How to Love Yourself for Real When You’re Fat

Back when I was a capital-F Fat Activist Blogger, the number one question I’d get from my readers was “how can I learn to love myself like you do?”

The answer, of course, is that there is no foolproof guide to self acceptance and love, but there are certainly things you can do that go a real long way.

(Note: Some of the following tips work for non-fat people as well, but this isn’t a “body positive” blog — it is explicitly and unapologetically fat positive and fat-centered. #sorrynotsorry)

1. Make the choice to love yourself.

This step may seem like a no brainer, but I want to stress that if you’re fat, choosing to love yourself is FUCKING RADICAL.

In a world hellbent on making you hate yourself, it’s kinda rare to fall in love with your body on accident. So you have to decide whether or not you’re going to live this one precious life for others (hating yourself and your body) or for you.

Making the choice to love yourself is fucking hard but it is so much more rewarding than the other option. I promise.

2. Reconnect your body and mind.

Realize that your ‘self’ and your body are inextricably linked and, perhaps, one in the same. We’re often taught to think about our mind as somehow separate from our physical form. But the problem with this approach is that you can end up “living in your head” without really coming to terms with your own embodiment.

Bodies are important. Bodies matter. Our bodies are how we interact with our physical world — even for someone who spends most of their time online, I am constantly aware of how my body makes that possible.

When you’re stuck in your head, it’s easy to ignore the fact that you even have a body. This can be a defense mechanism for those of us who grew up being told that our bodies were bad. But privileging the mind over the body often means we don’t give our physical selves the attention, care, and respect that we so desperately need.

Your body is you. It may be complicated, ugly, frustrating, and painful. But it’s still you. And it’s okay.

3. Spend intentional time with yourself.

This is the part where I tell you to hold a mirror up to your private parts and admire how truly weird and wonderful you are. Just kidding. (Sort of.)

But for real though — get naked. Light a candle, open up Spotify’s Lush Vibes playlist, and touch that bod all over. Pay special close attention to your fattiest bits.

Cradle your tender underbelly. Squish your inner thigh fat. Play with your cellulite. Softly slide your fingers between your rolls. Jiggle your arm fat and stroke your double chin. How does the fat in your belly feel different from the fat in your butt? Your arms? Your legs? Where is your softest, fluffiest fat? Where is your thickest fat, taut like firm jello?

What does it feel like to be touched in these places? Is it uncomfortable? Is it nice? How would you feel if someone else touched you there?

Imagine someone you like a whole lot kissing the most sensitive of these places. Imagine someone you love holding you and finding comfort in your softness. Think of all that you have been through with this body, all the places it has taken you. Imagine where else you could go.

Masturbate if that’s your thing, or do something else that feels nice. Repeat as often as necessary.

4. Choose physical activities that honor your body and eat foods that nourish you.

Do you hate going to the gym? Then don’t go.

Not so excited about that new diet? Fuck that noise and let’s try something new.

Two of the major components to the Health at Every Size model are 1) moving for pleasure and 2) eating intuitively. This looks different for different people, but in short it means finding ways to move your body that feel good and not like punishment, and eating the food your body wants you to eat.

I really enjoy swimming and mini-golf, and half-hour walks around the neighborhood with my husband in the early evening. I also love the elliptical machine (when I’m willing to shell out money to a local gym), and am hoping to try out yoga soon.

“But what if my body only wants to eat burritos?”

Burritos are hella good so I don’t blame you. But intuitive eating is more about eating when you’re hungry, and eating food that makes you feel good physically and emotionally. When you start to really listen to your body, you may be surprised to hear how often you’re craving things like watermelon and spinach (I was surprised, at least!). You can read more about intuitive eating here.

(Note: if you’ve dealt with disordered eating in the past, anything with food can be super challenging. Be kind to yourself! This process takes time and in some cases therapy or sessions with a fat-positive nutritionist.)

5. Whenever possible, wear clothes that make you feel good.

Nothing can make you more physically uncomfortable in your body than wearing clothes that don’t fit right.

Sometimes you’re waiting to buy new clothes until you’ve lost that last 20 or 100 pounds. Or you’re wearing whatever you could find in the five minutes you gave yourself in the store because shopping while fat is such a goddamn nightmare. Or maybe you’re hiding who you really are in an unassuming uniform because you’re afraid to try the styles that really speak to you. (No one can make fun of what you’re wearing if you stick to jeans and a t-shirt, right?)

Whatever the reason, if you have the money or resources to change up your wardrobe — try it!

There are so many more options today than there were even five or 10 years ago. And for folks with limited funds, fat-positive community gatherings like clothing swaps can make finding new outfits affordable and fun.

If you’re stuck in a style rut, or wearing clothes that don’t fit, ask yourself why. If you’re comfortable and feeling good, chances are your bod will feel good, too. Why deny yourself that?

