Life + Love, Life Stories

Just because I’m fat, doesn’t mean I owe you an explanation about my life

Size 16 women have it much easier than size 22 women. Knowing this, I was terrified to get any bigger and lose my status as an 'acceptable' plus size body.

The struggle for body positivity is so real. In the process of recovering from a restrictive eating disorder and compulsive exercising, I gained a lot of weight. Not like the ‘freshman 15’ or some ‘holiday pudge,’ like, a lot of weight.

As someone who has struggled with my weight and relationship to food all my life, that kind of weight gain was devastating. I went through a period of extreme depression, which threatened to completely take over my life.

Eventually, I realized that I had to accept my new body as it was if I was ever going to be happy. So, I started the journey toward body positivity. I read a lot about fatphobia, the fear of being fat that is built in to American society. I learned about the ways in which America and other Western cultures have vilified being fat by making it making fat a moral judgement. In our culture, being fat is not just the physical state of someone’s body, it means they are lazy, gluttonous, and undisciplined.

America and other Western cultures have vilified being fat by making it making fat a moral… Click To Tweet

I began to realize how ridiculous this was. You can’t judge someone’s character just by looking at them. I started to try and reject the concept of fat as a moral judgement. I tried to internalize the fact that my body shape and size had nothing to do with who I was as a person. This was the first step to body positivity.

Though I began to believe that my body had nothing to do with my character, I still felt the need to justify my larger body to others. I started to say things like, “Well I gained a lot of weight and I’m much larger now, but I’m really healthy.” I talked a lot about how much I worked out and how well I ate.

You can't judge someone's character just by looking at them. Click To Tweet

At the time, I didn’t realize I was playing in to the ‘good fatty’ trope, which is the idea that fat people are required to perform ‘healthy’ behaviors in order to justify the space their bodies occupy and to ‘prove’ to others that they’re not lazy, undisciplined gluttons.  The ‘good fatty’ trope is just another result of fatphobia. Because being fat is so inherently vilified, people can’t just exist in larger bodies. They are forced to apologize for their larger bodies. It’s like an emotional tax for being fat.

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The fact that I was playing in to the ‘good fatty’ trope was an indication that I had not overcome my own internalized fatphobia. I was theoretically on board with the idea that being fat did not reflect on my moral character, but I didn’t truly believe this. I still felt the need to let people know that I was trying to perform ‘health.’

They are forced to apologize for their larger bodies. It's like an emotional tax for being fat. Click To Tweet

The idea that larger bodies are more acceptable or only acceptable if they are ‘healthy bodies’ is a form of discrimination. Some people with larger bodies have chronic illnesses and cannot be ‘healthy.’ Other people with larger bodies are unable to exercise in ways that society deems ‘healthy.’ There is a proven link between class and body size, so some people with larger bodies cannot afford to eat in ways that society sees as ‘healthy.’ People in larger bodies should not have to fit any criteria in order to be accepted; they should be accepted simply for being humans.

The realization that I was striving to be a ‘good fatty’ led me to further examine my own fears around being fat. I discovered that while I was becoming comfortable with gaining weight, I was only comfortable up to a point. I clung to a deep seated fear of getting any fatter. I am definitely a plus sized woman, according to America’s standards, but as a size 16, I am on the lower end of plus sized. I am on the ‘acceptable’ end of plus size. I am big, but not ‘too big’.

Being a larger woman in today’s world is hard no matter what, but it’s undeniable that the larger you get, the harder it gets. Size 16 women have it much easier than size 22 women. Knowing this, I was terrified to get any bigger and lose my status as an ‘acceptable’ plus size body.

The delineation between ‘big’ and ‘too big’ is another, subtler manifestation of fatphobia. My fear of getting bigger was a judgement of those in larger bodies, and it clearly said that I didn’t accept them. True body positivity means accepting literally all sizes of bodies. If I am committing to accepting my body as it is, I should be committing to accepting my body if it gets larger as well. And I should be committing to accepting everyone else, regardless of the size of their body.

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Fatphobia is so deeply embedded in our society that it’s hard to identify and even harder to address. As I diligently tried to accept my bodies and the bodies of others, I had to face the fact that I was still vehemently fatphobic, even though I theoretically rejected fatphobia. I had to examine my fears and judgments about what it means to be fat and decide whether or not I truly believed those things or whether I had simply been taught to believe them my whole life.

I was still vehemently fatphobic, even though I theoretically rejected fatphobia. Click To Tweet

Through a lot of emotional unpacking, I was able to decide that I do not believe that fat = bad. I do not believe that fat = unhealthy. I do not believe that fat and healthy is the only way it’s ‘okay’ to be fat. I have worked very hard to confront and overcome my fears around being fat, and the result is that I love myself more today than I ever have.

I don't have to justify my body to anyone anymore. Click To Tweet

Sure, I still have those days where I look in the mirror and wish I were thinner. Sometimes I still spend more time than I’d like switching outfits because I think I look ‘fat’. I don’t know if that will ever change.

But I no longer hate my body so much that I wish I had a different one. And I no longer fear getting fatter. If my body decides that it needs to gain weight in order to function properly, then that’s out of my hands. I don’t feel the need to tell anyone how healthy I eat, or how active I am, because it’s none of their business and it straight up doesn’t matter.

I don’t have to justify my body to anyone anymore.

Robin Zabiegalski

Robin Zabiegalski

Robin Zabiegalski is a Spring Editorial Fellow for The Tempest. She is a freelance writer for digital media publications and her work has been published on The Tempest and xoJane. She is also an occasional writer of short fiction and satire. Robin has a BA in Professional Studies from Johnson State College and she is passionate about feminism, body image, writing, snowboarding, and backpacking.

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