I’m fat, and I have been nearly all my life. I learned young that my weight was not acceptable. A doctor gave me amphetamines, speed, when I was just seven years old. I didn’t know what I was ingesting, but the pills that were supposed to make me lose weight made me feel like I was flying around, light and free. That went on for about two weeks, until my mom made me stop taking them.
For all my 60 years, “fat” was something to avoid being, a shameful personal shortcoming. In pursuit of being thin, I’ve spent thousands on diets, supplements, therapy, exercise programs and surgery. And I’m still fat.
I’ve been told that being fat means I’m lazy and unlovable, that I would never find a partner or succeed professionally. I’ve let people’s words and prejudices influence me. I wish I’d learned earlier to ignore them and have more faith in myself. When you are shamed and ashamed, it takes a lot of positives to make up for the negatives. I still struggle to accept myself as talented, capable and worthwhile, let alone beautiful.
Fortunately, I’ve also been supported by loving people who proved those things not true. I have wonderful friends. I’ve been married for 25 years. I have a fabulous job. My life is truly good.
Millions of people in western societies are large, as obesity becomes more and more common. While we address the myriad factors that play into this chronic condition, it would be good for people of size to be able to live in a world that affirms their worth and dignity, rather than blaming and shaming them with reminders that they are not “normal.”
Fat people don’t need pity. It would be affirming to be considered as a fully human being. For example, knowing you’re welcome because there are chairs available to fit your body. Or that every medical appointment won’t be about your need to lose weight — even if you’re there for a skin rash. Or to be relieved of endless conversations with people who assure you they’re not fat-phobic, just “concerned about your health.”
I’m older and more experienced with being in a body that’s different and needs things outside the usual. Now I ask for what I need with assurance instead of quiet humiliation. I’m more comfortable being seen, speaking up, feeling worthy and taking up the space that I require without apology or shame. I wish it was the norm for all people of size to feel worthy, seen and accepted.
To tell the truth, I’m fat. It’s taken me years to know that this one small word doesn’t have to limit and define my life in the image of what others think I deserve or need. I’m fat, yes, and I’m so much more.
This story originally appeared in the November 2020 issue with the title “On Fatness.”
Rev. Victoria Ingram is a Unitarian Universalist minister in Hamilton.
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