Say the word…

I’m fat. It’s not a secret or a problem. Whatever I wear & from whichever angle you view me; I am most definitely fat.

Fat isn’t an insult. It’s merely a word that describes a type of body. A body type that is an entirely normal human variant. There is no shame in it. There is nothing taboo about the word or the fact of it.

If you are fat, own it. Reclaiming the word takes all the power to hurt you from it. If the worst someone can do is describe your size, that’s really not that bad. People aren’t crushed by the word tall. Why should we allow fat be any different?

I don’t skirt around my size. I don’t consider it a bad thing. I’m not embarrassed to wear a 22 or have flabby bits. I like my fat body. I see no reason to shy away from from an accurate descriptor. We don’t have to permit idiots to use it as a slur.

Part of de weaponising the word is removing negative connotations. With this I need everyone’s help. If someone chooses fat for themselves, respect that. Denying that I’m fat when I very obviously am only highlights that you think fat is bad. Phrases like ‘you’re not fat, you have fat’ or ‘you’re not fat, you’re beautiful’ are just another way of saying that fat is gross. It’s fine to be fat. Fat people can be beautiful, happy, successful and all manner of great things. It’s not an affliction. It’s not a bad word. Some folk are are fat. Say it.

You keep making me ill…

Body Positivity has crept into the public conversation. On the surface it seems body diversity is gaining ground. We see larger models in ad campaigns. The high street is beginning to pay a little more attention to fat customers. Social Media is awash with bopo content. However, if you scratch the surface virulent fat phobia still thrives. Any progress is good, but the dangerous aspects of weight stigma remains strong. Medical bias against fat bodies wreaks havoc. As a chronically ill fat woman I frequently face this issue. In ten years of battling illness and the medical community, I have seen little improvement.

When I began having health issues, I accepted the consensus that was fat was bad and thin was good. I was in the process of some seriously unhealthy dieting when I initially experienced quite serious gastric pain. There were other symptoms, vomiting & difficulty eating, but pain was the standout. I progressed from short bursts to hour long stints of excruciating pain. My GP said it was most likely indigestion and/or heart burn. They could be surprisingly painful, I was told. Change my diet, lose some weight and things will improve. I tightened up my already drastic diet and continued to lose weight. My symptoms did not improve. In fact, they worsened. I began to have prolonged periods of pain. It would last for days at a time, leaving me unable to eat or move or sleep. It felt torturous. By this time, I was being sent to A&E by my GP and attending myself when the pain become unbearable. Drs continued to tell me it was heartburn/indigestion. They all said the same thing, change your diet and lose weight. I was prescribed omeprazole but had no investigation. No one listened when I told then I was hardly eating. No one cared that I was losing lots of weight. All the DR’s were dismissive of my pain. Most were patronising. Some were hostile. No one helped. This continued for over a year. On my penultimate visit to A&E I was in so much pain I could barely talk. I had thrown up so much that I was only bringing up bile & blood. I saw a deeply unpleasant man who vacillated between me being an hysterical woman and being convinced I was an addict seeking drugs. He gave me a cup of peptac (which I promptly threw up) and sent me home. I felt utterly beaten that night. I knew something was very wrong.There was no way I could feel this bad and there not be problem. But no one would listen. I was tired of being judged and looked down upon. I went home and cried.

Luckily, my mum visited me a few hours later. She was shocked when she saw the state I was in and insisted we return to A&E. With someone fighting (& I do mean fighting) fit to advocate for me I was finally taken seriously. A Dr finally ordered the simple blood test that would diagnose me with pancreatitis. By the time those bloods results came back my body had gone into shock. Had I not returned to the hospital that night I would have likely died. I spent 7 days in HDU. I was catheterised. Fed only fluids via drip and given a morphine pump. I don’t even recall that first week in hospital.

Afterwards I discovered that although I didn’t fit the usual profile for pancreatitis (often older men, big meat eaters, heavy drinkers), I did have classic symptoms. The pain I had been describing was textbook. The onset and progression of symptoms was exactly what was to be expected of pancreatitis. Had someone taken a minute to listen to me I could have been diagnosed on my first trip to A&E. I really believe if I hadn’t been a fat woman, that’s probably what would have happened.

