Warning: This article may contain topics regarding depression and eating disorders. Moreover, the author doesn’t intend to promote obesity but to provide comfort and insight into our struggles as plus-sized women.
From high school to college, everybody saw me as the “fat girl” or the chubbiest one in the friend group. But in between senior high to college, I lost a lot of weight from starving myself and doing weekly workouts. Frankly (and embarrassingly), I did all of that just so I can impress a guy. I gained back the weight during the pandemic, and even more when my ex broke up with me. As I was struggling with depression and anxiety, I also started using food as a way to cope which led to me developing an eating disorder.
Throughout high school, I had a couple of popular pretty friends, and that made me really insecure about myself. I felt like the odd one out of the rest of the group. I learned that pretty privilege is definitely a real thing— it allows the pretty ones a different and higher level of respect from others. If you’re not part of the standard, then it would seem like you don’t deserve the same respect. As a people-pleaser, it was hard to practice self-love when everyone overlooks you as the mere friend of the pretty girl.
Body-shaming comments and unsolicited health advice are just some of the things I usually hear from boomers and all the Marites around me. Although I have grown used to them, there are just some days when these comments hit extra hard. Entering adulthood within this toxic Filipino culture was a challenge for all of us who struggle with self-confidence. For those who grew up as the fat girl, it felt like we had to be at war with our own bodies every day. We learned to be ashamed of ourselves just to fit in.
Meanwhile, finding clothes that fit my body well is a constant struggle. I grew up loving clothes and watching fashion shows on television, and I even thought of becoming a fashion journalist like Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City. But when I started gaining weight, I felt like the gap between me and my dream became wider.
Although there have been numerous initiatives to promote body inclusivity in the fashion industry, many local stores still offer a limited range of sizes. In some instances, even the size XL fits like a medium. Furthermore, finding jeans is an embarrassing nightmare as you make your way to a small separated area for plus-size clothing. What’s worse is the fact that the only clothes that fit usually have the same plain or overly-floral designs. Clothes, which were a source of inspiration and comfort for me, have ultimately become my enemy.
It’s easy to tell us to go on a diet and exercise, but no one actually asks the reason for all the weight gain. A lot of people assume that being fat means we eat extra rice and leftovers all the time. But they aren’t aware of how antidepressants can cause weight gain. They aren’t aware that being repeatedly body-shamed can also trigger someone and cause eating disorders. They aren’t aware of how powerfully destructive their words are to someone dealing with a difficult situation in their lives.
I just have one thing to say on behalf of all plus-sized individuals: WE ALREADY KNOW! We know that our jeans don’t fit the same way as before. We know we don’t look the same in the selfie we took during freshman year. We know our arms aren’t ideal for sleeveless shirts. We know we should go on a diet or exercise. We are well aware of ourselves and what we look like. Randomly pointing it out just honestly puts us in an awkward position.
I remember this one time when my psychiatrist told me that I wouldn’t be able to have a boyfriend because of my body. He said after I told him about my breakup, “Gusto ng mga lalaki mga mapapayat.” In another instance, I was also picked out for being the only fat person in the room. An older woman assumed, “Mahilig ka siguro sa matatamis, ano?” She said that while looking at me from head to toe. I was just eating a doughnut!
Most of the time, people are rather quick to point out our flaws instead of uplifting or encouraging us. In fact, the ones who would usually body-shame us are those who don’t even know us at all. That’s why it’s easy for them to judge us based on what they only see. Even if it’s meant with good intentions, we should also be aware of the repercussions of our words. It may just be a word of advice for you, but it could negatively affect other people’s mental health and self-image.
It took me several cycles of self-deprecation and self-empowerment to be able to realize how I could be free to love myself. From settling on cardigans and palazzo pants, to finally going beyond my comfort zone with sleeveless tops and jeans. By allowing myself the freedom to wear whatever I wanted, I was able to see myself in a different light. It simply starts with not caring how unflattering your outfit is. Then, eventually, you start to develop the courage to speak up for yourself.
Being the fat girl has hindered me from a lot of opportunities because I allowed it to. When you grow up with a lot of dissatisfaction with how you look, you immediately close your doors to avoid further disappointments. But not anymore. It’s time we allow fat girls to breathe from all the self-hatred by letting them feel good about themselves. Fat girls deserve to enjoy fashion and feel confident with what they wear. Fat girls also deserve to be able to love themselves and feel beautiful. And if anyone tells me otherwise, I at least know that a lot of my fellow fat girls got my back.