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14 Ways I Learned To Be A Happy Plus-Size Woman

It is totally possible.

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Hello! My name is Kaye and I've been fat my whole ding-dang life.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed / Via Instagram: @kayetoal

Obvious fat. You've-got-such-a-pretty-face fat. Internet-trolls-making-digs-at-the-double-chins-on-my-upper-arms fat. I am, in the parlance of the fat acceptance community, known as an "in-betweenie" or a "smallfat" — I fluctuate between a size 16 and a size 18. So I'm basically an average American woman.

It can be unbelievably difficult to live as a fat woman in America.

We are stigmatized, abused, told we're worthless and undesirable, stereotyped as lazy and stupid and unhygienic, given inadequate medical care, and not extended basic human decency. Despite the best efforts of bullies both physical and virtual, almost every TV show and movie ever made, and most women's magazines, I am totally at peace with being fat.

Getting here has been ~a journey~, however. Here's what that journey looked like for me.

1. I threw out my scale.

Miramax

The idea of a scale is fairly odd, given all it does is measure your relationship with the gravitational pull of the planet you're standing on. Doctors who insist you should have one just in case you lose a bunch of weight and need to come see them are assuming that you wouldn't notice if you lost 20 pounds in a single week.

I threw out my scale. I haven't owned one in eight years. It is easily the best thing I've ever done for myself.

2. And I ask doctors not to tell me my weight.

Instagram: @mariasisci

Almost every doctor I've asked not to tell me my weight has been kind and obliging. I usually contextualize my request with the fact that I am in recovery from an eating disorder, but even when I haven't, they are super chill. It's not just that I've gotten lucky — I've intentionally sought out doctors who are well-reviewed by a variety of people (ZocDoc is a great resource for this).

Doctors usually want to know my weight, but they either weigh me facing away from the scale or their scale has a direct-to-computer feed and they just don't tell me what it is. As a result, I have no idea what I weigh. It's awesome.

3. I surround myself with people who do not make me feel like shit.

This was hard, because a lot of us don't realize we're making other people feel like shit, or we're doing it because we feel like shit and want to feel less like shit. I understand that everyone has a struggle and a path they're walking on and a burden to bear and a life as rich and full and complicated and painful as mine. And I am never ever going to be close friends with someone who asks if I'm really going to finish a cupcake ever again.

4. I have many orgasms.

Endorphins, fam. Endorphins.

More importantly: I got into the habit of letting myself feel good, and letting myself believe that I deserved to feel good.

Fat girls are told they do not deserve to feel good because their bodies are disgusting, immoral, symbolic of gluttony and laziness. The set of social assumptions associated with a fat body are basically those of indulgence to the point of sin, and the only way to atone for that is through self-punishment and self-flagellation.

But look: You deserve to feel good. You deserve a nice thing, like a very comfy blanket or a balloon shaped like a unicorn or a shirt you feel invincible in or to watch Magic Mike XXL 14 times in a single week and, yes, an orgasm. None of us deserve to live a daily existence that is a punishment. You deserve to feel good. You do! Let yourself feel good!

5. I never fuck anybody who treats my body like a compromise they need to make.

HBO

A man I was in love with once told me that it was a shame he wasn't attracted to me, because he had such strong feelings for me otherwise. Instead of stuffing him in a barrel and rolling him down a hill into a river of lava, I continued speaking to him for several months after this incident. Do not be like me!

Surrounding myself with people who didn't make me feel like shit included ceasing all sexual contact with people who did. If the person you're having sex with is making you feel like your body is anything less than a gift that they are ravenous for, like a gift basket made of pizza containing yet more pizza, stop having sex with them. If the person you're having sex with ever says anything about you needing to lose weight, or that they'd be more attracted to you if you were thinner or shaped differently, stop having sex with them. I guarantee you that if you have sex with someone who really wants to have sex with you — no "if only you were thinner" involved — you will have better sex and feel better about yourself.

