Three letters. One syllable. A lifetime of pain. It’s the cause of playground fights. The cause of self esteem and body image issues. It breathes life into the struggle with mental health illnesses such as eating disorders, depression and body dysmorphia. We’ve all heard it thrown our way at one time or another, whether it is true or just a sharp quip to try to make you feel inadequate.
What word could possibly be so damaging? What word could cause so much sadness and
heartbreak for someone that doesn’t fit society’s mould of beauty? It’s the other white meat of F-words. F-A-T.
The top entry in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines the word fat as "notable for having an
unusual amount of body fat". That's it. No more, no less. It literally just states that you have
extra softness on that beautiful body of yours. In the same entry it also states that it can be
defined as full in tone and quality. What can be so wrong with being full in quality?
In many other societies, those of a larger stature were highly revered. Paintings throughout the Renaissance portrayed women with full hips, soft features and tummy rolls for days. They were seen as a beautiful example of the female form. They were celebrated as the epitome of perfection. Society seemed to waver a bit after those days, trying to settle on the new standard of “perfection” until finally making a drastic change around the 1960’s. This gave way to the new era of the insane standard women are held to today. Styles started to emphasise being thin and the problematic trend of shrinking your body to fit the clothes instead of making the clothes to fit your body was born. Society went from embracing the female form in all it’s soft glory, to the thin-obsessed culture we have today. We went from gorgeous sweet baby cherubs and curvaceous women, to being so photoshopped that we have unrealistic expectations of what our bodies should look like (knees are SUPPOSED to have wrinkles people!). What we are now left with is the absurd idea that every woman should be a size two with the boobs of a god and the butt of a Kardashian.
For years, the media have conditioned women to believe that there is only one correct way for your body to look. We fall for these lies daily. This ridiculous ideal has developed even further into hate crimes, fat-phobia and toxic diet culture. People are pouring “skinny teas” and diet powders into their body all in the search for an instant solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist. All of this is doing irreparable damage to our thoughts and our hearts. The stigma HAS to end. It is up to us to take the sting out of this disparaging little moniker.
I have to admit, I myself have battled for years with this adjective. Being labeled as fat has put me through disordered eating, diet pill abuse and ultimately patterns of self-harm behaviours. Throughout the years I’ve heard it all. The snickers, the assumptions and the disgust-laden “helpful tips”. What I have come to realise about this word, is that it is just that. A word. That’s it. The amount of space we take up in this world does NOT make us any less deserving of love and respect. Those extra lumps we may have peeking out beneath that cute little crop top do NOT make us any less worthy of expressing ourselves through fashion. The little dimples on our thighs and butts do NOT mean that we shouldn’t throw on that fancy bathing suit and enjoy a day in the sun without fear of judgement.
It is time to take back our power. It is time to end the stigma and stop letting people make us feel inferior for for living in marginalised bodies. It is time to embrace our space. Fat is just a word.
Fat does not describe who you are, it describes a very small portion of what you look like. You are not wrong or disgusting or any less attractive if you are fat. You are not lazy or ugly or unhealthy just because you are fat.
The circumference of your waistline does not lessen your sex appeal or deem you unworthy of love. You do not have to look like your friend, mother, sister or even your favourite celebrity to be the living embodiment of perfection.
Learning to love your whole being is the first step to ending fat shame and de-stigmatising what it means to be fat-bodied. You do not have to change anything about your body unless it is YOU who decides it is something that you want to change for YOURSELF and no one else. When you hear the word fat muttered from someone’s mouth, smile, say thank you and go about your day. Remind yourself in that moment that you are a being of quality and the real root of the problem has nothing to do with you or your stature. It has everything to do with other people's own struggles that they’ve decided to project on you in that moment. When that internet troll decides to hide behind the keyboard and use their passive aggressive tactics to make you feel like you don’t matter, fight the urge to comment back. Life is short. Do not waste a second of your valuable time on someone whose mind and heart have been blackened by hatred. When you are reading a magazine or website and see an article titled “How to get a beach body”, keep on scrolling.
Every body is a beach body. You do not need flat abs to be perfect. If the solution to the search for perfection was a thin, non-marginalised body, why would the statistics for eating disorders amongst our population be so astronomical on both sides of the size spectrum? We are all searching for our place in this world and every single one of us has a struggle to share. Every body matters regardless of shape, size, colour or gender identity. You matter; extra body fat, full quality and all.