How I Made Peace With My Plus Sized Body in The War Against Obesity
by Clara Rose · 11 Aug 2021 · 10 min read
I am a plus sized woman living in a world where every narrative seems to tell me I am unhealthy, lazy, ugly and not worthy. I do not live up to the beauty standard to which we are all held. For years I have hated my body, tried to change it and failed, tried and succeeded, only to fail again. I’ve tried to force my body to be something society wouldn’t frown upon. And my mental health has suffered greatly as a result. But finally in my forties I am beginning to make peace with my plus sized body.
We live in a world that sees weight loss as one of the ultimate successes.
I know I am far from alone in my insecurities and self loathing. But despite that it can feel like a very lonely place to be. We live in a world where diet culture is so ingrained in us that we see the bright side of a serious illness as losing weight. We celebrate weight loss and hold it up to be the single biggest achievement we can make. Even for the likes of Adele. Her album 21, is the best selling album of the 21st century worldwide. She has won 2 Ivor Novello awards, 15 Grammy’s and 9 Brit awards. And that’s only scratching the surface. Yet in recent years her weight loss is celebrated as her biggest success.
We spend a fortune trying to reach impossible standards.
The diet industry is worth an estimated £2 billion a year. And that’s without the fashion and beauty industries that portray a standard of beauty realistically unattainable for 99% of the population. Let’s be honest, the use of airbrushing and filters mean that most of the models don’t even look like their billboard image in real life.
We live in a world where fat people are told there is a war against their body that needs to be fought. They are told they are part of a crisis. And we are all measured against an outdated BMI scale not fit for purpose, and without any consideration of our lifestyle or mental health.
How do you make peace with your plus sized body?
Whether you are a size 6 or a size 26, we need to be inclusive. We need to recognise women for their worth, not their dress size. But where do you start with making peace with your body? How do you begin to unlearn everything society has taught you and feel worthy again?
These are steps that I believe we all have a responsibility to take regardless of a dress size, for a kinder and more compassionate world.
1 Ditch the scales.
The best thing you can do for your mental health is to throw away your bathroom scales. You don’t need to know how much you weigh. We’ve all been in that vicious cycle where the scales don’t reflect how much we have deprived ourselves from enjoying food. We’ve all felt low after standing on them. And we’ve all let the number on the scales dictate our mood and how we feel about ourselves. Even when that number goes down, it’s never enough. We’re still not good enough.
Ditch the scales and feel free. Learn to see yourself as more than a number. Measure your success by anything other than your body. Don’t let a number determine your self worth or happiness.
2 Fill your feed with love.
Forget “thinspiration”, fill your social media with a variety of bodies, including ones that look like yours. Follow people who show you how you can find self love. You are not going to open a magazine and see a range of bodies being celebrated. You won’t watch a movie with a plus sized lead, unless they are the butt of most jokes. The media does not show us the beautiful and diverse range of bodies that exist in the real world, so show yourself and make sure you are seeing people that look like you when you are scrolling through insta. Because you will come away so much happier and begin to accept your body more. Stop comparing and start celebrating.
3 Thank your body, don’t punish it.
Stop looking in the mirror and telling yourself “I look hideous”. You would never say it to a friend, so don’t say it to yourself. Ignore the parts you don’t like and focus on the parts you do. Even if it’s just your eyes, it’s a starting point.
Be grateful for what your amazing body does for you day in and day out, and stop punishing it. Exercise because it’s a joy and a privilege to be able to move your body and does wonders for your mental health. Exercise should never be a punishment for eating cake.
You need to hear this loud and clear. Diets don’t work. If they did it wouldn’t be the multibillion pound industry that it is. They just feed our insecurities and create dangerous habits such as disordered eating. Google it if you don’t believe me. Doctors, scientists and nutritionists will tell you. Unless of course they are pedalling a diet which will line their topics, then you have to wonder is it really in your best interest that you go on their diet?
We need to stop labelling food as good and bad and recognise that our bodies need nourishment. Somedays that may be a leafy salad, other days it might be a slab of chocolate cake. Both are ok. Food should always make us feel good and be something we enjoy.
Saying goodbye to diet culture also means not clicking on those best beach body articles, it means not asking people if they’ve lost weight. It means not talking about calories. It means re-educating yourself and changing your entire relationship with food to a much healthier and less complicated one.
5 Understand HAES.
Let’s look at two individuals. Person one doesn’t really have time to workout. She likes a glass of wine with her evening meal, and gets takeout at least twice a week, and rarely cooks from scratch. Person two works out for 40 minutes a day 5 times a week. She doesn’t drink alcohol. She cooks the majority of meals from scratch and has a takeaway once a month. Society tells us that person two lives a ‘healthier’ lifestyle. But what if I told you person one was a size 10, and person two was a size twenty?
We live in a world that assumes people who are overweight are lazy and unhealthy. We live in a world where people who are overweight actively avoid going to the doctors because most of them have experienced weight stigma by health professionals who attribute every symptom to weight.
HAES stands for Health At Every Size and it is recognizing that fat does not mean unhealthy. “Health at Every Size® principles help us advance social justice, create an inclusive and respectful community, and support people of all sizes in finding compassionate ways to take care of themselves.”
6 Accept changes.
Have you ever looked back at old pictures of yourself and thought “I wish I looked like that now”. But looking the same as we did in our twenties, when we are in our forties isn’t realistic. Our bodies change. Some change when they have babies, most change when we hit a certain age and things begin to droop! And we fight it like it’s some terrible thing that’s happening to us. We should be embracing the changes because getting older is a privilege not everyone gets to experience.
7 Fight fat phobia.
We fight against descrimination. And rightly so. We fight against racial dicrimination, against gender discrimination. We stand up for LGBTQ rights, we fight against poverty. We fight against ableism, and we have lawyers like Leinart Law Firm fighting in our corner. And we should always continue to do those things. But we also need to take a stand against fat phobia. Existing in your body without prejudice should be a basic human right.
We are all human beings and deserve to be treated as such. We should be able to walk down the street with abuse being shouted at us. We should be able to walk into a shop and buy clothes that fit us. We should be able to get medical advice without discrimation. We should be able to live in a world where people aren't claiming a war against our bodies. Everybody should be recognising fat phobia and weight stigma and calling it out when they see it.
8 Embrace Body Positivity and Self Love.
Body positivity is a movement that empowers people to embrace their bodies whatever their shape and challenge society on what is normal or beautiful. Body positivity can often be blurred with self love. Self love is for everyone, but body positivity is for those with a body that has been marginalised or discriminated against.
Self love is hugely important, and not at all easy. It doesn’t come overnight, and it’s a continual journey with good days and bad days. But it’s about recognising our worth, and celebrating who we are.
Body positivity is a chance to be heard. A chance to challenge everything that society tells us is wrong with us, and a chance to change culture.
Learning more about both of these movements and following all the tips above will help you get to a place where you feel more comfortable in your own body and make peace with it. You may even learn to love it.
We all deserve to be happy and to be treated the same whatever our body looks like.
As a wise woman once said, “Your body is the least interesting thing about you.” Maybe it’s time to focus on the more interesting parts of you.