‘You're not fat!' I've exclaimed many times to friends that fear they've gained weight.
Curvy maybe, or a bit rounder even, but god no, never fat! 'You're not fat,' I tell myself sternly in the mirror when I get emotional and start mentally slicing off bits of myself to look like a More Perfect Me.
With a bit less butt, a bit less tum... but let's keep the boobs exactly as they are, please?
Fat. It's such an ugly word; a toad sitting in a sentence staring out accusatory and occasionally croaking with indignity: 'Fat. FAT. FAT!' It's a word that stings, and burns, and scalds.
I’ve been called a lot of things, but only once have I been called ‘fat’. My boyfriend’s ex-roommate threw it like a stone as a parting insult to – not even me. He was insulting my boyfriend. Inside, it stung. It hurt worse than being called ugly, or stupid, or bad at maths (a fact is a fact, am I right?).
I felt like I’d been caught out as a puppy murderer, or someone who un-ironically watched Jersey Shore. I felt terrible, dirty, ashamed, and tears spiked the corners of my eyes.
Fat. It’s the new ‘F’ word. Fat. Because ‘fat’ is not sexy. That’s what we’ve been taught. Fat is bad. And sexy is the Holy Grail. With women’s appearance so highly objectified, fat is the worst thing you can be. That’s why we laugh when Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) gets a boyfriend in the hit flick Pitch Perfect. Someone like her! Having sex! And she’s fat! And someone finds her attractive! Will I ever stop laughing!
It’s this belief that makes me feel like the perpetual caterpillar – people assume I’m unhappy; I’m not in my final form quite yet. There’s so many ways they can help! Have I tried Banting. Have I seen this expert. Have I read about this. Have I heard about that. And so on it goes. All these helpful suggestions remind me it’s not OK to be comfortable in my body.
And you know what? It’s being told I’m a leftover potato that makes me feel unsexy, not the extra kilograms I agonise over. I remember vividly a few years ago an ex-boyfriend loved my bum, and my friends wondered if he had a fetish.
It’s that wondering that turns me back into a caterpillar, that makes me crawl into my skin. It’s questions like THAT that make me question my current boyfriend’s attraction to me. How can he find me attractive? I wait for the Fat Amy laugh track every time he calls me sexy.
Even as I’m typing this, I cringe at the F word. I want to take that word back, make it my own. I also want to erase it. I want to delete that internalised fat shaming dialogue. I want to be OK with myself. I want to love my body.
I need to lose my fear of the F word. To quote Hermione in Harry Potter, ‘Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself.’ They were talking about the evil tyrant Voldemort, and I’m talking about something equally terrifying – body confidence.
I’m going to stop that stern mirror talk, and remind myself that sexy is as sexy does. Whether fat, or thin.