5 Ways Being The ‘Fat Girl’ Has Made Me A More Confident Woman
Being overweight is like wearing bright yellow in a sea of black. It draws attention.
I have been the “big girl” my entire life. It’s a physical characteristic that is as descriptive as the color of my eyes or the brownness of my skin. My size, however, has come with a price. My weight has made me the center of jokes and name-calling. It has created a collection of judgment from family, friends and society as a whole. I am a target for body shamers everywhere.
As a child, I would sometimes cry myself to sleep after kids on the bus made fun of the way my shirt fit or how chubby my arms were. I can list a number of situations where I have had to defend my body against people who reduced me to the size of my waistline, but I won’t.
Being the “fat girl” has made me a stronger woman. It has also given me an all-access pass to understanding both the world around me and myself. I’m still learning to accept who I am regardless of size, but the knowledge I’ve gained while on my journey of self-definition has opened my eyes.
Here are five important things I have learned:
1. My worth is more than my physical features.
My body is a wonderland (*Cue John Mayer*), but so is my mind. Sure, I like being called beautiful and mostly everyone appreciates a compliment, but I am more than my physical appearance.
Being body shamed has forced me to see my worth not only externally, but also internally. There is more to my identity than a cute face or thick thighs; I am all of that and more.
2. People will judge me.
Despite how negative comments can be, people are entitled to their own opinions. People will shame me because of my weight. People will try to insult me to get a reaction.
At this point in my life, I understand being judged is not a reflection of who I am as a person, but of other people’s inability to see me for more than my body.
3. Self-confidence is crucial.
Sometimes I try on clothes that make my stomach look rounder or show the jiggle in my arms. However, I have learned that if I do not present a positive attitude about myself to others, then no one else will. I have to be my own cheerleader, even on my worst days.
4. Everyone deals with body image issues.
There will always be someone who judges me, even if I were to lose 30 pounds tomorrow. I’ve never met anyone who is not self-conscious about something. It is not exclusive to overweight people.
Sometimes it’s easier to put someone else down than it is to address the issues we have with ourselves. Being the “big girl” has helped me empathize with other people’s body struggles, even when they put me down.
5. My body is my business.
I am fortunate to have people who care enough about me to be concerned about my health. I’m well aware of the science that has linked excess weight to health problems. However, my body is not a science experiment.
Growing up, I was often overly concerned about what people thought of my physical appearance. I found the need to tell people about my workout plan or explain my diet to get them to stop asking health-related questions. My weight successes and failures were out in the open for anyone to judge and monitor.
Over time, I learned the value of reclaiming my body. It is my business. I do not have to answer questions about how much I weigh or what size I wear. I am the person who has to live in my skin every day.
Being the “fat girl” has given me a new perspective on myself and on the world in which we live in. My size does not define me. I am a brick house, and no one can knock me over.
7 Assumptions People Make About Plus-Size Women in the Gym That Are Just Wrong
Although 67 percent of American women are considered plus size, they often seem to be…missing. They’re missing from ads and magazine covers and from our narrative of what it means to be fit and healthy and strong. The plus-size athlete is rarely seen in the media, and people sometimes treat the term like an oxymoron. Many plus-size women are healthy, fit, and killing it at the gym. And if you’ve ever doubted it (or been doubted), read on.
Myth #1: Plus-size women at the gym are newcomers.
There is an assumption—one I’ve encountered many times—that larger-bodied women are newcomers to gym culture. Many people believe the myth that avid gym goers must be lean and buff, but that’s not always the case. It’s time to widen our scope and narrative around what it means to be healthy and fit. There are plenty of plus-size women kicking ass in fitness who are gym veterans. Fitness comes with great diversity, and a fit body can be any size.
Myth #2: Plus-size women at the gym are there to lose weight.
Our societal message hammers us with the praise of thin bodies coupled with overwhelming diet culture. It’s no wonder when we see a plus-size woman at the gym we immediately assume that she is trying to, or should, lose weight. While that may be her goal, there’s also a growing population who have abandoned diet culture, who are loving the skin they’re in. It’s a major misconception that all plus-size women are unhappy with their bodies and are on a mission to be thin. There are so many good reasons to work out—strength, energy, mental health, cardiovascular fitness. Not that you need to explain to anyone why you’re doing it.
