Why is “fat” such a taboo word? Having a large amount of excess flesh tells you nothing about who someone actually is. “Fat” is just an adjective after all – as is “slim” or “skinny”. But slim, or skinny, is an aspirational thing; society is all about becoming thinner, becoming a size dictated by both peer pressure and medical professionals. I was slim once, but I was miserable because the labels on my clothes didn’t gloriously proclaim “SIZE 12”. My unhappiness came largely from a deep-rooted, even indoctrinated, belief that I should be skinny. A belief that SlimFast drinks and not a lot else was the key to happiness and even success.
Looking at photos from five-ish years ago, I now see an ill person. I look gaunt, tired – and significantly thinner than I remember being. And I really was unwell. Those photos are a snapshot of the earliest and worst days of my struggles with mental illness, when I was manic and working 60+ hours a week, sleeping maybe three hours every third day and barely eating enough just to stop me from passing out. I was running my poor body and mind at 100mph on the few mouthfuls of food I threw down my throat when the stomach pains became impossible to ignore. My frame, build and size looked healthy to anyone who didn’t know of my battle with psychosis, mania and undiagnosed borderline personality disorder. But the way I’d reached this ‘beautiful’ body was toxic.
Still, back then I felt FAT – a bad word to me at the time. When I sat down, my stomach folded into soft little rolls. My thighs still rubbed when I walked. If I didn’t pose carefully for pictures, my jaw line would look so rounded that I couldn’t share the photos for fear of being considered ugly, or even a bad person because I wasn’t ‘perfect’. My mind was rebelling – being perceived as fat, even if only by myself, fuelled the fire. Compliments from friends would roll right off me. To my eyes I was FAT FAT FAT, and I was miserable; my mind was judging my body and seeing it entirely wrong.
I started on anti-psychotic and mood stabilising medications, and my psyche began to heal. As I recovered, thanks to these drugs and some hard work, I slowed down – the weight started to accumulate around my stomach and hips. It’s fairly common to gain weight on many psychiatric medications, but I hated that the body I already considered fat at size 14 was growing and growing. I felt judged, even though no one outside of my own brain was judging me. Life had taught me to see my roundness as a defect; fat was synonymous with ugly, gross, and faulty.
I’m a size 20 now, and I finally feel comfortable – and authentic – as I am. It’s a sharp contrast to the me of five years ago who looked so slim, fit and healthy but was breaking on the inside. Now my mind is recovering more each day and I’m able to love the body that carries it. My moonish belly, my chubby face, my wobbly, curvy bum – they are all beautiful. The size I am now is the result of my power to fight and survive the mental illness that has almost cost me my life on several occasions.
So, when you see a fat human, try to pause the societal judgements and see that the extra curves, pot bellies and double chins don’t define or dictate a person’s worth, self-confidence, or even their validity. Happiness is more than a size tag in your jeans – bigger, or smaller. Beauty is more than the number on the scales. And human is more than a BMI; under, over or spot-on target, every body is home to a person and no person should be judged by the wonderful vessel that carries them through their life.