I’ve struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember, my childhood was full of throwing myself face first (literally) into whatever food was in front of me. At the age of 3, I had ice cream all over my nose and mouth from lapping at ice cream at Chilli’s. In fact, I have a scar in the corner of my left eye because at the age of 4, I dived into a bowl of kofta and accidentally slipped, my face hit the jagged edge of a wooden coffee table – I cried, then ate the kofta. At the age of 6, my cousins were playing around in my auntie’s chalet in Sahel, I was slumped in the couch-swing-thing in the backyard slurping on juice instead of being in the pool. Food is my one true love, since the day I was born, probably till the day I die. Silly anecdotes aside, this is much much bigger than a girl who loves food.
“I will tell you, my daughter
of your worth
not your beauty
everyday. (your beauty is a given. every being is born
knowing your worth
can save your life.
raising you on beauty alone
you will be starved.
you will be raw.
you will be weak.
an easy stomach.
always in need of someone telling you how beautiful you
- Nayyirah Waheed
Before going into my struggles, let’s address something important first, okay? We were all raised to believe beauty to be more important than intelligence or kindness or hard work. As if not all of us were born beautiful anyway, as if beauty was never a given when it is the only given, everything else is earned, everything else is fought for, everything beyond the way you were born. I’ve always thought I was ugly. I grew up earlier than most of my classmates, developed curves way beyond everyone else, shot up so many inches I towered over my friends, I was awkward in my own body, somewhere between too big and yet not enough, filled out, but in all the wrong places, or perhaps that’s how I saw myself, or maybe it is how I thought people saw me and thus chose to see myself that way. It didn’t help that I was bullied, mostly because I was intelligent, I’m also not just booksmart and I know now that it intimidated many people, I ruined everything further when I decided dumbing myself down was the answer to all my problems.
The first thing people usually told me when I opened up about any insecurity, was “habebty, you’re beautiful”, and I wanted to scream at them, “stop telling me that, is that really all I am? All that matters?” Our mothers should’ve known better than to raise us as easy prey, it’s how I got my heart so severely broken it traumatized me. Our ancestors should’ve strived to help us become stronger, to grow into powerful individuals, but also a powerful collective, we should’ve been brought up a sisterhood instead of a group of backstabbing snakes only concerned with how others see us and where we are on the social food chain. We should’ve been given more ammunition against the world than petty gossip and good for nothing “diets”.
I grew up fat.
Say the word, it doesn’t bite, they’re only three letters, it’s like any other adjective, F A T, fat.
Fat, skinny, tall, short, white, black.
They’re supposed to be just words, but we all know they’re anything but. They’re too political. Ideally, you should be skinny, tall, and white – unfortunately, I’m fat, average, and tanned – to the world, I’m ugly, not just because of the way I look, but everything that I am. My ethnicity makes me close minded and backwards, my size makes me unlovable, my height makes me overlooked – that’s just on the surface, my religion makes me a terrorist, my intelligence makes me intimidating, and my strength makes me a threat – I am, essentially, a target. I’ve got a huge red X on my forehead that screams “throw your hate at me”, for those in power, I am unworthy of respect, compassion, love, and most importantly, life itself. Even though I live in a community that is largely similar to me in all those aspects, I am still bullied and shamed and attacked and devastated for the way I look.
Yes, I have cellulite. Yes, I have fat rolls. Yes, I have a tummy. Yes, I have thick thighs. Yes, I have a double chin. Yes, I have large hips. Yes, I have stretch marks. Yes, I have scars.
I also have acne.
My whole life, I had to suffer through being forced to go to nutritionists. I tried every diet under the sun, I played almost every sport that can come to your mind. I broke down during screaming matches with my parents because I was gaining weight. I had food hidden from me. I was treated worse than drug addicts and alcoholics, because my addiction? Is physical, it cannot be hidden, it brings those around me shame. I was ridiculed, I was told I’ll never be loved, I was subtly shamed in public, I was unashamedly hated on in private. At the age of 16, I lost 20 kilos in 3 months, followed by another 10 kilos in the following 2 months. I was praised and congratulated and showered in “love”, I was handed gifts and words of comfort and so much respect.
