A simple paradigm shift: You are not fat.

The words ‘I am…’ are potent words. Be careful what you hitch them to.
For that thing that you are claiming has a way of reaching back and claiming you.
-A.L. Kitselman

I have been overweight for literally as long as I can remember. I vividly recall my earliest memory of this realization. I was playing in a little inflatable pool in my front yard when my family still lived in Illinois. I was around five or so: just your average chubby little kid splashing around in a cute, brightly colored, ruffly two-piece bathing suit. My parents were surely in the yard with me, they were always close by, but that part is not a part I remember.

Suddenly, two boys on bikes rode by our yard, and from beyond our fence, one yelled “Hey! Fat girls don’t wear those!” And then they started riding in a circle in the street right in front of our yard, hovering in front of our house, now both chanting in a chorus of derision “Fat girls don’t wear those! Fat girls don’t wear those!” I don’t remember what made them leave, most likely catching sight of one of my parents. But I do remember that right before they left, the cadence at the end of their taunting was “Cover up that belly, fat girl.”

Was I a “fat girl?”

I didn’t find this event particularly traumatic or life altering at the time. But I distinctly remember being confused. Was I a “fat girl?” I didn’t think so, until that moment. But I had two witnesses, however unreliable, that introduced the idea into my head, so it must have been so. I was fat.

I have memories before that day: carrying my cat down the stairs, drawing on walls, hearing my sister sing, calling my friends and asking if they could come over and play. Kid stuff. But I have no memories of really considering my body type or shape one way or another. And then from that day on, there it was. I was a fat girl, and that was that.

But I won’t lie, after being branded a “fat girl,” it was just so easy to give up and accept that that was who I was.

I won’t pretend that this moment created some sort of self fulfilling prophecy and that those two boys are the reasons why I am overweight. A lot of it was the environment in which I was raised, and later in life just my depression combined with my lack of knowledge or regard for health and nutrition. But I won’t lie, after being branded a “fat girl,” it was just so easy to give up and accept that that was who I was. That was my label. That was my destiny. And I have been living under that label literally since I was five. Even this blog brands me as a “Fatty,” albeit an eventually former one.

I fall into the category of a blunt realist. Some might phrase it as a person who “calls a spade a spade.” Along that line, I have never felt the need to pretend I wasn’t fat. I have eyes, and so do others, so why deny what everyone could see? So when I would make a reference and say “As a fat girl…” and someone would jump in and say “OH no! You aren’t fat!” I thought it was almost comical how polite they were trying to be when it was CLEAR that I WAS indeed fat.

…So why is this blog post entitled “You are not fat” if I know that I am? Did I stop calling a spade a spade? Did I go blind? Have I gone into denial? No. I am the same person I was yesterday, but have been given a whole new way of thinking about weight. One phrase, typed onto an online message board really struck me. So here it is. Where’s a drumroll when you need one?

You are not fat. You HAVE fat.

Let me repeat that:

You are not fat. You HAVE fat.

Fat is a thing; a tangible, real, substance that we carry around. But what it shouldn’t be (but too often is) is an identity. I’m not a fat person, I’m a person with fat. More importantly, you can change something that you have, but it is much more difficult to change who you are.

I won’t lie to you, whoever is still reading this. Right alongside my obvious and very public excitement for this “new me” that I come closer to every day, I have been debilitatingly terrified that I won’t know who I am once my insulation is gone. I have seen many people in my life, some very close to me, lose weight and become almost a different person, and frankly not always for the better. And while I am looking forward to more confidence in certain areas (although friends might argue I am the most confident, ballsy person they know) I really do like who I am. I like my self-deprecating sense of humor and my sarcasm. I don’t want those things to change. I want to be me, but healthier, with better clothes, and an even sexier wiggle.

But I know now that I am not fat, that I have fat. It is a thing that is attached to me, but it isn’t who I am. As the surprisingly inspiring musical “Legally Blonde” puts it: “That’s the best part. The outside is new. But now it reflects, what’s already in you. Couldn’t change that if I wanted to, and I do not.”

Our language reflects the way we think, and this simple phrase shift is an entire lifetime’s worth of changed view for me. What if “fat girl” was not part of my identity from the day those boys rode past my house and taunted me? So what if we… quit that? What if we stopped phrasing part of our identity in the terms of our weight?

I can’t promise I will never refer to myself as a fat person again. But I can be more aware of it, and I can certainly try. And if you are still reading this, I really hope you will too. When we make our flaws into our identity, we poison ourselves from within.

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Liz (2 years ago)

Very inspirational!

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