am I completely wasting my time with it?
What does it take for a person in this day and age to be able to live with the body they have been given?
Hollywood and the widespread use of social media have created a world where normal people will instantly and constantly compare themselves with celebrities and media influencers; I am 100% caught up in it. I spend my time scrolling past those thin bodies, starting at glossy long hair, stopping to contemplate the lives of these women who are able to wear stylish clothes and look great from every angle. The more I scroll, the more I look at them and feel I’m falling short in every aspect of my life, especially that of my weight and how it makes my body look.
I am so tired of feeling guilty for wanting to enjoy the simple things in life, like going to dinner with those I love and looking at the dessert menu with a free spirit. I’ve become so freaking talented at not only suppressing my feelings but also suppressing my cravings, struggling in the never-ending battle of should I eat that or should I be a ‘good girl’ and skip it?
The reality is that yes, I’m overweight, I’m FAT. SO, WHAT?
I’m so tired of the weight that word has put on my shoulders. It’s a lot more than the weight on the scale. I have let a simple adjective determine my life for almost thirty years. I have let this word affect relationships around me, by feeling ashamed of having sex with a husband, a man who supports me unconditionally and loves every curve on my body. By being terrified of getting pregnant and becoming a mother, because I’m terrified the OBGYN will shame me for getting pregnant at my weight. I would hate to hear a medical professional state that I am unfit to carry a child just because of my body shape – despite there being absolutely nothing wrong with my health. I am chained to thoughts like these and I am struggling to break free of them.
I have to constantly remind myself: I AM VALID, I AM WORTH IT.
I take care of me constantly. I go to the gym, I drink a daily gallon of water, I go to local fresh markets and eat veggies often, I get eight hours of sleep every night. I don’t smoke, limit myself to a casual drink on social occasions and don’t miss any of my doctor’s checkups. I do more for my body than the average American. Yet I feel like I’m not good enough, I’ve never been good enough, and I’ll never be good enough unless I can fit into sizes 0-3 – an average model, because I am yet another product of the industries that surround my life.
I know women who are skinny who hate their bodies. I know men who hate themselves because they don’t have chiseled abs and then there’s me, with my tears and my fears, all because of a number on a scale and a size marked on a dress.
It makes me so sad that I haven’t found self-acceptance just yet, even though my body has gone through so much, healed so much, done so much. Every time I think I’m closing in on self-love, something pulls me back into the dark waters of self-hatred and each time I realize that this is a lifelong commitment, that I will forever have to remind myself to be kind to this body. My body.
Ary Rex is part of the New Voices Workshop. She was mentored by Lis Mesa, Head of NVW.