Three letters, one syllable, and somehow one of the most powerful utterances in the modern English vernacular. The word is mostly spoken with venom. It is an insult--the worst insult--for many. I was ten years old when the worst was first assigned to me and I can remember looking in the mirror as if I was seeing myself for the first time, examining every pound of excessive flesh as it rested in pockets across my body. When I was very young, about four or five, I can remember pressing my face to the mirror and asking, "Mommy, is that what I really look like?" I'm not sure what prompted the question, but I'd always kind of hoped that the person who stared back at me was not the face that represented me. After I was given the word fat, that feeling became a kind of obsession. In my mind, I wasn't fat or thin or anything other than just me.
I spent a figurative eternity trying not to take it personally whenever the word was spoken or written in any context. I lived in fear that someone would refer to me as the fat friend, the chubby kid, the heavy girl, the big one. Anyone around me referring to anyone or anything as that word forced me to examine myself and compare (something fat girls everywhere are cursed with forever) for size.
So what changed? I, unfortunately, went through my whole adolescence and young adulthood before I took the power away from the word. I went through years of therapy, several different medications, and diagnoses, but nothing helped me like taking the word back and owning it. Once I become a fat girl, I got a glimpse into what my life would be like once I let go of the idea that I needed a certain way to be confident. I found fat girl clothes that helped accentuate the waves of my body instead of squeeze and contort it into smaller shapes it simply didn't want to abide by. I found fat girl role models, made fat girl friends, surrounded myself with fierce fat girl rhetoric, and taught myself to stop cringing when I heard someone say the word. My reflection physically looked different when I finally let go of that self-perception, though I hadn't lost a single pound. I was 23 years old when I bought my first bikini, which I still have and sometimes still wear. The elastic is all worn out by now, but I still feel as beautiful in it as the first day I tried it on in the fitting room, Snapchatting triumphant pictures of myself to my best friends.
While I do feel that the world has come to better accept the full figured human, I find myself at a similar starting point in the vegan community. Just the other day in a vegan discussion group, a member joked that the moderator should order mostly smaller T-shirts, since...
Okay, so while it's true that I'm the anomaly for being a fat vegan, I'm clearly not the only one. There is a very big misconception that all vegans are thin and often nutrient deprived, but ask any vegan and they'll tell you the following:
- We get all the protein we could ever need, thank you very much
- There are good ways to be a vegan and there are bad ways to be a vegan
- Vegan food is flippin' delicious
- Ben & Jerry's has vegan ice cream now so...........case closed.
"Fat vegan" is considered a bit of an oxymoron, and yet here I am. Double chinned, thunder thighed, and plant-based--defying all social norms by existing and being (at least somewhat) happy about that. There are those who would suggest that any message I may attempt to put forth in my subsequent posts about the many benefits of adopting a vegan lifestyle will be drowned out by my contradictory appearance (aka my fat). To those folks--I can think of another "F word" for you. For everyone else, I hope I've offered some insight into why I've chosen to label myself with such a typically negative term. It's simply my belief that being fat doesn't have to be such a bad thing.