THINGS I WISH SOCIETY WOULD STOP TELLING PLUS-SIZE WOMEN

I’m a fat, Black woman from the South, and when I say I’ve heard it all, I’ve heard it all. The backhanded compliments hidden behind the snide smiles. The internalized fatphobia disguised as unsolicited health advice. The charity-case utters of encouragement as if your fatness is a representation of sadness. The uncomfortable remarks deriving from the discomfort felt every time that one senses your confidence. And even the rude, discriminative comments just for the hell of it. Anything you could think of, I’ve probably been told it, at least, once or twice in my life. And it’s not that it bothers me or strips me of my self-esteem; it annoys me and every single fiber of my being. No, literally. Simply because, when the odds are against you, in any type of situation, people feel as if they’re entitled to say whatever, whenever, however because they view you as less-than, someone they can knock down and walk all over. Oh, and don’t you dare speak up and speak out! Now, you’re angry, insecure, jealous, and creating a problem that “doesn’t exist.”

HELLO, does anybody realize that we’re human, too?! The answer is… NO. Unfortunately.

Which is why it’s important to set boundaries. In relationships. In friendships. In familyships. In life, PERIOD. I had to learn that it’s not okay to stand by and let your friends and family fat-shame. It’s not okay to make your colleagues trick you into believing that your size and appearance determine how they treat you. It’s not okay to let random people feel as if they have a to-go card to disrespect your character based on what they group us of larger statures to be.

These are EIGHT things I wish society would stop telling plus-size women.

1. “YOU’RE NOT FAT; YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL!”

But… it’s like, when did I say that I was ugly, Brenda? Let’s normalize understanding that fatness can very well co-exist with fineness. We can be both, and no one can tell us otherwise. I can remember having a “friend” who’d always use this line as an attempt to make me feel “good about myself.” We’re no longer friends, but that’s another story for another day. I’ll just say this… when someone shows you their true colors, don’t ever try to paint a different picture.

2. “YOU’D BE EVEN PRETTIER IF YOU LOST WEIGHT!”

We’ve all heard this statement. If not exactly, in different wording with the same meaning. My first time ever being told this was a few months ago, actually. I used to wonder if people could be this cruel to say such thing, but I quickly learned that they, in fact, could. One day, I was on Facebook minding my business… when a lady on my friends list took it upon herself to comment under one of my recently-posted photos.

“You are so beautiful, beloved. But I see God correcting a glandular condition, which will cause weight loss. No fears; you’ll be thicker than a snicker, full of curves, bootylicious, but many pounds and inches smaller,” the comment read.

I was highly upset and offended by this, but thankfully, I’ve mastered the art of a classy comeback. After venting to my loved ones about the nonsense, my response was: “I’m perfectly fine the way that I am. I’m sure that God thinks so as well.”

In conclusion, some situations just don’t warrant the energy that people are expecting you to put into them. I’m not pretty for a big girl. I’m not “too big” to be pretty. I’m not on a journey to lose weight in order to reach society’s idea of “body goals” or my fullest beauty potential. I’m me. Fat, fabulous, and FREE to just BE.

3. “FATPHOBIA DOESN’T EXIST!”

What do we call the popular boy in grade school who refused to sit by us at lunch? What do we call that one family member who always made it a point to emphasize how “big we were for our age” as a child? What do we call the group of girls who singled us out and practically appointed us as the butt of every joke of their friend circle?

Fatphobia has been around; it just hasn’t been talked about enough.

Are we forgetting that the body positivity movement was originally rooted in the fight against fatphobia? It very well exists. In music. In fashion. In media. In the world… as a whole. It’s everywhere. Whether we want to address it or not, it’s there. My only hope is that people would stop dismissing such a prominent topic that has been going on for decades too long.

If you want to know my thoughts, in detail, when it comes to this subject, check out my previous blog post, Fatphobia: It’s Not All Just In Our Heads.

4. “YOU LOOK LIKE LIZZO!”

If telling me that I look like a Grammy-winning, uber-talented, super-gorgeous, MEGAstar makes you feel good on the inside, BRING IT ON, BOO!

Anyone who knows me would tell you that I’m freaking obsessed with Lizzo. I love how she carries herself so unapologetically. I love her style. I love her music. I love everything about her as if she’s my bestie (in my head). However, what I don’t love is those who use the comparison comments as insults.

