I’m fat and I’m a fat shamer. This ends now.
For a long time I thought I was body positive, celebrating large bodies, being proud of putting my own body out there, taking up space and owning it. I’ve written about being a fat burlesque performer, and the joy I get when plus size audience members tell me my performance made them feel empowered; that it was the first time they’d seen a body like their own up there on a stage.
But actually I’ve been apologising for my body for a long time. I didn’t realise I was doing it until I read an article by another fat writer, who pointed out that she ate healthily. I thought you don’t have to qualify your eating habits, just eat and enjoy life! And then I remembered that I had written similar things — about my thyroid condition which makes it virtually impossible to lose weight, and about how hard I trained each week. Even though I was ostensibly celebrating my body as is, I was actually qualifying it. I’m fat but it’s not my fault. I’m fat but I’m the good kind of fat. I’m fat but I’m trying really hard not to be that kind of fat girl.
It took me a long time to recognise that this is also a kind of fat shaming. It shames the fat people who don’t have a medical condition that makes them fat, or who don’t exercise, or who don’t tell the world about every salad they eat. It shames fat people who are fat and don’t make excuses for it. And I’m sorry for ever doing that; for ever feeling it was necessary. The internalised fat phobia was so deeply embedded I didn’t realise my body positivity was a sham. I don’t owe anyone an excuse for my size, and I’m sad that I ever thought I did.
So this is me declaring I will no longer apologise for my fat body, and no longer fat shame in the process. I will no longer tell you how many dance classes I take, or which medications mess with my metabolism, or how trauma has been shown to impact weight. While there is some genuine analysis of these issues to be had, I don’t need to do that analysis in order to be recognised for my humanity. I’m going to eat the cake and exercise and neither of those things are anyone else’s business. Fat is not a moral failing, but neither is skinny a moral victory. Fat is a state of being, as much as having blonde hair or glasses is.
As a fat person, it has taken a long time for me to fully accept that I don’t have to always be trying to change my body, and if I can’t change it, that I don’t always have to apologise for it. I can’t necessarily change how other people react to my body, but I can stop engaging with their fat phobia when they direct it my way. Mostly, I understand their problem with my body as a problem with their own insecurity: me being fat and confident upsets them. They want me to apologise, to beg to be accepted, to be as miserable as they are, counting calories and obsessing over the way they look.
I’m not buying into it anymore. I love my body, unapologetically, without disclaimers. It’s okay to be fat — any kind of fat. Big fat, small fat, fit fat, lazy fat. Fat is no-one else’s business, and I, along with all other fat people, don’t have to explain why my body is the way it is.