Myth #3: Plus-size women at the gym need encouragement.
This is a tough one because many people, plus-size or otherwise, feel intimidated by gym culture, so encouragement is nice. But many times I’ve been the subject of encouragement that felt singled out and disingenuous based on my body size. Our culture needs to move away from the anomaly mindset when we see big bodies working out. Although intentions are often in the right place, I recommend treating all bodies equally and only offering the same encouragement you would extend to a thinner gym goer.
Myth #4: Plus-size women at the gym are unhealthy.
Plus-size women have been living under the cloud that they are unhealthy and lazy for many years. More often than not, this a result of our society’s conditioning of the fearmongering reporting of the obesity epidemic. It’s true, some plus-size women have health conditions, but so do some thinner women. We are quick to equate thin with healthy and assume larger bodies must be unhealthy. But it doesn’t work that way. Quite simply, you can’t tell a person’s health by looking at their exterior appearance.
Myth #5: A plus-size woman at the gym can’t be the trainer.
Consider me a human myth-buster! Yes, plus-size women can be in fitness leadership! It’s just not the case that trainers are only young, lean, and buff. Every “body” can pursue their dreams of becoming a fitness professional. I’ve had many people seem surprised when I tell them I’m a personal trainer and I won’t profess that navigating the fitness industry as a plus-size woman has been all rainbows and unicorns, but it can be done. As the scope of our health and fitness narrative expands, women of all shapes and sizes are stepping into fitness roles and leading the pack.
Myth #6: Plus-size women don’t work out hard enough.
Actually, plus-size women are working every bit as hard due physics and the energy required to perform any given exercise, taking mass into consideration. When your body is larger it takes more energy (calories) to move the body’s mass. Plus-size women who perform push-ups or squats are pushing more mass than their thinner counterparts. See also: Newton’s Second Law.
Myth #7: Plus-size women at the gym don’t know what they are doing.
Hopefully by now we know that many plus-size women at the gym are well versed in exercise. Some are long-time gym goers, some even work at the gym and lead others. It’s true also, that some are brand new to exercise and may need assistance (as is sometimes the case with thin patrons). We can’t know a woman’s gym experience based on her size and we need to stop assuming this is her first rodeo.
– Louise Green (self.com)
DO call me fat! I’m plus size and proud
If we live in an age where body-positivity and self-love rule, why would you be offended when someone considers you plus size? It seems as if ‘curvy’ is the socially-accepted euphemism of choice for fat bodies. It’s the polite way to acknowledge someone isn’t thin without offending them with the word ‘fat’. I – and a growing number of plus size women – reject the notion that this euphemism is good enough for our bodies. I define myself as fat, as do many of my friends, acquaintances, bloggers and commentators.
Describing myself as ‘fat’ is not an act of self-hatred, but an act of self-love. It took a long time for me to own it, but I got there, and remain there with defiance and aplomb.
The thing is, I never didn’t like the way I look. I never really hated being fat. The problem was everyone else. Everyone else made me scared that I wasn’t OK, that I was wrong to feel confident about my body. It was films, magazines, books, my parents, PE lessons at school that made me wonder if I had got it all wrong. When I very intentionally lost a lot of weight at age 17, it wasn’t for me. It was a final bending to pressure that had been present all along, a slump into compliance that had me trudging to the gym every day after school. The weight crept back on entirely because I had done it for other people, not for me. Never for me.
I didn’t hate being fat. I hated being called fat. Not because I thought fat was particularly bad, but because I knew that other people did. I knew that they were using ‘fat’ as a shortcut to hurt me. It was so loaded, so malicious, always the first adjective to be weaponized against me in a petty fight, and something I just couldn’t argue back against.
Now, when I talk about my body or someone else’s body and I call it ‘fat’, I say it with respect and a refusal to participate in a hierarchy where thinness is aspirational, and fat is shameful. I say it to describe a body, to celebrate a body for what it is, not to wound it or treat it with shame.
So when you call me ‘curvy’ or think you’re doing me a favor by saying ‘don’t call yourself that!’, you’re implicitly undoing the years of work that got me to truly understand my body.