Personally, I’ve never been told this, but I’ve noticed this A LOT on TikTok. I follow a number of amazing plus-size influencers on there, and the Lizzo jokes are relentless. I say that it comes from a place of fat-shaming and categorizing–as if all plus-size women are the same–with no individuality or uniqueness, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

Although I’ve never been compared to Lizzo, people seem to think that all fat, Black girls are similar. I can’t count the times I’ve been told I resemble Precious (Gabourey Sidibe). Some say it to be funny, some say it because they actually think so. Little do they know, it’s honestly an honor for me. Gabourey is another plus-size public figure who I admire so, so much!

I just wish that others would stop using fat women’s appearances as means of entertainment or slander.

5. “YOU’RE UNHEALTHY!”

Contrary to popular belief, all fat people aren’t unhealthy, and all skinny people aren’t healthy.

As a child, I hated going to the doctor because *some* medical professionals tend to link everything to one’s weight without even checking for assurance.

“Your stomach hurts? Oh, it’s probably your weight.”

Because of this, society has been conditioned to think that way as well. A couple of months back, I posted a reel on Instagram for motivational purposes, promoting fat acceptance. Within the first two minutes, the paragraphs of how “unhealthy” my weight is started rolling in from the trolls.

Another thing that irks me about this, too, is that some automatically think that because you are “obese” that you eat large quantities of food, which isn’t the case for everybody.

Moral of the story, just mind your business, babe.

6. “YOU’RE NOT FAT; YOU’RE THICK!”

The younger me who had yet to own her fatness would take this as a flex. However, I’m not that girl anymore.

I’m fat, sis. There’s no way around it. Telling me that I’m “thick” to “boost my confidence” is not going to give you a gold medal nor is it going to erase my plumpness.

I can remember when thick and fat were almost interchangeable. Growing up in the South, if you had an excessive amount of meat on your bones–no matter where it was–you were considered plus-size. Nowadays, people are so afraid of being boxed in the “fat” section that they’ve worked their way around it by coming up with these terms put in place to divide.

I’ll just sip my tea on that one, though.

7. “STOP PROMOTING OBESITY!

So, loving myself is promoting obesity?

Let’s give a round of applause for the ignorance.

This is social media’s favorite way to tear fat women down, and you can’t help but love the silence that comes from them when you challenge their stupid ideology.

I guess the lesson that we should take from this is: “Fat people fat-peopling on the internet is illegal.”

8. “TAKE WHAT YOU CAN GET!

When you’re “overweight,” people seem to think that you don’t deserve to have morals, values, or standards.

But… they thought wrong.

I will never settle for less because that’s what someone else believes I’m only capable of getting.

I’ll never forget this one guy who I was communicating with. He grew upset when I called out his inconsistency. Do you know that this man had the nerve to say, “Just be glad that I’m even texting you back.”

EXCUSE ME?!

That was the last time I let a dusty with a dollar-store chain disrespect me.

Regardless of the stigmas placed upon the big girl community and our dating pool, there are men out here willing to rub every roll and trace every stretch mark… respectfully.

And if he isn’t, it’s HIM who doesn’t deserve ME.

Case closed.

What are some out-of-pocket things you’ve been told as a plus-size woman? Let me know in the comments!

FOUR COPING MECHANISMS I USE DURING A PANIC ATTACK

This one feels different from the last one.

That statement has loomed in the back of my mind too many times to count, and I’d be lying if I said that it has completely gone away.

I’ve been (knowingly) dealing with an anxiety disorder for the past five years. With that has come its not-so-fair share of anxiety and panic attacks.

PANIC ATTACK VS. ANXIETY ATTACKWHAT ARE THEY?

According to Healthline, Anxiety can be mild, moderate, or severe. For example, anxiety may be happening in the back of your mind as you go about your day-to-day activities. Panic attacks, on the other hand, mostly involve severe, disruptive symptoms. During a panic attack, the body’s autonomous fight-or-flight response takes over.

You might hear people talking about panic attacks and anxiety attacks like they’re the same thing. They’re different conditions though.

Panic attacks come on suddenly and involve intense and often overwhelming fear. They’re accompanied by frightening physical symptoms, such as a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, or nausea.

The latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) recognizes panic attacks, and categorizes them as unexpected or expected.

Unexpected panic attacks occur without an obvious cause. Expected panic attacks are cued by external stressors, such as phobias. Panic attacks can happen to anyone, but having more than one may be a sign of panic disorder.

