I am fat.
I know I am fat.
The entire world knows I’m fat – well, they would if they caught a glimpse of my Facebook page.
The thing is? I’m not massively bothered.
I’m getting married in less than two months, and my dress is coming in at somewhere between a size 16 and a size 18. Oh, the horror! Yet, unlike most women I know who are getting married this year, I’ve not gone on a diet, I’ve not upped my exercise, I’m not shunning sweets with panicked squeals of “Ooooh no, I shouldn’t!”. I’m not going to start being someone I’m not.
I’m fat. And I’m reclaiming the word. Like Catilin Moran says in How To Be A Woman (my feminist bible) “…when the word ‘fat’ appears, it often alarms people, like a siren going off and prompts a supportive, scared flurry of dismissal – ‘You’re not fat! Of course you’re not fat! Babe, you’re NOT FAT!’ – when the person is, clearly and undeniably, fat, and just wants to discuss it.”
I’m fat, and happily so, and I’m not scared to admit it. Sure, I have a stomach that could probably take out a grown man if I decided to swing it. But I’m strong: I can lift things, I can jump up and down at a gig for hours, and I get the feeling these hips are going to be damn useful when I have a baby. I can get eyes watering with my cleavage. I don’t try to hide myself: I’m confident.
But in the eyes of the media, I’m a monster.
My current favourite feminist blog, The Vagenda, focused its recent book on the media and its dire representation of women. A key part of this is fat-shaming: though, of course, the women it shames are anything but fat. And this issue is making me so angry at the moment. It seems like everywhere I turn, I’m being told to lose weight. Not for health reasons, which would actually make some sense, if I was particularly unhealthy, but to look ‘good’.
But what’s ‘good’? In the eyes of the world’s modern media, that would be stick-thin, with hardly a curve beyond an artifical boob or two. I’m not even starting on the expectation to be practically hairless and plastered with make-up. I’m just focusing on the twig-like thing. Just look at this.
Women are being scrutinised for every fluctuation in their weight, sometimes from one week to the next. You see it all the time: “Blardiblar embraces her new curves!” followed by “Blardiblar looking dangerously thin” in the next issue. For the love of god, magazines, make up your minds.
Everywhere you look, women are being encouraged to think of their bodies, to think of fat contents, to think of calories. I see the effects of this all the time. Our society has such an obsession with weight, with diets, with body image… and working in a café in a fairly high-end shopping centre, I get to see the rake-thin women poring miserably over their salads, and I get to hear the full works.
“Let’s just share a biscuit, shall we?”
“Go on, I’ll be naughty – I’ll have a piece of fudge!”
“Just a skinny latte please. MAKE SURE IT’S SKINNY.”
…on that note, just an FYI. Skinny lattes aren’t worth it – you’re skimming off all the useful fat-soluble vitamins that help you to absorb sugars. Therefore you’re actually giving yourself more of a chance of putting on weight. Semi-skimmed or full fat is far healthier. I’m no nutritionist, but I do have a vague fuzzy knowledge of this kind of crap.
In my opinion, it’s a control issue. By perpetrating these insecurities, the media is leaving women confused and self-loathing… and therefore more open to go for crazy, money-making diet schemes. Or even, if we’re going to go full-on conspiracy theory here, to keep them so worried about their own physical appearance, they’re less likely to speak up for themselves when it comes to things that really matter. Overreaction? Potentially. But I’m on a rant here: I’m pissed off.
I’m fed up of being told how to look.
The thing is, I could go to the gym every day, I could follow weight-loss plans with religious fervour, I could cut carbs, or fat, or sugar, or the lot. But it wouldn’t make a difference. I’ve always been a fan of food, eating what I wanted, when I wanted, and sod the calories. I was lucky enough to have a decent metabolism, and I stayed a size 10-12 no matter how little I got off my arse and bothered with exercise. The closest thing to exercise I probably actually got was drunkenly weaving my way home at the end of a night out, after drinking more calories in two hours than most people manage to eat in a day.
Then I got a tumour the size of a cricket ball on my thyroid gland, and it was bye-bye metabolism.
I could still try and get some of the weight off, I suppose. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility. And I admit, I used to try. It used to bother me that I wasn’t the ‘ideal’ woman, that my flesh goes out where it’s supposed to go in, and Victoria’s Secret doesn’t make bras big enough for me. Then I realised: I had a choice to make between embracing who I am, or trying to fit in with an image of ‘attractiveness’ I’m not massively keen on.
“Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”
Well, Kate Moss, I’m calling bullshit. Instead of that rubbish, I’m going to base my philosophy on this poem by the late, great Maya Angelou.
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
When my Twitter feed was loaded with fat-shaming media today, my response was to go and make a chocolate fudge cake the size of a small child.
I’m not being ‘naughty’. It’s not a ‘treat’. We need to stop infantilisng ourselves and treating food like it’s something bad, or something that you only eat to survive. We need to enjoy food, savour it. Nobody goes to their grave sighing “I wish I’d eaten more Ryvita.”
And you know what? I look bloody awesome in my wedding dress, fat and all.