I had several more bouts of pancreatitis and a number of gallbladder issues were diagnosed in the subsequent months. Ironically, I was to discover that my weight was not the problem. The most likely culprit was spending my 20’s yo-yo dieting. The fad dieting & resultant weight loss that Dr’s had always encouraged made me ill.

Almost dying because medical professionals wouldn’t look past the size of my belly wasn’t horror enough, I have also since been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. A condition I did not suffer from before all the trouble with my pancreas. Pain specialists have told me that the physical and emotional trauma of such a prolonged period of undiagnosed severe illness is likely to have caused the fibro. So, I not only had to suffer multiple times with acute pancreatitis, I will now deal with chronic pain for the rest of my life. I wonder how different my story would if I were a size 10.

Near death experiences aside, almost every medical interaction I have involves some discussion about my weight. With multiple chronic conditions I am a complicated case. Every new symptom no matter how unconnected involves answering questions and listening to lectures about how fat I am. I must push for investigations & interventions because the first advice is always ‘lose weight’. Often, I must identify possible problems via my own research. You would be shocked at the number of times professionals have dismissed my concerns only for my theory to be confirmed when they finally do the necessary tests. I have my cholesterol, blood sugar and pressure tested an inordinate number of times and am usually met with shock that they all measure within ideal levels. When I tell medical professionals that I do not wish to discuss weight loss, my request is usually ignored. Explaining that I endured years of disordered eating and misery related to trying to reduce my size has no impact. My mental wellbeing seems entirely unimportant. Even when I am brutally honest about the fact the I used to starve myself, purge & use appetite suppressants Dr’s still advise diet plans. When my eating was at its most disordered, I was never dangerously thin. So, I was never considered at risk. The sizest attitude towards eating disorders is a whole safety issue in itself. For the record I am vegan with digestive issues that limit my diet. It would be difficult for me substantially change what I eat even if I was inclined to. All this falls on deaf ears. Weight loss remains a priority for almost every Dr I see. When I have stomach flares and lose weight because I can’t eat, I am congratulated. When I am in hospital unable to stop vomiting nurses will joke, they wish they couldn’t eat for a while. It is relentless and exhausting.

*

It really doesn’t have to be this way. Fat does not necessarily mean unhealthy. Even for those who would benefit from lifestyle changes will not be motivated by harsh judgement. The impact on mental health of all this fat shaming is enormous. We know that diets do not work. Most people regain all the weight they lose and more within a year. We also know that yo-yo dieting damages our bodies. Medical weight stigma makes people less inclined to seek medical advice. If you know you will be shamed and belittled and ultimately get no help anyway, you stop asking. This bias against fat patients is dangerous on so many levels. It’s a risk to our mental health, to our physical wellbeing and to our very lives.

* health-and-the-fat-girl.tumblr.com

Now everything’s cool as long as we’re getting thinner…

I had thought that the world being turned upside down might put a dent in diet culture. It seemed that having a real and very serious health issue to contend with would get our collective perspective in order. Turns out that was naive.

If anything, it’s worse. The fat phobia has amplified. It’s coming from new & unexpected directions along with all the regular ones. It’s demoralising to realise how quickly all those supposed body positive allies throw the fatties under the bus. People I respected didn’t take long to start posting the weight gain jokes. Support for my own & other fat activist’s work has begun to feel like a part of a cultivated image. One that cracks under any pressure at all.

When you joke about the horror of gaining weight in public forums it isn’t harmless. Not only does it perpetuate stigma towards fat bodies; you’re also telling fat people what you really think of them. If you like your smaller body I’m delighted for you. Enjoy it. However, if your only response to inhabiting a slightly larger form is mockery or revulsion, you are not a Bopo ally.

This applies even more in the current crisis. During a deadly pandemic that grinds entire countries to a halt there are many things to fear. If top of your list is weight gain you might want to reassess your priorities. I am the after picture in those hilarious memes. Looking like me is not the worst thing that corona virus could do to you.

