July 17, 2019

Hey Alexa, am I fat?

Some thoughts on the body positivity movement and learning to love the bodies we are in

No human being is fat, our bodies are made of so much more than fat cells. Reducing someone to the number of fat cells they have is a struggle I–and so many other women–have long dealt with. After years of being disappointed with my body, I’ve reached a point of being ready to move on from that mindset, and I want to bring as many people as I can along with me.

In high school, like most young women coming of age, someone close to me told me I was getting “fat,” and I decided I better change something before I entered the dreaded “fat” zone.

I decided to cut my calorie intake to unhealthy numbers and exercise myself to the point of exhaustion. My experience is not unique. Almost every one of my female friends have gone through a similar experience. If not an eating disorder, they have all questioned their weight at some point. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) estimates that between 10 and 20 percent of women and 4 to 10 percent of men in college suffer from an eating disorder.

There’s been a lot of backlash against the Netflix show “Insatiable,” depicting a high school  girl who is tired of being the “fatty” of her school. So after her jaw gets wired shut over a summer, she comes back skinny and “hot.” “Insatiable” was branded as a body positive show, when it’s nothing of the sort. The actual message that comes through is that your life begins when you lose weight and can get revenge on all those people who once called you fat.

Body positivity in movies and TV shows doesn’t need to be shouted from the rooftops to bring attention to bigger bodies on the screen. Just simply casting larger women in traditional roles without making their entire plot line centric around their weight will bring real change in the way we think about what kinds of bodies are acceptable to have a normal, successful life.

Another big roadblock to reaching a utopian future of worldwide body positivity is labeling bigger bodies on social media or in magazines as “brave” or “so confident” when they are simply sharing their bodies for what they are. If Kendall Jenner poses nude for a shoot, no one is going to say she’s being brave. And right there is the problem. No matter what a person’s body looks like, it should be celebrated and accepted as normal and deserving of happiness, love and success.

That number on the scale means so much more than “fat” or “not fat.” Our bodies are made up of so much more than what the scale says we are. We are the sum of our hard work and talents. We are friends, siblings, daughters and sons. We are our passions, our shortcomings and our triumphs. Weight does not make a person any more or less valuable than their thinner counterpart.

The world around us will always tell us that as women, there is a better version of ourselves we could be working towards. Whether that’s thinner, curvier, taller or shorter, what we look like will never be good enough to someone.

So my only resolution to this unfair reality of how women’s bodies are always up for debate is to encourage the women in my life that they are strong, smart, important, spunky and beautiful. I need to do more than simply justify, “Am I fat?” with, “Of course not!” or “No, why would you ever think that?”

Maybe that friend does need reassurance from me in that moment when they ask if I think they are fat. A big part of body positivity often pushed aside is allowing women to be frustrated with their bodies. We are most likely going to feel uncomfortable in our skin at some point, and that’s ok. Even if that friend is “fat” by society’s standards, that’s still ok. A person can live under that label as long as they do not view themselves in a negative way because of it.

It took me years to get myself to stop caring about what size jeans I can fit into, and I’m still far from perfect. I still care more than I should about how my body looks in a bikini, and I still catch myself comparing myself to other women. But I am actively working to have a healthy, happy body and mind rather than a skinny one.  

 

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