Ways I Have Called Myself Fat

little girl on swing body image

Eat the Doughnut is a bi-monthly column by Becki Jayne Crossley, discussing body positivity, fatphobia in society and the media, and current events relating to the two! Content warning: this column will regularly discuss fatphobic comments, actions and ideas.

When I was a child, I called myself fat. I didn’t really think I was fat, but I was old enough to understand that to think yourself thin was to think yourself beautiful, and to think yourself beautiful was vain and bad; and you needed to self-deprecate if you wanted to fit in. I saw the older women in my life call themselves fat, spitting the word like it was poison, but I didn’t see the toxicity behind the statement back then. Women called themselves fat; I was a woman, or a little one at least. I called myself fat because it made me feel grown up. It made me feel connected to the women and girls around me, all calling themselves fat as though it meant there was something wrong with them.

When I was a pre-teen, I called myself fat. I still didn’t particularly think I was fat, but I had begun to feel the oppressive fear of fat. I knew the only way to get people to reassure me that I wasn’t fat, was to say I was. I basked in the responses: “No you’re not! I’m fat!” from my peers, simultaneously telling each other we weren’t fat while admonishing our own, similar shaped bodies. From the older women in my life, scorn. “Yeah, I wish I was as fat as you.” This rhetoric would become part of my own, in the years to come, when others complained to me about being fat.

When I was a teenager, I called myself fat. At this point, I had been calling myself fat for so long I now believed it. I clawed at my flesh, wishing I could tear it off. I dieted, I lapsed, I blamed myself. I grew quiet, trying to make up for the unacceptable space I took up with a lack of noise instead. I coveted my friends with their slim frames and the boys that fawned over them. I both despaired at my feelings of invisibility, and did everything I could to remain invisible. I didn’t want to be seen. I didn’t want anyone to see that I was fat.

When I was a young adult, I called myself fat. I did it to let people know: don’t worry, I know. Please don’t think that I believe I am beautiful or worthy. I know I am fat. My acknowledgment felt like a promise, a promise to change and no longer be fat. The replies still came (“Of course you’re not fat!”) but they were no longer the soothing balm they once were. They were just being nice. They were lying to me. I knew I was fat. I knew I was wrong.

Now I am an adult, I call myself fat. And for the first time, probably in my life, that I use it as a descriptor and nothing more. Fat describes my body shape, rather than how I feel about my body. It comes without the venomous sting, the enveloping shame, the aching need for someone to reassure me I’m not. I see fat bodies and no longer worry that I look like them, but instead admire every marvellous bulge, roll and wobble. The label in the neck of my clothes carries no emotional weight, and when people tell me they think I’m beautiful, I believe them.

I am not done. I still have insecurities and worry about what people might be thinking of me. I get nervous when I feel I have too much body on show, but I try to remind myself that my body is not ‘too much’ anything. I am allowed to take up space, and I am allowed to think myself beautiful.

And fat.

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