The word ‘fat’ is one of the most loaded words in the English language. Fat means ugly, lazy, irresponsible, slob, unsuccessful, unattractive, unsexy, undesirable, unhealthy, uneducated, weak willed, and about a hundred other negative things.
Growing up I was always mortified when other people called me fat. And they did. To my face. All the time. They used it as an insult, so to me that’s what it was. To me the word ‘fat’ was a weapon, quick to fire but hard to recover from. By the time I was in my late teens I had developed a deep hatred for the word. I flinched every time I heard it, even when it was used to describe an inanimate object. Every time I heard that word it hurt me. Every time I heard it, it reinforced that self loathing that had been building inside me for years. Every time I heard it, the little girl inside me burst into tears all over again, reliving those horrific memories of humiliation that scattered my childhood.
So its not surprising that soon after stumbling upon the body positivity movement, I was appalled by how often seemingly bopo activists were referring to themselves as fat. As if it was no big deal, these girls described themselves as ‘fat chicks’, ‘fat babes’, and ‘fat activists’. I couldn’t believe what I was reading, seeing and hearing. I almost felt betrayed by these women. They were supposed to be on my side, but here they were throwing that word around without a moments consideration for how much it was hurting me and countless others.
However one day I stumbled on a post by one of my favourite bopo activists. The post described how words can be used as weapons only if we allow them to be. She talked about how by having a fear of a word, we give it a power over us, and in turn we give power to others who use it against us. She referenced Fat Amy from the Pitch Perfect movies as an example of how taking that word for yourself and owning it as part of your identity dissolves that power and immunises you from the pain.
I was gobsmacked. This made sense to me. Suddenly I was questioning my attitude to the word that I had allowed to terrorise me for years. Maybe if I could change it’s meaning I could change its impact?
I realised that I had allowed the word ‘fat’ to mean so many things to me over the years that I had forgotten what it actually meant. Like bones, or platelets, or eyelashes, it was simply an anatomical term for a part of the body. It was not an emotional weapon but a scientific term. Like any other word used to describe my appearance, such as blond for example, it wasnt a reflection on who or what I am.
Though I still felt uncomfortable using it, I began to work the word fat into my language on my Instagram. I started using hashtags like #fatacceptance and #fatblogger. The more I used it the more comfortable I became with it.
Then, one day last week a guy commented on one of my posts. The post included a topless picture of me from behind, showing the rolls of fat on my back. He commented under the picture saying that I was fat. And a wonderful thing happened. My first thought when I saw that comment wasn’t that I hated my body, or that I felt humiliated or degraded, or any of the thoughts and feelings that used to wash over me when I heard that word. This time, my first thought was this; ‘no shit Sherlock’.
I wanted to jump up and down to celebrate, to phone all my friends and tell them about this major breakthrough, to run to my counsellors office and share my joy with him. I was so proud of myself for overcoming such a deep rooted fear. I couldn’t believe it. I knew then that the word fat couldn’t hurt me anymore.
Now I use it all the time, in my Instagram posts, on my Facebook page, in my conversations with people. I can see that people react with shock at hearing a fat person call themselves and others fat. But I explain that to me, the word fat isn’t a weapon to hurt people with, but a descriptive word just like blond, or tall, or freckly.
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