Fat! So?

I’m sitting in the church hall, looking around at my family. These are my dad’s relatives, the side of the family that I’ve always taken after – dark-haired, loud, boisterous Italian Lorinos.

And the thing that really strikes me this time is their size. By and large, we Lorinos are fat.

My eyes fill with tears.

I’ve been struggling with my weight for years. When I was seven years old, I went from “normal” to “heavy”, and never went back.

When I was twelve, I became “Fatso Lorino” at school. I started forcing myself to vomit before gym so I could go to the nurse. When that failed, I learned how to be really good at random bits of sports so I could at least be useful when I was picked last (and I always, always was). I wasn’t better, but I was more clever and more ruthless. I had less to lose.

I’ve wondered if I’d ever be pretty. I’ve wondered if anyone would ever love me. I’ve wondered if anyone would ever see past my fat.

My mom said, “You’d be so pretty if you lost weight.” I had an uncle who made sympathetic noises at me whenever I ate anything. My grandmother talked about how beautiful my thin, athletic, cheerleader cousin was, but never me.

I’ve tried diets, starvation, binge-and-purging (fun times), ignoring it, pretending to be fine, pretending to be thin, pretending to be pregnant. Once I sat in the kitchen with a knife, wondering how much it would hurt and/or damage my insides if I just made a few… alterations here and there.

That day, I sat in the hall and looked at my family.

I look like my dad. I’ve always thought my dad is the most gorgeous man in the world, but never thought I was beautiful.

me and my dad
Isn’t he gorgeous? I love his grin.

My cousins are all gorgeous, too; all shades of colors and sizes and shapes, but I never lumped myself in with them.

That day, I realized how much I belong there. I fit right in. I am so clearly one of them – my eyes and my smile mirroring back to me in a dozen similar ways.

And I’ve spent my life trying to be something else. Trying to be thin. Fighting an uphill battle that I’m destined to lose.

That day, a little rock dropped into my still, quiet, inner pond.

This week, I read Fat!So? by Marilyn Wann. It’s about accepting yourself at any size, but is also full of science and facts. Marilyn did years of research and poured it all into this book.

And a lot of what I grew up hearing and believing were lies. Lies. Propaganda thrown at me through a fear-steeped, thin-centric culture, bent on making everyone outside some arbitrary “norm” – be it on the fat side or the thin side – feel bad about their bodies. Diets are harder on our bodies than being fat. 90% of diets all fail, anyway. It’s entirely possible to be fat and be healthy. It’s not your weight that matters – it’s your lifestyle. Fat isn’t a death sentence. Fat isn’t a reason to put life on hold. It’s nothing to be afraid of; it’s like being short. Either you are, or you aren’t, and either way, it’s okay.

I had a sweater in my closet. I bought this sweater when I was 14 years old, and wore it twice before I got a little fatter and couldn’t wear it anymore. I’ve had it in my closet, waiting for me to get thin enough to wear it again, for 18 years.

18 years. I’ve spent 18 years wishing and hoping and trying to be something I am not.

This week, I looked in the mirror.

I gave myself a good long look.

I did a little dance and watched my jiggly bits jiggle.

I looked at my butt, my thighs, my hips, my breasts. I poked my belly.

I looked at my face, met my own gaze, and saw again my family, my father.

I’m fat.

Fat. Feels like a loaded word, doesn’t it? But it’s just a description, like “tall” or “goofy” or “white”. It’s better than “heavy” because things are heavy and people aren’t things. Better than “overweight”, because whose weight am I over, exactly? I like it. I’ve been saying it out loud the past few days and it gives me a little thrill.

That’s me. Fat.

Fat runs in my family. So does dark hair, loudness, and a propensity for trouble, an Irish temper and an Italian appetite. It’s part of who and what we are.

I’m fat. I’m also healthy, funny, short, sweet, loyal, and freaky. It’s one part of the whole that is me, and it’s a part I’m coming to accept.

I got rid of the sweater. It doesn’t fit and it won’t fit. I cleaned out my closets and tossed out all the “someday” clothes I’ve carried from year to year, hoping I’d eventually be thin enough to wear them. Enough is enough! I’m thin enough right now, fat enough, perfect enough as is.

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