Loving Ourselves at Every Size

Photo featuring plus-size model by Michael Poley of Poley Creative for AllGo, publisher of free stock photos featuring plus-size people.

by Bryan Garcia

Summer is rolling in and with that usually comes messaging that asks whether or not you are “beach body ready.” This year, however, as the world is in the middle of a global pandemic and seeing increased visibility of recurring police violence against Black people, there has also been a surge of memes and posts particularly on social media that bring society’s blatant fatphobia to the surface.

People are told that all bodies should be accepted and that all bodies should be seen positively, but this is simply and obviously not the reality. It is a known fact that the more your body veers away from the standards society has placed on it, the more you are hated, stigmatized, made fun of, and seen as less worthy. This is augmented by recent warnings for folks to exercise in order to avoid gaining the “COVID-15” while sheltering in place, further associating laziness to fatness, but also internalizing that messaging.

ALLgo (not to be confused with allgo – a queer people of color organization), is a “review app where plus-size people rate the comfort and accessibility of public spaces so others can know what to expect. We help people of size go out more, with less anxiety.” They state how, “Two-thirds of the American workforce is plus-size, but you’d never know that looking at company websites, job boards, or other forms of media. Plus-size people experience significant discrimination in the workplace: hiring managers associate us with negative characteristics and openly admit to being less likely to hire us, we make less than our thin counterparts for doing the same job, and we’re routinely passed over for promotions because of the pervasive bias that fat people aren’t capable of being leaders.” It is so easy to be fooled into thinking that there must be something wrong with yourself when the truth is that may have never been the case and could have been an implicit bias all along.

We also are constantly seeing how anything used by those most marginalized to lift themselves up and speak out gets ambushed and taken over by those who are not marginalized ex: ‘all bodies are good bodies’ (just search the hashtags #bopo and #bodypositivity) that almost always have a P.S. saying ‘as long as those bodies “look” healthy and are packaged in a way that’s easy to swallow.’ Fat people who are still standing in the rain of hatred and discrimination need something bigger than the umbrella of body positivity. Fat acceptance and body neutrality liberates fat folks and moves them away from the way that body positivity’s effectiveness has been limited by over-usage and overrun with predominantly cis-het, white, young, able-bodied people in smaller fat bodies. One takeaway from this can be that regardless of what movement or hashtag you use, you should be able to love yourself at every size.

Despite this, fat queer people of color have been able to reclaim their happiness from the stigma and shame of a fatphobic society, further proving their resilience and worthiness of being able to create lives that they love and encouraging themselves and each other to engage with the world. It is so important that these folks support one another and share their experiences navigating the world as fat queer people of color in health care, school, the workplace, public life, with family and friends, and intimate partner relationships.

The following are some tips and tricks that might help you to combat this pervasive queerphobic, fatphobic and racist ideology:

  • Use social media to be intentional about the messages you want to spread. Consider following the hashtags #bodyneutrality, #fatacceptance, and #fatliberation in addition to or instead of #bodypositivity.
  • Authentic self-care (ex: meditation, yoga, masturbation) to get to know your body vs something that may be pseudo-erotic and used to numb. Seeking pleasure is a good thing! 
  • Mirrors in the home to start feeling more comfortable with catching glimpses of yourself existing with the intention of moving towards eliminating shame 
  • You can even start by wearing what you want in the privacy of your home, especially if you have begun thinking about different ways you want to express your gender. It may feel safer and help to ease your way into becoming comfortable with it before taking the bigger leap of wearing it out in public or around your chosen family and other people you trust.
  • Take pictures of yourself or have a friend/someone you trust to do that. Take a moment to notice the angles and features of your face/body. It can help to remind yourself that what you are documenting is a special moment or emotion. Also, a two-dimensional image is not enough to capture the beautifully complex individual that you are!
  • A “Loving Kindness” meditation might be what can help you check in with your body and send words and feelings of loving-kindness to uplift and inspire you to be able to love your whole self as you are in the present and furthermore, allow yourself to feel deserving of experiencing pleasure in all the ways it is possible, including within healthy sexual relationships with yourself and others.

Remember that you are the expert of your situation and know your body best. It is okay to try things and then find out that they just aren’t going to work for you. It is also perfectly fine if you don’t do anything at all.

Loving yourself is so much easier said than done. The truth is that it may not even be a journey with an end. It may be something that you have to work on everyday or take a moment to reflect upon and redirect your thoughts once a week, month or every couple of months. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It can be a really beautiful thing to stay connected with yourself as you navigate this world. You are worthy of taking up space emotionally, socially, physically and in all of the other wonderful ways in which you exist.

Why should you have to wait and hold off on experiencing happiness and living a life that you love until you look or act the way others want you to for fear of them being made to feel uncomfortable? It is not your job to take care of other’s feelings. They definitely are not taking care of yours. You also don’t have to wait for your body to be “beach ready.” It already is and always was.

What has worked for you to combat fatphobia in your everyday life and help you feel more liberated and accepting of yourself? Let us know on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @allgoqpoc

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