6. I refuse to participate in Performative Salad Olympics.

Comedy Central

Performative Salad Olympics, aka "Gosh, I could never eat [delicious food] again. I've gotten used to eating a [different, equally delicious food] and only that [different, equally delicious food] and I feel incredible." This behavior sucks! Why do we all do it? Why do we all insist on making each other feel bad about what we're eating, as if having grilled vegetables as an entree when someone else is having fried chicken and onion rings makes you a better person? It does not. Food is morally neutral. Sometimes I wanna eat grilled vegetables; sometimes I wanna eat four slices of pizza. Eating either of these things does not fundamentally alter who I am as a person.

7. I exercise.

Kaye Toal / Via instagram.com

SURPRISE.

I exercise fairly regularly because I have a chronic anxiety disorder that is helped by (say it with me) endorphins. I don't just go to a gym, necessarily; sometimes I dance around my bedroom, or go for a hike, or get off the subway a few stops early and walk home. If the point is just to get my heart rate up, that can happen however. Doing things I like is way more fun than trudging on a treadmill for 30 minutes, praying for the Earth to open up and swallow me into its core.

8. Sometimes I don't exercise.

That's fine, too. Not every day has to be a mad rush toward The Healthiest Bod. When my life changes, my habits change. Often my body changes along with them. I imagine this is a cycle that will continue until my soul is released from this mortal coil and my flesh fertilizes a tree I will demand be planted over my corpse.

10. I did a lot of research about food science and nutrition to understand how food actually works in my body.

Twitter: @fatnutritionist

I highly recommend this! Knowledge is power! Fad diets are exhausting! A great place to start is with Michelle, aka The Fat Nutritionist, who is a registered dietician and has a list of studies and articles on her website.

11. I try very, very hard to be kind to myself when I think about my own body.

Kaye Toal

I do not always succeed. When I am actively not succeeding, I reach out to a trusted friend for support and I am honest with her about what I'm feeling and that I need to be reminded that I am not a rotten trash bag filled with hot garbage juice cosplaying as a slime mold. Your friends love you and will be glad to remind you of this, and that means you can also do it for them when they're feeling low! Wooooooo!

I also try to catch my negative thoughts about myself and contradict them. This is sometimes very successful, as in when I catch myself thinking, "My face is disgusting" and contradict myself with, "My face is not at all disgusting, I have great eyebrows and eyelashes and lips and skin." It is sometimes less successful, as in when I catch myself thinking, "My face is disgusting" and contradict myself with, "Well, I washed it today." As long as you're pushing against this kind of negative thinking, though, you're making important strides and you should be proud of yourself.

12. I try not to compare my body to anyone else's.

Sarah Kobos / BuzzFeed / Via Instagram: @kayetoal

Someone else is a completely different person, after all, with a completely different genetic makeup, a completely different lifestyle, and completely different goals and priorities. Neither of us is better than the other; we're both rad.

13. I found a community.

NBC

People like Virgie Tovar, Jes Baker, Lindy West, Marilyn Wann, Gabi Fresh, Ty Alexander, Jaclyn Friedman, and Hanne Blank helped me start to have a relationship with my body that wasn't pure, salted trash. Realizing that I was not alone felt like a goddamn miracle — the idea that there was a way to exist in my own skin without having that skin be a torture chamber felt impossible, and yet there it was: not only possible, but within reach. Right there waiting for me.

14. I remind myself very frequently that this is a process.

Kaye Toal / Via Instagram: @kayetoal

Society hates fat people and wants us all to starve ourselves down to thinness in order to be treated as if we have any worth at all, no matter how much we hurt ourselves in the process (just look at shows like The Biggest Loser, or the front of any magazine). So, yes, sometimes resisting those beliefs is so much harder than other days. Some days I will not quite be able to fight the good fight. But that's OK — the process is an ongoing one, and it may last my entire life. It's not so much a straight line as a wild squiggle of back-and-forth and up-and-down.

But it's OK. I'm OK. You're OK. We are all ridiculous, incredible, beautiful balls of human emotion cloaked in a body that was given to us by genes and circumstance. Life is too short not to believe wholeheartedly that you are just as incredible, beautiful, and worthwhile as everybody else.

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