Friends, I am honored to share this beautiful woman with you today. Katie is a fellow coworker and friend of mine. She works nights; I work days. We say good morning and good night to each other as our shifts change. A few days ago, she wrote this beautiful post about body confidence and, after wiping away the tears from my smiling face, I asked her if I could share her words here. I was struck with so much love and joy I couldn’t help but cry. Katie eloquently expresses the beauty that is her body and the love she has for herself. Every woman, girl, child–needs to possess this kind of self-love. Many years ago, someone wise told me that you cannot love someone else if you don’t love yourself first. I found this to be true just before I met and fell in love with my now husband. Please share this story and message with every woman you know. Share it with your mother, your daughter, your sister.
I love my fat body.
And why wouldn’t I? My fat body carries me through 12+ hour nursing shifts, allowing me the privilege of taking care of people when their bodies and minds are vulnerable. My fat body takes me on adventures, exploring new treasures that this world has to offer. My fat body allows for me to feel the pleasure of my senses. My fat body includes a brain that has developed who I am, a mind whose delicate dance of neurotransmitters and electrical impulses enables me to feel love, sadness, anger, and joy.
So what’s so wrong with my fat body? After more than a decade spent in and out of therapist’s and nutritionist’s offices, I have finally come to an answer: nothing.
Few people seem to be aware of this, though. Last year I went to my health care provider for a yearly exam, without any health concerns. The office visit went through its normal paces, and as we were wrapping up, she said, “Katie, you know there’s one more thing to talk about: your weight.” I nodded my head in agreement, knowing that I had gained weight. She proceeded to tell me the ways in which I could lose weight (eat less meat, exercise more, eat more fruits and veggies) and rattled off the risks of being “overweight.” Again, my head nodded in agreement. I was holding back tears the whole time, feeling shameful and defeated. This was all stuff I knew, and she knew it.
I got to my car and burst into tears. I cried the whole way home, and then started getting angry. I was angry because, now removed from the moment, I was able to see that I had just been a victim of body(fat)-shaming and fat-phobia. As I ran the conversation through my head, I realized that outside of weight gain, there were no indications that I wasn’t doing any of those things she had suggested, that I was unhealthy. At the time, I was about a month away from calling myself an official vegetarian, but was only eating meat about 2-3 times per month (eat less meat: already done). Between my job and personal activities, I was moving my body enough to not be considered sedentary (exercise more: partially there – I admit I could respect my body with more frequent purposeful movement). And as a near-vegetarian, and now as a full-vegetarian, I’m sure you can guess what I fill my diet with (eat more fruits and veggies: check). What made me angry was the assumption that I was unhealthy and the implication that fat people cannot be healthy, no exceptions. I wasn’t even asked about my level of exercise, my diet, or ways that I keep healthy. Never mind that my blood pressures consistently run 110’s/70’s. Never mind the fact that my body can run and jump and bend and lift. Never mind the fact that I didn’t come in with any health concerns, much less any which would specifically indicate a weigh-related diagnoses. Never mind the fact that I’m healthier now as a fat person than at any other time in my life. The number on the scale superseded all of the other data.
Needless to say, I have since stopped going to that care provider.
It has taken me a long time to learn how to love and accept my fat body (and it wasn’t without support from a phenomenal partner, dear friends, and loving parents). And it certainly wasn’t without the privilege of healthcare—an excellent nutritionist and skilled therapists—and the privilege of education. I have finally gotten to a place where I love my body for no other reason than that it is mine, all mine. I have one life to live and this is the body I have, so I had better treat it right (which includes loving it unconditionally and celebrating it in all of its fat glory).
I have wasted entirely too much time, too much of my short existence, hating my body for how it looks, while never appreciating it for what it does (note: even one second spent hating one’s body is too much time). No more. While it’s difficult to break free of our cultural indoctrination of body shaming self and others, and I still catch myself doing things that are not kind to my body (sucking in my belly when trying on clothes, taking pictures in a way that my body looks most “acceptable”, etc.), I am making a conscious decision to love my body every day no matter how it looks.
I can’t even begin to explain the freedom that has come with this. My entire life I have been self-conscious of my tummy, no matter what state it’s in. Last week I broke through that lifetime of trying to hide it and wore fatkinis all over Cozumel, Mexico, flaunting my back rolls, stretch marks, and belly. And it felt so. god. damn. good. It was unbelievably freeing to wear the adorable retro swimsuits I have been eyeing for years but never bought because I was “too fat.” Rather than wearing the prescribed fat woman swim dress that covers as much as possible (not that there’s anything wrong with that; if someone is most comfortable in it, more power to them! I, however, would not be true to myself and my style if I wore one), I wore a nautical, high-waisted bikini bottom with a bright red bikini top. I accessorized the shit out of it, because I’m a grown-up who still likes to play dress up. And I felt more confident than I ever have in any swimsuit.
As I continue on my journey of health, I look forward to loving and respecting my body more and more every day. I’m excited to provide it with more movement, give it the nourishment it needs to continue to carry me through this life, and share with others the joy I have found in body appreciation.