Why I Embrace Calling Myself Fat

10/28/2015 10:10 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Things that matter right now:

I'm fat.

No really, that's the most important thing.

Yes, I am also intelligent, snarky, kind, radical, compassionate, self-starting, outgoing, funny, opinionated, cheerful, loud, and a million other things. But here and now, I want to talk about the thing that strangers see first, the thing that I'm judged on the most. The reason I'm here writing right now: I'm pretty damn fat.

I know what you're thinking. But Jes, don't call yourself fat! You're just chubby. Fluffy. Curvy. Chunky. Plus-size. (Insert additional euphe-
misms here.)

Naw girl, I'm Fat.

Here's why I use the "f-word" ALL THE TIME: the word "fat" is not inherently bad. It's an adjective. It's a benign descriptor of size.

As Marianne Kirby explains, "'Fat' means adipose tissue. 'Fat' means 'having a lot of adipose tissue.' There are no other words that mean precisely those things in precisely those ways." Saying "I'm fat" is (and should be) the same as saying my shoes are black, the clouds are fluffy, and Bob Saget is tall. It's not good, it's not bad, it just is.

The only negativity that this word carries is that which has been socially constructed around it; our aversion is completely learned. It's our association that is disparaging, and this is what we must change. We don't need to stop using the word "fat," we need to stop the hatred that our world connects with the word "fat." So I use it, because I have decided that it's my word now. And the more I use it positively, the more stigma I smash.

Now, I don't ever walk up to strangers and say "Hey Fatty!" Because, we haven't found a way to normalize it in the mainstream, there is a really good chance that the word is still offensive to them. But me calling myself fat? Ain't no thang. I even find the word empowering. Someone tries to insult me by calling me "fat"? I just say, "Yep. And?"

I have a fat body, and I think it's quite lovely. But because our society still thinks that fat bodies are especially vile, I'm automatically put into several kinds of "boxes." Boxes with darling labels like cultural deviant--a freak of physical nature. Or embarrassment to society--when strangers or extended family moan and groan about the horrific obesity crisis in America? Yeah, they are talking about me.

I'm also your worst nightmare. I'm the reason you diet. I'm the reason you go to the gym. I'm your "thinspiration"... because, god knows, you do not want to end up like me.

If you're fat too, you probably know what I'm talking about.

A few years ago I decided I would no longer accept these negative labels. After a breakup for which my body was blamed, I found myself at a critical impasse, a metaphorical fork in the road. I knew that I needed to carefully choose, right then and there, which path I was going to take: continue to hate my body, or learn to love my body.

I dove headfirst into the body positive community. I sought out photos of all kinds of women, I followed progressive Tumblr accounts, and I read every fat acceptance book I could get my chubby hands on. I read all the body love blogs I could find, researched the history of body image, and started to talk about all of this with people around me.

As I learned more about body love, I started to notice something interesting: The way I perceived the world shifted considerably. I quickly became less judgmental, not only of others, but also of myself! I was reformatting my reality. I was rewiring my belief in beauty. I was teaching myself the truth.

This excerpt is adapted from Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: A Handbook for Unapologetic Living by Jes Baker, published by Seal Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2015

things no one will tell fat girls