Welcome back, friends. I hope things are well in your world because it’s time to get tough. Let’s talk about our bodies. Has anyone ever said you were pretty for a fat girl?
Yeah, no. I’m a fat girl and I’m pretty. Period. There’s no getting around that. No need to be upset about it. Facts are facts.
I’ve been working on getting my body to a place where I can accept it. I had gastric sleeve surgery in December of 2018 and I lost over 100 pounds. The journey was hard at first but it’s been wonderful overall. I talk about the beginning in my book. I feel healthier and I can move around more. Wearing smaller clothes has improved my self-confidence quite a bit. However, I was not fully prepared for some of the other consequences.
The extra skin, for example.
It would make sense for a body that has been fat its whole life to have extra skin to accommodate it. Losing that weight quickly resulted in plenty of extra skin attached to my frame. Before the weight loss, I was round and jiggly. Now, my skin is droopy and I look like a deflated balloon at times. Not great for the self-esteem.
I don’t like how my body looks. I need more muscle and less extra flesh. My options are limited to years of exercise and training or plastic surgery. Even if I decide to have the skin removal procedure, it would be a lengthy and expensive process with multiple surgeries involved. Exercise is unavoidable either way.
The better option is top just live with it. I’ve been trying to love and appreciate the extra skin as I learn to love and accept myself as a whole. Following other fat girl accounts on Instagram and Tik Tok to see what their secrets were felt like a good move. I needed help with this confidence thing, and I thought they would be a good resource. I started scouring the hashtags.
There is no shortage of pictures online that are captioned with #BodyPositive or #BodyPosi. These shots usually feature a young, white woman showing off in a swimsuit. The captions go on to include how people have to be proud of their bodies and love them. Exercise and a healthy diet tend to enter the conversations at this point. The comments sections are almost always full of people that look like the poster vigorously agreeing and praising the poster for being such an inspiration. Fat people have been doing the same and getting different results. It is a growing problem within our culture to tell people that may look different their bodies are bad and that they should feel bad about it. Toxic body positivity has taken control of an inclusive movement and harms those that it was intended to uplift.
The current body-positive movement grew out of the fat acceptance movement of the 1960s. People’s hearts and minds were changing about a variety of social issues. Discrimination was rampant everywhere and fat people were no different. Fat discrimination was the 4th most common type of discrimination in the United States. People were being denied jobs and other opportunities because of their body shape. To combat this, groups such as the National Association to Aid Fat Americans’ (currently called NAAFA, the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance) began campaigning against anti-fat bias.
As more people learned about the movement, the language began to change slightly. The concept of body positivity came about because of the stigma around the word “fat”. Being body positive began as a way for people of all body types to feel happy and included. However, body positivity can be highly unrealistic as no one can be positive all the time. The founders of the body positive movement have become disenfranchised. They were queer, black, brown, and disabled folks that wanted to feel better about themselves and needed others like them to do the same. The point of the fat-positive or body-positive movement is to celebrate the differences in our bodies and to be accepting of all types.
At some point, the messaging changed from your body being a vessel that doesn’t affect your self-worth to the relationship between your body and emotional health. Being positive is supposed to bring more happiness. This is not always how it works.
The movement began to invalidate the voices of those that struggle with positively viewing their bodies. This included the queer, black, brown, and disabled people that strived to make body positivity a thing in the first place. The more privileged entered the discussion and began to decompartmentalize. It began to focus on white women and encouraging color blindness. These actions were a key reason for the movement being created at all. The focus was always on privileged white women while ignoring the needs and voices of people that didn’t fit in that frame. People who have always tried to make space for themselves in a world that sought to do them harm.
Toxic positivity is the idea that we should only focus on positive emotions and aspects of life. This is extremely unrealistic and can be severely harmful. Being positive is just not possible all the time. Life events can bring that ship of positivity to a screaming halt. Especially, when issues of self-worth come into play. Toxic body positivity (TBP) takes people’s real and valid concerns about their bodies and abilities and ignores them. TBP wants people to reject anything negative to dwell in a rose-colored non-reality.
Skinny people’s privilege is real and has made its way into the fat/body positive movement. You see this regularly. Thin folks can take all kinds of pictures and post them everywhere. These bodies are celebrated and normalized as what healthy, beautiful bodies should be. At the same time, a person of size can post the same kind of photo and be met with ridicule and shame. Fat people are told, “You should be ashamed for looking like that.”, “You must be terribly unhealthy.”; or “You should work out and eat better.”.
Many times, fat people are working out and eating healthy. Being fat comes from a lot of different factors that are not always under our control. People can be taking medications that can cause weight gain. Thyroid conditions and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can cause people to have a hard time maintaining weight loss. Other hormonal imbalances can give people a bigger likelihood of gaining more weight regardless of their actions.
Feelings other than positivity characterize life experiences for marginalized groups. It is nearly impossible to change the hearts and minds of others without resisting the systems that marginalize their bodies. It is exceedingly difficult to feel positive about your body while existing in a system that wants it to be seen as “less than ideal” for any reason. Systems of cis-hetero white supremacy are in place for this exact purpose across the globe.
To combat this, marginalized groups need to keep crying foul when met with negative criticism of their bodies. My queer, black, and fat body is just as beautiful as your straight, white, thin body. Just because oppressed bodies don’t meet the typical standards of beauty, that doesn’t mean those bodies are bad. There is room for acceptance and love for everyone. Standing up against the systems of oppression that want to divide us is a key pathway to make room for everyone in this post-COVID world. It can be done, but there is work to do.
As for me…
In the meantime, I’m taking baby steps. I bought a cute two-piece swimsuit with a rainbow pattern, and it fits nicely. You can see a little belly and a lot of my back rolls. All of my thighs are on display. I’ve put it on a couple of times, but I haven’t dared to take any pics or to leave the house in it yet. I might work up to that. I might not. The summer isn’t over yet. Time will tell.
Do you feel empowered enough to post that two-piece swimsuit selfie? Did you get that two-piece at all? Is it possible to love your body without shaming someone else’s? Sound off in the comments and let’s discuss.
Take care. I love you. Be safe.