#FatLife

Thighs pressed together, wobbling in time with each step. Stomach, slightly spilling over the brim of my elastic waistband, sways in time with every movement. Wobble. Sway. Wobble. Sway.I press my fingertips into my sides like I might excavate the underlying rib cage, hidden behind a layer of firm dough. I am reminded that I once cared so deeply about those bones, wishing they would surface for just a moment. That I could for a second be something other than “fat”. Although I still associate those descriptions with my body, I do not feel disgust. After years of dwelling in this body I thought I was a changed person — an empowered fat woman — until a homework assignment brought that into question. This week in my Social Psychology course I took an Implicit Association Test from researchers at Harvard University. It measures the way we associate positive and negative aspects to different groups. I chose a measure regarding body type, confident that my fat self (with my beautiful fat girlfriend) would exhibit no bias. The results? A moderate implicit preference for thin over fat. My self-empowered, fat-positive identity ran the risk of crumbling. I was initially shocked. Upon reflection, this devastation was replaced with understanding. Before I ever read a fat-positive zine or watched an inspiring fat spoken word poet, I was just a fat person living in a world not built for my body. I can vividly picture moments when society essentially taught me subconscious self-hate. In grade school I can recall an activity where peers traced each other’s bodies onto a vertical sheet of paper. The inside of the body was then filled with self-affirmations. Aside from the creepy crime-scene imagery, it was a solid self-esteem booster. Unfortunately, I was wider than the paper. I can still feel my face becoming molten lava, billowing down my throat and resting somewhere in the pit of my stomach as I awkwardly rose from the ground in horror. I spent the rest of the day in the nurse’s office. In high school I joined the women’s wrestling team, which required a physical. “You really should do something about this weight,” the physician murmured. Again, this was for entrance into a sport. You know, the kind with exercise. Instead of supporting me, she threatened to not let me join because of my weight and then claimed I was “lucky” for not having any “obesity related symptoms”. My first relationship was a shit show (whose isn’t?) but the post break-up text saying, “You have a nice face, it would look even better if you lost some weight,” was a true cherry on top. I went on to kiss girls who avoided my fattest parts, disassociating wiggling arms and round stomach from the person they found attractive. These minute details of my life are compounded by countless other related instances. They compose a larger narrative about the general experience of fat people in America, particularly fat women. For example, I’ve watched the ugly beast of an eating disorder claw at the fabric of my closest friends’ hearts while I held up a weapon of resilience to the attack. I would be lying if I said I was a strong warrior. I was never brave in my journey to fat-acceptance, but rather persistent. I’ve spent hours digesting as much body positive content as I can. I’ve sought the support of other fat women who understand these experiences. And I’ve spent hours looking at myself in the mirror, analyzing my body through a renewed lens. I still have times when the implicit bias is, in fact, quite explicit. I still struggle with who I am and what I look like, but I am not ashamed to say so. Before I could reach empowerment, I had to learn what it even means to be fat. Not by analyzing BMI, but by evaluating the emotional experiences that comprise a fat journey. I had to soak in the reality of these thighs, these arms, and this stomach. I had to look in the eyes of those judging me — including myself in the mirror — and understand that their judgements are not personal or even valid. I don’t need society’s acceptance — I am fat and I love myself, no matter what.