Barber before & after quarantine meme

When I’m not disappointed by folk I expected better from I am bombarded by the diet industry. The weight loss world has never missed an exploitation opportunity. Diet plans & work out programme ads have multiplied. Disreputable influencers can’t wait to wring some cash of out skinny whatever collaborations. Millionaire celebs holed up in mansions are giving us food plans to guard against stress eating. Meanwhile regular people struggle to cope isolation, lost income & fear of critical illness. The focus on the waist line is gross.

I’ve saved the worst for last. The truly terrifying part; medical discrimination. In the wake of covid 19 fat has been pathologised to an even greater extent. BMI has been incorrectly identified as a risk factor for both contracting the virus & suffering more severe symptoms. Weight has been used as a disqualifying factor when resources are scarce. In other words, fat people have been deemed dispensable. I know we’re not alone. Other marginalised groups (some I also belong to) have been marked cannon fodder too. I am ready to fight for the rights of all those people. It’s startling how many members of those groups do not reciprocate my solidarity.

If you’re thinking the jokes & fears have nothing to do with the medical discrimination, you’re wrong. By partaking in the toxic diet conversation you help create a society that considers fat bodies to be less worthy. We live in a world that permits Drs to ignore research on weight & its implications. We accept inaccuracies & damaging advice because the majority still believe that fat is bad. Fat phobia is profitable and fat people are paying the ultimate price.

Black & white photo of plus sized women in knickers holding her breasts

Things that make me go…eeewww

Sometimes the world is bustling with things you love. Other, it keeps thrusting annoyance in one’s path. My current sphere is veering towards the latter.

The hype around the new Ivy Park x Adidas was as big any Beyoncé project gathers. The sizing was more than a little disappointing. It’s frustrating to see someone who gains much aplomb for her nods to body diversity fall down when it comes to her own product lines. Fat folk were, yet again, an afterthought. With small fats squeezing into a later release & everyone else ignored; only girls of a certain size run Bey’s world.

Khloe Kardashian tweet promoting flat tommy shakes

Sticking with the celebrity field (if slightly less A list) is the continued promotion of weight loss crap. Khloe Kardashian springs to mind as a repeat offender. Despite having more money than anyone could ever need, she’s still punting flat tummy shakes to her fans. A huge portion of which are young women & girls. Shame also spreads to homegrown reality celebs. With Lauren Goodger & others agreeing to promote a product containing the fatal ingredient, cyanide. She was caught on camera saying you didn’t have to actually use the products to promote them. None of the influencers involved in the BBC reportage recognised or checked how dangerous the ingredient was. Again, much of base they ‘influence’ are young people. It’s gross that people with a platform are happy to push products that are damaging to mind & body. The greed really does make me go eeeww.

In a less contentious space is the return of some fashion horrors from my youth. Foremost of my objections are hairbands. I really cannot stand those big, thick padded head bands. They conjour two unpleasant 80’s associations; sloanes & teacher’s pet. Both of whom proudly wore those clunky accessories. I’m sorry, they are just not cool.

Black diamanté hair band & red pearl hair band

It will come as no surprise to you that I’m not enjoying current wave of internalised misogyny. Almost nothing is more stomach churning that women shitting on other women. I am aware this is far from a new phenomena, but the relish with which its whipping around it vile. As my more progressive sisters advance an intersectional agenda the less enlightened are pushing back. They’re fighting with mean attacks on real issues like period poverty and trans rights. When I see a privileged woman deploying an I had to suffer once so you can too argument, it makes me nauseous. Turn it up to the full on bigotry of transphobia & I’m boaking. Rich white women need to do better. Much, much better.

Next on the fashion nope radar is another relic from my past. The return of chunky 90’s footwear is not pleasing. I hated spice girl trainers & rubber block heels when I was 15. My opinion has not changed. I loved so much of the 90’s, but these heavy hunks are not amongst them.

