How I learned to be okay with being “fat”

The scale has to be lying. Sure, my clothes are a little tight, I’m not the size I used to be, and I have developed fourth, fifth, and sixth boobs — but I couldn’t have gained that much weight. I can still walk places. I walk to work every day! I am constantly in the gym! I simply couldn’t have gained weight.

But the scale was telling the truth. I was 326.4 pounds.

Even in zero gravity, the fact was undeniable. “Morbidly obese,” one doctor said. I had more than doubled from my smallest size. I couldn’t think of anything that would make me gain so much weight; no thyroid problem, no children.

I was fat.


This was just another quality of “disappointing daughter” that I could add to my resume. I had never graduated from college, I felt like I had wasted my potential, I was incapable of being independent, I had no prospects. And now I was fat. I wanted to make myself disappear, but I didn’t even have the willpower to stop eating.

No one likes me fat. My own mother bemoans the fact that she has a fat daughter. My father and I already don’t speak — if he knew I’d gained weight? My sister gets angry that I don’t “address my weight properly,” because I need to face the fact that I am fat.

I am a praying person. Not the kind of person you see on bended knee for hours, but every time I had an angry thought about my weight, I would pray to change my body.

Please make me skinny. If you make me a size 6, I will go to church every day. If I lose 10 pounds, I will never look at bread again. I would deprive myself of everything, only to binge on it later. I would meal prep and meal plan, eat things that I hated. I used to absorb any negative thing said about me, hoping that I would find some sort of inspiration to finally want to be skinny. false

My mom has this photo of me from homecoming dance during my sophomore year of high school. It’s a blurry picture; you can barely tell it’s me. In the photo, I am about 160 pounds, wearing super uncomfortable shoes and a dress that I had purchased two hours before. My shoulders are slumped; I have a pained smile on my face.

I had to reapply my makeup since I had cried twice that night. Once, because my crush rejected me -- but before that, I cried because my mom and I had gotten in an argument over the fact that I had gained 15 pounds over the summer.

The argument mostly consisted of my mother wondering where she went wrong. She still has that picture on her fridge, looking at it as an example of “what could have been.” My mom keeps the photo up to remind me that I “can still get down to that size.” I often think about the argument from that night. I also think about the people who use my body as a cautionary tale for their kids, the people who see me and think, “well, at least I am not that big.” It’s a thought that has kept me in bed for days.

Every negative remark I heard would carve out a piece of my being, and I would fill the void with food. I often sobbed as I ate whole cheesecakes, a burger and fries, and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s strawberry cheesecake ice cream. I have painful relationships with my parents, but food would never hurt me, right? Except now I am the biggest I have ever been. How do I achieve my dreams now? What are my dreams? All I have ever been focused on is losing weight, and I failed at that. How was I ever going to do whatever it is I wanted out of life?

At what point do I stop feeding the phantom? At what point do I stop letting words drill through me, leaving holes that need to be filled?

At what point do I stop allowing the phantom to feast on my intelligence, kindness, humor, and potential? When do I stop getting angry at myself and others, and start challenging the phantom, driving him out? When do I get to be my authentic self, damn the negativity that comes from being fat?


So now, I am ready to admit that I am fat.

I am  ready to admit that there is no shame in being fat.

I am in perfect health, I can still exercise, I still try to eat as healthy as I can. I will do my best not to beat myself up (still a work in progress). I am going to go after what I want.

I am going to dedicate my life full tilt to being my authentic self, which is a fat black woman who is aware of the criticism and stigmatization that she will face, and is ready to welcome it with open arms.

Ophelia Onobrakpeya is a black, plus size writer. She can often be seen live tweeting shows or writing on her blog. Beware, there are expletives.

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