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You Can’t Stop This Fatty From Embracing Self-Love
By Ghia Vitale
I refuse to stop embracing self-love just because it makes others uncomfortable. Loving myself has changed my life so much, I won’t engage in self-hatred or self-loathing just because that’s what society thinks that’s how fat people like me should feel. Warning: This article talks about graphic self-harm ideation and actions I engaged in while I was struggling with an ED.
Recently, I read an amazing article called Fat People Deserve To Glorify Our Bodies by Sherronda J. Brown. By the time I was done reading this article, I felt like I had Lizzo’s famous “Juice” flowing through my veins. While I was enjoying this boost in confident thinking, I started thinking about the importance of self-love, especially for fat people and marginalized groups. (Note: I understand that self-love doesn’t isn’t the ultimate cause or end of the oppression faced by fat people and other marginalized communities.) I thought about how so many fat activists and myself get confronted by people who talk to us as though we should hate ourselves.
This big mood inspired me posting the following tweet:
“PSA: Fat people can love ourselves just as much as thin people can. Thinness isn’t a requisite for experiencing real self-love. I love my fat body and I won’t perform self-loathing for you because that’s how you think fat people should be. #sorrynotsorry #selflove #fatpositive”
Shortly afterwards, I was pleased to see that this tweet was making a splash. Because of this, I’ve decided to elaborate upon how, yes, fat people can truly love ourselves as much as people with thin bodies can.
If you haven’t heard already, I’m big on self-love. It started out with embracing the autosexual and autoromantic nature of my relationship with myself. (Being autosexual and autoromantic means I’m sexually and romantically attracted to myself.) Ever since I started exploring my relationship with myself further, my love for myself has deepened. It has also helped me discover different dimensions of my self-relationship that I didn’t know existed. This improved my quality of life.
For example, I used to hate my big pouch belly. When I was in the throes of my eating disorder, I used to fantasize about literally chopping my belly off of my body. Sometimes, I'd even cut my stomach because of how much I hated it. Now, I often look down at my big belly and think, “I love you.” I’ve even posted a picture of my fat belly on Instagram. I never thought I’d live to see the day where I actually liked my stomach. Being grateful for all that my stomach/belly does for me—from digesting my food to giving me "gut feelings"—has changed my perspective of it. Sure, there are days where I’m self-conscious about my belly, but those days have decreased in number and severity as I’ve started making the conscious effort to love myself, embrace body positivity, and learn more about fat liberation.
Sure, I can confidently say, “I love myself.” However, it’s obvious that many people out there don’t like it when I do that. They think I don’t deserve to love myself.
Recently, someone whom I thought respected me went on a drunken, fat-shaming rant to me. One of the things he said to me was, “You love yourself for the wrong reasons.” I never asked him to elaborate on these reasons because quite frankly, I didn’t care what these supposed “wrong reasons” were. I am certain that I don’t need any reasons to love myself. But his fatphobic rant reminded me that others think I have no right to claim self-love as my own. Most people don’t come out and say it, but I can see through their comments and facial expressions that this is how they think.
Our society doesn’t see loving yourself as a critical part of mental health. The people in our society see self-love as something you’re supposed to “earn” through gaining others’ approval. Society’s prevalent attitude is that of diet culture: you can love yourself, but only after you’ve committed to dieting, exercising, and weight loss. Once your body is closer to Western beauty standards, then you can focus on loving yourself because you’ve supposedly “earned” it. I can’t help but feel like society expects people like me to petition acceptance from others before I have the audacity to like myself or *gasp* love myself.
But then there are people like me: those who don’t fit society’s standards of beauty or health who still love ourselves. People hate that we love ourselves because in their eyes, we don’t “deserve” that self-love. They think you need to earn self-love instead of simply being worthy of self-love by virtue of being yourself. Happy fat people piss off fatphobic thin people and fat people with internalized fatphobia alike. When people see media that represents fat people as being happy, they accuse its creators of “glorifying obesity.” So many people think that the concept of a happy fat person is not only a myth, but a dangerous myth at that. The truth is that fat people deserve happiness as much as anyone else does. Part of happiness is loving and appreciating yourself.
Yes, there are many fat people who hate themselves because of how society discriminates against them. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to love yourself while you’re fat. The idea that there is a size limit for self-love is toxic. Fat people don’t have to be down on ourselves just because you don’t like that we’re fat. I’m not obligated to perform self-loathing or come off as a penitent “good fatty” who’s sorry for being fat. I refuse to apologize for having a fat body or take up space I need.
Loving myself hasn’t been easy, especially not at first. My self-love didn’t just blossom overnight. Self-love is something I’ve had to work on for a long time. There were points where I had zero self-love and those were the worst days of my life. Sure, I love myself, but that doesn’t mean I live in a perpetual state of self-acceptance. Loving myself also doesn’t mean that I only think about myself all the time or that I’m always happy with myself. Embracing self-love means I devote consciously energy towards developing my self-love in order to see my relationship with myself progress. All of the internal work I do has brought results I cherish.
For example, I used to think a lot of negative things about myself. My previous therapists noted that I had a loop of negative self-talk going on in my mind. When things got bad, my assumptions defaulted to the worst-case scenario. So instead of letting that negative self-talk continue, I started to interrupt it with more neutral or positive thoughts. I didn’t shy away from self-awareness or try to edit my thoughts until they were no longer grounded in reality. I simply began saying good things about myself and not assuming that the worst possible outcome would happen. My mind is a happier place because of it and it helps me appreciate myself more. Recently, I’ve sworn off all self-deprecating humor because if I outwardly disrespect myself, I think other people will feel inclined to do the same.
People of all sizes deserve to love themselves. That includes fat people from all across the fat spectrum. Self-love has no size limits. Love yourself because you deserve it for being the only “you” there is.
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