And I can’t help loving myself…

Let’s start the year with my annual reminder, shall we? As we head into peak ‘new year, new you’ territory let me assure you that weight loss is not self care or improvement. Decreasing your size will not decrease your problems. Changing your diet will not change your life. You do not have to atone for any Xmas indulgence. Punishing yourself with a diet that won’t work anyway will achieve nothing. Even if you don’t believe that diet culture is harmful to you, believe me when I say it is damaging to the fat people in your life. Every time you talk in disgusted tones about how fat you are you tell us what you really think of our bodies. Trust me, we’re sick of hearing it. This is my body and it is good enough exactly as it is. I am fat and attractive and happy. Whether you agree with me or not doesn’t matter. I’m so much more than flesh & skin anyway. It’s sad & frustrating that people still need to be reminded of this.

Snapshots of a fat body

Easy ways to support your fat friends…

I think most people want to be loving & supportive of their friends. Whenever I discuss body positivity (online or in person) most decent straight sized people are mostly in favour of the theory. I’m often congratulated & told it is important to spread the message. I suspect these people would consider themselves supportive of their fat friends.

Whilst I agree that they are well intentioned & aim to be supportive I still hear the same complaints from the fat friends over & over. It can be really hard to address these face to face. So, here is a handy to guide to help thin folk support the fat people in their life. I’m starting with the basics; 5 easy steps that anyone can manage.

Don’t tell me you feel fat.

Fat is not a feeling. When you describe your feelings of inadequacy or unattractiveness as ‘feeling fat’, your opinions on fat are very clear. In addition please don’t complain about how fat you are when you are half my size. What I hear is that you think I am repulsive.

Don’t include me in your diet talk

Diets don’t work. That is scientific fact. Studies show time & again that almost every diet actually results in long term weight gain. I believe that diet talk is toxic. I can’t tell you what to do with your body, but please don’t involve me in it. I don’t want to know how many calories are in my or your meal. Keep your weight goals to yourself. Food has no moral value, you’re not being good when you order a salad. You can follow whatever regime you please without telling me about it.

Don’t expect me to always be ok with trawling around shops that don’t carry my size.

I can’t tell you how many shopping trips I have been on where there was no chance of me buying anything. I’m not even sure that most straight sized people are even aware of this. I’m not saying I’ll never help you pick out a new frock, but please try to be aware that it isn’t all that much fun for me. There are limits to how much time I want to spend sitting in waiting rooms holding your coat.

Don’t laugh at/make fat jokes.

Whether it’s a character in a film or a disparaging comment about that bitch you hate at work when you include their weight it stings. When you find Thor in a fat suit hilarious you’re laughing at my actual body. If you can’t criticise Trump without mentioning his weight you are telling me that him being fat is part of what you dislike about him.

Don’t comment on weight loss/gain

The aim of my body positivity is reach a point where body size is neutral. I would dearly love for my bulk or lack there of to just not matter. With that in mind, please don’t comment on my weight fluctuations. Weight loss is not inherently good. Any changes may be unintentional. They may not even be benign. The size of my person requires no discussion. In the same vein don’t expect me to congratulate or castigate anyone else’s weight change.

I know some readers will be thinking this is all very demanding. No doubt the, we can’t say anything anymore mob, will have lots to say about my suggestions. Remember, though, they are only suggestions. No one can stop you from saying anything you feel you must. I’m simply letting you know that when you do, it hurts. It comes down to respect. The choice is yours.

She’s a very kinky girl…

Every now and then I come across a phrase or slogan that perfectly encapsulates an element of my daily experience. Whenever I do I kind of want to wear it emblazoned on my chest. So, this time I did.

Fat women wearing t shirt saying my kink is being called fat by men I reject online

T – Shirt – Custom slogan by Paper Press Ireland.

The reaction to this T- Shirt sums up how common this behaviour is. Several woman enthusiastically complimented it. More men gave me looks. The only man to comment advised me that I was attractive, but I would intimidate men by wearing such a thing. I laughed as I told him I wasn’t looking for man & would never be interested in one who felt intimidated by honesty. I suppose it underlines what I already knew, masculinity is oh so fragile.