I was afraid of food, I trained for a minimum of 6 hours a day, 7 days a week, I refused to eat fruit because it had “too many calories”, I’d go on liquid diets for weeks on end, till I fainted during class or spent my break dry heaving in the school bathroom. I cried every time my parents tried to force feed me. I was showing symptoms of anorexia. However, since of course, “mental illness is not a thing”, I wasn’t really treated for it, I ended up rebounding, gained 1.5 times the weight I lost, in the span of a couple of years.
When I was skinny, I hated myself, I thought I was ugly and worthless. When I was (and became again) fat, I hated myself, I thought I was ugly and worthless. Believing that no one can ever be attracted to me stayed with me my whole life, till recently. My mirror was my worst enemy for over a decade, food was my beloved and my foe – rolled into one, it wasn’t until I switched perspectives did I start to accept myself.
I’m writing this because earlier today, my bestfriend and I were having coffee, I asked her to take a picture of me, she took several, I chose 5 and posted them in that same moment – she just looked at me. She said: “Fadila, how can you not feel self conscious? I can’t just take a picture and post it in that same second”. I’ve come a long way from the girl who self depreciated when talking to everyone and especially herself. Being fat is a curse in this society, but I own it, I fight for it, I’d rather be mentally/emotionally okay than be physically okay and mentally/emotionally fucked. Been there, done that, it sucks, big time. I’d rather be fat and face the world with myself by my side than to be skinny and “perfect” and still be forced to face the world with myself against me.
I love how soft my stomach is and how rounded my hips are, I know my ass is “too big” but I think it’s gorgeous, my thighs take up more space than they “should” but I am entitled to a space in this world, my double chin may offend many but I laugh and show it off anyway, my rolls may look “disgusting” in tank tops but I love how they hug my body and make me feel stunning. I’ve got enough stretchmarks and scars to map out my whole body, but I’ve never been ashamed of them, stretch marks litter my arms, tummy, and thighs while scars run through my side.
I don’t care if you think I’m ugly, because I think I’m beautiful, I think I’m gorgeous, I think I’m worthy of respect and compassion, and I am adamant in my belief that I am lovable. You don’t have to see it, what matters is that I do. I know I’m intelligent and smart mouthed, I know I’m witty and strong-willed, I know how utterly powerful I am. I am glory personified, I am the entire universe in flesh and blood, I am everything I wanted to be and not nearly enough. My outer shell is just as incredible as my inner self. I reek of love and I am so unapologetic if this offends you, I’m even more so if it means I am independent of you. I don’t need you to tell me red lipstick looks good on me, I know it does. I don’t need you to tell me my curves are to die for, I know they are. Yes, I have moments where I weaken, but I’ve built strong foundations for myself, made of iron and fire, blood and tears and sweat, I may shake but I’ll never crumble, never again.
So what if I’m soft on the outside? So what if I take up space? So what if my eyes crinkle and disappear when I laugh? So what if I still eat pasta and pizza but also salad? So what if I’m a little jagged and sharp edged and brutal? I am a woman. I was born a fighter, I bleed every month in honor of the moon, in mourning of life lost. I was born warrior and caregiver, fiercely protective of what I own, I can tear down kingdoms and build empires in their stead. I am daughter and mother and sister and lover, I am the life giver, I am the universe’s greatest blessings and biggest threat. The day I was born, fat or not, beautiful or not, accepted or not, I was born woman, do you have any idea how much power I own?
Let this be a lesson to you girls. Self acceptance is not overnight, self love is not overnight, god knows I’ve got marks mapping my body that prove that, I’ve got trauma and mental illness that prove that, I’ve got rage and hurt and pain that prove that. Never give up. Don’t you dare give up. It is a road of fear and rejection and jealousy, but it is the most freeing thing in the world, I have never been more liberated. Take a deep breath, and stop talking shit to yourself. You are more incredible than you ever realize, walk with pride, walk with purpose, burn the world down around you if it means becoming the person you are meant to be, the woman you are meant to be. Break the chains of shame that twist around your throat and all the way to your feet, if you believe they are made of iron you will never be free, but if you believe they are made of straw, it will only take a moment of strength before you’re breathing, to find yourself, to create yourself.
Quit disguising fat shaming as health concerns.
Bind together instead of hating on each other.
Let go of comparing yourself to others, let go of jealousy.
Take a deep breath, you’re beautiful.
Stop letting others force you to see yourself through their jaded eyes.
Walk with pride, walk with purpose, walk with confidence.
Stop fearing your own power.