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I’m Done Treating the Word ‘Fat’ Like an Insult

Courtesy of author

By Marie Southard Ospina


Fat. This word makes it onto my Instagram feed and into my offline life daily. Fat. I often hear it from other people when I put my 280-pound body in a crop top, short shorts, or—heaven forbid, depending on whom you ask—a bikini. Fat. I’m reminded of this term every time I think about my friend’s now ex-boyfriend, who liked to ask me how many Big Macs I’d eaten lately.

I’ve long been told my body—rolls, cellulite, back boobs, visible stomach outline, and all—is cause for legitimate offense. But what if it didn’t have to be that way?

Author Roxane Gay recently suggested that being fat isn’t a bad thing—or at least, it doesn’t have to be. “Fat is not an insult,” Gay tweeted on June 14, shortly after releasing her new memoir, Hunger. “It is a descriptor. And when you interpret it as an insult, you reveal yourself and what you fear most.” After receiving some backlash from Twitter users who’ve been bullied and belittled because of their size, Gay acknowledged that “fat” is often used as an insult—she’s simply “trying to reframe” the word for herself and her sanity.

This kind of reframing has the potential to change someone’s life for the better. It certainly helped mine.

Customized this @impishlee lingerie set at a time when my body was going through lots of changes. I chose blue velvet for the luxurious vibes (and because of the film), floral mesh for the vintage ones, and gold spandex to feel fat and queenly. It felt good to make something that felt very “me” in the moment. More on navigating the post baby bod as a plus size human if you follow the link in my bio ❤️ . . . . . . . #plussize #plussizefashion #plussizeblogger #psblogger #celebratemysize #alternativecurves #fatpos #fatacceptance #fatpositivity #newmom #postbabybody

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I wasn’t really aware of my fatness until people started pointing it out.

By 10 years old, my belly was big and soft, my double chin was the centerpiece of my school picture, and I’d been sized out of the Limited Too. Even then, I didn’t hate myself. My body wasn’t a problem to be fixed—it was just my body.

But soon enough, my body seemed to be everyone else’s problem. The kids at school were offended by how much space I took up. Nurses reminded me about the merits of exercising and playing outside. A hairstylist told me how pretty my face was—before poking my stomach and saying, “Now you just have to work on this.” Even the matriarchs in my family grew concerned. Daughters, nieces, and granddaughters were a kind of social currency—an achievement to show off. They couldn’t show me off if I was fat, though.

My fatness became a source of shame, because that’s how everyone seemed to interpret it.

I learned that, according to many, fat people aren’t really people. We’re beasts. And people often expect us to dedicate all our energy and time into releasing our (th)inner, better selves—the ones we must’ve eaten somewhere along the way. Before long, fat becomes synonymous with a whole slew of terms. Greedy. Desperate. Ugly. Lazy. Undisciplined. Self-loathing. Unintelligent. Naive. Gross. Unworthy. Unlovable. Unhealthy.

Unfortunately, these words are often the same ones that come to mind when fat people see themselves in the mirror. How could this not be the case when we’re bombarded with television programming like The Biggest Loser or (the “kid-friendly”) Too Fat for 15? How could this not be the case when so many fashion brands stop making clothing for women beyond a size 14—and when even some plus-size brands stop making clothing beyond a size 28 or 24 or 22? How could this not be the case when much of the world isn’t built for people who take up more space?

Finding plus size clothing that actually fits in with my aesthetic and simultaneously makes life easy when breastfeeding has been a challenge, to say the least. So far, strappy/tank top dresses have been my best ally. You can just slip off the tiny sleeves and go. This gold metallic piece by @pinkcloveuk is one of my favorites, predominantly because it’s so versatile. I can wear it as a sexy nightie, dress it up for an evening out with a sequined jacket, or dress it down with a jumper and some Wellington boots for a trip to the shop. And it’s shiny. So there’s that ?? . . . . . . . #plussizefashion #plussize #plussizemodel #plussizeblogger #psblogger #fatpositive #fatpos #fatty #bodypositive #bodypositivity #bopo #honormycurves #lovetheskinyourein #goldenconfidence #curvesreign #alternativecurves #celebratemysize #breastfeeding #newmom #fashionblogger #fashion #ootd

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It’s telling that even Gay, a New York Times best-selling author, can’t discuss her latest book without her visit being reduced to concerns about her size. Australian site Mamamia interviewed Gay for a podcast, and when the episode went live, its description included insulting questions like, “Will she fit into the office lift?” “How many steps will she have to take to get to the interview?” and “Is there a comfortable chair that will accommodate her six-foot-three, ‘super morbidly obese’ frame?”

It’s taken me years to feel worthy of basic humanity and respect, and reclaiming the word fat has been a monumental part of that.

I don’t know when the exact turning point was, and that’s probably because there wasn’t one. I’ve been fat on and off my entire life, but it’s taken time for me to learn that my size doesn’t have to be an insult or a barrier to happiness. The lie that life can only be truly lived in a thin body is ubiquitous, and there’s no doubt people will continue using the word fat with malicious intent. But the truth is, being thin doesn’t have to be a prerequisite for finding love, wearing a bikini, taking a vacation, or appreciating your body in its birthday suit.

When I realized all this, I started looking at my fat itself. There was a time when I would’ve been ashamed of jiggling. My body’s softness would’ve translated to failure. The curvature of my rolls would’ve seemed uncouth and unpleasant. But now, I see beauty. I see someone who deserves respect from both myself and those around me. I see fun and pleasure and warmth.

My body is fat. I am fat. These are not insults. They’re undeniable facts, and they don’t negate my worth.


This piece was originally published on

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GuestLauretta BasseyGloria AdamsDavid GutierrezAnna Recent comment authors
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You insult yourself every day you don’t do anything with that disgracefully mistreated body


Yes it does affect your worth. You put your baby risk just because you can’t control yourself,you gluttonous pig

David Gutierrez
David Gutierrez

“I wasn’t really aware of my fatness until people started pointing it out” Don’t listen to them

Gloria Adams
Gloria Adams

You are strong

Lauretta Bassey
Lauretta Bassey

Go girl

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