In case the meaning is lost, I’ll spell it out. I’m fat. I’m also fucking incredible. I was fat when you sleazed on me. I was fat when I turned you down. I was fat when you tried to insult me & I’m still fat when I mock you. I’m not ashamed. I’m not desperate. I’m not waiting for your approval. Oh & I’m not alone. Fat femmes are not seeking random male approval. We know our worth. We want none of your sub standard attention. In short, don’t poke the magnificent bear.

Ly making silly face

Feelin’ good as hell…

Global warming has given us another insane heatwave. It’s hard to keep cool in this weather. If you are concerned about what others may say about any flesh you reveal, it’s even harder. So, I thought I’d cover some old ground just in case any new readers need some tips. Here’s my guide to getting comfortable with your body.

Look at yourself.

I think the first step is looking at yourself. Really look. Stop avoiding mirrors and rushing to get dressed after a showers. Get comfortable naked. And in your underwear. And different types of clothes. Touch yourself, not the way (well, that way if you want). When it comes to your body familiarity does not breed contempt. Getting to know your body leads to acceptance, which is the first step to self love. You’ll be surprised how quickly you learn to enjoy your jiggle.

Various images of body parts

Take pictures.

Photograph yourself every chance you get. Selfies, nights out, big events, pictures of your feet, anything. Get used to looking at yourself living your life. I used to duck out of pictures because I hated the way I looked in them. Forcing myself to be present in those pictures plus taking hundreds of myself is the only thing that let me see the truth. I didn’t like the things society had taught me not to like. I hated my rounder face, flabby arms & chunky calves because I thought I had to be something else to be worthy. Once I started appreciating those pictures for what they were; a record of living, I could enjoy them. The more I looked at images of myself and others the more I could see that everyone had those terrible unflattering shots where they look nothing like themselves. Everyone had those snaps that amplify their perceived flaw. Everyone has those pictures in which we miraculously look like a model version of ourselves. None of it matters. What matters is having the memory of that time & place. Capturing that moment of you living your life. Seeing myself living & loving in those pictures showed me that my body was absolutely good enough. Your body is just the vehicle that allows you experience the world. What you look like at any given time matters much less than what you’re feeling & seeing & loving.

Happy fat snap shots

Positive consumption.

Surround yourself with things that make you feel good. Change your reading, watching & following habits. Ditch investing in anything that is focused on diet culture & traditional beauty standards. Discovering the Body Positive blogging community changed my life. For the first time I was seeing fat people who liked themselves. People with bodies similar to mine proudly taking up space & looking amazing. When you submerse yourself in spaces that reject fat phobia you begin to feel differently about yourself. To begin with I was in awe of those plus bloggers. I thought I could never have their confidence or be so beautiful. As I learned more about bopo and started unlearning all I previously been taught about my body, I had a revelation. If these fat women I was admiring were stunning, sexy & elegant then I could be too. If I see beauty in other fat bodies then what I despise about myself is not my wobbly belly. Click unfollow on anything that makes you feel not good enough. Replace that stuff with content that embraces diversity and honours people who look like you.

Start doing

Make a list of all of the things you want to do but feel you can’t because you are fat. Not just wild ambitions, everything. Do you worry about eating crisps on the bus? Think you shouldn’t wear a short skirt or even shy away from getting on top with your lovers? Put it all on the list and then start doing them. Start living your life. Pick the easiest ones first. Trust me, your confidence will grow. There will always be someone who does not like you loving your fat self. There will sometimes be looks or comments. You will stop feeling crushed by them. When you realise how much you gain from accepting your body as it is and experiencing your life to the max, someone saying you’re fat no longer matters. Losing weight will not make you happier. All you problems shrink to fit into your smaller body. You can live now.Fat woman living

Stay tuned for my advice on avoiding all the discomforts summer can bestow on is chubs.

9 things I liked in June…

I’m doing a spot of enforced positive thinking & hoping it bears fruit. Join in me in focusing on the pleasant and crossing my fingers that the good feelings grow.

1. I don’t have much call for work out wear, but I did love that plus size Nike mannequin. Fat folk can & do live full lives. I love it when brands get behind us wearing whatever the hell we want. It’s also satisfying to watch people tying themselves in knots trying to excuse their fat phobia.

