Fat. The word is – no pun intended, but also, yes, definitely intended- heavy. It is almost always used as an insult, and never said as a compliment, or even just a neutral statement, unless, of course, you’re an adorable, chunky baby.
At least that’s how it was for me. When I was a little girl, my momma was fat. She would talk about her body in an unhappy way, an almost regretful way. She didn’t like her body, and I knew that. Although, I did. I loved how when I cuddled into her, she was soft. She felt welcoming, safe, secure. I never thought badly about her body. But fat was still a bad word.
Fat was what I was afraid of becoming as a child. I was always overweight, but I was active. I played soccer and softball and swam competitively throughout my childhood, so even though I was chubby, and I was definitely aware that my body was bigger than my friends’, I never really felt fat. But still I received unwanted comments about my body. I was known as the “smiley, chubby girl” by my favorite librarian, and my grandmother bought me a teenage diet book for my birthday one year.
I was surrounded by fat family members desperately trying to change their bodies. I have vivid memories of going to my grandma’s house and being disappointed to see she only had sugarfree candies in her candy dish. My parents and many members of my extended family also use, and as far as I can remember, always have used, artificial sweetener. In my mind as a child, it wasn’t a diet thing, but an adult thing. I remember being surprised when a friend’s mom drank regular soda instead of diet soda. I didn’t realize that diet foods weren’t just something used because you were… well… old. Diet foods were used as an antidote to existing or feared fatness.
Flash forward to now. I’m an adult, and my body looks just like my mother’s did when I was growing up. And sometimes I’m angry about that.
But then I remember the loving way I used to think about my momma’s body. How I loved her softness and hugs and cuddles. And so I try to extend that same love and appreciation to my own body.
In Pitch Perfect, the character Fat Amy introduces herself as just that. Fat Amy. When I saw it in theaters everyone laughed at it, because she is a funny character. But now as a fat woman, I see how profound it is.
Fat Amy says she refers to herself as Fat “so twig bitches like you don’t do it behind my back.”
By referring to herself as “fat”, she is taking away the word’s ability to hurt her. It is no longer an insult. I want to reclaim the word fat, the word I was once so afraid of being used against me. Now, when people try to make fun of me for being fat, I laugh. It isn’t new information. I am indeed fat.
By embracing and being open with my fatness, I am taking away the word’s power to hurt me. I am taking away fatphobic people’s power to hurt me. If I love and accept my body, my fat, beautiful body, just as it is, I am actively working against the fatphobia I saw and experienced in my childhood and throughout my life. I refuse to be afraid of my body and the way that it looks.
And so I say that I’m fat. But I’m also beautiful. And smart. I’m funny and friendly and optimistic and passionate. I will no longer see my fatness as a flaw, rather I see it as something that is beautiful, and a gift.