My Love/Hate Relationship With The Word “FAT”

I am fat. Objectively, this is true. I don’t live in some strange delusion where I don’t know this to be the case. I know it is, and I am taking steps to change it. Some days more than others, but it’s a process, and if you’ve never struggled with your weight, you don’t understand it’s about more than just “eating healthier” and “exercising more,” although those elements are both necessary.

There is a reason I gained the weight in the first place, and it’s more complicated than “I ate too much.” I mean, I totally did. I ate way too much and didn’t exercise nearly enough, but I have to really take a step back to understand all the reasons why and work on them.

Anyway, I accept the fact that I am fat. For now. So in a way, I embrace the word “fat” and love that there is a voice on the internet that is getting louder and louder every day; an army of women stepping up and owning who they are, no matter what size. Proudly rocking bikinis and crop tops and demanding a better selection of clothing for plus-size women. Women who refuse to let their size define them and who accept themselves for the people they are. These are women who have reclaimed the word “fat” and said “eff off” to those who would use it to try to make them feel “less than.”

To them, I tip my hat. I am wildly impressed with their confidence. And part of me embraces the adjective “fat.” It’s just a word, and words only mean what we allow them to. Case in point, my boyfriend tells me all the time how much he loves my “fat butt” and I know it’s a compliment because he can’t keep his hands off me. And I know my butt is “fat” and not “phat.” At first, it ruffled me a little – “fat” has always felt like a dirty word to me, and I was terrified of it in high school and college. So to have someone I love use it to describe me was initially a shock to my system. But now I really embrace it. He really does love my big ol’ butt, cellulite and all. He wouldn’t change a thing about it. He loves my body more than I do, and I’m trying to take a page from his book and embrace me, as I am, right now. So in a sense the word “fat” is helping me to accept myself, which is pretty awesome.

But on the flip side, I freaking hate it. It’s a word that has traditionally been used to put people down, belittle them, and act as a ridiculous excuse to pass judgement on someone’s worth as a person based on their size. And to those people, I say “go to hell.” Being fat does not define who I am as a person – it is a state of being that I happen to exist in right now.

I’m fat, sure. But I’m also funny, successful, happy, beautiful, kind, loving, clumsy, loud, opinionated and strong. If you ask anyone who knows me to describe me, I’m certain they would choose one of those adjectives before “fat.” And fat doesn’t trump any of the things on that list.

No matter who we are, we shouldn’t have to be defined by physical appearance. Unfortunately, that’s not the case – we ARE defined by physical appearance in so many ways, and not just regarding our weight. Our appearance is the first thing people notice when they look at us, and people DO form opinions. And some people will be unkind based on certain physical attributes. So we have to find ways to take ownership of those things, and find self-worth from within. To be kind to ourselves, even if people around us aren’t doing the same. Easier said than done.

I’m not stupid or delusional – I understand the health risks associated with obesity and the fact that no matter how hard we fight, there WILL be judgement passed on those who are overweight. I live in the real world – I understand these things. But as I’ve been reading more and more articles and fashion blogs from plus-size women practicing self-love and body acceptance (whether you’re a size 2 or size 22), I am inspired by them. By their confidence, their bravery, their style, their swagger, and their sexiness. But what I can’t understand is why so many people seem to have such a strong negative reaction to these women who are simply on a quest to love themselves even if they happen to be fat.

Fat is not an obstacle to happiness.

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I can only speak for myself when I say that yes, I know I will feel better, more energetic and healthier when I lose some of the weight I’ve gained over the last couple years. But just losing that weight is not what is going to make me a happy and fulfilled human being. Accepting myself and those around me for who they are, travelling the world, saying “yes” to things that scare me, and spending time with friends and family are things that will contribute to my happiness. Loving my “fat butt” as much as my boyfriend does is a personal goal of mine. I’m gonna love my fat butt so hard.

Because you know what? I deserve unconditional love from myself. I am happy to love others unconditionally, and I understand what it means to do so. And I accept unconditional love from others. But unconditional love from myself?? That is a newer concept for me. And it means I need to love myself now, with extra weight, as much as I would if I were a size 6.

A very wise friend of mine said to me years ago, as I was having a meltdown over my weight before a night out in Vegas, “Court, we will never be here again. In this moment, right now. Be happy and enjoy the experiences in front of us. Weight is a temporary thing – you can always work to change that. But we can never get this moment or experience back.” He was right. I want a happy and amazing life RIGHT NOW. Not 75 pounds from now. I deserve happiness, at any weight.

So by any standard definition of the word, I am fat. But I do not solely identify myself that way, or even primarily identify myself that way. It’s just part of me right now, a person who is constantly evolving. And one of the elements of my evolution is my body. At the end of the day, this is the body I’m living in right now, so I have to accept it. I can work to improve it, but my worth cannot be tied to a number on the scale. My worth is determined by me, dammit.

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