Feeling good about your body isn’t always easy when you are overweight. While some people are “reclaiming” the word “fat” as a positive thing -three of them are featured in the video, below – Mellisa says she recognises that the word applies to her, and wishes it didn’t. When I stand up to do a presentation at work, I’m all too aware that people see my size first, not me. Quite literally, I am the elephant in the room. I always start my talk by saying: “You know, my job is so stressful – when I started about a week ago I was a size 12 and look at me now!”
Why do I do that? Why do I self-deprecate? Why do I feel I have to acknowledge it in such a way for us all to move on? Because I am a solid, fat woman. I can own that word – “fat”. I won’t dress it up and say I have an “hourglass” figure. I am fat, there’s no getting away from it. I’d describe myself as a series of quite large blobs and boxes. I don’t think there’s a single part of me, apart from my wrists, that is small. My face is just a big circle. My 46F boobs keep my stomach warm – actually I have several stomachs. I have stretch marks and mottled skin Society has its own sort of perception of people like me – we are disgusting, fat, slothful, lazy, incompetent, stupid.
By being so visible and taking up so much room, in a strange way I am also quite invisible. People kind of clock you and their eyes slide off you. I feel bullied, slighted and ridiculed. Although some people assume I am body-positive, and applaud for me for this, I can’t help but feel full of loathing and hurt that my fat won’t shift. Claiming the word “fat” isn’t easy, but I feel it’s the only way I can describe what I am. I wonder if some of the things I do are to justify my place in the world. There’s the charitable stuff and my good behaviour. I wear the “good manager”, “good friend”, and “good daughter” hats as best I can. I’m lucky in a way because I am the stereotypical fat woman – funny, independent, I have lots of friends. As a black woman it is more acceptable to be big. I get why people look at me and think: “Mellisa, how could you be that fat?”
The answer is simple – a lack of control, a lack of confidence and of love for myself. If I really think about it, I can’t really value myself if I allowed it to get to this point. My friend says I don’t stint on myself. My kitchen cupboards are filled with good quality items. My shelves are crammed with my pickling jars – filled with interesting vegetables. I have so many bottles of classy Champagne, condiments and spices. If I was slimmer, I could easily be labelled as a food connoisseur because it’s a passion of mine. But then there’s the anxiety I have of running out, which means my office has become a storeroom for more supplies. My desk space has been replaced by shelves of beer, wine, cider, porridge, snack bars, crisps, condiments and a second freezer. It’s shameful. I suppose I’m a hoarder. Sometimes when I’m in the supermarket I glance down and think:
“I don’t know who else I’m buying all this food for.” I have to remind myself I’m not shopping for a family of four and it’s only me. It’s kind of sad that I’m comforted by food rather than other elements in the world. It’s quite lonely to have such an odd relationship with food. I spend probably on average two to three hours every day in the car because of my commute. I sit in the car, get out and then sit in my office all day. I really would hate to think about how many steps I actually do take every day, because I imagine it’s probably less than 100. The eating combined with my osteoarthritis and other disabilities doesn’t help – the additional weight on the joints isn’t a positive impact. The phrase I’ve heard other people use is: “I’m digging my grave with my spoon.” I did swim, but don’t any more. I was smaller once, really quite thin actually.
I think there was a period when I was in my teens, where I had quite a combative relationship around eating. Mum didn’t want me and my two sisters to ever be as big as she was. I think it’s almost become a self-perpetuating prophecy. “Just lose weight.” I hear that all the time from family, friends, colleagues, doctors… It’s not rocket science – I know that. Less calories in, more calories out, but that means effort, doesn’t it? It means having to motivate myself and persevere. There are times when I feel that I can do that and times when I can’t. I have to be honest, I can’t be bothered. Why can’t I just be accepted for who I am? People are constantly judging me. I think it’s fear. They project their fears upon me because I am a reflection of something that they could become. They tell themselves that they’ve got control, they’re sensible, intelligent and no way would they ever get to my size. But let me tell you, I was you once and you could be me. Sometimes I do get that big is beautiful. At those times I look in the mirror and think I look great.
My weight can also be my strength. I can walk into a room and feel strong, so when someone says something mean it bounces off me. I’m impervious to it. Some days I use my fat as armour, and other days it’s like a shroud. My world is filled with contradictions, but I blame no-one else. The only person I can hold responsible for my position is me. However, I refuse to accept the size I am. This is not who I was meant to be. If I accept it then I’m telling myself that I’ve given up and I don’t want to give up. I’m not looking for sympathy. Just being able to tell people how being fat honestly feels for me is a fabulous opportunity to kick me into doing something about it. I’m formulating a plan, which I’m figuring out quietly. I think being a size 14 or 16 would be enough for me. I don’t want to be normal because normal is boring. I just want to be the best of myself. Why shouldn’t I?