Anxiety attacks aren’t recognized in the DSM-5. The DSM-5 does, however, define anxiety as a feature of a number of common psychiatric disorders.

Symptoms of anxiety include worry, distress, and fear. Anxiety is usually related to the anticipation of a stressful situation, experience, or event. It may come on gradually.

– healthline.com

Although they are medically said to contrast one another, a thing that they agreeably have in common is that neither of them feel good. For myself, full-blown panic attacks seem to hit me the most frequently, even if they do start out as tidbits of anxiety. I’ve read somewhere that you could even have both at the same time, and I don’t doubt that. Up until I researched, I didn’t know there was a difference… if we’re being honest. I just knew that what was happening to me in those moments was unpleasant–the worst I’ve ever felt.

If I could describe the feeling, I would exaggerate it as death in your rearview mirror. That’s because, oftentimes, it almost seems as if your heart is dropping from your chest to your feet, and your soul is ascending its bodily foundation. Others would take my description as dramatic, but if you’ve ever experienced it, not even those depictions are enough to explain the overwhelming sense of fear that the attacks are bound to bring. From the profuse sweating and numbing limbs to the seemingly irregular heartbeat and lingering erratic thoughts, the effects are draining, to say the least.

I remember one of my first episodes… and how I was so afraid and worked up that I dialed 911 as I sat (hysterically) in a Subway restaurant that was located inside of my local Walmart. I’d gone through the troubles of giving my name and my whereabouts to the operator, only to calm down minutes later. I was so embarrassed when I called her back and told her “never mind,” and I wasted no time apologizing.

However, as I continue sorting through my mental health and figuring it all out, I’ve learned the importance of not letting my disorder control me; instead, I must control it.

That’s something that’s certainly easier said than done, but here are a few tips that I find beneficial when keeping myself calm during an episode.

LET IT RUN ITS COURSE

We all yell “trust the process” until it’s our own process that we have to trust, LOL. Naturally, panic’s first response is fight or flight, but I’ve found solace in treating it as a moment in time that will soon pass. I just try to focus other side of it, the end, instead of putting my attention on the scares of what’s happening currently. Closing my eyes, visualizing beautiful settings, or placing my thoughts aid in making the time (seemingly) go by faster. I also try to relax my muscles and keep them as still as possible. Reminding yourself that you are in the driver’s seat of your own body will cut down on hyperventilation as well. It’s important to sit in those feelings and emotions. Think of it brief moments of meditation.

AFFIRM YOURSELF, SIS

Repeating affirmations in my head until it blows over has proven to be extremely helpful for me. The mind is a powerful thing, and so is the tongue. Talking yourself through an attack not only relieves some of the fear of the unknown but it makes the length of your emotional discomfort not so much of a stressful factor.

Here are my favorite things to say to myself:

  1. You got through this the last time; you will get through it this time.
  2. This is only temporary.
  3. You are not your condition.
  4. These attacks will not kill you.
  5. What you are feeling is normal.
  6. This is not your fault.
  7. What you are experiencing matters.
  8. You are not overreacting.
  9. Your feelings are valid.
  10. It will get easier.

READSOMETHING

A book, a magazine–whatever you can find, read it. June of 2016, I was sitting in the ER after freaking out, because I confused an anxiety attack for some type of heart issue. I’ll never forget the doctor’s suggestion to pick up a book whenever I feel myself slipping into an episode. He explained how it helped in giving him a peace of mind whenever he’d go through one himself. Whether it’s a paperback or an ebook on your phone, concentrating on the words on the page offers great mental support.

If you’re like me, and you’re into urban fiction, here are a few authors that I suggest:

  1. B.M. Hardin
  2. Shvonne Latrice
  3. Ashantay Keys
  4. Jade Jones
  5. Chenell Parker

MUSIC IS THE ANSWER TO ANY PROBLEM

If only that were true, life would be a little easier. LOL. However, music is certainly one of the answers to anxiety. I love music. Always have, always will. Compile a playlist of songs that bring you the most happiness, and make use of it any time you feel an attack coming on. I prefer listening to music in headphones. To me, the surround sound effect that it creates mixed with the euphoric feeling that it brings… it’s unmatched. Put the volume on 100, tune out any and everybody, and let the lyrics consume you. Alexa, play “Up” by Cardi B!

Which coping mechanism have you tried and/or will try? Leave a comment below, and let me know!

Until next time…

Ash.

I DESERVE A SEAT AT THE TABLE, EVEN IF I HAVE TO MAKE MY OWN

As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized a lot of things about myself.

