I’ve only ever been referred to as ‘fat’ a handful of times in my life, but it usually came in the form of another word, like ‘curvy’ or ‘voluptuous’ or some other sugar coated way of being called fat.

Once I had a gathering at my house where all my friends and their kids had joined together for a game night. With a large audience, one of my friends sweet little children blurted out “Auntie Em, are you crazy or just really fat?!”.

I recall the atmosphere in the room quieting very rapidly as people anticipated my reaction. The little girl, who was about 5 at the time and cute as a button, clearly had no ill intentions in her question. I simply replied “hm, a little of both I think!”. And the party went on, as did life. (Spoiler alert: I’m still a bit crazy…)

The shame I felt for being overweight was almost suffocating. The never-ending task of finding things and people to hide behind was exhausting. The constant effort involved with trying to convince others that I wasn’t fat was pretty ridiculous now that I look back on it. My husband often reminds me of how I would never let him take my picture let alone post it publicly on a social media platform.

I used to think that if I never allowed anyone to see that I was fat, then no one would ever really know and I could just sort of pretend to be something else.

With years of reflection under my belt, I can tell you that I only felt shame for the way I thought other people wanted me to look.  It wasn’t necessarily the way that I felt about my appearance that bothered me; it was how I assumed other people felt about my appearance.  Isn’t that nuts?

We’ve all been there.  We’ve all wasted days pulling down our shirts or adjusting our waist band in clothing that we fear is going to reveal our belly rolls to the world.  But think about it realistically – do you spend your day observing other people and assessing their body types?  No!  And very likely, no one else does either.

The way you feel about how light or heavy you are is entirely personal for you.  It is exclusive to you and your mind, and often it can hurt your heart and leave you feeling inadequate or unworthy.

It’s always been interesting to me that we can easily identify the “fake news” when we see it – those sensationalized media stories being pumped into the public, but women haven’t been very good at identifying when those fashion and beauty campaigns encourage self-loathing for certain body types and frankly, give women and men bullshit aspirations.

As strange as this sounds, it took weight loss for me to realize that being fat is okay. I know, I know… What sense does that make?

What I really mean is that somewhere along the way I stopped fighting with myself over what my label read to other people. Yes, I was fat. So what? Did that ever make me any less of a person at the time? Heck no.

The truth is that stepping out from behind all the shadows where I purposely kept myself hidden, to embark on losing weight, gave me perfect clarity of my worth.  When I chose to lose weight to better my health, it required that I come clean about where I was starting.  It meant that I had to take a big risk and reach out to others to help me along the way.  It meant being vulnerable and putting myself on a platform that would force other people to notice that I was changing.  And inevitably, people would make note.  As soon as I took that step out, I almost instantly realized that no one around me was judging me on my dress size.  No one cared about my size – they cared about me.

Fat does not equal laziness; just as skinny does not equal athleticism. The spectrum of fat reaches so far from end to end, it’s hard to know anymore if you are or are not, and who cares? Are you healthy? Are you happy? Do you love who you are? If yes to all of those, then find a way to accept the fact that being overweight, or any shape in particular, does not define the person you are.

Have you ever said a word so frequently that it sort of lost it’s meaning along the way? Take the word fat, and repeat it. Allow the power of the word to melt away and accept that fat isn’t really a bad word – it’s how you feel about it that determines it’s value.  Fat is a molecule; not a definition.

So, if fat isn’t bad, then why did I choose to lose weight?

I chose to embrace other words that hold power – like, health, and strength. For me, weight loss was necessary because my physical health was less than ideal. I suffered from various weight-related ailments, including severe sleep apnea.

Did you know that 22 million Americans have sleep apnea with over 80% left undiagnosed and untreated. Sleep apnea is connected to diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and premature cardiovascular death.

Since I was already pre-diabetic and had heart palpitations in my twenties, it wasn’t the label of ‘fat’ that lit a fire under my glutes to get to work; it was wanting to experience life.

I desired to truly live within a healthy body that would sustain me through as many days as possible, and that means first accepting that being fat is fine, and being skinny is fine. Being somewhere in between is also a-okay, but you must embrace health – for a better quality of life, and for a much longer life. Perhaps at the end of it all you want to look at the scale beneath your feet and see a lower number, but what do you want to see when you look at you?

Weight loss is not just the process of becoming less fat – it is truly a journey to multiple destinations – Acceptance; understanding; self-empowerment.

So often we allow words to harness a power that holds us down and commits us to a label we never wanted in the first place. But I’ll let you in on a secret: you hold the power, and you can strip it from any word you like.

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