Learning To Love My Fat Self

There were some days when I looked at my reflection in the mirror and saw my lumps and bumps and I hated how I look – fat.

But fat is not an inherently bad word. It’s just a word that describes a physical state, and all the negative connotations associated with the word are just associations made by society and by ourselves that have created this big (pun unintended) stigma against people of a larger size. But by viewing the word only as what it is, you take away the power given to it.

I remember listening to a speech by guest speakers The Curve Cult co-owners Rani and Ratna at a lecture hall in NUS and having that sentence reverberate through me. Fat is not a bad word. That was something that took me a long time to accept, a long time to properly internalise and sometimes I forget about it. But not anymore.

I am fat. And that is okay.

I am fat. But that does not make me any less capable.

I am fat. But I can dress up in whatever I like.

I am fat. That does not make me any less human than anyone else.

I am fat. But I accept my body for what it is.

Bernie in Hong Kong after a good hike
Being unabashedly me in Hong Kong (Photo Credit: Bernie Low)

It took me a long time to accept this, especially when I grew up hearing the dreaded whispers when height and weight day in school came along.

When classmates groaned over how fat they are, squeezing their bellies and arms while I looked down at my own that was at least double their size.

When the relatives that had piled food onto my plate as a child now turned those smiles into disapproving scowls, instead now commenting on how I should lose weight. “Aiyoh, every year getting fatter and fatter. Must try and lose weight leh.” comes their mantra each year they see me at Chinese New Year gatherings and when I was growing up, the hypocrisy confused me. Not long ago they were encouraging me to eat more but now that the ‘baby fat’ hasn’t been shed and I grew up more round than any other shape, now I had to change to please them.

Even my own mother went from encouraging me to finish her leftovers to commenting on how my thighs are bigger than her face.

Why I couldn’t love myself

There was a period in time where I was ashamed to look at myself naked in the mirror and wanted to escape the reality in which I looked like a big blob. But why was I so ashamed? Why did I hate that image?

It was difficult to accept myself when all around me were images of what happiness was supposed to be – thin. It hit me harder when I was studying in Japan for university, as their television shows emphasised large women being the butt of jokes, with Japanese female comedians using their weight to get laughs. Women who lost weight through drastic diets were lauded and the captions flashed with messages that equated losing weight with happiness, love and success.

My friends in school were always on diets and I always felt guilty for scoffing down a convenience store-bought pasta. There was a period when I lost weight and dropped to a UK14 and was able to fit into clothes at fast-fashion retailers like H&M and Forever 21. I thought I was happy, but I wasn’t.

Losing more weight was always in the back of my mind and the boyfriend I had at that time wanted me to lose weight because he preferred thin girls. After that breakup, I moved back to Singapore and started to eat my emotions and ballooned. I hated myself again. It was difficult to get back into a head space where I could accept my size and how I look.

Changing times, changing mindsets

But now times have changed. It is easy to see other bigger women like myself online and in the media, being unapologetic about who they are and whatever size they are. It is easier than ever now to buy plus size clothes online. There are many local businesses that cater to the plus-size market and that gives me plenty of options.

Bernie in a long floral dress
(Photo Credit: Bernie Low)

Now it is easier to accept who I am and be happy about myself and most importantly, to stop being weighed down (pun again unintended) by the digits on a weighing scale.

I may be heavier now than I was back when I was living in Japan, but I have a healthier mindset about my weight. Being in a healthier head space regarding weight allows me to have a healthier relationship with food and with my body as well.

Without being able to accept and love myself regardless of my weight, whatever weight I am I will always be unhappy. I will always lose control and eat my emotions and then resume the cycle of self-pity and loathing.

Now, if I look fat in a photo, well, it’s because I am fat. And that is okay.

Editor’s note

The Female Culture is a platform for everyday women that features stories of women whom society do not talk enough about. If Bernie’s reflection inspired you, share your story and reach us at [email protected]

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📸 Featured Image: Bernie Low

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One does not simply condense their entire life into a sentence but if I tried it'd say "Surviving on memes, cute animal photos and games".

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