I’m sensitive about my ish. And by “ish,” I mean… my family, my food, my money, but most importantly, my art. I’m a sweetheart, but I don’t take too kindly to the wrong buttons being pushed. I give great advice, but I don’t always take my own. I love writing, but some days I hate it (and that’s okay). I enjoy being alone, but I don’t like to feel lonely. I, unfortunately, base my worth on productivity, but that’s a mindset I’m working to change. I’m a little bit of a people pleaser, and it’s a bad habit that I need to break. I’m not great at accepting criticism, even if it’s constructive. Bad opinions sometimes bother me because I like to leave good impressions. I hit below the belt when I’m angry, but I really don’t mean it. I’m shy, but I tend to come out of my shell when I feel that I’m in a safe enough space to do so. I could go on and on, but there are so many layers to me. Layers that I have yet to fully peel back. But they’re there. They’re what make me, me. 

However, among those, I’ve discovered one of my most toxic traits: I’m quick to self-sabotage. Can you believe it? The one who’s always encouraging others to be their best selves and believe in what they’re capable of? Yes. She is me, and I am her. As of late, that has been the biggest battle I’ve been trying to fight–mentally and emotionally. I’ve never admitted that aloud, but the first step to solving a problem is acknowledging that it needs to be fixed, right? I’ve been guilty of dimming my light to give someone else the room to shine. I’ve been guilty of turning down the volume of my confidence to bring others comfort. I’ve been guilty of selling myself short when I knew, deep down, that what I had to offer was worth so much more than the discounted price tag I’d put on it. 

Because of that, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I’ve been getting in my own way and holding myself back from reaching my fullest potential. For some odd reason, I’ve just gotten so comfortable with dumbing down myself and my achievements that it’s almost become the norm for me. I hate attention. I hate bragging. The Leo in me is probably disappointed right now, but it’s the truth. I often question whether I am “capable” or “good enough” to be put in the places that I’ve been in.

A prime example of this proved itself true, even more, when I received an invite to an amazing writing group on Facebook.

If we’re being honest, although I still have so much further to go in my writing career, as much as I try to say otherwise, I’ve accomplished some bomb-axx things. I’ve had Amazon bestsellers, yet, in a room full of other accomplished writers, I’ve made myself feel small and unworthy. As if I don’t belong. As if… who am I to even think that I am deserving to be in a bunch of writers of their caliber? However, upon entrance into the group, I immediately noticed that all of the women in this collective were amazing, supportive, and HUMBLE. Not once did they or have they ever done anything to make me feel the smallness and unworthiness that I just spoke about. The part of me that feels inadequate has, though. 

Oddly, I’ve found myself in the same mental space when I’m asked for advice on things that I know I do well. I can’t count how many messages I’ve gotten from others who were interested in writing a book or entering the world of journalism–two things I’ve done and have been doing for quite some time now. “What if I can’t lead them in the right direction?” I’d ponder. “What if the advice that I do give is not as helpful?” So many doubts would swirl through my head that, though eager to help, my nerves almost wouldn’t let me. 

Starting my podcast was a huge jump ahead and step out of my comfort zone, though. It was through starting it that I realized exactly what the title of this blog post is: I Deserve a Seat at the Table, Even If I Have to Make My Own. I’d been talking about launching my podcast for the longest, but I never could work up the guts to do it… until, one day, I said EFF IT! I hit record and began talking. I didn’t stop. Hitting that upload button was equivalent to the pride I feel every time I finish a new novel. It was exhilarating–liberating even! Five episodes in, and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon. I can’t lie and say that I haven’t thought about it on those days where nothing seems to be going right, but if I worried about every little thing going wrong, I’d never get anything done. 

These days, I’m teaching myself to be more kind to my mind. To quit beating myself up over things I can’t control and focus on the things that I can. To tune out the opinions of others and rely on my own. To trust me and all that I’ve been gifted enough to do. To take the wheel of my career and drive wherever I’d like to see it go. He or she may be great for whatever position, but that doesn’t snatch away the spot that has been reserved for me.

I’ve been told NO a lot, but I’m saying YES to myself.
And it feels good.

Do what makes your soul smile and your heart dance. Don’t wait for the opportunity; create it.

FATPHOBIA: IT’S NOT ALL JUST IN OUR HEADS

Your body isn’t wrong; society is.

I wish I could go back and constantly remind preteen-year-old me, who’d spent most of her time avoiding big crowds because she hated the extra skin that dressed her, of those very words.

