I have always been the size that I am. Somewhere between a 14 and a 20. Between 180 and 210 pounds.
My mother has always been thin. She and other members of my family never really understood what it was like for me to be the size that I was. They meant well, but they, like so many other people, would say things to me that just made matters worse.
“Thin is pretty.”
“You’d get more clothes if you could fit into a smaller size.”
“Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels.”
“You look pregnant.”
I really connected with those things. I thought that I didn’t deserve nice clothes if I was fat. I thought that being thin was more important that feeling nourished. I fostered a terrible relationship with food and a worse relationship with my body.
As damaging as it was to have people say things like that about my body, it was even more damaging to hear what they would say about the bodies of others.
“What business does her fat ass have in that dress?”
“Does she really think she’s pulling that off?”
“People that size should be banned from wearing bikinis.”
What I heard when the people around me said that was that I could never wear those things. Ever. And if I did, people around me were probably thinking and saying those things about me. I also learned that the bodies of women were free targets for aggressive judgment by anyone who felt like doling it out.
I resented the women around me who felt like they could parade around in clothing I had been told was forbidden. I resented their joy. I internalized the judgmental, fat-shaming behaviors of the people around me as correct. I felt shame within myself for the way that I looked, and I turned that shame outward to the women around me. I sat in judgment of women in bikinis at the beach who were my size. At girls in skin-tight dresses who didn’t give a fuck about their belly rolls.
I hated myself. And as a result, I hated the people around me who represented the things about me that I could not accept. I had internalized the messages of my fat-shaming friends and family and I was miserable and lost and angry all the time.
Three summers ago, feeling bold, I put on the bikini I kept in my bottom drawer for the longest time. I was holding on to it for when I got “thin enough.”
I went to the beach. I swam in the ocean. I felt free and comfortable baring myself in front of the world.
I went home and fell right back into my awkward feelings of mingled self-loathing and disgust with my body.
It took me a while to realize what the problem was. I couldn’t really love myself or accept my body when I was still looking at others’ bodies and judging them. Every time I lashed out privately to friends or even to myself about how someone looked in this or that item of clothing, every time I laid into another woman mentally for how she looked, I laid into myself.
I drew myself into myself. I drew my body further and further away from my thoughts. I hated myself, and I turned that hate out toward other people.
I am coming out into the clear, now, to all of you. I spent years internalizing my fat shaming and then expressing it as if it was some kind of truth, ugly and terrible. The cure for that has been love for other people. The more I poured out praise and love, even if it was just in my head, toward the people around me who were like me, the more I came to love and accept myself.
Untraining that fat-shaming instinct has been really hard and really worth it. The more solid my love for others has become, the more I have felt myself emerge from the cocoon that has held me for so much of my life.
I no longer sit with a cushion over my stomach so that no one can see my rolls. I lean back, arms out, and claim the space that I am sitting in.
I do not sweat in long pants because I am ashamed of my legs. I wear short skirts and high boots and love how good and cool I feel in the summer sun.
I refuse to put on a sweater over my tank tops because I hate my arm fat. I show off my tattoos with bared shoulders and love the feeling of a breeze on my arms.
I am coming out of myself and into a world where I can feel free to buy myself nice clothing that makes me feel good and sexy and beautiful. And I can wear it without giving a single solitary fuck about what someone looking at me will think.
I cannot believe I spent so much time with all of that fat shaming nonsense inside my head. And even though I never vocalized any of this to anyone, I feel as though I need to apologize for my years of wrongheadedness. I am so sorry that I spent so long judging the world around me. I am so sorry I fat-shamed, even if it was just in my head. I regret every instance of it crossing my mind.
To anyone else out there who has had a similar experience, the cure for what ails you is love. Love the people around you and you will come to love yourself. Love the skin that you’re in. Love the body that you have. And don’t let anyone tell you that you are not worthy of that love for any reason.