content warning: contains discussions of disordered eating.

Let me start by saying that yes, I am fat. Not “big-boned”, “curvy,” or any other word you might say because you think fat is an insult, but fat. I am a size 18, with big hips and a big bum. Now, take a deep breath, because this is the kicker – being fat is totally okay with me. In fact, it is WONDERFUL to me.

But it didn’t feel wonderful for a long time. Ever since I was nine years old, society, and most horribly myself, made me feel like my purpose in life was to be smaller. If I wasn’t trying to lose weight, to get to the size where I was finally accepted and allowed to start my life, well, then what was I doing? I saw the looks when I ordered chicken fingers at dinner or went for a plate of seconds at Thanksgiving. I heard the intent behind “keep up that exercise!” or “it’s so inspiring to see how you carry yourself” (as if a fat woman couldn’t have any confidence). I felt the sting of outright comments like “why don’t you join (insert weight loss program or diet here)” or from the hurled insults of people on the street or the ones hiding behind a screen online. It was no wonder that insecurity, self-loathing, and internalized fat-phobia became my secret best friends. Years of pain morphed into binging and purging starvation practices, and a motto of “I’ll finally do (blank) when I lose 10, 20, 30… pounds.”

This attitude was never more present than in my romantic life. Terrified of rejection, getting hurt and feeling ashamed, I refused to put myself out there. I told myself that I would look for love when I finally lost that last bit of weight. But this behaviour didn’t stop the fact that I continued to develop feelings for people around me. Over the course of my time at Queen’s, my romantic life followed a similar pattern. I would meet someone and start to develop deep feelings for them. However, I never entered the situationship alone; my three unwanted friends came with me. My internalized fatphobia, self-loathing and deep insecurities caused me to enter these relationships and fill the role of “the best friend”. I would lay myself bare and become an emotional support system for these people but never tell them how I truly felt. I didn’t think I stood a chance, so I believed if they saw me as a friend first, they might eventually get past my physical body and begin to love me as more than a friend. I hoped that they could love me despite my body. As you can imagine, this ended the same way every time. I was left devastated that my plan hadn’t worked and they were either completely uninterested or totally clueless as to anything having happened at all. The friendships didn’t last long after that. 

After this happened for a third time this past summer, I sat and wondered to myself: why did this keep happening? My friends all saw the pattern, and many late nights were spent dissecting my choices but never touching on the main, unspoken issue: how I saw myself and my body. I felt so ashamed of what I looked like that I lost myself and became a completely different person time and time again in the hopes that someone would see past the “fat girl” and just see Annie.

But what I never realized, was that I shouldn’t, and don’t, want someone to love me DESPITE my body. This revelation only came recently after months of therapy and the help of body-positive activists such as Stephanie Yeboah, Virgie Tovar, Megan Jayne Crabbe, Enam Asiama, and Lizzo. These women put their bodies unapologetically into the world, proving that fat women are smart, successful, sexy and strong. Learning about the body positivity and the fat-acceptance movement (started by Black womxn) felt like letting out a deep breath after holding it in for my entire life. Here was a community of beautiful fat folks who were speaking out, owning their bodies and fighting against society’s anti-fatness. It was magical. They gave me the courage to finally begin my journey towards self-love. 

I realize now that I want to be loved FOR my body because it is a part of me. And it is pretty damn great. My body lets me sing loudly, dance fiercely, hold my baby niece, hug my friends and family, kiss, laugh, run, jump, love, and do all the things I never thought I could do, or deserved to do, in a large body. I am fat and happy. I am fat and beautiful. And I am done dulling my light for people who couldn’t see its shine in the first place.

HEADER IMAGE SOURCE: Elisa Valenti, @elisavalentistudio on Instagram

Annie Brennand is a guest contributor for MUSE

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