​Throughout this never-ending journey of self-love that I’ve been on, even today, I still find myself whispering that in the back of my mind… every now and again. Maybe it’s because, deep down, I’m still that little girl who’s trying to see where she fits in the world because she doesn’t fully and truly know how to love herself just yet. If we’re being honest, I’m still learning.

Confidence and esteem are two things that I’ve always struggled with. As if my problematic, melanated skin wasn’t already at the top of my insecurity list, the chunkiness of my frame slowly, but surely, added to that. Growing up, I didn’t realize how “wrong” my weight was until others started pointing out why it wasn’t right. Nor did I realize how much of an impact my appearance had on the people who chose to be around me and how they viewed my character. It actually took having fellow kids refuse to sit by me in the school lunchroom, snicker at me in PE, and taunt me on and offline for me to understand that, in their eyes, I was different.

I could never understand why. Why the boys would overlook me for the skinnier girl in the bunch. Why I was good enough to make them laugh but never good enough to make them kind. Why I was rarely invited anywhere, and if I was, I was always the oddball out. That prompted me to feel as though I was the problem, as though my bigness was not desirable or acceptable. Be it through friendships and/or relationships in my teenage years. I simply just felt like I was taking up too much space by being me, which is why I despised any type of social setting that would make others notice my fat body. To them, I didn’t belong, and as hurtful as it was, I had become okay with that. I had become okay with being the girl who no one liked or wanted around. To the point where, when people did really like or want me around, I chose to isolate myself before they had the chance to.

Unfortunately, this way of thinking would follow me from my childhood to my young womanhood. And even in my adulthood, I still find myself slipping back into it on the few bad days that I have outside of the good days. Sadly, as an adolescent, I had been convinced that the width of my waist deemed me to be less than. I had been convinced that smaller meant better. But I didn’t understand that the world’s opinions of how I should look were conditioning me to think that way, and fatphobia was really the root of the problem.

Define fatphobia, you say.

“Fatphobia is the fear and dislike of fat people and the stigmatization of individuals with bigger bodies. As with any system designed to exclude, shame, or oppress people on the basis of shared characteristics or identities, it can be easy to assume that something like fatphobia only exists on an individual level,” SRH Week’s website reads.

​Yes, you heard it here; fatphobia is actually one of the most common forms of discriminatory behavior. However, when mentioned, it’s either brushed to the wayside or completely (de)labeled as the tactic of oppression that it is and (re)labeled as more so “overanalyzing.”

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told, “It’s all in your head,” while receiving stares of disgust from random women of a thinner stature. Or, the times it’s been directly told and/or indicated that I’m “pretty for a big girl” by men who were only interested in fetishizing me to fulfill their own first-time fantasies. Let me not even get started on the uncomfortable sexual references or pet names; that’s a different topic for another day. But, what I’m really trying to say is, it all plays into fatphobia. No one wants to talk about it because they don’t see it as a real issue that larger women face.

And, NO… before I go any further, I don’t want this to get misconstrued or misinterpreted as an attack on all skinny women or all men who find an honest attraction to fat bodies. Because it’s not. I’m speaking of the ones who dehumanize someone solely off of the strength of how many sizes up they have to go in clothing. I’m not saying that women only experience fatphobia either, but if we really want to get candid, we are the ones who endure it on a more extreme level. Men of bigger sizes are often praised for their seemingly strong-ness, while the women are stereotyped and stigmatized. Nasty, unkept, desperate–due to lack of male attention–and food-crazed are four of the most overused misconceptions of us. The crazier part about it is, most of these misconceptions aren’t just placed upon us by people with smaller frames; men who carry the same body shape, if not a stretch mark and stomach roll ahead, do as well.

Nowadays, it’s even more evident that some people simply just can’t stand to see plus-size women loving their bodies without it being seen as “promoting obesity.” So, because my frame may not meet what everyone has deemed as “normal” beauty standards, I’m not allowed to love myself out loud? I’m not allowed to appreciate my body for what it is–flaws, flabs, and all?

I have made a vow to myself to stop turning down the volume of my confidence to bring others comfort, and from this point forward, I plan to honor that vow.

Maybe one day, society will grasp that one’s weight doesn’t determine their worth.

To my fellow plush pals, until then, we can only continue being the fluffy, fine, free queens that we are… unapologetically!

Featured Image: Nadine Kruithof Illustrations