6. Hold yourself.

Recently my friend Keena said something that really stuck with me:

“Visualizing yourself holding and hugging your baby-self is healing as hell.”

It reminded me of this poignant scene from My Mad Fat Diary, where the main character, a young fat woman, is having a breakdown in her therapist’s office. He asks her to visualize her younger self at the age when she first started believing that she was ugly, fat, and worthless. Then he tells her to look at her 10-year-old self and say all of those things to her face.

She looks at the innocent young girl before her and, through tears, shakes her head no. “I’m not going to do that,” she says. “[…] she’s perfect.”

What are the lies you’ve believed about yourself since you were young? What are the stories you tell about yourself that are no longer serving you? If you were faced with your younger self, the self who first started believing you were bad because you were fat, what would you say? How would you calm the rage and sadness and loneliness and soothe younger-you’s heart? How would you hold yourself?

Sometimes you can’t love yourself until you start to heal yourself.

7. Look at bodies like yours and really see them. Celebrate them.

This can be as simple as following fat people on Instagram — IG celebs and everyday fat people just living their lives. Seek out media that features fat actors and artists, especially media that centers fat experience in a positive, affirming way. And check out fat positive art — compilations like Rachelle Abellar’s Little Book of Big Babes, Shoog Mcdaniel’s “Body Like Oceans” series, LA’s recent Fatter IRL exhibit, or burlesque performances by folks like Buttah Love.

When you look at fat people on the street, what are the things you’re thinking in your head? Are you being judgmental (“thank god I’m not THAT fat” or “why does she think she can get away with wearing leggings as pants?”)? If so, try… not doing that anymore.

A long time ago I vowed to quiet the negative thoughts about others I was having and replace them with positive things instead — and y’know what? The more fat positive I was about others, the easier it was to stop thinking negative stuff about my own body!

8. Read about fat experience from fat-positive, or at least fat-neutral, perspectives.

Look, I’ve been doing this a long time and I definitely have not read every single amazing thing there is to read out there about fat positivity. You can start simple, with websites and blogs like The Body Is Not An Apology.

If you’re interested in fat acceptance history, books like Shadow On a Tightrope: Writing by Women on Fat Oppression (1983), Fat!So?: Because You Don’t Have to Apologize for Your Size (1998) and Lessons From the Fat-o-sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce with Your Body (2009) are all great pieces that speak to their time periods within the fat acceptance movement (which has been around since the 1960s, by the way).

Want shorter pieces? Some of my favorite people writing about fatness right now are performance artist and academic Caleb Luna, black femme activist Ashleigh Shackelford, and Corissa of FatGirlFlow. And, though this piece from my friend Anshuman Iddamsetty is a couple years old by now, it remains one of my favorite fat-pos pieces of all time.

There’s so much out there. Hell, you can even read some of my old stuff.

It’s okay if you don’t agree with everything you read, but it’s important that you start questioning the dominant narratives about fatness.

9. Tell your loved ones that you love yourself and your body (or that you’re trying really hard to).

I “came out” as fat to my family and friends a little over 10 years ago. The post was originally a note on my Facebook wall, and I tagged all of my loved ones at the time (nearly 50 people) so that they would read it. It was one of the most nerve-racking things I have ever done.

In the post, I acknowledged what everyone already knew — that I was fat. But the news was that I was no longer a fat person attempting to be thinner.

I outlined my boundaries: I would no longer be discussing diets or weight loss with my friends or family members, and I wasn’t going to be watching fat-negative media like The Biggest Loser. I asked my loved ones to read some books about fat-positivity and common myths about fatness (like fat=unhealthy).

Some people got it, and some people still don’t. But letting my friends and family know what kind of talk would not be tolerated has greatly decreased the amount fatphobic bullshit I’ve had to contend with in my interpersonal life, and helped me to be more at ease around loved ones who are not fat-positive like I am.

10. Accept that you will fuck up, and learn to be okay with the bad days.

Okay, I kinda buried the lede here, but here’s the real honest truth: even after all this, you may never be able to love your body.

And that’s okay! It’s not your fault, and you are not any less worthy of love and dignity and respect if you do not love yourself.

We live in a world where sometimes the best we can do is attempt to be weight-neutral, and forge a truce with our fat selves after decades of being at war with our bodies. Even if you are lucky enough to be at peace with your bod, and celebrate and love yourself most of the time, you will have bad days — because fatphobia and anti-fat discrimination are still very real things, and the reality is that living in a fat body is fucking hard.

On the particularly hard days, I look back at this list for ideas on how I can shift my thinking, and ask myself what I can do to honor my body and the many adventures we have been on together. Maybe you can, too.

 

 

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