Fat is not a bad word

As a child, I was always told to hide. Told to stay in the background, to don myself in blacks, greys, and navy, to avoid stripes like the plague, to never touch a pair of skintight jeans. As a child I grew up thinking my name was “Flattering.”

I listened to my mother and stuck to black T-shirts and sweatpants. I wore bell-bottomed jeans all year round as my friends sported high-waisted shorts to show off long, branch-like legs and crop-tops to give peeks of those over-sexualized abs.

I strayed to glancing at sunglasses and hair clips as my friends tried on short skirts and bikinis during summer mall trips. My only swimsuits were from the JCPenney Maternity section, big black nylon sacks with skirts to cover that “unsavory cellulite.” On beach trips I would wear my calf-length cover-up into the water to mask any chance of flashing my rotund stomach. I skipped meals and forced myself to vomit. I was fat. I was 8.

Fat stigma has been around since anyone can remember. Being fat is considered synonymous with being unattractive, unhealthy, and unsociable. Fat people, especially women, were told the only way they could fit into society once again was to lose weight. And to lose it fast.

In second century AD, a Greek physician named Soranus of Ephesus paved the way for “obesity medication.” He gave his patients laxatives and purgatives, told them to exercise and get regular massages (believed to help “roll out” one’s fat). These tactics were used until the 1920s and 30s, when scientists were finding actual drugs that could do the same thing but with no effort, and terrible side effects.

Amphetamines were the most popular weight loss drug in the 1930s. They suppressed appetite and confidence, and made one more alert (which aided the urge to exercise). Now, in 2013, amphetamines are still popular and widely used, many of which aren’t FDA approved.

A very startling movement started in 2011 called “Thinspiration.” It was a social media tag that promoted another unhealthy lifestyle of no eating, overabundance of exercise and the shaming of those who weigh more than you. Many girls, some as young as 9, participated in this movement. They uploaded pictures of starved children with tags such as #GoalBody, or #SoClose. They posted statuses on the “40 pounds they have to lose” to get to their goal of 60 lbs. They created demotivational posters adorned with beautiful fat girls saying things like “these monsters are what motivate me.”

Many fat bloggers were infuriated and distraught by such a movement. I myself, a beautiful fat black femme, was so brought down I went into another bout of bulimia which I had as a child. I wished to just cut my stomach off in one foul slice, because I was perceived as hideous. Unlovable. Unwanted. Scum of the Earth.

Then, the summer of 2013, I found the backlash of angry women who called themselves “fatspiration.” They started to show the world that fat is beautiful, and there’s nothing wrong with us. I saw beautiful fat women in itsy-bitsy bikinis, showing off calves in high-waisted skirts and ample bellies peeking out from crop tops. I saw big arms in tank tops and curves and I felt like there were other women like me who respected me. There were people out there who think my body is beautiful, with my stretch marks and scars and my belly. I started wearing crop tops, short skirts. I bought a blue bikini that I wore to every body of water.

Being fat does not mean you are unhealthy- in fact, my blood glucose is normal and I exercise daily. To lose weight? No, to feel that endorphin rush of getting out of an ice cold pool and swimming 50 yards in 28 seconds.

Fat stigma may seem fun to poke at, especially if you aren’t one receiving the hate.

Telling a fat girl that she is “so brave for wearing” a striped shirt and a skirt is not the way to fight fat stigma, it enforces it. Being fat makes you no less of a person. Being thin makes you no less of a person. Being an ass, however? That’s a different story.

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