Plus size Nike mannequin

2. I’ve been planning a self love/sexy gallery wall in my bedroom for so long and this month I finally executed it. It makes me happy to lie in bed and look at my kinky Shakespeare.

Framed art on red wall

3. I’ve been out of the dating pool for quite a while. My initial dips back in were disappointing & a tad stressful. I didn’t feel all that hopeful about finding the sort of chilled out experience I was after. Colour me surprised to have spent June having a relaxed & super fun time with someone lovely.

4. In the grand scheme of things this may be on the trivial side, but I like it as a symbol. The Trump administration banned embassies from flying the rainbow flag for Pride month. Lots of embassy staff around the world found other ways to show their solidarity. Possibly the best example being the embassy in New Delhi, who lit up the entire building. In the face of this appalling government it is heartening that people are taking steps to visibly resist.

New Delhi embassy lit in rainbow colours

5. While we’re on the subject my nails have all been rainbow themed this month & carrying Pride around with me has been very pleasing.

Pride nail art

6. I am a late adopter and probably about twenty years too old, but I have fallen in love with Lewis Capaldi this month. His songs are beautiful and his insta stories are bloody funny. If you are the one person left on the planet who hasn’t heard of him, fix that.

Lewis Capaldi

7. My amazing muffin made me incredibly proud this month when she won 2 bronze medals at her first Jui Jitsu state championships. My girl is so talented & her accomplishments make me so happy.

8. It’s hard not to smile when you know you’re wearing the cutest knickers. Wilde Mode happy pussy pants have been a simple pleasure this month.

9. June was the month that finally brought the new series of Killing Eve. It’s been driving me crazy that our American friends got to enjoy Villanelle’s antics whilst I languished murderless. All I can say is, it was worth the wait. Sandra Oh is a goddess.

10 things I liked about September…

1. My BFF’s baby turned 1 year old. I’m still not sure I completely believe it. It feels like it’s been a whisper of time since we welcomed her into world. Her first birthday party was as delightful as she is. I am excited to watch her grow. I’m also beyond thrilled to my bestie so utterly happy.

1st birthday balloons

2. The leaves are doing their magical autumn thing & turning all the beautiful burnished tones. I love this season. I love trees. I love when Mother Nature starts doing her thing.

Autumn leave

3. As the nights turn chilly the tv heats up. This year the bar has been set high. The Bodyguard & Killing Eve smashed it. Upping the game for proper must see tv. The return of No Offence has filled the Joanne Scanlon sized whole in my life. With Line of Duty on the way back soon I may never leave the house again. What do they all have in common, incredible intelligent female leads. It is fucking lovely to see so many strong fully formed parts for women. Oh & a good Glaswegian showing too.

Epic tv

4. My big brother also had significant birthday this year. I can’t say I’m that happy that he’s turned 40 because it means it’s proper looming for me. I am however delighted that he threw such a good party.

Kerr kids
Before we all got old.

5. Tess Holliday rocking the cover of Cosmopolitan. Here’s the thing, I’m not actually a massive Tess fan & I’m definitely not a Cosmo fan at all, but I still love her cover. It’s progress. The photograph was a joyful declaration that fat women aren’t going anywhere. We exist, we are accomplished, beautiful, strong, diverse & we deserve representation. Also, Piers Morgan still has his knickers in a twist about. Upsetting Piers is always a plus (see what I did there???).

6. The nights may be drawing in, but they’re doing it in style. The last few weeks have produced some stunning sunsets. I was lucky enough to capture this beauty.

7. Then there was that day that I woke up with a bloody gorgeous arse. A very different view, but no less impressive.

8. I suspect I’m late to the party again with this one. Better late than never though. I only recently discovered Cigarettes After Sex and have fallen completely in love. Their music is ethereal, sensual & poignant in equal measures. Do yourself a favour & add them to your playlist.

9. September 18 will go down in history as the month that I finally mastered the glittery smokey eye. It took almost 4 decades, but just look at this magnificent artistry.

20. Which brings me nearly to my final entry; my birthday. On Saturday I will turn 38. Yup, that’s scary. I plan to celebrate the hell out of it anyway. Stay tuned for birthday hi jinx.