A general and widely accepted verdict that warrants the conviction of fat people is that we choose fat, we choose to be fat, and if we don’t want to be shamed or rejected, we should ‘just lose weight’. It is tied to the spurious misconception that the shape and weight of our bodies are under our strict control and can be regulated at will. And thus, if fat people continue to exist, it must be due to a lack of self-control, diligence, and will. By extension, this choice allows those around us to disregard our experiences, traumas, emotions, and boundaries. Because by choosing fat, we have chosen incessant shame and suffering too, and so an early death and poor health shall be a reckoning we have brought upon ourselves. And for all that, we deserve derision. If anything, we are not put down enough.
I could paint my entire room with scientifically researched studies, scribble statistics on every wall, and still run out of space for all the proven reasonings which refute our perceptions of fatness. That fatness is pathological, a monstrosity that must be eradicated is an apocryphal notion. And that the responsibility of being fat lies on the individual alone and determined by their eating habits is facile at best. Enough of us have known for decades the futility of the shame inflicted on fatness and the profit motive that guides it. And yet too many have chosen to hide behind their sanctimonious veils, taking large gulps out of the tankards of disparaging remarks and dipping our sinful bodies into bottomless pits of systemic discrimination, to feel slightly better about themselves. The weight of our emotional and physical pain lies heavy on their account and pockets.
From a very young age, I was led to believe that my body as it was- chubby, soft, and plump- was not to remain so forever. That it would have to inevitably change and become smaller, sooner or later. And I must remain on a constant quest unto that goal, the more I suffer towards it the better. A thinner, ideal, perfect body, that would be mine. That is what I would be loved and respected for but until then I would just have to endure it all like a chore.
It was like living in a house on rent with the full awareness that the arrangement is only temporary. Shortly you will have to pack and move so why bother decorating. It seems wasteful to invest too much in its upkeep and prudent to avoid buying bulky items otherwise moving will be a hassle later. And so even though you continue to live in it indefinitely, it feels hollow and hardly resembles home. Because you don’t like the curtains and the colour of the walls don’t match your personality. The kitchen is cluttered and frustrating but sorting it seems obviously worthless. Saving the effort to make pleasant memories on a better day in a nicer place, you don’t invite many friends or colleagues over and don’t call it your own or feel safe in it.
I lived so in my body for years before I learned that I was chasing an unattainable fantasy. I had put off all my hopes and dreams for later, abstaining from food, beaches, happiness, and the freedom to be myself. I had stowed away my life until I could achieve a thinner body the way one does with fresh and delicate crockery and curtains for when they have their own home. The back of my cupboard was lined with clothes that didn’t fit and smiles I refused to wear until they did. All the while not realising that in the capitalist scheme of things, both are magnanimous lies. It is ineffectual to hold onto the green light while being unaware that happiness does not await us on the other side.
To this was added the verbal disdain that my body evoked in others ever so often. Anxious and restrained, my worst fears would be confirmed whenever they jeered at me out of ‘concern’. With my eyes fixed to the ground, avoiding all reflections of myself, I would continue to incessantly beat against the current.
Having internalised oppression, I am also guilty of preaching what I was taught and passing that self-loathing on. Reading about body politics was a wake-up call and it would not do to deny the truth anymore. I hereby concede to the allegations that have been timelessly laid upon my body. Yes, yes I do. I choose fat. Not to be fat, that’s hardly a choice. But rather, I choose my fat body. I choose to exist and live and breathe in it as I wish, no longer putting my dreams on hold. And perhaps as a measure to correct my past mistakes and in turn, to feel better about myself, I am compelled to say, ‘choose fat yourself and lose the hate’.
Out of a lineup of endless misery and poor self-esteem or endless joy, pick your adiposity. Choose all that you have got, wherever it lies. It is a coating of love and protection, not rotten pathology. Embrace it, willingly, enthusiastically. Pin it to the wall of your living room, spread it on your coffee table and countertops, take it for a walk, show it off. Paint it, dress it, address it, acknowledge it. Admire, flatter, glorify it but do us all a favour and don’t judge, deny, or deride it.
Take a long hard look in the mirror.
For the first time ever, look at the figure in the mirror. Notice not its flaws, failures, cellulose, or scars only but also its curves, folds, undulations, indentations, and dimples. Do you see? We are not two separate entities. I am you, you are me. Breathe in.
Still, unmoving, suspended through space, time, and memory. Breathe out. Make peace with it. It has performed a million different tasks from your birth to this moment. Healing, growing, replenishing, renewing itself, it has performed an endless set of duties. For all that and more, does it not deserve acceptance and love?
So this once, run your hands across your stomach, scoop up your belly into your arms, stand close together, and see, aren’t we perfectly made for each other? Spend another moment, not hurting but just existing together, another second of choosing each other.
And choose your fat.
Your body is not a sin. Pain is not a remedy. Stop carving apologies on your skin. Stop emptying yourself. Putting two fingers in and turning your skin inside out once every night at society’s behest. Fill the perpetual hollow instead with every wanton desire you have ever had. Sail to the middle of the ocean, dive into your daydreams, live to your heart’s content. The world is big enough. The sky is wide enough. There are chairs that will carry your bum, landscapes that are willing to rise and fall with your breath, people who will care and love, and places where you may belong. Take up space. There is no sky and there are no limits. I don’t have to serve a sentence for a crime that was never committed. For something that was not a crime at all.
This is a promise to do better.
To love and cherish in sickness and in health. My body is mine. An exploration of secrets I have buried deep within, unapologetic opinions marked in ink. It is a site of excavation of the years of happiness and struggle. Twenty-three layers and still, expanding. Only my heart may crumble from now and forever, every now and again, under the gentle touch of a stranger, a small act of kindness, an irredeemable loss, or inconsequential gain; in a state of perpetual reconstruction.
My body is mine.