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Why I Call Myself “Fat”

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(Photo Credit: Heather Bird Photography)

When I launched this blog I thought long and hard about the title.  Words matter, after all.  And I knew that using the word “fat” would make some people angry, or would cause some folks in my life concern when they thought I was using the term to somehow cut myself down.  How in the world could I write something about being empowered, but then ruin the entire concept by using such a negative and demoralizing word right next to it?

If you look up the word “fat” in a dictionary there are lots of definitions, depending on how the word is utilized.  In reference to the human body, the word means: obese, plump, having excess flesh.  So, from a technical and clinical perspective, I can define myself as being “fat”.  Because it is the truth.  And we have already established how I feel about the truth. But we all know that Webster can not possibly list all of the ways the word is used in the real world.  A dictionary can not tell you how a world feels when it is used by you or to describe you.  I realize that the word “fat”, while clinically correct, holds much more weight (zero pun intended) than it’s official definition.

And I still chose it.  Because words matter.  Depending on how they are utilized, right?

I believe the word FAT is just, if not more important, than the word EMPOWERMENT in the title of this blog.

There are no official statistics to back up what I am about to say, but I believe it to be true.  Every single woman, at some point in her life, has considered herself fat.  If only once a month when bloated, or after a vacation where she ate less desirably than preferred and put on a few pounds. Young women without a single extra pound look in the mirror and think they are fat because they are not shaped like those girls on TV.  Even the most fit and slim woman can look at a photo taken in the wrong light and wrong angle and cringe at how big her thighs appear.  I have heard women who used to be really heavy say that years after losing the weight and keeping it off, they still feel fat on the inside.  How many men have tried to talk themselves out of answering the question “Do these jeans make me look fat?”

Like it or not, it is a word used in our culture.  It is a feeling felt by a majority of women, and probably a lot of men as well.  We can discuss WHY the word has become so prevalent.  But it is here.  We use it, we feel it… often.

So, on the surface, it is a word that I believe all women can relate to on some level.  But more importantly I am using the word so that we can start to re-define what the word means.  Words are powerful, but only when we give them that power.  If someone calls you fat, YOU have the power to allow it to hurt you, or to let it slide right off your back.  Call me fat.  I don’t care.  Yes, clinically I am fat.  I got it.  Thanks for pointing out the obvious.

Sometimes, many times, the danger in a word comes from when we use it to describe ourselves.  If we are constantly looking in the mirror and seeing just fat, that is a problem.  If we are not allowing ourselves to achieve certain things in life because we are fat, that is a problem.  If we are using just that one word to define ourselves, that is a problem.

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For me, the word “fat” means just what the dictionary says: “Obese, plump, having excess flesh”  I can accept that definition and the fact that I fit right into it.  But here is what I can not and WILL NOT accept.  The implied definitions.  The ones that we make up.  The ones others make up for us.  We know what the word “fat” DOES mean.  Now, lets talk about what it DOES NOT.

The word “fat” is NOT defined as:

  • Being lazy
  • Being stupid
  • Lacking in talent
  • Lacking any self-control
  • Being selfish
  • Being worthless
  • Being unattractive
  • Being a slob
  • Being poor
  • Being a failure

Does this mean that I believe people who are fat should settle for being fat because it is acceptable?  No.  Being fat is a medical problem that needs to be addressed, no matter how you got there.  I do believe we cross a dangerous line when we encourage people who are overweight to just accept and love themselves the way they are.  It is important to know all the ways in which you are awesome.  It is equally important to know where you can improve, especially when it is in regards to something as important as your health.  It is possible to love yourself, and be aware enough to know that you are imperfect and need to change.

I have always carried my weight well.  That is what people have been telling me for years.  No way!  You don’t look like you are 190 pounds.  What?! You are not 220 pounds, you are beautiful!  There is no way I would have ever guessed you weigh 265 pounds, I don’t see weight when I look at you.  If I angle my face correctly or look in the mirror a certain way, there are parts of me that can pass as slim…even at my current weight of over 220 pounds.  And while that makes me feel good, it has given me a reason to deceive myself into believing that it doesn’t really matter.  That I am beautiful the way I am.  Well, the TRUTH is that my heart doesn’t really care how beautiful I am, it just knows how much harder it has to work.  My knees don’t care how many people love me just the way I am as they are deteriorating under the mass that is my body.  My higher cancer risk is not just going to go away because I don’t “look fat to my friends and family.

So, why do I call myself “fat”?  Well, because I am.  It doesn’t make me cry.  It allows me to deal in truth and empower myself to change it.  Why did I purposefully use that word in the title? This is a blog about empowering myself (and hopefully others) on a path to better health.  That means losing weight, getting fit, making better choices, dealing in the truth and doing all of that on terms that work for you.  We have become a nation of “fat” people.  Taking that one word out of our vocabulary because we don’t want to offend or make anyone cringe is not going to change that.  Changing our lives will.

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12 comments on “Why I Call Myself “Fat”

  1. Perfect. Accept reality and admit that you need to improve, but not also understand that the physical is a reflection of the soul and self-worth.

  2. Fantastic! Honest, straight to the point, and oh-so-true for many women, including myself. I like how you addressed the medical component of being fat, as well as the social taboo. Thank you for sharing this!

  3. As long as you know you are beautiful, all is good. I admire your dedication to making yourself a healthier you!!!!!! It is a VERY difficult, however rewarding road! Keep up your GREAT work!

  4. Erin, you inspire me daily. This was such a beautiful read and a perfect example of how the right mindset can send anyone on their way to success and empowerment! Thank you so much for spreading your wonderful energy and your wisdom with us.
    I hope that didn’t come off as being TOO cheesy – but it’s from the heart! Thanks again!

  5. It’s ridiculous how much I love this!

  6. ” I do believe we cross a dangerous line when we encourage people who are overweight to just accept and love themselves the way they are.” – This is an excellent statement and one for which I am sure those who do not understand your context may take issue. However, it is the truth. I was told not only by friends wanting to assure me that I would not be ostracized for my obesity, but also medical professionals who were quick to state that I should probably walk around outside a couple times a week but it was totally normal for a woman of my age and Hawaiian heritage to contract multiple diseases like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and then RA, fibromyalgia and depression, along with bronchial problems. I like this one, Ms. Erin. You have, at least for me, differentiated between emotionally supporting someone into the grave and providing honest and helpful support that may lead to a more happy and productive life.

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