The moment these words leave my mouth, I will be accosted with compliments - telling me how beautiful I am, how that's not true, that I'm just a little chubby. So here it is. I'm going to make the leap and say it -- it's okay to be fat. It is!
"Fat," according to the dictionary, is "a natural oily or greasy substance occurring in animal bodies, esp. when deposited as a layer under the skin or around certain organs."
Fat is not a crime, ugliness, unhealthiness, or unworthiness. Fat is another trait in the artist's palette of human expression.
When a simple descriptor becomes the absolute worst thing a woman can be called, we have to seriously re-evaluate what we allow this word to mean -- both on a personal and societal level. Words are what we make of them, and this unfair connotation holds us to a terrible idea of what "beauty" means.
An important part of weight to understand is the genetic component. While it is true that exercise and a healthy diet can change your weight, our genetics are a powerful force to be reckoned with. According to a research article published on PLOS Genetics, weight is affected by several factors, both environmental and genetic. No matter what environmental factors are changed, everything goes back to genetic expression.
The connection between weight and health is dramatically misunderstood. Though there is a link between obesity and poor health, there is also a link between certain weight loss practices and a negative effective on overall health. The focus on losing weight to increase health creates a cycle of losing and gaining and losing and gaining through methods that just destroy women mentally and physically.
I am a healthy person. I could stand to lose a few pounds, but I do not consider myself unhealthy -- nor am I ashamed. I do yoga every day, and can twist myself into the lotus position. I have been a vegetarian for over three years. Every day, I eat my protein, fruits, and veggies. I often walk -- every one does in New York. Public transportation can only take you so far. I can't run a marathon, but I have faith in my body to last as long as I do.
This has not always been the case. My body and I have battled for a long time. No matter what I do, I have always had the same shape. And no one believes that you have an eating disorder when you're overweight. By changing my habits to healthier ones for myself, and not for my weight, I have come to a healthy sense of peace.
Positive role models are so key to this process. In a society where extra weight is demonized, finding women who stand strong and beautiful against the criticism prove that it is possible for anyone. Some personal favourites of mine are Rebel Wilson, Margaret Cho, Jennifer Lawrence, and Oprah Winfrey. All of these women have their own perspectives and messages; each of them is powerful in her own way.
With so much positivity available, why all the body hate? I'm not sure. I've noticed, though, that every magazine I leaf through is full of lovely, thin white ladies. Unless there is a special "plus size" column, fat women are not represented in any way. It's hard to not feel invisible at this point. Equal representation must be demanded. The average model weighs 23% less than the average woman. Unrealistic standards create an illusionary world.
When a female actress is interviewed, they're always asked about how they look so good. Men get questions on their characters, their acting methods -- women get asked about their diet and exercise regimes. The message is clear. Your weight is the most important part of your experience. You are there to be looked at and nothing more. When actresses such as the wonderful Jennifer Lawrence and Anne Hathaway refuse to take part in this, a powerful message is sent to the powers that be: we are more than a number, a diet fad, or an exercise regime.
Margaret Cho once said "the best way to get over your body issues is to just flaunt your body at every opportunity." This is not always possible. You may not be comfortable with this. That's okay. Start by appreciating yourself and realizing you are worthy just the way you are. Your body is wonderful. Every day, it pumps blood, dispenses oxygen, fights off diseases -- thousands of little magical things no one notices. Your body is wonderful, and no matter how much you may weigh, that will never change. Beauty doesn't have a weight limit. Neither should you.
This essay originally appeared on rachelsimmons.com.