I’m a ‘big’ girl.
Now I don’t mean big in the sense of mature, grown up, wearing my big girl pants and facing all of life’s challenges head on. No, what I mean is FAT.
I find the world quite a contradictory place right now. On one hand we are told to be more tolerant of others, accept people as they are and be kind but on the other the internet is flooded with ‘do what makes you happy’ and self –love proclamations that encourage us to be selfish and care nothing about what anyone else thinks.
For many years, fat shaming was funny – people rolled out with their perfect bodies and ugly personalities and took photos of fat people in the gym, circulating them to the world for entertainment. We would all like to think that the body positive movement has rid the world of some of this disgusting hatred but shall I let you in on a secret? It hasn’t.
I’ve been fat for as long as I can remember.
My childhood was a happy one, with parents who loved me, friends, cousins and siblings who accepted me for who I was. But when I reach into the recesses of my mind searching for memories, the ones that come easily to the surface are those related to my size.
I recall as I was coming into my teens, being referred to as a ‘fine lump of a lassie’. From a pure lady a few generations older than me this wasn’t meant as an insult, but it wasn’t a label I felt comfortable wearing and I distinctly remember the hot tears burning my eyelids as I struggled to stop them from falling.
Everywhere I went, my size was the first thing people saw. And so many of them never saw past that.
As a young girl, I couldn’t get on a bus without being ridiculed by the cheeky teenagers shouting and jeering at my fatness.
I found college much more accepting of life’s variety of body shapes, origins and differences – we focused more on sneaking out for pints in the pub next door rather than face double marketing and were confident in our youth, friends for life. Cafes opened up selling steaming hot chocolates topped with soft marshmallows and fluffy cream and we talked the night away about our crazy dreams for the future.
However, I remember one particular night, getting the late bus home after a fun night out with friends. A bunch of guys got on and sat behind me, laughing loudly about how I had a lovely face but shame about the body. My cheeks burned as I willed that bus journey to go quickly so I could escape, hoping my fat body carried me off the bus without tripping.
As the years passed, my size grew. The shops didn’t carry larger sizes, there was no such thing as online shopping so I ended up mostly wearing men’s clothes. I got on with it, wearing whatever fit and developing a ‘shirts and leggings’ kind of style that seemed to carry me through my late teens and early 20s.
I developed a fear of walking past groups of young people, it was absolutely inevitable that I would be cat called in a cruel and insulting way so I would go out of my way to avoid them.
I went on to get married, separated, fought cancer and won and am now raising my two wonderful children alone.
Now let me tell you that despite all of those things, despite the amazing achievements this body has managed, being fat is still the demon that I just can’t seem to conquer.
There are tons of amazing men and women online promoting body confidence no matter what your size. There are dozens and dozens who have changed their lives through slimming clubs and training programmes. And even though we live in a world where everyone deserves to be happy regardless of how they look, being fat still occupies far too many of my waking thoughts.
All you have to do is read a body positive post on Instagram or Facebook and you’ll soon see the ugly nastiness emerge from the shadows. Hundreds and hundreds of comments proclaiming that fat women shouldn’t wear bikinis, that looking at women with rolls of fat makes them feel physically ill, that they should be ashamed to go out looking like that.
And I think to myself, if these people are representative of those that I come across every day then nothing has changed at all since I was that college girl on the bus.
But let me tell you a secret. I know that I’m fat, I can see it in the mirror and in the reflection of the TV and in a shop window as I walk past. And I carry enough shame for that without adding your ridicule to the pile.
Every day my size inhibits my life. From when I wake up in the morning to when I lay down to sleep.
From the shower door in a hotel room that is too narrow to fit, to the towel that won’t even wrap half way around my body. From the fear of sitting in that fold up chair at a conference to what people will think of me if I get a biscuit with my tea. From the effort I got to to wear nice clothes, style my hair and put on my make up in the hopes that perhaps someone will not think ‘heres the fat chick’ the minute they see me. From the fear of not being able to get on a ride in Disney with my daughter to obsessively checking blogs for the size limits of big thunder mountain. From the healthy shopping I do every weekend as I ‘start again’ each Monday to the sausage roll that has found its way into my hands on a Tuesday. From the avoidance of the scales to the inspection of my body as I pass a mirror wondering if I’ve grown even larger. From the knowledge that people judge me for my size rather than my kindness, to the deep breath I have to take to pass by a bunch of guys standing outside a bar.
So you might look at me and you might think I’m happy with my size, you might see me smiling and laughing and you might believe that I haven’t a care in the world. And don’t get me wrong, I am happy. I have two beautiful children, amazing friends and family who genuinely don’t care about those things. But please believe me when I tell you that being fat is something that inhibits me every day of my life. I’m not saying this so you will feel sorry for me, I’m saying it so that perhaps some day you won’t look at someone like me and see only my size. Or that even if you think to yourself how fat I am, you’ll make damn well sure that I never know you think that. That you won’t post anonymously on some big girls photo shaming her, hurting her, breaking her.
Just look at me and know that I am happy. Know that my body has done amazing things but also know that there isn’t a day of my life that I don’t wish I could change how I look. And pause for a second or two if you feel the urge to humiliate someone for how they look. That comment or look or laugh might just be the one thing that breaks her.